Notes by Gordon Ziniewicz

"Environmental Philosophy" (introduction to a philosophy course), by Tad Beckman

1.  What, in Beckman's view, is the literary work which begins the environmentalist movement?

2.  Why does Beckman call his course "Environmental Philosophy" rather than "Environmental Ethics"?

3.  Why are traditional ethical paradigms and categories inadequate with regard to the natural environment?

4.  Why are many problems of the environment interpreted in terms of "Us" over against the "Other"?

5.  How has this "psychological wedge" caused us trouble with regard to other peoples and to natural entities?

6.  In what sense is the traditional distinction between humans who "modify their environment to suit themselves" and other animals who "accept their environment as it is" both true and false?

7.  What is one of the chief features of our relationship with the environment?

8.  How does Beckman incorporate technology into his "definition" of environmental ethics?

9.  According to Beckman, how did agriculture change the environment in ways that simple tools did not?

10.  In what ways do "really substantial ethical issues of environmentalism and technology begin" with modern industrial technology?

11.  What understanding of our relation with the world should we return to?

12.  Why do you suppose that, according to Beckman, "Western society...has taken a very hostile attiotude and posture toward non-human entities"?

13.  In what two very important ways does the environmentalist movement begin in Thoreau's retreat to Walden Pond?

14.  Why do we need to make detailed observation of the world?  What sorts of modern technologies get in the way of this observation?

15.  How do we come to know and understand ourselves?

16.  Why do we need "nature"?  Is it just a matter of "natural resources"?

17.  What is wrong with the term "wilderness"?  What distinction is useful, according to Beckman?

18.  How is the human-built world characterized by "domination" and "imbalance"?

19.  What is the point of the example of golf courses in a desert?

20.  How do human-built environments replace or depart from natural environments?  How does building include expulsion and extinction?  In what sense does this introduce "imbalance"?

21.  Discuss the examples of coyotes and weeds.

22.  What questions does Beckman pose to his students?  Why are these important questions?

Book Review: In the Ansence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations, by Jerry Mander
By Scott London

1.  According to Jerry Mander, what is very wrong with television?

2.  How does "the pro-technology paradigm" make us passive about technology?

3.  How does evaluating technology in personal terms make us passive about technology in its broader consequences?

4.  Who makes decisions about introduction of technologies?  Who should make these decisions, according to Mander?

5.  How have many native peoples been both critics and victims of technology?  [How is this consistent with Beckman's view of human building as driving out indigenous species?]

6.  Why does technological society "ignore and suppress" native voices?  Why are they the very people who could help us out of our fix?

[7.  How does attack upon the earth as enframing, in the Heideggerian sense, acquire a new and disturbing meaning when native human beings are included in the attack?]

"On Being Responsible for Earth," by Stephen Talbott

1.  How does evolving technology trap us in a pattern that changes us before we realize it?

2.  How does the change in television-watching elucidate this principle?

3.  What happens to indigenous peoples, in the face of technology?  What can indigenous peoples teach us about land and government?

4.  What does Mander's rejection of technology ignore?

5.  What does Talbott recommend instead of rejection of technology?

6.  How is this true of the computer?

7.  If we have the godlike authority to destroy the earth, do we also have the godlike authority to create it?  What is Talbott getting at here?

8.  What kind of dominion is required?

9.  What in our Western heritage can help us in developing "deep, positive responsibility for technology"?

10.  What positive examples of technology can be identified?

"Climate Engineering," compiled by Ben Matthews for Scientists for Global Responsibility


1.  What are some of the large-scale technological fixes that have been proposed for solving the problem of global warming?

2.  Who does the funding for researching many of these technological fixes?  Why is this a problem?

3.  What view of consumption or use of fossil fuels is generally presupposed by these lines of research?

4.  In what sense do the algae in the sea rule the world?

5.  What are some of the pitfalls of the push to find technological fixes for global warming?

The Impact on Climate Politics

6.   What seems to be behind attempts to delay cutbacks in uses of fossil fuels?

7.  What or who gets left out in an analysis of technological fixes based entirely on "willingness to pay" or cost-benefit?

8.  What is Matthews' view with regard to "social engineering" versus "technological quick fixes"?

9.  How does the promise of technological quick fixes allow politicians to do nothing?

10.  Why do many scientists discourage political solutions to climate change?

From Proposal to Reality

11. What is meant by the momentum of research?

12. What potential catastrophes could occur as a result of climate engineering?

13.  Study and evaluate the table at the end of Section Four.  Why does Matthews prefer "wisdom" to "cleverness"?

Where Do We Go from Here?

14.  How can climate change research be undertaken without the bias of corporations or governments?

15.  Are scientists to blame for our problems?  Discuss

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