Getting to Know a World of Wounds

The Anjouan experience we described in chapter 3 was an extreme instance of nearly ubiquitous environmental deterioration, the consequences of the mismatch between the dominant culture's view of the world and the world as revealed by scientific analysis.16 To ecologists, environmental devastation is one of the most depressing facts of life, and their experience with it generally is long-standing. Many, if not most, ecologists began immersing themselves in nature as children. One can understand...

Ending Perverse Subsidies

In terms of decision making about consumption patterns and the technologies employed to service them, one of the very first things required would be a careful re-examination of systems of subsidies for various activities. Many subsidies, in the terms of Norman Myers and Jennifer Kent's fine book, are perverse.125 Myers and Kent point out in Perverse Subsidies that some subsidies may cause environmental harm but meet economic needs, such as providing electricity to low-income elderly people at...

Hydrogen Panacea or Red Herring

While hydropower, nuclear power, and geothermal, wind, and solar energy can supply electricity, they cannot directly replace portable fuels for transportation. One possibility is to use hydrogen as such a fuel,77 since it is a potentially renewable source that can be obtained by splitting water molecules, using electricity from any source. The great advantage of hydrogen is that, when it is burned to power a vehicle, the only emission is water vapor. Hydrogen is already used in industrial...

Governance of Fictional Animals

The problem of special interests in the United States is largely centered in the activities of corporations. A corporation is a legal fiction 21 as Chief Justice John Marshall said in 1819, it is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law.22 However, the law treats corporations in some ways as natural persons they can own property, go into debt, make contracts, sue and get sued. Corporations are important economic instruments, and there is general...

Abortion

Abortion is a particularly contentious matter in the United States, where religious conservatives have maintained strong opposition to the procedure ever since the movement to legalize it began in the 1960s.20 The original reason for outlawing abortion in the United States in the late nineteenth century was that it was highly dangerous under the medical practice of the time. By the mid-twentieth century, safe procedures had been developed, but abortion, except to save the mother's life,...

How Others Pay the Price for Us

It's easy to remain unaware of how the American lifestyle feeds into the destruction of the natural capital of distant countries. Much of the damage traces to Americans' consumption of mundane items, ranging from bananas and coffee to hamburgers, magazines, and large detached housing. The degree of destruction caused in poor countries in the service of consumption in rich countries varies, of course, from place to place. The vast banana plantations of the Sarapiqui River region of northeastern...

Consumption and Satisfaction

With rising consumption calling into question the sustainability of the human enterprise, it seems appropriate to inquire into the deeper reasons for its continued expansion. Increased consumption, at least at the individual level, is generally considered an unqualified blessing. But what is the evidence for this Certainly, if a poor African farmer is consuming a diet of mostly maize meal that supplies 1,900 kilocalories per day, she would benefit greatly by an increase to 2,400 calories...

Technology as a Chooser

Technology is rightly or conveniently blamed for some serious problems which nonetheless might not be so serious but for the scale of the human enterprise. The significance of technology is overlooked in other respects, however. Perhaps the ultimate reason it matters is that, as new technologies are developed and adopted, they essentially make choices for humanity often choices with enormous, largely unforeseen consequences. Some technologically driven choices are widely recognized farming was...

Resource Wars

Demand for cheap resources on the part of the rich nations has done more than contribute to environmental rape and pillage in poor countries. In many cases, it has led to what have become known as resource wars,47 conflicts either caused by attempts to appropriate the natural riches of less powerful nations or minority groups, or begun for other reasons but financed by those natural riches. It is an old story that is still being acted out and in some instances intensified. In the 1990s,...