Conclusions

 

Be wary of the politician who responds to criticism by claiming to be following the science. Just as generations of public figures have learned that they can evade scrutiny or shut down a discussion simply by invoking legal advice or citing (invariably unspecified) constitutional obstacles, many world leaders have co-opted “the science” as a rhetorical shield against impertinent questions about their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is not to say that public health responses should be driven by anything other than the best scientific analysis.

Just as importantly, to imply that scientific advice is all that matters is to deny the importance of a vital ingredient in the pandemic response: sound political judgment.

Source: Irish Times: World View: Politicians must not hide behind scientists


Revisit: The Naturalistic Fallacy & Scientism (Environmental Ethics)

The naturalistic fallacy is the idea that what is found in nature is good. It was the basis for social Darwinism, the belief that helping the poor and sick would get in the way of evolution, which depends on the survival of the fittest.

Scientists denounce the naturalistic fallacy because they want to describe the natural world honestly, without people deriving morals about how we ought to behave

  • example) If birds and beasts engage in adultery, infanticide, cannibalism, it must be morally OK

Naturalistic fallacy: using the findings of ecological science to determine what is good and right creates an “ought to” from an “is” or a value from a fact

Scientism: ecology places too much authority in scientific observation, as opposed to religion, philosophy, and humanistic social justice, to make balanced ethical contributions

Why is this important?

Our effort to Assess our Environmental Values

Scientific fact and scientific educated judgment about the future (of the pandemic, of climate change, and so on) has to be situated in a broader context of ethical, moral, political and social values: those values come first.

  • Climate change is ethically wrong because it will adversely impact the majority of the world’s population who happen to be poor and disadvantaged.
  • Climate change is ethically wrong as it artificially undermines species and ecosystems and makes our environment and earth as a place to live worse.
  • Then use scientific facts to underpin these moral positions.

From The Daily Stoic (Monday, April 27)

Remember what Marcus Aurelius said: What’s bad for the hive is bad for the bee. A society that is callous and indifferent to the weak and the vulnerable destroys itself. A society that betrays its elders—even if those elders have been indifferent and callous themselves—betrays itself.

The fruit of this life, Marcus wrote, was good character and acts for the common good. When we take actions, we have to always think: What would happen if everyone did this? What are the costs of my decisions for other people? What risks am I externalizing? Is this really what a person with good character and a concern for others would do?

Jesus said to love thy neighbor as thyself. The Stoics would have agreed with that. And they would have said that it’s your duty to protect them, to help them however you can. In fact, this is a sacred duty. There is nothing more admirable and virtuous than a person who takes it seriously—and nothing less Christian or less Stoic than blowing it off.

This may seem subtle but it is not: you must have ethical clarity as you move forward and play a role in addressing the huge environmental challenges ahead.

It’s complex, but in some ways, it  is not:

What this class was (is) about: ways to approach the complexity

One) Sort out the complexity: the Approaches & Perspectives

  • Population
  • Economic market mechanisms
  • Collective action and institutions
  • Ethics and morals
  • Risk and hazards
  • Political economy
  • Social constructivism

Each of these perspectives…

  • have benefits and disadvantages
  • can serve as very specific ways to address environmental challenges
  • work well with contextualizing natural science
  • are core ideas for environmental literacy
  • …you can follow up on these ideas in future courses, projects, directed readings, etc.

Two) The Objects of Concern:

An approach to the environment that does not begin with the idea that the environment is nothing but one big bummer conflagration of problems and crises.

What motivates many of you is a desire to understand the environment and engage with it – research, advocacy, and solving environmental problems.

Find the environmental objects you are interested in, then dive in and seek to understand them in all their complexity.

Three) How To Do Something

Woven into the course is a range of skills (transferable skills!)

The Research Process: the course project

  • The chapter review: start with a broader context
  • Your values: what motivates you?
  • Focusing in on a doable idea
  • Using research resources to find relevant, viable literature and materials
  • Annotated bibliography: Critically evaluate your literature
  • Project proposal: in the form of OWU’s TPG and SIP grants
  • Present your work: communication skills

Along the way, you also learned other transferable skills

ENVS 100.2 and 400.1 Conversations: a few more skills

  • 100.2: Thinking ahead and planning your environmental efforts at OWU
  • 400.1: Assessing and reflecting on your time at OWU
  • Networking and engagement with
    • fellow students
    • campus staff (B&G, AVI, ABM)
    • campus organizations (Sustainability Task Force, Citizens Climate Lobby, E&W, Tree House, etc.)

Mostly – in sum – Do Something


 

 

 


Conclusions: Fall 2019

 

Source

Environmental news is often grim.

Had a scientist in the early 1990s suggested that within 25 years a single heat wave would measurably raise sea levels, at an estimated two one-hundredths of an inch, bake the Arctic and produce Sahara-like temperatures in Paris and Berlin, the prediction would have been dismissed as alarmist. But many worst-case scenarios from that time are now realities.

As the empirical data piles up, it’s also clear that climate science is itself not up to the task of solving the climate crisis:

A recent essay in Scientific American argued that scientists “tend to underestimate the severity of threats and the rapidity with which they might unfold” and said one of the reasons was “the perceived need for consensus.” This has had severe consequences, diluting what should have been a sense of urgency and vastly understating the looming costs of adaptation and dislocation as the planet continues to warm.

The ideas in this course range across the natural sciences, social science and humanities and all help us to contextualize, understand, and address the climate crisis and other environmental challenges.

So how are we, as humans, facing the current environmental situation?


Depending on how you ask people questions about climate change, the majority still believe, incorrectly, that there is disagreement among climate scientists about the severity of the crisis:

Opportunities!

Source: Weather is turning into big business. And that could be trouble for the public.

Source: How 19 Big-Name Corporations Plan to Make Money Off the Climate Crisis


Stoknes, What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming: Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action (2015)

Distance: environmental problems are often far from us and in the future: humans are not good at dealing with the future, nor things remote from us.

Doom: framing climate warming as a disaster to be addressed by loss, cost, and sacrifice forces most people to avoid the topic: humans are loss-averse.

Dissonance: when we can’t resolve what we do with what we think; engage in symbolic but largely ineffectual activities (recycling, reusable grocery bags, etc.).

Denial: that there is a problem at all; humans do this in self-defense, believing that their livelihoods and lifestyles are being attacked.

Identity: humans seek information that strengthens existing belief and identity; identity is difficult to change; easy to be offended if you think your identity is being attacked; fear of and anger about being “controlled” by others. (82)

But you guys are not the common rabble, destined to wallow, gormlessly, in the Four Ds and an I!

What this class was (is) about: ways to approach the complexity

One) Sort out the complexity: the Approaches & Perspectives

  • Population
  • Economic market mechanisms
  • Collective action and institutions
  • Ethics and morals
  • Risk and hazards
  • Political economy
  • Social constructivism

Each of these perspectives…

  • have benefits and disadvantages
  • can serve as very specific ways to address environmental challenges
  • work well with contextualizing natural science
  • are core ideas for environmental literacy
  • …you can follow up on these ideas in future courses, projects, directed readings, etc.

Two) The Objects of Concern:

An approach to the environment that does not begin with the idea that the environment is nothing but one big bummer conflagration of problems and crises.

What motivates many of you is a desire to understand the environment and engage with it – research, advocacy, and solving environmental problems.

Find the environmental objects you are interested in, then dive in and seek to understand them in all their complexity.

Three) How To Do Something

Woven into the course is a range of skills (transferable skills!)

The Research Process: the course project

  • The chapter review: start with a broader context
  • Your values: what motivates you?
  • Focusing in on a doable idea
  • Using research resources to find relevant, viable literature and materials
  • Annotated bibliography: Critically evaluate your literature
  • Project proposal: in the form of OWU’s TPG and SIP grants
  • Present your work: communication skills

Along the way, you also learned other transferable skills

ENVS 100.2 and 400.1 Conversations: a few more skills

  • 100.2: Thinking ahead and planning your environmental efforts at OWU
  • 400.1: Assessing and reflecting on your time at OWU
  • Networking and engagement with
    • fellow students
    • campus staff (B&G, AVI, ABM)
    • campus organizations (Sustainability Task Force, Citizens Climate Lobby, E&W, Tree House, etc.)

Mostly – in sum – Do Something

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