Environmental Ethics and the Via Verde

Environmental Ethics and the Via
What Environmental Ethics has to
says about the Via Verde Project
What is Environmental Ethics?
• A systematic and critical study of
different moral approaches to the
environment such as…
–Environmental Virtue Ethics
Today’s Agenda
• Use these approaches as lenses through which
to examine the Via Verde Project in terms of
environmental ethics
• Give a brief account of each approach
• Raise questions from each approach to help
structure an inquiry into the project’s ethical
Environmental Ethics Rectangle
Agrarianism: Humans
Ecocentrism: “A thing is
transform nature for
agriculture but understand
farm as ecosystem (Berry,
Jefferson, Jackson)
good if it promotes the
integrity, beauty, and
stability of the biotic
Focus on biotic community
conceived holistically
Biocentrism: obligations
Individualistic ethical
approaches such as
Utilitarianism and
Deontology are extended
to cover non-humans.
(Singer for Utilitarianism
and Regan for Deontology)
not to interfere with
teleological centers of a
life. Basic , non-human
telos can trump non-basic
and even basic human
Classify according to method
• Human has complete nature
apart from social or natural
• Complex wholes (like
ecosystems) can be reduced
to sum of their parts
• Reductionistic
• Humans are internally and
essentially related to their
natural and social
• Whole cannot be reduced
to parts.
• Wholes are greater than the
sum of their parts
Classified according to perspective
• Anthropocentric: Centered
around humans. (Comes
from Greek word anthropo
which means human)
• Non-anthropocentric: Not
centered around humans
– Environmental ethics
formulated from a point of
view centered around human
– Moral community not
centered around humans.
Animals, plants, small
organisms all count in the
moral scheme of things.
Attempt made to formulate a
point of view that is nonhuman.
1a. Extending the umbrella of
utilitarianism to cover animals (Peter
Individualistic and
Singer: Animal Liberation
• Utilitarianism
– Actions and policies derive their moral worth from
their consequences
– Maximize good results and minimize bad results
• All sentient beings have moral worth
– Sentiency includes consciousness and ability to feel
pleasure and pain
• The umbrella of moral consideration is extended
to animals because they have sentiency
– Their pleasures and pains count
Via Verde Questions
• How will project effect sentient beings?
• What are its potential benefits?
• What are its risks?
• Is this an optimal balance?
– Given the status quo (Using petroleum)
– Compared to other available alternatives
• Renewable and non renewable resources
• In the short, middle, and long term
1b. Extended moral rights to
animal (Tom Regan)
Anthropocentric and
Regan: The Case for Animal Rights
• Animals are moral patients and have
“preference autonomy”
– = preferences along with the ability to act on them
• Humans have duties to recognize and respect
preference autonomy of moral patients
including animals
• Rights would include right to life, right to a
livable environment (=environment in which
they can pursue their preferences)
Regan Quotes
• “The fundamental wrong is the system that allows us
to view animals as our resources, here for us—to be
eaten, or surgically manipulated, or put in our cross
hairs for sport or money.” DesJardins 126
• “To be the subject –of-a-life…involves more than
merely being alive and more than merely being
conscious. To be the subject-of-a-life is to…have beliefs
and desires; perceptions, memory, and a sense of the
future, including their own future…their experiential
life fares well or ill for them, independently of their
utility for others” (DesJardins 128)
Via Verde Questions for Rights
• Identify basic human and animal rights
– Right to a livable environment (human and animal)
– Right to exercise (preference) autonomy
– Includes rights to health and safety
• Will the project, in any of its phases, violate any
of these rights?
• If so, can it be modified so as not to violate these
rights while still keeping its goals intact?
– Diversifying energy resources; responding to
increased energy demand; conserving so as not to
increase energy demand
2. Agrarianism:
Living in small farms and practicing
traditional agriculture fosters key civic
and moral virtues (Paul Thompson, Spirit
of the Soil, and Wendell Berry, The
Unsettling of America, A Place on the
Holistic and Anthropocentric
Wendell Berry
• Unsettling of America
– Adverse consequences of industrialization of
• Small farms give way to industrialized agriculture
• Had small farm in Kentucky; treated it as an ecosystem
• Accords Jefferson’s view that small farms were
essential to democracy
– Fostered development of moral and civic virtues
– Dispersed power (Decentralized)
• A Place on Earth: main character of novel is a
– Personification of the land
Questions from Agrarianism
• What is the impact of the Via Verde project on
local, small farms?
• What is the impact of the Via Verde project on
the communities that surround these farms?
• Does it threaten PR agrarianism?
– Fosters development of “Jibaro”?
• Lives close to the land
• Takes dignity and integrity from the practice of
traditional agriculture
• Caretaker or steward of the land
3. Biocentrism: Each living thing is a
“teleological center of a life”.
There are moral obligations to
recognize and respect these “centers”
Non-anthropocentric and
Paul Taylor: Biocentrism
• Hursthouse summarizes:
– “Environmental Virtue Ethics” in Working Virtue edited by
R. Walker and P. Ivanhoe. Oxford: 163.
• Every living thing has a telos = a good of its
– Fish swim, birds fly
– Its nature or being is fulfilled by exercising its
proper telos
• Positive duties to promote the telos
• Negative duties not to interfere with telos
Questions from Biocentrism
• Identify basic non-human interests using the
concept of a “teleological center-of-a-life”
• How impacts does the Via Verde have on the
“teleological centers of life” that live within the
sphere of its influence?
• Do basic non-human interests conflict with basic
human interests?
– Identify potential conflicts
• Can these conflicts be resolved?
– By integrating the interests?
– By modifying the design of the project?
Human Goods /
Non-Human Goods
Basic Non-Human
Non-Basic, NonHuman Good
Basic Human Good
Basic human good has
priority (Right of SelfDefense)
Basic human good has
priority because a basic
good trumps a non-basic
Do humans have a basic
need for energy? Does the
Via Verde violate basic
non-human needs? Are
there alternatives?
Non-Basic Human
The basic, non-human
good has priority
because a basic good
trumps a non-basic
Humans need energy for
recreational activities. Do
these interfere with basic,
non-human needs?
Humans need for energy
would trump if project did
not violate basic, nonhuman needs
Toss up. Some nonbasic goods have
priority over others.
If non-basic human needs
conflict with non-basic
non-human needs in the
Via Verde project, this is a
toss up.
4. Ecocentrism: Aldo Leopold’s
Land Ethic
Non-anthropocentric (under
most interpretations) and Holistic
• Aldo Leopold, “The Land Ethic” in A Sand County
• “There is as yet no ethic dealing with man’s relation
to land and to the animals and plants which grow
upon it. Land, like Odysseus’ slave-girls, is still
property. The land-relation is still strictly economic,
entailing privileges but not obligations.”
• “The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the
community to include soils, waters, plants, and
animals, or collectively: the land.”
• “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the
integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic
community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
Via Verde Questions
• What is the impact of the Via Verde on the
ecosystems that boarder its planned route?
– Does it preserve their beauty, stability and integrity?
• What is the impact of the Via Verde on the
human communities affected by its construction
and operation
– Does it preserve their beauty, stability, and integrity
• Do these two converge?
– Do the impacts on non-human aspects of the biotic
community converge with those on the human
A Virtue Approach to
Environmental Ethics
Wensveen, “Cardinal Environmental Virtues: A Neurobiological
Perspective,” in Environmental Virtue Ethics, edited by R. Sandler and P.
Cafaro. Rowman & Littlefield: 176-177
Definitions of Virtue and Virtue Ethics
• “Las virtudes son disposiciones y rasgos del carácter del
agente moral a la hora de ejecutar las acciones
inherentes al ser persona.
– se trata de un punto intermedio entre dos extremos, ninguno
de los cuales representa un valor moral, sino que más bien
puede constituir un vicio o al menos carecer de excelencia
– no son meros rasgos del carácter que se operan
automáticamente, sino respuestas deliberadas ante las
situaciones concretas
– existe un cierto grado de influencia cultural que puede hacer
que la manifestación de la virtud varíe según el contexto
– se puede distinguir la “virtud” de las virtudes, en cuanto que
la primera se refiere a la integridad o coherencia de la
personalidad ante la vida, mientras que las segundas son
reacciones a situaciones especificas”
Lugo,E. (2002) Relación Medico/paciente:
encuentro interpersonal ética y
espiritualidad. Pontificia Universidad Católica
de Puerto Rico: 88
Definition of Virtue and Virtue Ethics
• “A virtue such as honesty or generosity is not just a
tendency to do what is honest or generous, nor is it to be
helpfully specified as a “desirable” or “morally valuable”
character trait.
• It is, indeed a character trait—that is, a disposition which is
well entrenched in its possessor, something that, as we say
“goes all the way down”, unlike a habit such as being a teadrinker—but the disposition in question…is multi-track.
• It is concerned with many other actions as well, with
emotions and emotional reactions, choices, values, desires,
perceptions, attitudes, interests expectations and
• To possess a virtue is to be a certain sort of person with a
certain complex mindset.”
Hursthouse, R. (2007) “Virtue Ethics”
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Accessed 11/11/2008
Virtue Ethics
• Virtue ethics does focus on individual actions
but in a different way than other theories
• It assesses the moral worth of an action by
“fitting” into different contexts:
– Narrative of a morally exemplary career
– Practice or community
• So, an environmental virtue = that which,
together with other actions, sustains the
“beauty, stability, and integrity of the biotic
Context 1: Moral Exemplar
• Would this action fit into the career of a morally
exemplary …
– Engineer
– Business practitioner
– Community leader
• This action instantiates certain values. Would I
want these values to become central parts of my
core self identity?
– How does this action and the values it instantiates fit
into my own self-narrative?
Context 2: Practice
• Does this action resonates with the values professed
(and actually constitutive of) my practice or
– Doctor: Does this resonate with a practice devoted to
– Lawyer: Does this action resonate with a practice devoted
to an adversarial approach to justice and truth?
– Engineer: Does this action resonate with a practice
devoted to public wellbeing (health and welfare), client
fidelity, peer collegiality, and professional integrity
– Business practitioner: Does this practice resonate with the
prosperity and sustainability (taken in its widest sense) of
the community?
Context 3: Biotic Community
• To paraphrase Leopold, does this action resonate
with the beauty, stability, and integrity of the
biotic community (which includes inanimate as
well as animate matter).
• This involves four virtues (reconfigured from a
human context to a trans-human context)
Virtues of position
Virtues of care
Virtues of attunement
Virtues of endurance
• Louke Van Wensveen: “Cardinal Environmental Virtues”
Environmental Virtues from Wensveen
• Virtues of Position: "Constructive habits of
seeing ourselves in a particular place in a
relational structure and interacting accordingly.”
– Can we integrate the gas pipeline with the
surrounding natural environment?
• Examples:
– Humility, self-acceptance, gratitude, appreciation of
good in others, prudence, and practical judgment
• Question:
– Does the Via Verde resonate with virtues such as
humility? Or does it express corresponding vices
such as greed, arrogance, and imprudence?
Environmental Virtues from Wensveen
• Virtues of Care: "habits of constructive involvement
within the relational structure where we have found
our place. How widely do we cast our sensors in order
to learn what is needed around us?“
– Honing in on weak points in the ecosystem and
calibrating action to address these vulnerabilities
• Examples:
– Attentiveness, benevolence, loving nature, friendship
• Question:
– Does the Via Verde in design and execution resonate with
attentiveness and benevolence? Does fall into vices such
as insensitivity and malevolence (or indifference)?
More Environmental Virtues
• Virtues of Attunement: "habits of handling
temptations by adjusting our positive, outgoing drives
and emotions to match our chosen place and degree of
constructive, ecosocial engagement."
– Can energy conservation be a source of solidarity and
also defuse the current energy crisis in PR? (reconfigures
• Examples:
– Frugality and simplicity
• Question:
– Does the Via Verde express virtues or values like frugality
and simplicity? Does it express the vices of manifest and
concealed complexity? (Winner)
More Environmental Virtues
• Virtues of Endurance: "habits of facing dangers and
difficulties by handling our negative, protective drives and
emotions in such a way that we can sustain our chosen sense
of place and degree of constructive ecosocial engagement."
– Can Puerto Ricans act resolutely and ethically in the face
of environmental and economic crises? (Integration,
compromise, and ethical trade-offs
• Examples:
– Tenacity (mean between apathy and obsession), loyalty,
• Question:
– Does the Via Verde express tenacity, loyalty, and
perseverance especially in relation to the natural
environment? Does it target the corresponding vices?
Framing Solutions
• Two Paradigms
– Follow the current paradigm
Energy growth
Reduce immediate costs
Diversify sources (using non-renewable resources)
Keep energy production centralized and technologically sophisticated
– New paradigm (new goal)
• Energy Independence
• Reduce usage through conservation and technology (smart grids and
• Decentralization and simplification of energy production
• Diversify sources
• Make use of renewable resources
– Use of “paradigm” is appropriate here—represent two different
ways of approaching the PR energy “crises”
Virtue Perspective on Paradigm Choice
• These paradigms also represent two
fundamentally different paths for PR
• Choice not only expresses who we are (our
collective identity or character) but will,
partially, constitute who we will become
• So, seeing these two paradigms and their
associated virtues and vices, virtue ethics has
us ask what kind of people we wish to become
– Each choice expresses fundamental dispositions
Values Expressed by Participants
• Values Sensitive to Context:
– Values Expressed by Signal Events (Cogentrix,
Copper Mining, CAPECO explosion, Zoe
Colocotroni Oil Spill)
– Values telescoped into the image of Jibaro
– Environmental and social justice
– Health and Safety
– Autonomy
– Identification with Land, History, Tradition.
• These values, in their thick sense, depend on the
quality of the discourse generated within the
• Examined four approaches to environmental
• Interpreted approaches as lenses that highlighted
certain aspects and de-emphasized others
• Each approach generated questions pertinent to
the ethics of the Via Verde Project
• Choice between energy paradigms expresses our
character as a community, as a nation, as a
– Choice and action reflect existing character
– But they also inaugurate a future that constitutes who
we are to become
William J. Frey
College of Business Administration
[email protected]
[email protected]
• http://cnx.org/content/m32584/latest/

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