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John Rawls¶ ~ A Theory of Justice

‡ ‡ One of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century was John Rawls, who wrote about ³justice.´ Justice is a ³principle of ethics´ that has to do with who bears the burdens, and who benefits, from social arrangements. His was a theory that focused on distributive justice, on who gets what, and why.

‡ When thinking ethically and deciding what justice requires, Rawls argued, people should pretend that they don¶t know their own personal situation (class, gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion, or even generation). This brackets out knowledge about how we personally might benefit from decision-making processes.
‡ Such decision making, properly done, would be unbiased by self-interest. The place from where people might make such decisions about general moral principles he called the ³original position´ ± for original decisionmaking position. And he says this is essential if we are to take a ³moral point of view.´


«but we cannot make unbiased decisions in vacuum ± we will also need:

‡ A rudimentary understanding of ³the good´ ~ What would a good world and society look like?

‡ An understanding of the ³basic facts´ ~ sufficient to compare the current situation to the envisioned ³good´ world.

Environmental Ethics also needs such a starting place, specifically, an understanding of:

The good ~ at least:
‡ a ³sustainable society´ ± where present humans use & enjoy the world without degrading it. ‡ all life forms flourish?

Basic ecological facts:
‡ Therefore, we¶ll start this class with a State of the Planet Report.

The State of the Planet Report
‡ Diverse, credible sources, despite many uncertainties, summary of the best available science. ‡ Disagreement is fine as are interruptions with questions. ‡ One need not agree with every scientific perception or conjecture to realize that these must be dealt with when considering moral obligations to the natural world. ‡ Only with such basic consensus facts in mind can we properly turn to the wellsprings of moral concern in religion and philosophy.
Ok, hold on to your heart and mind ² here we go.



30% of the Natural World Was Destroyed Between 1970 & 1995
‡ Consumption pressure doubled in the past 25 years ‡ Consumption rates accelerating
‡ Source: the 1998 ³The Living Planet Report´ by World Wide Fund or Nature, New Economics Foundation, and World Conservation Monitoring Center (Cambridge)

Marine Ecosystems -Rapidly Declining
± from 1970 to 1995

‡ They deteriorated 30 per cent, ‡ Declining nearly 4 percent annually ±Marine fish consumption has more than doubled since 1970 ±Most of the world's fish are fully exploited or declining

U.S. Coastal dead zones

Freshwater resources are being rapidly depleted.
‡ Humans now use half of Earth¶s surfacearea fresh water ² twice that of 1970. ‡ The rate of decline of freshwater ecosystems is averaging 6 percent per year. ‡ This dries up wetlands and threatens species dependent on them.
» Vitousek, P. M., J. L. Mooney, and J. M. Melillo. July 25, 1997. Human Domination of Ecosystems. Science 277(5325): 494-9.

± Even more degraded than marine ones
±Have already lost more species than on land and in the oceans. ±34 percent of remaining fish species are threatened with extinction
International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Freshwater Ecosystems

disrupts natural systems
± 1998 -- the warmest year on record.
‡ Earth¶s average surface temperature rose about .27 degrees Fahrenheit since 1997, the previous hottest year.

± 1998 -- the 20th year in a row with above normal surface temperatures

± Weather extremes are increasing, as predicted by climate change models. ± Dangerous heat and humidity have been increasing for 50 years in the US.
± Source: The World Meteorological Organization

Carbon Dioxide
a key µgreenhouse¶ gas
‡ CO2 stays 60-70 years in the atmosphere after release ‡ Emissions doubled in the last 25 years ‡ Emissions overwhelm the ability of natural systems to absorb them ‡ Atmospheric CO2 increased 30 percent since the industrial revolution began

Methane Gas
20 times more effective than CO2 in promoting the greenhouse
‡ Methane remains only 67 years in the atmosphere but may produce 1/2 of total global warming

Human Actions >> More Methane
‡ Although methane releases result from natural processes . . . they are also increasing due to human action, especially from the conversion of land to: ±pasture for grass-eating animals ±rice production
± >>> more methane

Methane Ices and Feedback Loops
± Methane is stored in huge amounts as hydrates in tundra and mud in the continental shelves ± If climate change thaws the permafrost, these methane ices could melt ± Releasing up to .6 billion tons of methane annually ± Doubling atmospheric concentrations, producing more warming, more methane release, in a vicious feedback loop.

Scientific Consensus in the year 2000:
‡ Humans are altering the climate
‡ One full degree Fahrenheit since 1970

‡ By 2100 the increase could be as much as 11 degrees Fahrenheit! ‡ For comparison, "average temperatures today are only 9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than they were at the end of the last Ice Age."

Massive Ecosystem Changes to Result
‡ Rising sea levels of at least one meter, perhaps much more, are expected. ‡ Decreasing soil moisture and declining crop yields in many regions ‡ Ecosystem disruptions, plant and tree declines with declines in dependent animal populations. ‡ Florida sea-water intrusion and widespread coastal drowning predicted.

Source, Environmental Protection Agency, from 2002 study: Regions shown in red are some of the areas that could be flooded at high tide if global warming causes sea level to rise up to 4 feet in the next 100 years. Blue, if above 4 feet. Note major population center impacts.

(agricultural ecosystems)
‡ 40% of the world¶s agricultural land is seriously degraded
± 75% of Central American crop land ± 20% of (mostly pasture) land in Africa ± 11% in Asia


‡ Soil degradation has affected two-thirds of world¶s agricultural lands in last 50 years. ‡ Long-term food production capacity is imperiled in many regions
» World Resources 2000-2001, People and Ecosystems: the fraying web of life. » Produced by WRI, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and the World Bank. » 175 scientists contributed to the report, published Sept 2000

Global Fish Harvest
‡ World fisheries landings have increased from 18.5 million metric tons in 1950 to 121 million metric tons in 1996. ‡ Presently China grabs 25% of the catch ‡ 70% of the global catch is landed by only 12 nations. ‡ The United States ranks fifth, with landings of 5-6 million tons in recent years. ‡ 25-30% of fish are used industrially (mostly to fed livestock)

± Between 1970 and 1995 the world¶s natural forest cover :
‡ declined about 10 per cent
± as wood and paper consumption increased by two-thirds

‡ at a rate averaging 0.5 per cent per year
± this is equivalent to an annual loss of forest the size of England and Wales.

Increasing Consumption: Key to Destruction
‡ The average North ‡ The world's people have consumed more American or Japanese consumes 10 times the goods and services resources as does an since 1950 than all average Bangladeshi. previous generations ‡ The average N. American put together. consumes fives times more ‡ Taiwan, the U.S. and Singapore have the most voracious consumers.
than people in Africa and Asia.

1 billion in 1804 2 billion in 1927 (123 years later) 3 billion in 1960 (33 years later) 4 billion in 1974 (14 years later) 5 billion in 1987 (13 years later) 6 billion in 1999 (12 years later) Projections: 7 billion in 2013 (14 years later) 8 billion in 2028 (15 years later)
1998 Revision -- World Population, Estimates and Projections

Population Growth in the United States
In the year 2000

289 Million
(2000 Census, 33 million more than in 1990)

Estimated to double in the next 100 years to

550+ Million

Human Population Growth Worsens Eco-Destruction
±Human numbers reached 6 Billion in October 1999
‡ Current increase: 78 million people a year. ‡ Ninety-seven per cent of that increase is in developing countries ‡ Apart from immigration, births in many developed countries are below replacement rate

Overshooting the ³Carrying Capacity´ of Earth?

From Donella Meadows, Beyond the Limits

Political Systems - Slow Response ‡ Politicians endorse but do little to promote Sustainable Development: ±economic development that can continue long-term because it does not degrade the ecosystems from which resources are taken