WRE>Theological approaches to the problem of mass extinction do
WRE>not uniformly lead to protective impulses; much political
WRE>action is undertaken by those whose theology condones or
WRE>encourages exploitative use of the environment. "Wise Use"
WRE>advocates pose a counter to the Unknown Student's simplistic
WRE>alternative, as those people advance a "use it up" approach
WRE>based upon belief in mankind as "crown of creation". Of
WRE>course, conservation is not entirely divorced from issues of
WRE>self-interest. Widespread ecological disruption is unlikely
WRE>to be of long-term benefit to our own species. The innate
WRE>desire to see our children put safely into an environment
WRE>conducive to a good quality of life would seem entirely
WRE>sufficient to explain concern over conservation issues,
WRE>without reference to either sort of theology that Unknown
WRE>Student ascribes as motivational above.
MB>I find this line of reasoning to be totally unconvincing.
I find Mike's rejection of my argument above confusing, since
he seems to be agreeing with me on several points, any one of
which should result in the rejection of the Unknown Student's
argument. The Unknown Student asserts that an ecologist's
innate desire to conserve stems from an unrecognized "higher
moral sense" instilled by the creator and *not* from any other
source. I show that this is not a "natural conclusion". The
are multiple motivations to engage in conservation. There are
multiple causes for such motivation. Theological
considerations do not uniformly lead to conservation as
opposed to exploitation. Acceptance of these statements
is antithetical or inconsistent with also accepting the
Unknown Student's argument.
MB>Humans can be said to have many innate desires where
MB>caring for the environment of their children is only one.
True enough. That is in agreement with my argument that
Unknown Student's claim of a single possible cause of an
innate desire for conservation doesn't hold up to scrutiny.
MB>In fact, the "use it up" approach looks to me to be just as
MB>much the expression of human innate desires.
Yes. Again, this is in agreement with my noting the existence
of the "Wise Use" movement and how its existence argues
against Unknown Student's assertion of implication of
supernatural cause of an innate desire for conservation.
MB>So how do we choose among these conflicting innate desires?
It was because Unknown Student failed to even acknowledge the
possibility of alternate causes for motivations that I brought
examples up. Again, Mike shows himself to agree with my point
that alternate motivations and possible causes exist and
disagree with Unknown Student's assertion that some one
innate motivation and sole supernatural cause must obtain.
MB>What about the many people who have no children or
The quality of life of offspring is but one possible causation
for motivation to conservation that obviates Unknown Student's
conclusion. I don't need to show that it is the sole cause
for conservation; all I need to do is show that the class of
causes for conservation that does not depend upon supernatural
People without children or grandchildren may not consider
future benefit to be of much importance. On the other hand,
they might indeed consider such benefit to be of importance
due to the interdependencies of modern society.
MB>Are we talking about the children of people in
MB>developed nations or the children of undeveloped nations
MB>(whose quality of life may indeed be increased by chopping
MB>down some forests)?
There are many conservation measures that are unrelated to
chopping down forests and which are not sensitive to issues of
"developed" vs. "undeveloped". For instance, teaching people
dependent upon fisheries the importance of refugia can pay off
in the near-term, not just the long-term. This is a case
where state of development is not an issue.
MB>Do all conservation issues really
MB>translate as concrete benefits for our children 20-50 years
"All" and "never" are hard claims to support. My argument,
though, is not a universal claim. If there exists some aspect
of conservation which can produce benefits, self-interest is
then a cause for motivation to conserve, thus my argument
is supported and the Unknown Student's argument fails.
MB>What can Wesley possibly do or not do that would
MB>have a tangible effect on the my children's quality of life 20
MB>years from now?
Let's see... "tangible" as opposed to "intangible". Hopefully
Mike is not using "tangible" as a synonym for "dramatic" or
"overwhelming", since I don't aspire to such. I've already
taken part as a volunteer for the Texas Marine Mammal
Stranding Network, which gathers information about populations
of marine mammals along the Texas Gulf coast. I've
participated in research that impacts policies concerning
anthropogenic noise generated in the marine environment. If
the continued presence and welfare of marine mammals can
influence in some part the quality of life of Mike's children
in the future, what I have already done will be of positive
influence. Even if Mike's children care nothing about the
marine environment, I feel certain that my actions described
above will redound in positive fashion and tangible effect for
I see my actions so far as having a tangible impact, even if I
do nothing further, as would be the case if I succumb to some
fatal accident tomorrow. I don't plan on giving up my
research career yet. My dissertation topic promises to yield
further basis for evaluating the impact of anthropogenic
sound on marine mammals.
MB>If we elicit "widespread ecological disruption," might not
MB>human ingenuity devise ways to deal with this that ultimately
MB>lead to a better quality of life for the human species than
MB>that which is provided by our environment?
It exists as one of those theoretical possibilities, like the
possibility that a pot of water will spontaneously freeze at
room temperature. But just as I said in my original
statement, it is unlikely to be of long-term benefit. Like
that cliched thermodynamic example, it doesn't make a good
strategy upon which to plan. If I want ice for carting around
a heart for transplant, I'm going to make sure of a working
freezer and not just leave a pan of water out on the counter.
It is far more likely that human ingenuity would suffice to
make the results of widespread ecological disruption less than
cause for short-term human extinction than it would provide a
better quality of life than is possible with an environment
that has not undergone widespread ecological disruption. Why
not put that vaunted ingenuity to work to *both* avoid the
disruption and improve the quality of life? Should a
mostly-intact environment be considered a bar to a better
human quality of life?
MB>Since conservation issues ultimately impinge on human
MB>freedom, where do we draw the line?
Probably like much in the way of policy formation, we will
weigh costs and benefits. The past failures of stock
management in fisheries, such as for the Grand Banks, should
help inform future policy decisions. Fishery management that
results in the bankruptcy of an entire fishery does no one any
good. Human freedom does occasionally run into limits imposed
by the environment, whether it does so by unfettered
disruption or by considered management (which, like all human
endeavors, may either succeed or fail). One of the
interesting outcomes of conservation efforts in the Pacific
Northwest is that the fisheries weigh in on the side of
conservation efforts to limit clearcutting. Runoff from
clearcut lands is seen as a threat to fisheries productivity.
In this case, there is no simple formulation of commercial
interests or freedom of action versus conservation. Rather,
there are interdependencies between those seeking to maximize
exploitation of available resources, such that trade-offs must
be found between interests that run in different directions.
This kind of situation is likely to become far more common in
the future. The days when large-scale exploitation can occur
and not cause problems in other human activities are rapidly
drawing to a close.
MB>What does quality of life mean if it is purchased by a
MB>continual erosion of human freedom and autonomy? Just some
MB>questions that immediately come to mind.
We abridge human freedom and autonomy in many ways in our
society. Is it OK to erode the freedom to murder or maim
other humans? We seem to tolerate most such abridgements with
equanamity. Is it OK to erode the autonomy to transfer other
people's money to hidden offshore accounts? We also seem to
accommodate many such abridgements without demur. Why would
incorporation of conservation into such policy decisions cause
extra or special concern?
To recap: It appears that both Mike and I agree that there are
multiple possible motivations to conservation (and
exploitation); we agree that theological stances can result in
both conservative and exploitative motivations; and we agree
that separating out the various motivations is difficult.
These points of agreement indicate to me that Mike should by
that acceptance then reject the argument of the Unknown
Student. Why Mike states that he rejects my arguments when we
actually holds several of the same stances remains mysterious
Graduate student and general bioacoustics dogsbody
Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences
College of Agriculture
Texas A&M University
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Jan 17 2000 - 11:42:07 EST