Environmental Ethics

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P A R T I I

Environmental Ethics

as Applied Ethics

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3

Ethics and Economics:

Managing Public Lands

DISCUSSION: BP’s Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Six hundred million acres of land within the United States, nearly one-third of the total land area, is classified as public land. Fully 83% of the land area of Nevada and 44% of California, for example, is public land. Approximately 240 million acres, or 65% of all the land in Alaska, is owned by the federal government. Public lands are managed by public agencies which are charged with serving the public interests and therefore must balance competing and conflicting claims concerning the proper use of public land. But how should we decide what the public interest is? How should public lands be used? How should government agencies decide what to do when public interest groups disagree?

The ocean waters bordering the coun- try are one area of public property with significant environmental implications often overlooked in public policy debates. Consistent with a United Nations conven- tion governing the world’s oceans, the

United States claims a border of its terri- torial waters of 12 nautical miles and 200 nautical miles as its exclusive economic zone. This means that an ocean area extended 12 miles out from its borders is considered the sovereign property of the United States, and is treated under inter- national law as land within its borders. The exclusive economic zone gives coun- tries exclusive rights to exploit marine resources within 200 miles of its shore.

The public agencies that manage the oceans are as diverse as the ways in which these waters are used. At the federal level, what happens in, on, under, and around the oceans is managed by, among others, the Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Defense, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. In addition to federal agencies, a variety of

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state and local government agencies also have a role in managing public waters. Perhaps no use of coastal waters has cre- ated as much controversy over how public waters should be managed as oil drilling. There is no better example of these con- troversies than what occurred with BP’s Deepwater Horizon.

The need for oil, and for domestic sources of oil, are well-known. The United States uses more than 21 million barrels of oil each day, which at a prevailing cost of $100 per barrel, amounts to $2 billion each day. Gasoline, heating oil, jet fuel, and diesel fuel are the leading uses of oil. Less than one-third of the oil consumed in the United States is produced domestically, and the area surrounding the Gulf of Mexico is larg- est source for domestic oil production.

On April 20, 2010, an explosion seri- ously damaged the Deepwater Horizon oil rig operated by BP in the exclusive economic zone about 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Eleven men were killed in the explosion and fire, and within two days the entire rig sank in 5,000 feet of water. For three months, as millions of people watched daily updates on the evening news, all efforts to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf failed. Estimates are that a total of 5 million barrels of oil was spilled in the Gulf of Mexico. By compari- son, the Exxon Valdez, perhaps the most famous previous oil spill, dumped a total of 260,000 barrels of oil into Prince William Sound in Alaska.

The spill caused significant environ- mental and economic damage throughout the Gulf region. Despite massive clean-up efforts, oil washed ashore alongmore than a thousand miles of the Gulf Coast, and underwater oil plumes drifted throughout the Gulf. Thousands of animals died as a direct result of the spill, and the habitat of thousands of species, including many migratory species, was disrupted and poisoned. The area was closed to fishing for many weeks, severely damaging the commercial fishing, shrimp, crab, and sport fishing industries. The tourist industry lost substantial business as beaches from Texas to Florida were closed.

BP acknowledged responsibility for the spill and, in addition to paying for clean-up efforts, established a fund of $20 billion to

compensate victims. By July 2011, almost $5 billion in claims had been paid, mostly for clean-up costs and compensation for lost wages and loss of business income.

Within a month of the disaster, the U.S. Department of Interior issued a moratorium on all off-shore drilling pending inspection of all drilling rigs. In response to a lawsuit, a federal judge overturned that moratorium a month later, concluding that the government had not proven that a moratorium was warranted by the potential harms. Critics of the moratorium argued that the oil industry would be forced by a morato- rium to lay-off thousands of workers, a major problem with the United States’ economy still suffering from the effects of the 2008 recession and the Gulf region already facing the loss of jobs caused by the oil spill.

DISCUSSION TOPICS: 1. Economists define costs as “opportu-

nities foregone”; every decision imposes costs in the sense that every decision abandons other choices. What are the economic costs of deciding to ban deepwater oil drilling? What are the non-economic costs?

2. What are the pros and cons of gov- ernment ownership of large tracks of land? Do you support public ownership of land? Why or why not? Should all public lands be privatized? If so, should all public lands be sold to the highest bidder?

3. What role should consumer demand for such resources as oil and pristine beaches play? Should such decisions simply be left to the market to deter- mine which resource is most valued by the public?

4. How do you compare the values asso- ciated with such diverse goods as wildlife habitat and inexpensive gaso- line? How would you recommend a public resolution of conflicts between such values be made?

5. Is it always possible to compensate for the loss of such things as habitat, wildlife, jobs, clean beaches, and family-owned businesses?

50 PART II ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS AS APPLIED ETHICS

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3 .1 INTRO DUCT I ON

Chapter 1 introduced ethics in terms of both individual moral decisions and broader questions of social justice and public policy. In this chapter, we will examine the ethical and philosophical basis of economic analysis, one of the most influential and widely used frameworks used in public policy. Faced with controversial environmental issues, policy makers are challenged to make deci- sions in a way that is fair to all parties and that relies on reasonable, unbiased, and objective criteria. In this context, policy analysts, government decision makers, and private sector experts most often rely on economic criteria. Eco- nomics offers a way to take the interests of all interested parties into account, and it offers an objective and measurable decision-making procedure. As we will see, economics also has important ethical values embedded in its methodol- ogy, and therefore economic decisions also reflect some strongly held ethical views as well. Using examples involving the conservation of natural resources and pollution of air and water, this chapter will examine how economic analysis plays a central role in environmental debates.

It is not surprising that economics would play a major role in environmental debates. Economics is often defined as the science that deals with the production and distribution of finite goods and services. Understood in this way, an environ- mental controversy such as BP oil spill appears to be fundamentally an economic problem involving the distribution of scarce resources, the allocation of risks and benefits, the balancing of competing interests, the production of desired goods, the meeting of consumer demand, and so forth. Debating the relative merits of a copper mine versus a salmon fishery calls for an unbiased method for measuring and comparing costs and benefits. It would seem that an ideal solution would be one that optimally satisfies as many competing interests as possible, which in many ways is exactly the goal of efficient economic markets. This chapter pro- vides a philosophical examination of the role of economic analysis in resolving environmental debates.

3 .2 CONSERVAT ION OR P RESERVAT ION?

A pivotal moment in the history of American environmentalism occurred during the first decade of the twentieth century. A growing population and consumer demand put environmental protection at odds with the economic need for natural resources. The specific debates concerned a proposal to build a dam and reservoir in the Hetch Hetchy Valley adjacent to California’s Yosemite National Park. Demand for water in San Francisco led to the plan to flood the Hetch Hetchy, which would destroy thousands of acres of pristine forests. This debate has often been cast as a debate between economic interests and environmental interests. Two of the most prominent early American environmentalists, Gifford Pinchot and John Muir, were at the center of this debate, which has come to symbolize two major competing worldviews.

CHAPTER 3 ETHICS AND ECONOMICS: MANAGING PUBLIC LANDS 51

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Gifford Pinchot, head of the U.S. Forest Service, was one of the first profes- sionally trained foresters in the United States, and a close friend and adviser to President Theodore Roosevelt. Pinchot was a founder and leader of the conser- vation movement, which held that forestlands are to be conserved, so that they might be wisely used and controlled by all citizens. He was an early defender of the scientific management of national forest lands. Pinchot’s guiding principle was that public lands exist to serve the needs and uses of the public:

The object of our forest policy is not to preserve the forests because they are beautiful … or because they are refuges for the wild creatures of the wilderness … but … the primary object is the making of prosperous homes.1

He also said:

Forestry is the knowledge of the forest. In particular, it is the art of handling the forest so that it will render whatever service is required of it without being impoverished or destroyed…. Forestry is the art of producing from the forest whatever it can yield for the service of man.2

Pinchot supported San Francisco’s plan to build the reservoir. Damming the Hetch Hetchy would provide much needed water to millions of people and it would represent the most efficient and economical use of this natural resource.

John Muir was the founder of the Sierra Club and the best-known represen- tative of the preservation movement. Muir argued against Pinchot’s plan to build the dam, and he worked to preserve the Hetch Hetchy valley. He thought that the conservationist view, which treated natural resources as commodities to be used for human consumption, was a serious mistake. Muir defended the spiritual and aesthetic value of wilderness, as well as the inherent worth of other living things.3 In his view, the Hetch Hetchy should be preserved—protected from human activity that would degrade and spoil it.

This early debate symbolizes the worldviews of two dominant strains of American environmentalism. Conservationists seek to protect the natural envi- ronment from exploitation and abuse so that humans can receive greater long- term benefits from it. Preservationists seek to protect the natural environment from any human activity that would disrupt or degrade it. Their goal is to pre- serve the wilderness in its natural, unspoiled state. Importantly, debates between conservationists and preservationists, as we see in Hetch Hetchy, are very often played out in economic terms.

The ethical justification for the conservationist program is fairly straight- forward and reflects a standard utilitarian approach. The natural environment is valuable as a means for serving human interests. Thus natural resources have instrumental value and should be managed in whatever way best serves the greater overall good. Pinchot argued that these resources were being wasted when they were left undeveloped. The biggest question for conservationists is how to decide which policy option best serves the overall social good.

Preservationists, on the other hand, appealed to two different types of rea- sons to support their goals. One was the instrumental value of wilderness as a

52 PART II ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS AS APPLIED ETHICS

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source of religious inspiration, refuge from modern life, location for aesthetic experience, and so on. In this sense, leaving the wilderness undeveloped also served human interests. But some preservationists also argued that the wilderness should be recognized as having an intrinsic value of its own. We have a duty to preserve the wilderness not only for its human uses, but also for its own sake. Thus preservationists appealed to both utilitarian and deontological considera- tions to defend their conclusions.

Contemporary observers could easily cast Muir as the environmentalist and Pinchot as the environmental villain in this dispute. But this would be a mistake. Pinchot’s position was quite progressive at the time, and it will be worthwhile to consider this claim briefly.

For much of American history, the forests and wilderness areas represented a threat to be overcome, an enemy to be conquered. The images are common throughout the first 400 years of European settlement of North America—man against nature. The frontier was to be pushed back, and the wilderness was to be conquered. Life in the wilderness was difficult, and if humans were to survive, they needed to fight and defeat the forces of nature. Nature was seen as the enemy to be subdued and exploited.

By the late nineteenth century, the United States had largely succeeded in these tasks, and most of the American landscape lay open for human use. During this period of tremendous industrial growth and urbanization, nature was generally thought to be less an enemy to be conquered and more a resource to fuel the U.S. economy. In some ways, this brought American atti- tudes towards the natural environment more in line with the older cultures of Europe and Asia. But this also often meant that natural resources contributed to the extraordinary wealth of the privileged few, who monopolized much of American industry.

Pinchot’s conservationism was part of a more general progressive movement fighting the laissez-faire, monopolistic social Darwinism characteristic of much of nineteenth-century American economic life.4 Along with President Roosevelt and other progressives, Pinchot held that natural resources should benefit all citi- zens, not just the wealthy few who privately owned vast amounts of property. Government policy should serve this goal by preventing waste, limiting mono- polistic control, providing economic opportunity for the many, and keeping prices low.

Pinchot’s progressive conservation was in line with the progressivism of nineteenth-century utilitarians such as Bentham and Mill. Government policy, including economic policy, should aim to provide maximum benefit to all citizens, not just to a privileged few. Consistent with thinking of many classical utilitarians, Pinchot believed that experts, in this case those trained in scientific forestry, were best situated to decide how to maximize overall benefits. In Pinchot’s words:

The central idea of the Forester, in handling the forest, is to promote and perpetuate its greatest use to men. His purpose is to make it serve the greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time…. The idea of

CHAPTER 3 ETHICS AND ECONOMICS: MANAGING PUBLIC LANDS 53

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applying foresight and common sense to the other natural resources as well as to the forest was natural and inevitable…. It was foreseen from the beginning by those who were responsible for inaugurating the Conservation movement that its natural development would in time work out into a planned and orderly scheme for national efficiency, based on the elimination of waste, and directed toward the best use of all we have for the greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time.5

Thus Pinchot’s conservation movement fits squarely within the utilitarian tradition. Public policy should be directed to “serve the greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time.” Acting in a manner consistent with much in the utilitarian tradition, Pinchot encouraged the use of experts who could manage policy so that it might achieve this goal. Utilitarians begin with the maximum satisfaction of public welfare as the goal, and then promote reliance on experts, especially scien- tists, to calculate, measure, compare, predict, and influence the consequences of various policy options. Decision makers should rely on professional managers to determine which of the policy options will result in consequences most closely approaching this goal. This is precisely the role that Pinchot saw for the profes- sional forester, and it is fundamentally the same role played by economists and other social scientists in many of today’s environmental policy debates.

3 .3 MANAG IN G THE NAT IONAL FORESTS

By 2010, Pinchot’s U.S. Forest Service was managing more than 150 different national forests containing 190 million acres of land. It is the largest agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, employing more than 34,000 people.6 In the more than 100 years of its existence, the U.S. Forest Service has gone through a number of changes. For its first 50 years, the U.S. Forest Service accomplished its mission “to furnish a continuous supply of timber” through fire suppression, research, and other custodial duties aimed at simply conserving a reserve of forest lands. In the years after World War II, an increase in demand for housing and a decrease in the supply of privately owned timberlands led to a greater focus on timber sales. Later, in 1960, Congress enacted the Multiple-Use Sustained Yield Act, which broadened the mission to require that the U.S. Forest Service man- age the forests for “outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, and wildlife and fish purposes.” It is easy to understand how this expanded mission addresses the utilitarian demand that all of the consequences of policy decisions be taken into consideration when making a decision. Multiple use remains the primary legal mission of the service and this continues to reflect how deeply public policy has been influenced by utilitarian thinking.

Of course, a government bureaucracy responsible for administering a multiple- use policy is likely to be the focus of criticism from its competing constituencies. The timber industry believes that not enough high-quality forests are open for its use. Environmentalists argue that too much wilderness is being sacrificed to timber inter- ests. Ranchers would like to see more forestland open for grazing. Hunters and

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anglers decry the loss of habitat. But some of the most vocal contemporary critics argue that public policy should not be set by government bureaucrats at all. Instead, these critics argue that public policy decision making should be taken from govern- ment and left to the workings of a competitive marketplace.

As we have noted, the primary responsibility of the U.S. Forest Service is to serve the oftentimes competing interests of various constituencies. As is consistent with the goals of utilitarianism, it seeks to balance these interests in a manner that makes as many people as happy as possible. In this sense, the end or goal is a given, and the challenge is to find the best means for attaining the goal.

Two alternative means compete to answer this challenge. On one hand, act- ing in a manner consistent with Pinchot’s practice, the U.S. Forest Service could rely on the informed judgments of public policy and forestry experts. These peo- ple would use their expertise and training in such fields as forestry and economics to resolve conflict, balance competing interests, and maximize the overall good. On the other hand, the U.S. Forest Service could rely on the workings of a free market with open competition to achieve the most efficient uses of the forests. Examining this debate will provide insight into the philosophical and ethical foundations of the use of economics in environmental policy.

According to classical free-market economics, markets alone, with minimal government regulation to prevent fraud and coercion, are sufficient to ensure attainment of the utilitarian goal of maximizing overall good. While this remains the ideal for many economists, the real world does not always match the standards of free and competitive markets. Many contemporary economists recognize that, in practice, markets can fail to reach the goals envisioned in theory. Thus a new type of expert, one who is trained in economics and can determine what should be done to mimic the workings of an idealized market, should shape environmen- tal policy. Although ideal markets do not exist in the real world, environmental economists can develop policies that help actual markets approximate the results of ideal markets. One such environmental economist is Randal O’Toole.

O’Toole has written a sustained critique of U.S. Forest Service management and has been a leading voice in the movement to take environmental policy from the hands of government and foster greater reliance on the marketplace. In his book Reforming the Forest Service, O’Toole summarizes his five years of ana- lyzing the activities of the U.S. Forest Service.

I’ve visited national forests in every part of the country and have seen costly environmental destruction on a grand scale. Money-losing timber sales are costing taxpayers at least $250 to $500 million dollars per year. Many of these sales are reducing scarce recreation opportunities, driving wildlife species toward extinction, and polluting waters and fish habitat.7

Although the U.S. Forest Service manages assets estimated by some to be worth in excess of $42 billion, the agency is not only unprofitable, it actually costs tax- payers more than $1 billion per year in subsidies. O’Toole explains:

In terms of assets, the agency would rank in the top five in Fortune maga- zine’s list of the nation’s 500 largest corporations. In terms of operating

CHAPTER 3 ETHICS AND ECONOMICS: MANAGING PUBLIC LANDS 55

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revenues, however, the agency would be only number 290. In terms of net income, the Forest Service would be classified as bankrupt.8

Nevertheless, O’Toole remains optimistic in offering his recommendations.

My economic research has convinced me that Americans can have all the wilderness, timber, wildlife, fish, and other forest resources they want. Apparent shortages of any of these resources are due solely to the Forest Service’s failure to sell them at market prices.9

O’Toole’s diagnosis of the U.S. Forest Service’s problems is consistent with much economic analysis and is a clear example of how economic analysis is used in environmental debates.

The U.S. Forest Service is a large government bureaucracy with little or no incentive to balance revenues and expenses. Economic and environmental prob- lems created by the policies of the U.S. Forest Service can be attributed “not to ignorance or maliciousness but rather to a lack of incentive to be concerned.” O’Toole attempts to show that “inefficient management and environmental controversies are not problems in themselves but are merely symptoms of major institutional defects within the Forest Service.”10 In general, the major institu- tional defects all stem from the fact that the U.S. Forest Service does not operate according to the economic laws that would guide a private, for-profit business operating within a truly free market.

O’Toole’s analysis is based on “the fundamental economic assumption that people’s decisions are strongly influenced by the incentives affecting the decision makers.”11 The current structure of the U.S. Forest Service provides incentives only to “maximize its budget” and provides little or no incentive to supply Americans with “all the wilderness, timber, wildlife, fish, and other forest resources they want.” The laws of economics tell us that if we “change the incentives, the decisions change.”

What are the sources of U.S. Forest Service mismanagement? Essentially, there are two. The U.S. Forest Service is primarily responsible to Congress. Like Congress, its decisions reflect an attempt to balance the demands of competing and sometimes contradictory interest groups. Recent debates concerning protection of the spotted owl in the Pacific Northwest demonstrate the type of controversial decisions the U.S. Forest Service faces. Thus the pri- mary incentive for the U.S. Forest Service is to satisfy these interest groups as much as possible, even if doing so means that the agency cannot devise and consistently enforce a long-range, rational, and efficient policy. Like Congress, which measures its success not in terms of the quality of legislation but in terms of re-election rates, the U.S. Forest Service is left with no measure of its success other than its budgetary retention rates. If its budget is maintained or increased, the U.S. Forest Service must be properly balancing the demands of its constituencies.12

The second source of U.S. Forest Service mismanagement lies in its bud- get, much of which comes from revenues retained from timber sales. An example is the Knutson-Vandenberg Act of 1930, which allows the U.S.

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Forest Service to retain money collected from timber sales to fund reforesta- tion. Congressional thinking seems to have been that this would accomplish desired goals without costing taxpayers money. However, because this made the U.S. Forest Service’s budget dependent on the timber revenues collected, including those collected from unprofitable sales of timber, the practice provides an incentive to sell timber at any price. The service has no incentive either to balance revenues and costs or to balance timber sales against other uses of the forests.

Thus classical economic analysis has uncovered the underlying cause of the U.S. Forest Service’s inability to manage national forests in an ecologically sound manner. The bureaucracy is organized in such a way that managers have incen- tives only to maximize their budget. In short, the U.S. Forest Service does not exist within a free-market framework. This is the diagnosis of U.S. Forest Service ills. Now, what is the cure?

The recommendation of environmental economics calls for the “marketiza- tion of the Forest Service.” That is, the decisions of the U.S. Forest Service should mimic those decisions that would be made by private sector business managers seeking profits in a competitive market. The economic laws of the marketplace would lead to decisions that would best satisfy the diverse demands of the public. The market would “ensure efficient production of most forest resources and an efficient allocation of forestlands.” The market would give Americans “all the wilderness, timber, wildlife, fish, and other forest resources they want.”

It is interesting to contrast this recommendation with Pinchot’s views of the U.S. Forest Service. Both approaches agree on the desirable outcome: using for- estlands to provide the greatest good for the greatest number of people. In this way, both apparently accept the utilitarian goal of maximally satisfying individual preferences. The forests should be used to give people as much of what they want as possible. These approaches differ, however, on the correct means for attaining this goal. Whereas Pinchot left it to scientific foresters and other experts to determine the correct policy, O’Toole trusts the workings of a competitive, free, and open market to achieve this goal. Unlike Pinchot’s forester, the role of the economist is not to make substantive policy decisions but to help eliminate barriers to the operation of the market. The economic marketplace is the most appropriate means for attaining the utilitarian goal of maximal satisfaction of wants.

O’Toole cites the work of environmental economists, especially John Baden and Richard Stroup, to support his recommendations.13 According to these economists, it is a mistake to treat natural resources as “public goods” to be man- aged for the public welfare by experts. Instead, we should recognize that not “every citizen benefits from his share of the public lands and the resources found thereon.” In leaving resource decisions to government bureaucrats and asking them to make decisions for the public good, we assume that “culture can rewire people, so that the public interest becomes self-interest.”14

These economists argue that a market would be the most equitable and rea- sonable means for making these decisions. The market requires only those people

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affected by a decision to participate in it, which makes it more equitable. Assum- ing that every person is motivated by self-interest, it is more reasonable. Ignoring the laws of the market has “caused most of the environmental destruction the United States has seen in this century.”15

Specifically, how should U.S. Forest Service decisions mimic the market? The U.S. Forest Service should manage resources the way a private owner would seek to manage private property. Private owners use their property to maximize their self-interest. Baden and Stroup explain:

If the buffalo is not mine until I kill it and I cannot sell my interest in the living animal to another, I have no incentive—beyond altruism—to inves- tigate others’ interest in it. I will do with it as I wish. But if the buffalo is mine and I may sell it, I am motivated to consider others’ value estimate of the animal. I will misuse the buffalo only at my own economic peril.16

The U.S. Forest Service should seek to make a profit from its use of the national forests. According to the laws of economics, a profit is evidence that a decision is satisfying demand in an efficient manner. Maximum profit reflects the fact that those people who most value a resource—those who are willing to pay the most for it—have control of that resource. Thus O’Toole recommends that all U.S. Forest Service activities should be funded out of the profits, not the gross receipts, generated by those activities.

This would imply, first, that timber no longer would be offered for sale below cost. Selling timber rights to national forests on the open market would increase the cost of those rights. Following the economic law of supply and demand, this would decrease demand for timber, thereby increasing the amount of forestland available for wilderness, wildlife preservation, and recreation uses. Individuals who wish to use the national forests as wilderness areas or for recrea- tional use will, of course, be required to pay for that use. These “user fees,” in effect, will mean that competing users of the forests—timber, wilderness, and recreation—will be bidding against each other for access rights. By seeking to maximize the profits generated by the forests, the U.S. Forest Service will attain equilibrium between these competing interests. The group that most values the resource will be willing to pay the most for it, thereby achieving the most efficient use. The market optimally satisfies competing consumer demand. It provides Americans with “all the wilderness, timber, wildlife, fish, and other forest resources they want.”

Consider how a free market analysis would decide the controversy over dril- ling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The likely result would be that the right to drill would be sold, ideally through an auction among competing oil companies. As in all auctions, presumably, the winning bid would be made by those who most value the property, and this would be the company that thinks it can best profit from the drilling by most efficiently managing it. Rights to harvest fish in the surrounding waters, if not the fish themselves, would also be auctioned, and ownership would likewise go to those who think they could best profit from it. So far, it would seem that the public is getting all the resources that they want.

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But what of those people who do not want the oil drilling at all? Some oppose the drilling on aesthetic or other preservationist grounds. Environmental economists would argue that those people ought to enter the auction and try to purchase the land themselves. The fact that it is highly unlikely that preservation- ists could compete financially with oil companies demonstrates clearly that the use of the land as a resource for oil is more highly valued than alternatives, because the public is willing to pay more for oil than for yet more undeveloped shoreline. Consistent with utilitarian principles, drilling would seem the best way to create the greatest good for the greatest number.

Other opponents to the mine argue that it will create unreasonable risks to their fishing and recreational rights. Environmental economists have a straightfor- ward answer to this concern as well. If fisheries are harmed by drilling operations, then the oil companies would owe the fishing owners compensation for their loss, as happened in the BP case. This compensatory requirement provides an incentive for the oil company to avoid polluting the Gulf of Mexico. The private property rights of the fishing community create restrictions on how the oil com- panies can use their land. In all cases, market forces work to ensure that natural resources are being used so that all interested parties get as much of the resources as they want, or at least, as much as they are willing to pay for.

This demonstrates, according to defenders of the free market, that the most efficient means for allocating scarce resources (that is, the way to give as many people as much of what they want as possible) is to rely on the workings of a competitive, open, and free market. Before analyzing these issues, let us turn to another environmental issue that also provides a common example of the use of economics in environmental policy.

3 .4 POLLUT ION AND ECONOMICS

Water and air pollution are among the most pressing environmental problems that we face. Few people anywhere in the world have not, at least at one point in their lives, been adversely affected by polluted water or air. But although peo- ple may be in wide agreement about the problem, they are in wide disagreement about the solution.

Part of the challenge in pollution issues lies with specifying the goal. Every- one wants clean water and clean air. But what exactly counts as clean, and what would we need to give up in order to attain it? Pure water with absolutely no contaminants exists in laboratories but nowhere in nature. What is clean air? The atmosphere contains nitrogen (78 percent) and oxygen (21 percent) and trace amounts of many other gases, water, and solids. How clean is clean?

Perhaps the only answer is that water and air are clean if they are safe for human consumption. But safety is not an all-or-nothing proposition. To deter- mine safety, we need to identify, describe, and assess risks. To determine safety, we need to balance risks with benefits—something we do in many contexts

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every day. Is crossing a busy street safe? Is driving a car safe? Is it safe to eat food containing chemical preservatives?

It would seem that something is judged to be safe if its risks are judged acceptable—if its benefits outweigh its potential costs. When we express the issue in this way, we can see why treating pollution problems as economic problems is so tempting. How should resources be allocated so that maximum benefits are received from minimum costs? What are the costs and benefits of various levels of pollution?

In what has become a classic in environmental economics, William Baxter’s People or Penguins: The Case for Optimal Pollution presented a market-based eco- nomic analysis of pollution.17 In Baxter’s words:

To assert that there is a pollution problem or an environmental problem is to assert, at least implicitly, that one or more resources is not being used so as to maximize human satisfactions. In this respect at least environmental problems are economics problems, and better insight can be gained by application of economic analysis.18

Baxter begins his analysis by reviewing some of its basic assumptions. He values individual freedom so long as one person’s actions “do not interfere with the interests of other human beings.” He assumes that “waste is a bad thing” and, therefore, any resources that are “employed so as to yield less than they might yield in human satisfactions” are wasted.19 He also assumes that human beings are the source of all value and that environmental policies ought to be “people-oriented.”

He explains this point while discussing the threat posed to penguins by use of the pesticide DDT.

My criteria are oriented to people, not penguins. Damage to penguins, or sugar pines, or geological marvels is, without more, simply irrelevant. One must go further, by my criteria, and say: Penguins are important because people enjoy seeing them walk about rocks…. I have no interest in pre- serving penguins for their own sake.20

With these assumptions, Baxter turns to an economic analysis of pollution. Denying that there is any “naturally good” state of air or water, he explains that “there is no normative definition of clean air or pure water, hence no definition of polluted air or of pollution, except by reference to the needs of man.”21 In a vein similar to the earlier discussion of risks, Baxter argues that “clean” air and water are whatever is judged acceptable by human beings. Too much pollution would be judged unacceptable by society, but so would too little pollution. Air and water that were totally free of any contaminants could be desirable, but their costs would be too high. In essence, society aims at a proper balance of risks, an “optimal level of pollution.” This optimal level is “just those amounts that attend a sensibly organized society thoughtfully and knowledgeably pursuing the greatest possible satisfaction for its human members.”22 Reasoning consistently with much eco- nomic thinking, Baxter believes that the functioning of a free and competitive

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market would yield this “greatest possible amount of human satisfaction.” How would this work?

Baxter reminds us that most decisions that we make involve tradeoffs. If I choose to do one thing, I give up something else. Every opportunity pursued involves other opportunities forgone. This captures the classic economic mean- ing of costs. The cost of something is equivalent to what must be given up to attain it. In Baxter’s example, if we choose to build a dam, the resources that are used in building the dam cannot be used to build hospitals, fishing poles, schools, or electric can openers. Thus the cost of the dam is equivalent to alternative uses of those resources—labor, building materials, technological skills, capital, and energy—that have been forgone.

Accordingly, the costs of reducing water and air pollution should be under- stood in terms of those other goods that we would need to give up to accom- plish this goal. In short, we need to make tradeoffs. Every resource devoted to reducing pollution is a resource not devoted to washing machines, hospitals, schools, B-1 bombers, and so forth. Left alone, markets would continue to make these tradeoffs so long as the result was a net increase in human satisfaction, and the benefits gained outweighed the additional costs. The optimal level of pollution is that point of equilibrium, at which the next trade-off made to reduce pollution results in a decrease in overall satisfaction. This is the point at which the resources used to fight pollution would have a higher value to society if used elsewhere.

Consider the following example of how this process might work. Suppose a community’s drinking water showed contamination levels slightly above those recommended by health officials. Lowering the contamination below recom- mended levels would involve certain costs. In other words, tax monies diverted to this project could not be used to build a new school, fund road construction, and undertake other public works projects. Assume that this community decides that the benefits of reducing contamination outweigh the costs. The residents would rather have cleaner drinking water than newly paved roads, and they decide to make this trade-off. This decision results in a greater satisfaction of the community’s desires than either the status quo or other alternatives.

Now, this community might also desire to have drinking water that is abso- lutely pure—water that is totally free of contaminants. The costs for this goal would be much higher. Other community projects would have to be sacrificed and tax rates raised. Eventually, the community must decide when to stop making these tradeoffs. This is the point at which water quality that is slightly improved is not worth the costs—not worth those other goods that would have to be given up to achieve this goal. At that point, any decision to obtain cleaner water would result in a net decrease in community satisfaction.

According to classical economics, arriving at this point of equilibrium between diverse and competing community desires should be the goal of public policy decisions. This is the point at which optimal satisfaction is achieved. Peo- ple have more of what they want than they would have under any other alloca- tion of resources. This is the “optimal level of pollution.”

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Baxter acknowledges that this may sound “so general and abstract as to be unhelpful.”23 However, this abstraction has accurately described just what results, at least in theory, from the workings of a free, open, and competitive market- place. Economic analysis tells us that when people have the opportunity to exchange goods and services freely, when competition ensures that alternative choices exist, and when these individuals seek to maximize their own welfare, the result is an optimal satisfaction of desires. More people get more of what they most want through this process than they would under any other economic arrangement. According to Baxter, if individuals in a society are free to engage in whatever exchanges of resources are mutually satisfactory for themselves, then, at least in theory, every resource in society will be deployed in the way that yields the greatest possible human satisfaction.24

Thus Baxter’s solution to the pollution problem, like O’Toole’s solution to forest conservation problems, rests in the working of the free market. In both cases, economic analysis and methodology offer a diagnosis of environmental ills. Each case offers a particular economic prescription to cure those ills. A society that structures its economy to follow the principles of the free market will successfully meet all its environmental challenges.

3 .5 ETH ICAL ISSUES IN ECONOMIC AN ALYS IS

Before turning to an analysis of these claims, we need to be clear about the issues involved. A first step of applied ethics is to identify and clarify the ethical issues at stake. As we saw in Chapter 1, turning to technical and objective disciplines such as economics can be an attractive option when one is faced with controversial environmental problems. Part of the reason for this lies in the belief that scientific and technical disciplines possess an objectivity that ethical and political discussions lack. According to this view, the scientific method offers precise and objective answers to our problems. Sciences such as economics are, in this view, value- neutral. A helpful starting point for our ethical analysis, therefore, is to show how these economic analyses are heavily influenced by value assumptions and to show that economic analysis is a value-laden analysis.

The ethical framework of classical economic analysis can be understood in terms of ends and means. The end of economic policy is the maximum satisfac- tion of individual desires or maximum happiness. The functioning of a free and competitive market is believed to be the ethically best means for attaining that end.

Economic analysis of environmental problems, as represented by the work of people like O’Toole and Baxter, thus assumes an essentially utilitarian ethics. The ultimate policy goal implicitly or explicitly assumed throughout these analyses is the utilitarian goal of maximizing the overall good. The specific understanding of that good and the specific means defended to attain that goal locate these views as a version of preference utilitarianism. Let us examine these claims more closely.

Perhaps Gifford Pinchot was most explicit in stating the utilitarian goals of his policies. Forest management, he said, sought the “greatest good for the

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greatest number for the longest time.” O’Toole is less explicit but no less utili- tarian. His recommendations aim to provide the American people with the maximum satisfaction of their wants in this regard. Baxter’s recommendations seek to ensure that resources are “used so as to maximize human satisfactions.” Thus, they all judge environmental policies in terms of their ability to produce certain beneficial consequences.

Pinchot believed that scientific management techniques could best lead us to this goal. O’Toole and Baxter argue that the workings of the marketplace are the most efficient means available. Their reasons for relying on the market suggest further value assumptions. Markets give priority to the wants that people actually express, as opposed to those interests that other people (for example, professional foresters) determine or assume that they have. That is, the market version of util- itarianism assumes that the best way to determine what is good for someone is to figure out what that person wants, and that the best way to learn this is to see what that person is willing to pay for in the marketplace.

To say that the market is the best way to determine what people want is to claim that it is not only the most efficient way (although for economists it certainly is that) but also the best way ethically. Why should public policy give priority to those preferences expressed in the market? We can find at least three philosophical answers to this question in O’Toole and Baxter.

First, market utilitarianism is thought to promote individual freedom. Baxter takes it as a “basic tenet of our civilization” that “every person should be free to do whatever he wishes in contexts where his actions do not interfere with the interests of other human beings.”25 He acknowledges that his market solution to environmental problems “stems from” this criterion. O’Toole explains that the market “preserves individual freedom since those who support and wish to par- ticipate in each activity may do so on the basis of willing consent.”26 The market is preferable to government regulation, for example, because the government “is based on coercive activity.” Thus O’Toole and Baxter would reject Pinchot’s reliance on experts as a threat to individual freedom of choice.

A second reason for supporting market solutions rests with a commitment to the value of private property rights. O’Toole tells us that “the marketplace is centered around the notion of private property…. For the market to work, private property rights to resources must be easily transferable…. The market works when rights are both privately held and easily transferable.” Indeed, “most environmental problems, such as lack of protection for wildlife, air pollu- tion, and poor water quality, are due to the lack of transferable property rights.”27

Therefore, market solutions to public policy questions will be reasonable only within a society that recognizes and values private property rights.

Finally, market solutions are consistent with certain philosophical assump- tions about human nature. O’Toole identifies a major problem with the U.S. Forest Service as the “lack of incentive to be concerned.” “The fundamental economic assumption,” he tells us, is that “people’s decisions are strongly influ- enced by the incentives affecting the decision makers” and that if we “change the incentives, the decisions change.” As it stands, this seems trivially true. But what are these incentives? The answer can be found when O’Toole quotes the

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reasons offered by the new resource economists, Baden and Stroup, for rejecting Pinchot’s nonmarket version. The national forests, for example, were created with the idea that “scientific foresters” employed by the public could objectively determine the method of management that best meets the public interest. But to assume that managers will be altruistic, say Stroup and Baden, it must be assumed “that culture can rewire people so that the public interest becomes self-interest.” Instead, “Property rights theorists assume that the decision maker will maximize his own utility … in whatever situation he finds himself.”28

The fundamental assumption about human nature is that human beings act, primarily if not solely, on the basis of self-interest. Self-interest then is under- stood in the classic utilitarian sense of maximizing our own satisfactions or “utilities.” Altruism, or acting for the best interests of others, would require that human nature be “rewired.” In Baxter’s words:

It may be said by way of objection to this position, that it is very selfish of people to act as if each person represented one unit of importance and nothing else was of importance. It is undeniably selfish. Nevertheless I think it is the only tenable starting place for analysis for several reasons. First, no other position corresponds to the way most people really think and actually corresponds to reality.29

Thus, underlying the economic analyses described in this chapter are commit- ments to the values of individual freedom and private property rights and philo- sophical assumptions about human nature. Along with the clear utilitarian goal of providing the greatest good for the greatest number, these commitments clearly show the ethical and philosophical nature of economic analysis. Despite the pop- ular misconception that they do so, economic analysis and methodology do not claim to offer us ethically neutral answers to environmental controversies.

These recommendations clearly make philosophical assumptions concerning several value issues. Thus this type of analysis lies within the domain of philo- sophical ethics. We now need to ask whether these analyses offer justifiable answers and recommendations.

3 .6 CO ST – BENEF IT ANA LYS IS

Cost-benefit analysis, a technique for deciding among alternative courses of action, is one essential aspect of much economic analysis. It is implicit in the evaluations of both O’Toole and Baxter. It is also at the center of recent public policy debates concerning such environmental controversies as global warming and oil drilling. Many critics argue that the environmental laws all need to be revised in ways that require government regulators to incorporate cost-benefit analysis into their decisions. For example, critics of the Endangered Species Act argued that before banning logging to protect the spotted owl, government regulators should have been required to prove that the benefits of protecting

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the owl outweighed the costs to loggers, timber companies, local communities, and others.

To its defenders, cost-benefit analysis requires an obvious and simple step: Before deciding on some course of action, we should determine that the benefits of that act outweigh the costs. It is simply unreasonable to do something if the costs are greater than the benefits. But cost-benefit analysis is neither as simple nor as value-neutral as it may seem.

Cost-benefit analysis differs from what is sometimes called cost effectiveness, and the distinction is important. Cost effectiveness directs us to pursue the most effective means to a given end. Thus, to use a simple example, if we are seeking to reduce the amount of contaminants in drinking water, a cost-effective analysis might compare the relative costs of a centralized water treatment plant to the installation of filters on home faucets. We should pursue whichever is more effective—that is, the alternative that achieves our ends at lower cost.

Cost-benefit analysis directs us to determine whether a given end is worth pursuing in light of its costs. In this strategy, both the means and the ends of our decisions are subjected to economic analysis. When we distinguish cost effective- ness from cost-benefit analysis, we can see that much of the commonsense appeal of the latter may actually be the result of confusion with cost effectiveness. Con- sider the following example.

Imagine that a child is diagnosed with an illness for which a variety of equally effective treatments are available. Cost effectiveness would direct us to follow the lowest-cost treatment (for example, choosing a generic version of a name-brand prescription). On the other hand, a cost-benefit approach would require that we compare the benefits (the child’s health) with the costs and pur- sue whichever strategy maximizes net benefits. We would need to ask whether the child’s health is worth the cost. Now, although (sadly) this question must sometimes be asked, asking it is by no means the obvious and commonsense way to proceed.

This raises a second major challenge to cost-benefit analysis. It is far from clear that all our values or goals can be or should be expressed in economic terms. Cost- benefit analysis requires that we compare the “benefits” with the costs. To avoid the old “apples and oranges” problem, the benefits and costs must be in the same category. That is, they must be expressible in economic terms. Ultimately, this means that we must express both in terms of dollars and cents. Despite some clever work by economists, it is not at all clear that this is possible.

For example, several years ago I was on a canoe trip in Canada’s Quetico Park. To preserve this wilderness area, entrance is by permit alone and motorized boats are prohibited. As we checked in with a park ranger, we were asked to fill out a short questionnaire that would be used to help determine future park policies, including price and availability of permits. Among other things, this questionnaire asked what we would be willing to pay for permits if we could be assured of such benefits as seeing bald eagles and moose or not seeing other campers. Because no free and open market exists for such goods as permits, eagles, or moose, and because a cost-benefit analysis requires that these goods

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be assigned a price, someone must devise an elaborate scheme to figure out (some might say create) a cost for these benefits.

This only hints at the difficulty in trying to establish the costs for those ben- efits that are not traded on economic markets. But it also hints at another danger. Because markets do not exist for many environmental goods, such as clean air and water or an endangered species, the use of cost-benefit analysis seems to require that we rely on economists and other social scientists to tell us what the cost would be if there were markets for such goods. Note that in determining forest policy, for example, this means that we still rely on the decisions of “experts” rather than markets. However, this time the experts are economists (usually working in universities and industry), rather than foresters trained in sci- ence and ecology. Thus one alleged benefit of economic analysis—that it takes decisions out of the hands of “experts” and government bureaucrats and gives them back to individual citizens—is soon violated when economists are required to determine a price for nonmarket goods.

Finally, apart from the issue of whether we can establish the cost of many environmental benefits, there is a serious question about whether we should be doing this at all. As the example of the child’s health suggests, there are some values that should not be reduced to their economic costs. Imagine conducting a cost-benefit analysis of democracy, or of friendship, or of the Grand Canyon. Further, cost-benefit analysis is usually totally anthropocentric. You will seldom hear economists speak of either the costs or the benefits to animals or to other natural entities. Perhaps we should not. But to adopt cost-benefit analysis with- out addressing these questions is to ignore important value-laden questions.

3 .7 ETH ICAL ANALYS IS

AN D ENVIRONMENTAL ECON OMICS

To the degree that contemporary economic analyses of environmental problems reflect a utilitarian ethics, philosophers have much to offer in the evaluation of this ethical theory. Several standard criticisms, mentioned briefly in Chapter 2, are a useful starting point for this evaluation.

Utilitarians face several problems when they attempt to quantify and mea- sure consequences. These problems arise again in the use of cost-benefit analysis. One aspect involves the attempt to quantify qualitative goods. We have seen, for example, the challenge posed by trying to determine standards for clean or safe water and air quality. These qualitative goods find no place in the economic approach, because they cannot be easily quantified. A second problem is the resulting tendency to translate qualitative goods into categories that can be mea- sured. Thus we find Baxter translating discussions of cleanness and safety into a discussion of risks, the probabilities of which can be quantified and calculated. We find O’Toole, in a manner consistent with typical applications of the cost- benefit method, translating qualitative goods into economic terms. The value of wilderness or recreation areas is understood as measurable by the willingness of

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users to pay for them. A final measurement problem involves the tendency to artificially restrict the range of relevant subjects. As presented in the chapters that follow, some critics claim that this tendency systematically ignores the well-being of animals, future generations, trees, the biosphere, and the like. We examine the charge that the economic approach is overly anthropocentric, or human centered, in greater detail elsewhere. The general point of these measure- ment problems is to raise the possibility that economic analysis seriously distorts or ignores important environmental issues.

In the book The Economy of the Earth, Mark Sagoff develops an insightful and convincing case against the use of economic analysis as the dominant tool of environmental policymakers.30 In the remainder of this chapter, we will use Sag- off’s evaluation as an example of the best that applied ethics has offered. Although his book offers a variety of subtle and powerful arguments, we con- centrate on three major challenges to the use of economic analysis.

Sagoff argues that much economic analysis rests on a serious confusion between wants or preferences, on the one hand, and beliefs and values on the other. Economics deals only with wants and preferences because these are expressed in an economic market. The market can measure the intensity of our wants by our willingness to pay (by price), measure, and compare individual wants (through cost-benefit analysis), and determine efficient means for optimally fulfilling wants. But markets cannot measure or quantify our beliefs or values. Because many environmental issues involve our beliefs and our values, economic analysis is beside the point. When economics is involved in environmental pol- icy, it treats our beliefs as though they were mere wants and, thereby, seriously distorts the issue. In an early article, Sagoff makes the following claims:

Economic methods cannot supply the information necessary to justify public policy. Economics can measure the intensity with which we hold our beliefs; it cannot evaluate those beliefs on their merits. Yet such evaluation is essential to political decision making. This is my greatest single criticism of cost-benefit analysis.31

What exactly is the distinction between wants and beliefs, and why is it important?

When individuals express a want or personal preference, they are stating something that is purely personal and subjective. Another person has no grounds to challenge, rebut, or support my wants. Wants are neither true nor false. If I express my preference for chocolate ice cream, someone cannot challenge that and claim, “No, you don’t.” I have a certain privileged status with regard to my wants. In the public sphere, they are taken as a given. This is the way econ- omists treat human interests. Willingness to pay measures the intensity with which I hold my wants (I will not pay more than a few dollars for a dish of chocolate ice cream), but willingness to pay says nothing about the legitimacy or validity of that want.

Beliefs, on the other hand, are subject to rational evaluation. They are objective in the sense that reasons are summoned to support them. Beliefs can be true or false. It would be a serious mistake (a “category mistake” in Sagoff’s

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terms) to judge the validity of a belief by a person’s willingness to pay for it. To put a price on beliefs is to profoundly misunderstand the nature of belief.

Sagoff reminds us that when environmentalists argue that we ought to preserve a wilderness area or an Alaskan fishing ground for its aesthetic or sym- bolic meaning, they are not merely expressing a personal want. They are stating a conviction about a public good that should be accepted or rejected by others on the basis of reasons, not on the basis of who is most willing to pay for that public good. Because economics has no way to factor them into its analysis, beliefs and convictions are either ignored or treated as though they were mere wants.

Essentially, O’Toole’s marketization solution to environmental problems does exactly this. Remember that O’Toole’s goal is to provide all the wilderness and the like that the American people “want.” But he equates this goal with what the American people (in their roles as timber users, hikers, hunters, and so forth) are willing to pay. If recreational users are unwilling to pay a user fee that is economically competitive with the fees paid by the timber industry, then by definition they must not want recreation as much as timber users want the lum- ber. Returning to the discussions at the beginning of this chapter, if preservation- ists in the Gulf of Mexico area are not willing to pay as much for the land as are the oil companies, then they must not want the wilderness as much as consumers want oil. Likewise, if a community is unwilling to spend any more tax money to reduce air and water pollution, its residents must not want cleaner air and water as much as they want lower taxes or other public projects.

This tendency to reduce all beliefs and values to wants and preferences also seriously distorts the nature of the human being. That distortion treats people at all times as consumers. People, at least insofar as the economist or policy maker is concerned, are simply the locations of a given collection of wants. People care only about satisfying their personal wants, and the role of the economist is to determine how to maximally attain this end.

The alternative that is ignored by economic analysis treats humans as think- ing and reasoning beings. The market leaves no room for debate, discussion, or dialogue in which we can defend our beliefs with reasons. It ignores the fact that people are active thinkers, not merely passive “wanters.” Most important, by ignoring the distinction between wants and beliefs, economic analysis reduces the most meaningful elements of human life—our beliefs and values—to matters of mere personal taste or opinion. To the degree that they are held with equal intensity, all desires equally deserve to be satisfied, no matter what the desire is.

This leads to a second major challenge to economic analysis. By ignoring the distinction between wants and beliefs, market analysis threatens our democratic political process. By treating us as always and only consumers, market analysis ignores our lives as citizens. As consumers, we may seek to satisfy personal wants. As citizens, we may have goals and aspirations that give meaning to our lives, determine our nature as a people and a culture, and define what we stand for as a people. Ours is a liberal democratic society—liberal in the sense that we value personal liberty to pursue our individual goals, but democratic in the sense that collectively we seek agreement about public goods and shared goals. Thus our political system leaves room for both personal and public interests. We are

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all, at one and the same time, both private individuals and public citizens. Market analysis ignores this public realm and thereby undermines our democratic politi- cal institutions.

According to Sagoff:

Our environmental goals—cleaner air and water, the preservation of the wilderness and wildlife, and the like—are not to be construed, then, simply as personal wants or preferences; they are not interests to be “priced” by markets or by cost-benefit analysis, but are views or beliefs that may find their way, as public values, into legislation. These goals stem from our character as a people, which is not something we choose, as we might choose a necktie or a cigarette, but something we recognize, something we are. These goals presuppose the reality of public or shared values that we recognize together, values that are discussed and criticized on their merits and are not to be confused with preferences that are appropriately priced in markets. Our democratic political processes allow us to argue our beliefs on their merits.32

Economic analysis seems to assume a particular view of democracy wherein representatives passively follow the demands of the electorate, seeking to balance competing demands in a manner that satisfies the majority. The role of the poli- tician in this model is to read the public opinion polls and act accordingly. But this neglects the more participatory nature of democracy in which citizens exchange views, debate their merits, learn from each other, and reach agree- ment.33 The participatory model encourages a view of elected officials as active leaders rather than passive followers. We are committed not only to the personal freedom that Baxter’s analysis assumes, but also to a system in which we mutually define and pursue a vision of the good life. A healthy, beautiful, undeveloped, and inspiring environment may not benefit me as a consumer, but it may be quite valuable to me as a citizen. This participatory model of democracy would reject the views of the new resource economists that O’Toole approvingly quotes: “It is a common misconception that every citizen benefits from his share of the public lands and resources found thereon.”34

Many economists reject the notion of a public welfare or public good, because they view people solely as consumers. Not every citizen “consumes” the Alaskan wilderness, for example. But this fails to recognize that we are citi- zens as well as consumers and that we can benefit from the environment as citi- zens. The Alaskan wilderness can be valuable to us as citizens because of what it means to us, because of what it says about our self-image and self-respect. These benefits are not and cannot be priced in the market, so they are ignored by the type of economic analysis offered by O’Toole, the new resource economists, and Baxter.

A final challenge denies that economic analysis has any ethical basis at all. Despite the appearance that markets are committed to utilitarian ends, in actual- ity the goal of efficiency lacks any coherent and substantive ethical basis. Remember the role that economic analysis plays in many contemporary envi- ronmental issues. Unquestionably, economic and cost-benefit analyses are the

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major public policy methodologies used in reaching environmental decisions. Economics tells us as individuals, as a society, and as a government what we should do. Why should we follow this advice? Presumably because doing so will lead us to a better state of affairs. At first glance, this better state of affairs— economic efficiency—appears to be the utilitarian goal of providing the greatest good for the greatest number. But does economic efficiency provide the greatest good for the greatest number? Again, Sagoff is persuasive in claiming that it does not.

What is the goal of economic efficiency? As suggested earlier, efficiency implies optimal satisfaction of consumer preferences. An efficient market is one in which more people get more of that for which they are most willing to pay. But why should we, as a society and especially when we are concerned with environmental issues, take the satisfaction of individual preferences as our over- riding goal? Why should this be the goal of public policy, when we recognize the obvious and acknowledge that many individual preferences are silly, foolish, vulgar, dangerous, immoral, criminal, and the like? Why should we think that satisfying the preferences of a racist, criminal, fool, or sadist is a good thing?

What is so good about satisfying preferences? The only options seem to be that satisfying preferences is good in itself or that it is a means to something that is good. In terms that we used in describing utilitarianism in Chapter 2, prefer- ence satisfaction is either intrinsically good or instrumentally good. Given the wide variety of harmful, decadent, and trivial preferences that exist, surely no one could claim that satisfying preferences is good in itself. Surely it is not good in itself that child molesters or rapists have their preferences satisfied. If not good in itself, what other good is brought about instrumentally by satisfying preferences?

Typically, this economic approach uses such terms as utility, welfare, well-being, or happiness to explain the goal of satisfying preferences. However, to explain the value of preference satisfaction by simply defining it in these ways is to beg the question by offering a trivially true explanation. On the other hand, if utility, welfare, happiness, and well-being are more thoroughly defined, the claim that preference satisfaction always leads to these goods is false. Satisfying my preference for a cigarette does not always make me happy in a nontrivial sense. Sometimes having my preferences frustrated can be in my best interest by teaching me patience, diligence, or modesty. Sometimes satisfying preferences is disappointing. Sometimes I might have all that the market can supply, but I might still lack what is important (“What would it profit a man to gain the whole world if he loses his soul?”). The economic methodology assumes that all other things being equal, for people to get what they want is a good thing. A more realistic and honest assump- tion would seem to be that whether what I want is a good thing depends on what it is that I want.

Thus, even if (and it is a big if) economic analysis could overcome the mea- surement problems and all the other problems associated with applying market analyses to the real world, and if the market succeeded in attaining its goal, we still would have no reason for accepting preference satisfaction as an ethical goal. An efficient allocation of resources is not itself an ethical goal at all.

70 PART II ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS AS APPLIED ETHICS

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3 .8 SUMMARY AND CONCLUS IONS

As we struggle with great environmental controversies, we must look beyond the economic market for a vision to guide policy decisions. Economic analysis cannot answer the fundamental ethical and philosophical questions that these controversies raise. The solution, according to Sagoff, is do the following:

Recognize that utopian capitalism is dead; that the concepts of resource and welfare economics, as a result, are largely obsolete and irrelevant; and that we must look to other concepts and cultural traditions to set priorities in solving environmental and social problems. To set these priorities, we need to distin- guish the pure from the polluted, the natural from the artificial, the noble from the mundane, good from bad, and right from wrong. These are scientific, cul- tural, aesthetic, historical, and ethical—not primarily economic—distinctions.35

Sagoff encourages us to do the hard thinking required to explain and justify environmental policy. We must explain why we value clean air and water, and we must justify why we value the preservation of wilderness areas. We must move beyond simply saying that these are things that we want or prefer and offer reasons that show their value and meaning.

But even Sagoff’s alternative is restricted to the important interests of living human beings. The “scientific, cultural, aesthetic, historical, and ethical” values and beliefs tend to keep the environmental debate focused on the claims of the current generation of humans. In Chapter 4, we will see how environmental concerns lead us away from this narrow focus.

N O T E S

1. Samuel Hays, Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1959), pp. 41–42.

2. Gifford Pinchot, The Training of a Forester (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1914), p. 13.

3. See Michael Cohen, The Pathless Way (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984), for a helpful study of John Muir. Chapters 6 and 7 espe- cially provide an insightful introduc- tion to many ethical aspects of Muir’s thinking.

4. This may be too simple an interpre- tation of the conservation movement. An alternative view is defended by Samuel Hays in Conservation and the

Gospel of Efficiency (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1959). Hays argues that American business sup- ported the conservation movement, recognizing that supporting it as a more enlightened, long-term eco- nomic self-interest served them better than fighting it. Pinchot’s writings seem to me to suggest a strong anti- corporate sentiment. For an inter- pretation that supports my reading of Pinchot, see James Bates, “Fulfilling American Democracy: The Conser- vation Movement, 1907–1921,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 44 (June 1957). Whether early twentieth-century corporate America supported the conservation move- ment is irrelevant to the more general

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point, however. Pinchot’s progres- sivism was directed against a common nineteenth-century view that resources are there for the benefit of immediate economic exploitation. A more pragmatic interpretation, which seeks a common ground for environmen- talists, is Bryan Norton, Toward Unity among Environmentalists (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), especially Chapter 2.

5. Pinchot, The Training of a Forester, pp. 23–25.

6. http://www.fs.fed.us/aboutus/ meetfs.shtml (Retrieved March 20, 2011.)

7. Randal O’Toole, Reforming the Forest Service (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1988), p. 14.

8. Ibid., xi.

9. Ibid., xii.

10. Ibid., xi, 7.

11. Ibid., 101.

12. O’Toole quotes a more detailed study to support this claim. See Ronald Johnson, “U.S. Forest Service Policy and Its Budget,” in Forestlands: Public and Private, ed. Robert Deacon and Bruce Johnson (San Francisco: Pacific Institute for Public Policy Research, 1985), pp. 103–33.

13. See especially Richard Stroup and John Baden, Natural Resources: Bureaucratic Myths and Environmental Management (San Francisco: Pacific Institute for Public Policy Research, 1983). The new resource economists offer policy analyses and recommen- dations based on neoclassical eco- nomics. They attribute most environmental problems to market failures and recommend policies that would mimic the workings of a competitive free market.

14. Ibid., 7, 29.

15. O’Toole, Reforming the Forest Service, p. 190.

16. Baden and Stroup, Natural Resources: Bureaucratic Myths and Environmental Management, p. 14.

17. William F. Baxter, People or Penguins: The Case for Optimal Pollution (New York: Columbia University Press, 1974).

18. Ibid., 17.

19. Ibid., 5.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid., 8.

22. Ibid.

23. Ibid., 27.

24. Ibid.

25. Ibid., 2.

26. O’Toole, Reforming the Forest Service, p. 189.

27. Ibid., 188–90.

28. Ibid., 190.

29. Baxter, People or Penguins: The Case for Optimal Pollution, p. 5.

30. Mark Sagoff, The Economy of the Earth (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

31. Mark Sagoff, “Economic Theory and Environmental Law,” Michigan Law Review 79 (1981): 1393–1419.

32. Sagoff, The Economy of the Earth, pp. 28–29.

33. For an examination of representative and participatory democracy, see Jane Mansbridge, Beyond Adversarial Democracy (New York: Basic Books, 1980).

34. O’Toole, Reforming the Forest Service, p. 189.

35. Sagoff, The Economy of the Earth, p. 22.

72 PART II ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS AS APPLIED ETHICS

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D I S C U S S I O N Q U E S T I O N S

1. Review the distinction between conservation and preservation. In the debate concerning Hetch Hetchy, would you support Pinchot’s conservationist policies or Muir’s preservationist policies? What values underlie your decision?

2. The Rolling Stones used this lyric, “You can’t always get what you want.” Is that a bad thing? Should government policy always seek to supply people with what they want? Should government play a role in teaching citizens which wants are of value and which are not, or should government remain neutral on such questions?

3. Should government agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service aim to make a profit? Why or why not? If you were director of the U.S. Forest Service, how would you understand your role of serving the public?

4. It has been suggested that one way to protect endangered species such as the blue whale would be to sell

them to the highest bidder. In this view, only unowned species are threatened with extinction. Spe- cies that are owned, such as chickens and cows, seldom face extinction because people (their owners) have a strong incentive (profit) for keeping them around. Property rights would ensure a similar protection for all endan- gered species. Do you think it would be wise to sell exclusive whaling rights to Norwegian, Russian, or Japanese whalers?

5. Baxter claims that “penguins are important because people enjoy seeing them.” Do you agree? Is this the only reason why penguins should be protected?

6. Is human nature “undeniably selfish,” as Baxter claims? Can you think of any situations in which people do not act selfishly? In answering this question, be careful to distinguish between a reason for acting and the feelings that follow from acting.

G L O B A L E N V I R O N M E N T A L E T H I C S W A T C H

For more information on Environmental Ethics as Applied Ethics, please see the Global Environmental Ethics Watch. Updated several times a day, Global Environmental Ethics Watch is a focused portal into GREENR—our Global Reference on the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources—an ideal one-stop site for current events and research. You will

have access to the latest information from trusted academic journals, news out- lets, and magazines as well as access to statistics, primary sources, case studies, videos, podcasts, and much more.

To gain access please use the access code that accompanies your book. If you do not have an access code, visit cengagebrain.com to purchase one.

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animal rights/Introduction and Objectives – 17.SU.HUM.1135.pdf

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Introduction

This seems like a simple question, but it isn’t (by now you should have figured out that no question raised in this course has a simple answer!). Do animals have rights? How should we treat them?

We will also consider the broader question of the “rights of nature” ­ not just animals, but trees and rocks and the atmosphere and the oceans too.

Objectives

After completing the learning activities, you will be able to:

Explain the main theories of animal rights/non­human nature. Present and defend your opinion about animal rights/non­human nature.javascript:window.print()

animal rights/requirement.docx

Answer the following questions:

· Are “rights” only for humans? Can we deny rights to animals on the ground that they cannot understand what a “right” is?

· Can we recognize that animals have rights (the right not to suffer, for example) and at the same time argue that they are not “equal” to us?· The format of this paper:· Introduction (3 complete sentences –minimum)     Body (10 complete sentences –minimum)     Conclusion (5 complete sentences –minimum)·· Instructions:· 1. When you write your posts, clearly identify each section of the post. Above the sections/paragraphs write INTRODUCTION, BODY or CONCLUSION (all capital letters).· 2. Your sections/paragraphs must have the minimum number of complete sentences indicated above.· 3. If you’re required to use or include a website, include it and provide a complete cite (any citing style).· 4. Write in complete sentences.· 5. Use correct grammar and spelling.· 6. In your INTRODUCTION, introduce your topic or theme. DO NOT REPEAT THE ASSIGNMENT’S INSTRUCTIONS.· 7. In your BODY, write about your topic or theme. Present your analysis in this section. DO NOT REPEAT THE ASSIGNMENT’S INSTRUCTIONS.· 8. In your CONCLUSION, share your conclusions, reactions, and final comments on the theme or topic. DO NOT REPEAT THE ASSIGNMENT’S INSTRUCTIONS.· 10. In the INTRODUCTION, do NOT repeat the assignment’s instructions. Introduce your theme or topic.animal rights/Rights of Non-Human Nature – 17.SU.HUM.1135.pdf2017­6­4 Rights of Non­Human Nature ­ 17.SU.HUM.1135.501 ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICShttps://elearn.sinclair.edu/d2l/le/content/82260/viewContent/2773989/View 1/4Printer­friendly versionThis seems like a simple question, but it isn’t (by now you should have figured out that no question raised in this course has a simple answer!). Do animals have rights? How should we treat them? Since the physis and nomos split that occurred in Western civilization some 2400 years ago, this has not been a question of much importance to philosophers (or ordinary people, for that matter). If you wanted to read everything that every major thinker has said about it, it wouldn’t take you long. The links below will take you to some of their writings, but here is a summary. Our ideas on human­ animal relations (as on most everything environmental, see the “history” module) come from two main sources: the Bible and Greek philosophy. Many passages in the Bible suggest that animals were put here for us to use as we see fit ­ that we are indubitably at the top of the food chain, in other words. Classical Greek philosophy said much the same thing, and when those two traditions (Hebrew and Greek) melded to produce Christianity, an extremely powerful and pervasive world view came into being.Some Bible verses:Genesis 1[26] And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. [27] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. [28] And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. [29] And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. [30] And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.Genesis 9[God to Noah, after the Flood:][2] And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. [5] And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. [10] And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.Job 5:[22] At destruction and famine thou shalt laugh: neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth. [23] For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field: and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee.Proverbs 12[10] A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.javascript:window.print()

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Jeremiah 27

[5] I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed right unto me. [6] And now have I given all these lands unto the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him.

I Corinthians 15

[39] All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.

James 3

[7] For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind.

Now, to continue with the philosophical development of the idea:

Between the age of classical Greece and the Renaissance, almost no philosopher wrote anything on this topic. The one exception is St Thomas Aquinas (1220­1270), the greatest thinker of the Middle Ages ­ his philosophical system, “Thomism” is still the basis of Roman Catholic principles. Aquinas said that “rights” (he didn’t use that word) belong to those who are “rational” ­ in other words, you don’t have a right unless you know what a right is, and only humans have that capacity.

It took another 400 years before a major philosopher added something new: René Descartes (1596­1650), one of the founders of the rational scientific world view, drew a sharp distinction between “mind” and “body,” arguing that bodies (and all physical phenomena) are mere machines without innate consciousness or feelings. A human body also has a mind associated with it, but an animal body does not; therefore aninals do not really feel or think and it does not matter how we treat them, any more than it matters morally how you “treat” your refrigerator.

Toward the end of the Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant (1724­1804) argued that we should not be cruel to animals ­ not because they have rights, but because cruelty is wrong in itself. Charles Darwin (1809­1882) was not a philosopher, but his work led to a very important advance: in trying to show that all life evolved from a single beginning, he demonstrated how similar our brains and nervous systems are to those of nearly all other animals. It follows from that fact that, if we feel physical and emotional pain, animals very probably do too, and therefore mistreatment of animals is nearly as evil as mistreatment of other human beings. In the twentieth century, Albert Schweitzer (1875­1965) and others began to argue that life itself is “sacred” (in whatever sense you care to define that word) and so we have no right to harm other living things. 

Some quotes from Aquinas on “man’s mastery over animals.”

Whether man had mastership over all other creatures?

Objection 1. It would seem that in the state of innocence man would not have had mastership over all other creatures. For an angel naturally has a greater power than man. But, as Augustine says (De Trin.

2017­6­4 Rights of Non­Human Nature ­ 17.SU.HUM.1135.501 ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS

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iii, 8), “corporeal matter would not have obeyed even the holy angels.” Much less therefore would it have obeyed man in the state of innocence. Objection 2. Further, the only powers of the soul existing in plants are nutritive, augmentative, and generative. Now these do not naturally obey reason; as we can see in the case of any one man. Therefore, since it is by his reason that man is competent to have mastership, it seems that in the state of innocence man had no dominion over plants. Objection 3. Further, whosoever is master of a thing, can change it. But man could not have changed the course of the heavenly bodies; for this belongs to God alone, as Dionysius says (Ep. ad Polycarp. vii). Therefore man had no dominion over them.  On the contrary, It is written (Gn. 1:26): “That he may have dominion over . . . every creature.” I answer that, Man in a certain sense contains all things; and so according as he is master of what is within himself, in the same way he can have mastership over other things. Now we may consider four things in man: his “reason,” which makes him like to the angels’; his “sensitive powers,” whereby he is like the animals; his “natural forces,” which liken him to the plants; and “the body itself,” wherein he is like to inanimate things. Now in man reason has the position of a master and not of a subject. Wherefore man had no mastership over the angels in the primitive state; so when we read “all creatures,” we must understand the creatures which are not made to God’s image. Over the sensitive powers, as the irascible and concupiscible, which obey reason in some degree, the soul has mastership by commanding. So in the state of innocence man had mastership over the animals by commanding them. But of the natural powers and the body itself man is master not by commanding, but by using them. Thus also in the state of innocence man’s mastership over plants and inanimate things consisted not in commanding or in changing them, but in making use of them without hindrance.  The answers to the objections appear from the above.

(from The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas Second and Revised Edition, 1920,  Online Edition Copyright © 2000 by Kevin Knight)

In the opinion of many radical environmentalists, Western civilization is now well on its way down the toilet (and good riddance, perhaps), and we are moving into a chaotic transition period that we might as well call “post­Western” until we see how it’s all going to fall out. The first really “post­Western” philosopher to look at animal rights is the controversial Australian, Peter Singer (photo above; who now teaches at Princeton). Singer’s seminal book, Animal Liberation (1975) opened up a whole new realm of debate. Though he admits he doesn’t much like animals and doesn’t even own a pet, Singer claims that nearly all animals are equal ­ that is, animals have the very same right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we have. The basis of this claim is not rationality (Aquinas was right that animals don’t reason) but the capacity to suffer: if an animal can feel pain, then we have an obligation not to inflict pain on it, much less kill it. (He would exclude a few animals, like oysters, that don’t have nervous systems.) 

Among the links below are some readings from Singer, including his controversial views on humans’ right to life. Glance at these before taking the test.

If animals do have rights, to whom exactly do those rights belong: to the individual animal, or to the species? A traditional Western view would limit rights to the individual: therefore it’s not OK, for example, to kill a few deer in an overpopulated national park so that the remaining deer will have more to eat. A more post­Western or holistic view would consider the welfare of the species, in which case culling the deer population would seem to be all right. Consider this hypothetical case: I have a nasty, old, and very rich Aunt Hildegard. Everyone hates her; she has no redeeming qualities. I am her only relative, and should inherit her money; but now she is threatening to leave it all to (gasp!) the Republican Party. So I figure out a foolproof way to murder her, without getting caught. I inherit all the money, but I give most of it (there’s still plenty left for me) to the hospital to build a new state­of­the­art children’s wing. One mean old woman is dead, and unmourned; as a result, I am better off, and the lives of many sick children will be saved. Was I wrong or right to kill Aunt Hildegard? How does this relate to the animal­rights issue in the first sentence of this paragraph? Comment in the forum, if you like. 

Here are some additional arguments you may choose to write about in the forum.

Are “rights” only for humans? Can we deny rights to animals on the ground that they cannot understand what a “right” is?

2017­6­4 Rights of Non­Human Nature ­ 17.SU.HUM.1135.501 ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS

https://elearn.sinclair.edu/d2l/le/content/82260/viewContent/2773989/View 4/4

Can we recognize that animals have rights (the right not to suffer, for example) and at the same time argue that they are not “equal” to us? If you accept Aquinas’ view (and if you’re Catholic, you’d better!), animals have no rights because they are not rational. Or are some of them? And are all humans rational? Comment on this quotation from Singer: “Equality is a moral ideal, not a simple assertion of fact.” Is it all right to use animals for medical and/or cosmetics testing in laboratories?

Links for additional research

Peter Singer Quotations ­ useful for your post, especially if you want to bash him! Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Article Animal Rights ­ what Islam says. Thomas Aquinas ­ good basic page on philosophy. Animal Rights Resource Site ­ from Envirolink. Student Animal Rights Group ­ at University of Colorado. Webdirectory ­ index to animal rights. Cambridge University ­ group (UK). Animal Rights FAQ ­ with annoying picture of cute piglet. Animal Aid ­ UK group ­ with annoying photo of cute lambs. Animal Rights Links ­ small collection; the photo here is the most annoying of all.

The following are all opposed to animal rights.

Americans for Medical Progress Educational Foundation Animal Rights: Teaching or Deceiving Kids ­ an article from Science magazine. Six Billion Chickens ­ from a church’s web site ­ God’s not in favor of animal rights! Vegetable Rights Association ­ well, why not? People for the Ethical Treatment of Carnivores ­ is this one for real?!https://elearn.sinclair.edu/d2l/lor/viewer/viewFile.d2lfile/82260/14955/Content/av/singerquotes.htmhttp://www.utm.edu/research/iep/a/anim-eth.htmhttp://www.nur.org/treatise/articles/IslamicEnvironmentalEthics.htmlhttp://www.aquinasonline.com/http://www.animalconcerns.org/http://www.colorado.edu/StudentGroups/animalrights/http://www.webdirectory.com/Animals/Animal_Interest_Groups/Animal_Rights/http://www.chaos.org.uk/~maureen/home.htmlhttp://www.animal-rights.com/http://www.animalaid.org.uk/http://elephant.elehost.com/Links_Page/Animal_Rights/animal_rights.htmlhttp://www.ampef.org/http://www.junkscience.com/news/animal.htmlhttp://www.tkc.com/resources/resources-pages/animalrights1.htmlhttp://www.vegetablecruelty.com/http://www.theamericanjerk.com/11-1p1.htm

 

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