Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I Speak For the Trees

Not long after The Lorax came out I was going to post arguments for environmentalism. I thought I was being too preachy, but damn it to hell. But first an argument for progress.

Progress
We want. On our own we are weak, cold, and hungry, so we put to use our gift, our minds. We've harnessed, the spear, then the flame, then the wheel in an effort to reduce some of our pain. A desire for progress is nothing to shame. For fire is one of misery's best banes. Without a flame in winter to sleep I can't have lain.

For me you see problem is clear. The process of production no one cheers. Oh screw my scheme I'm through with it. I think that all the rhyming is making my writing shit. So excuse me if for now I just quit.

My point is that it's not wrong for people to want their lives to be better and stuff, or even more blatantly technology has the potential to make it better. If I hear another hippie sarcastically ask someone if their life is better because of a TV, car, or computer let's just say I'll devolve into a caveman.

Furthermore the wheels of industrialization are not wrong. For companies to want to make more, cheaper, and better is not patently wrong. I'm channeling my inner Gekko here, but greed is good. The incentive for production, for which the benefit of has been previously illustrated, is money,a piece of technology to make trade of other technologies which can directly benefit individuals easier. Money may be the root of all evil, but in and of itself money, the concept of money, the technology of money, is good.

The lack of money can cause great misery. Every year, every god damned year, I hear of some poor soul who dies from exposure. Your not going to convince me that we should all trade in our furnaces, our transportation, or our computers, but that's not what environmentalism and conservationism is about, and now this for the most part won't be about global warming.

Stewardship of the Earth
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
The Bible (NIV) Genisis 2:15

I am not an overly religious man, though am big on Pascal's Wager, the idea that there isn't much to lose by choosing to act as though God exists. I use religious texts mostly to explore interesting intellectual and philosophical ideas, and this is one of them.

Many religions have the notion that it is humanity's duty to, "tend to the garden." From a more secular point of view, humanity as the most intelligent of the beasts can understand long term consequences in a way animals can't. We can play the long game. A dog, not so much. If not us who?

We are the only beings I know of who can look out for the long term interests of the environment. Ahimsa / Primum non nocere i.e. Do no Harm To contrast with the previous argument, humanity has the capacity to impact the global environment far more dramatically than most other animals, yet even our best biologists are barely scratching the surface on our relationship to it. Science is not magic. They are not fortune tellers. We don't really know the consequences of all of our actions and so within reason we should be prudent, because not everything can be fixed, or at least fixed quickly. If you chop down a forest will it grow back probably, but not for a long time. We need to at the very least be careful how much harm we do.


Animal Rights
The question is not, Can they(animals) reason?, nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?
Jeremy Bentham 
An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation 
Let me preface by saying I don't think we should treat animals like people, but I also believe that without cause, and yes eating and wearing them is a cause, we should try not to put them through cruel treatment or death. I'm not saying an animal should be living better than me. But I've heard of some pretty messed up stuff like birds choking on plastic, animals with missing limbs because of traps, and a lot of it wasn't necessarily not because someone was a sociopathic asshole, but just because we sometimes don't think of the later consequences of our actions.

  Wilderness As a Good

There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm."
Theodore Roosevelt
Look I'm not going to go wrestle a bear but I think ol' Teddy Roosevelt was right. Right outside my dorm for two years there was a nice patch of woods. I miss it. Not because it looked nice. I can't even really even put my hand on it but I liked being able to walk the foot path. (Okay it helped that that footpath through the woods was probably the quickest walking path to anywhere. Compared to where I know live where it's a nightmare walking anywhere.) It helped me think and grasp hold of my thoughts, and I think that that is something that everybody needs even if not that way, a place or time or activity that helps you grasp hold of your mind.




We still have relatively few wild places but we should cherish and protect them, because when they are gone it will be a long time before they return if they ever do. As cheesy as it may sound I don't want my kids to grow up without ever having seen a tree, or a river. I want both them and myself to be able to still be able to find and walk along wild places even if they may be in short spans. I guess when there is a lot on one's mind I want all of society to have the option of going for a nice walk in park.

Environmental Health
We are part of the environment. I'm not saying we affect it, although we do. I'm saying it affects us. Too much smog or toxins in the water and we start to get cancer. Do I have to explain how that's bad? Often when people say you're destroying the environment they don't mean it, you've blighted the earth. What they mean is that we're slowly but surely creating conditions that will make it difficult for humanity, not the fuzzy bunnies, not Lassie over there humanity,  us to live here.

As such there should be some standards. Somebody to say you can't dump whatever you want into the river.

Or spout whatever you want in the air.

Furthermore those standards should be fair. Air and water travel. We have to own up to the fact that for a good part of our nation's history, we didn't give a hoot, we didn't do our part, and we didn't exercise the power that was ours. If we want to lead the rest of the world in solving environmental problems. If we want Russia, China and India to step up to the plate in that regard we have to be honest about the fact that we're a little late to the ballgame ourselves. Contaminants in the air we breath, and the water we drink are a health hazard, and yes there should be laws to protect John Smith from the giant factory two towns over, or even two countries over.  And by the way if I were going to go on a rant about global warming this is where I would do it. Remember the progress speech. I always here people talking about how environmentalists want to hold back progress. The opposite is true we can and should be developing and investing in laws and technolgy that improve the public health and yes that includes the public environmental health.

Conservationism
I'm not just talking oil, but yeah it's the main one. We have non-renewable resources. It's not a matter of if, but when their going to become scarce. You can make the argument that we're already at that point. We have to manage what we have left, to get the fairest and most efficient use of it. I don't want to put my kids in Road Warrior world. The said truth is that we are headed towards resource wars. Again you could argue that we're already there. You want to know why the U.S. supported Gaddafi so long? Oil. You want to know why the U.S. sided with Libyan rebels? Oil. Scarcity of a vital resource causes conflict, potentially international conflict. Potentially international conflict that can lead to war. Potentially intentional conflict that can lead to major war. I'll flatout say it, WWIII is going to be a resource war. It will start small, then the major players will worry about the flow of gas, or oil, or copper, and get involved to protect their supply. That's how wars start in this day and age. No one is out for conquest. No one gives a damn about farmland. It's, "what do we have to do to keep the tap flowing?"

The more pressed we are for resources the more our hands our diplomatically tied. You know what we can't get off foreign oil. We can't. The best we can hope for is to reduce our dependency on it, by making cleaner more efficient tech. We can't afford to waste energy.

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