Philosophy Gone Wild: Environmental Ethics

By Holmes Rolston III | Go to book overview

9
Valuing Wildlands

About 2 percent of the contiguous U.S. is wilderness (1.2 percent designated; 1 percent under study); 98 percent is developed, farmed, grazed, timbered, designated for multiple use. Another 2 percent might be suitable for wilderness or semiwild status--cut-over forests that have reverted to wilderness or areas as yet little developed. Decisions are being made about how to value these relict wildlands. Since they are almost entirely public lands, these are political decisions; but they are also taking place in the midst of a philosophical reassessment, coupled with ecological concerns, about how humans should value nature. They are political decisions entwined with reforming world views.

Since these are public land-use decisions about wild nature, there is a tendency to think that the most useful principles and strategies are likely to be economic: that the nearest thing to an adequate theory of "resource use" is going to involve an estimate of benefits over costs in dollars; that wise use will be "efficient" use. Decisions ought to be democratic, since they are political and about public lands, but pitfalls in the democratic process are many. Those with political clout and savvy, those with concentrated high-order interests, a lot to gain or lose, outshout or outmanipulate the disorganized majority whose interests are diffuse and low-leveled. Organized small groups typically outact large latent groups; legislators react to pressure groups and defend their own interests. Agencies grow bureaucratic and sluggish; citizen preferences are difficult to register and aggregate; voters never have the options they prefer presented at the ballot box; and so on. One way to minimize these pitfalls is to insist on a decision analysis which is more systematic, more scientific, which often means, more economic.

While it is widely recognized that some "amenity values" or "environmental values" are recalcitrant to quantification in dollars or other units, nevertheless, the effort to see how far cost-benefit analysis introduces some sense of order into an otherwise sprawling dispute over values continues. Legislators and government professionals are always sensitive to the charge of misusing public funds

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Philosophy Gone Wild: Environmental Ethics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • I. Ethics and Nature 11
  • 1: Is There an Ecological Ethic? 12
  • Notes 28
  • 2: Can and Ought We to Follow Nature? 30
  • 3: Philosophical Aspects of the Environment 53
  • 4: The River of Life 61
  • Ii. Values in Nature 73
  • 5: Values in Nature 74
  • Notes 89
  • 6: Are Values in Nature Subjective or Objective? 91
  • 7: Values Gone Wild 118
  • Iii. Environmental Philosophy in Practice 143
  • 8: Just Environmental Business 144
  • Introduction 144
  • References 177
  • 9: Valuing Wildlands 180
  • Iv. Nature in Experience 221
  • 11: Lake Solitude 223
  • 12: Meditation at the Precambrian Contact 233
  • 13: Farewell, Washington County 241
  • 14: Nature and Human Emotions 248
  • Subject Index 263
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