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Animal Rights and Green Politics

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  1. Animal Rights and Green Politics

  2. Overview • Animal Rights (Singer) • The Principle of Utility • The Case for Animal Rights • Ecology: The Scope of the Crisis • The Greening of Political Theory • “Liberal” Environmentalism • “Conservative” Environmentalism • “Deep Ecology”: Earth First!

  3. Animal Rights • Peter Singer (1946- ) • Australian philosopher, currently at Princeton University

  4. Animal Rights • Arguments made to extend rights to other human groups historically excluded from liberal rights dialogue have all initially appeared outrageous • For example: women’s rights, black rights

  5. Animal Rights • Yet in retrospect, it is the counterarguments against those rights claims that now appear outrageous and wrong-headed

  6. Animal Rights • What is the basis of human rights? • Why should we respect rights?

  7. The Problem of Rights Agent Preference Patient Preference Wants to do something Preferences of those affected by the act

  8. The Problem of Rights • The difficulty with rights talk is that we have no real way of distinguishing the merit of separate and conflicting rights claim • For example, let’s look at religious freedom – freedom of conscience • Suppose my religious practice disgusts everyone else in the surrounding community. Should I continue to practice?

  9. The Problem of Rights ReligiousPractice Thoseeffected bythe practice How do we balance those competing claims? Why should my right to engage in a specific religion outweigh the collective right of the community?

  10. The Problem of Rights • Isn’t that making me – in effect – a dictator in that the social decision is what I say it should be, no matter how many votes to the contrary • We need to develop a higher order principle/theory to decide the tough questions • Utilitarianism is that theory

  11. Utilitarianism • Utilitarianism has 2 basic premises: • “Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend produce the reverse of happiness” • Greatest Happiness Principle • As Mill notes, it is an idea deeply rooted in the Western tradition, going back at least to Epicurus (341 – 270 B.C.E.)

  12. Utilitarianism • As an ethical theory, it attempts to provide a rational rather than a religious basis for morality • Which means we will be able to sanction and judge acts as good or bad on something other than religious grounds. • This is crucial since “common sense” morality requires a religious premise

  13. Utilitarianism • Once we reject that religious premise, the morality no longer has any hold over us • That is, if we’re not worried about getting nailed in the afterlife, why bother being moral? • Why should I care about how my actions affect other people?

  14. Utilitarianism • Bentham’s original version rested on notion of psychological hedonism: • An act is good which sets off all the pleasure pods in my head • As a social theory, then, Utilitarianism distinguishes the morality between alternative states of affairs by examining the amount of pleasure and pain it produces • That act which produces the most pleasure is the one to be preferred

  15. Utilitarianism • We shouldn’t count our own preferences for more than we count others (since if we did so we’d be dictating the social outcome) • Question that arises, then, is how do we achieve utilitarian objectivity? • In rights based accounts, it is the notion of moral sympathy – I wouldn’t want my rights violated so I shouldn’t violate others’ rights

  16. Utilitarianism • If we are going to have to decide between different social states, how can we make sure the decision on which state to adopt is an impartial (objective) one? • How do we become impartial? • Bentham formula: • Everyone to count for one, no one to count for more than one

  17. Utilitarianism • Two points to note Democracy is integral to utilitarianism • The way we determine what to do is to take a vote, and whatever the majority wants, wins It doesn’t matter where goods/bads happen to fall, so long as en toto more pleasure is produced than pain.

  18. Utilitarianism • Doesn’t matter, morally speaking, who is having wants, just as long as we satisfy as many wants as possible • Singer adds the corollary that we can extend the argument to non human animals. • The idea is to act so as to produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number • For our moral calculations, we need to view beings as vessels of utility satisfaction

  19. Utilitarianism • What we most want is to experience things in a certain way (i.e., pleasure over pain) • For Bentham, a want is a want is a want • No difference between wanting to stay home and watch Spongebob and reading War and Peace • For Singer, no difference between human and animal wants in pleasure/pain calculus

  20. Animal Rights “If a being suffers, there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally with the like suffering--insofar as rough comparisons can be made-- of any other being…”

  21. Animal Rights “If a being is not capable of suffering, or of experiencing enjoyment or happiness, there is nothing to be taken into account. This is why the limit of sentience (using the terms as a convenient, if not strictly accurate, shorthand for the capacity to suffer or experience enjoyment or happiness) is the only defensible boundary of the interests of others…”

  22. Animal Rights “To mark this boundary by some characteristic like intelligence or rationality would be to mark it in an arbitrary way. Why not choose some other characteristic, like skin color?” -- Peter Singer

  23. The Crisis

  24. The Crisis

  25. The Crisis

  26. The Crisis

  27. The Crisis • Consequences of rapid human population growth • Increased energy demands • Increased food production demands • Increased employment • Increased education • Increased environmental stress

  28. The Crisis

  29. Water Pollution • On 22 June 1969, the Cuyahoga River caught fire in Cleveland • Fire lasted 30 minutes

  30. Water Pollution “Some River! Chocolate-brown, oily, bubbling with subsurface gases, it oozes rather than flows. ‘Anyone who falls into the Cuyahoga does not drown,’ Cleveland's citizens joke grimly. ‘He decays’. . . The Federal Water Pollution Control Administration dryly notes: ‘The lower Cuyahoga has no visible signs of life, not even low forms such as leeches and sludge worms that usually thrive on wastes." It is also -- literally -- a fire hazard.’” -- Time magazine, 1 August 1969

  31. Signs along the River

  32. Water Pollution • In the late 1960s, Lake Erie, was officially declared “dead” • Too many chemicals, particularly nitrates from fertilizer and phosphates from soap and cleansers, led to huge algae blooms that killed off the fish and other plant species.

  33. Water Pollution • On2/25/76 New York DEC made it illegal to fish in the upper Hudson from the Ft. Edward Dam to the federal dam at Albany • Closed Hudson River commercial fisheries, and warned people about dangers of eating Hudson River fish. General Electric dumped Between 209,000 and 1.3 million pounds of PCBsdirectly into Hudson

  34. Water Pollution • Since that time, the spread of PCBs throughout the river and its food chain has created an extensive toxic waste problem. • About 200 miles of the river is designated as a Superfund site.

  35. Water Pollution • In August 1995, the Upper Hudson was re-opened to fishing, but only on a catch and release basis. • NY and NJ agencies recommend that people eat no striped bass or blue crabs from the Newark Bay area, and no more than one meal a week from other areas in the New York Harbor estuary. • EPA guidelines recommend no consumption.

  36. New York City 1963 smog 2007 smog

  37. The Response • Clean Air Act (1970) • Creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (1970) • Clean Water Act (1972) • Endangered Species Act (1973)

  38. Aldo Leopold • Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) • Born in Iowa, along the Mississippi River • Gets degree in forestry from Yale • After graduation he takes gig with US Forestry Service in Arizona • Transferred to US Forest Products Laboratory in Wisconsin

  39. Aldo Leopold • In 1933 he published Game Management, a groundbreaking study on managing and restoring wildlife populations

  40. Aldo Leopold In 1949, he published A Sand County Almanac, a work that is viewed as the beginning of the modern land conservation movement

  41. Land Use

  42. Land Use “Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land” -- Aldo Leopold

  43. Land Use • Conservation entails recognizing that human beings do not have sufficient understanding of the complexities of nature to “govern” or “conquer” nature • Rather, we need to work with nature

  44. Land Use • Leopold introduces the idea of the “pyramid” instead of the balance • The balance of nature implies that human and natural worlds are distinct and separate entities • The pyramid is meant to convey the interrelationships between the various parts of creation

  45. Soil

  46. Plants Soil

  47. Insects Plants Soil

  48. Birds and Reptiles Insects Plants Soil

  49. Rodents and small mammals Birds and Reptiles Insects Plants Soil

  50. Large mammalian carnivores Rodents and small mammals Birds and Reptiles Insects Plants Soil