Environmental Science and International Politics: Acid Rain in Europe, 1979-1989, and Climate Change in Copenhagen 2009

By David E. Henderson; Susan K. Henderson | Go to book overview

Appendix 1. Introduction to Environmental Philosophy

Most people never think in terms of a personal environmental philosophy, but their actions demonstrate it every day. Whether you throw your soda can in the trash or put it in the recycle bin is reflective of your environmental philosophy. The reacting games include roles that exemplify and articulate various examples of environmental philosophy, a few of which are discussed here. Although environmental philosophy is a relatively new specialty, philosophers for centuries have developed philosophical positions that relate humanity and the environment. Formal studies of environmental philosophy can illuminate our assumptions and inform our approach to environmental problems.

The earliest articulated environmental philosophy is found in the Bible. In Genesis we are told, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Gen. 1:26 AV). The message of this passage is clear: humans are the rulers, and everything else is under their control. Like a medieval king, humans can do with the other living things as they choose.

This biblical philosophical position has continued to pervade Western thought over the millennia. René Descartes articulated this position during the Enlightenment. He viewed nature as a possession of humanity to which no rights have been granted. In the 1980s, U.S. Secretary of the Interior James Watts articulated the same philosophy for the Reagan administration. Some aides of the Reagan administration, who believed in a radical apocalyptic Christianity, were even reported to have said that we had a Christian duty to use up the resources of the Earth before the end times arrive. They could cite the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14–30 AV) that all the resources entrusted to humanity were to be fully exploited, not just saved for later.

An alternative view of nature is also present from early history. Greek and Roman philosophers regarded the Earth as a living and even intelligent being. Plato speaks of the “soul of the world” and felt that all things had souls. Platonic philosophy became incorporated into Christianity with a creator god who was all good and who formed his creation in his own image: “He constructed this present Universe, one single Living Creature containing within itself all living creatures both mortal and immortal. And He Himself acts as the Constructor of things divine, but the structure of the mortal things He commanded His own engendered sons to execute. And they, imitating Him, on receiving the immortal principle of soul, framed around it a mortal body, and gave it all the body to be its vehicle.”1

This position persisted well into the Middle Ages. As the seventeenth-century mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler wrote, “Therefore there is in the earth not only dumb, unintelligent humidity, but also an intelligent soul which begins to dance when the aspects pipe for it.”2 The idea of the Earth as a soul that creates the natural harmony was apparent to people even in early times. This philosophical position of the Earth as a single living creature returns as a scientific theory in the

1. Plato, “Timaeus,” in Plato in Twelve Volumes, vol. 9, trans. W. R. M. Lamb (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1925), 69c–d. Available at www.perseus .tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=plat.+tim.

2. Quoted by J. Visvader, “Gaia and the Myths of Harmony: An Exploration of Ethical and Practical Implications,” in Scientists on Gaia, ed. S. H. Schneider and P. J. Boston, 33–37 (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1991), 35.

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Environmental Science and International Politics: Acid Rain in Europe, 1979-1989, and Climate Change in Copenhagen 2009
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Note to Instructors viii
  • How to Play These Games 1
  • Contents 8
  • Figures and Tables 11
  • 1 - Historical Background 14
  • 2 - The Game 35
  • 3 - Roles and Factions 41
  • 4 - Core Texts and Supplemental Readings 44
  • Bibliography 106
  • Acknowledgments 109
  • Appendix 1- Introduction to Environmental Philosophy 110
  • Appendix 2- Introduction to Environmental Economics 116
  • Appendix 3- Using Numbers to Make Arguments 119
  • Appendix 4- Study Questions for Reading Assignments 121
  • Contents 124
  • Figures and Tables 127
  • 1 - Historical Background 129
  • 2 - The Game 153
  • 3 - Roles and Factions 159
  • 4 - Core Texts and Supplemental Readings 162
  • Acknowledgments 164
  • Appendix 1- Green House Gases 165
  • Appendix 2- Chemicals in Fossil Fuels 168
  • Appendix 3- Quantitative Look at Combustion Reactions 172
  • Appendix 4- Leaked Draft Document by Danish Delegates 180
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