Medium 9781597268769

Water Ethics

Views: 1168
Ratings: (0)

List price: $34.99

Your Price: $27.99

You Save: 20%

Remix
Remove
 

6 Slices

Format Buy Remix

Part One - Introduction

ePub

Jeremy J. Schmidt







WATER IS ESSENTIAL FOR LIFE, yet we have no systematic way to think about its value. For years water was considered as renewable as sunlight or wind, and the potential for its development seemed limitless. Now, having manipulated water for irrigation, energy, and burgeoning urban centers, we face the reality that although freshwater is renewable, it is as finite as many other resources.1 It is now imperative to develop a cogent, grounded approach toward water management to curtail the growing, global water crisis.

The lack of such a strategy for managing water has meant that it is often used callously, carelessly, and without regard to ethical concerns. For instance, over the last fifty years 3,300 dams in India have inundated vast land areas and displaced an estimated 40 million people.2 In Australia, the effects of severe drought have been exacerbated by reliance on infrastructure designed to increase water supply. Between 1975 and 1997, Perth received 14% less rainfall than the 20th century average but saw a 48% reduction in reservoir levels. From 1998 to 2006 rainfall managed just 48% of the 20th century average and reservoir levels dropped by 66%.3 In both cases, entire watersheds have been manipulated based on beliefs regarding what ought to be done with water. Yet both instances failed to follow these manipulations through to their normative consequences for, respectively, displaced people or long-term sustainability.

 

Part Two - Dominion and the Human Claim to Water

ePub

The last transfiguration in the process of evolution appears as the ethics of mankind.... By his arts, institutions, languages, and philosophies he has organized a new kingdom of matter over which he rules.The beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the denizens of the waters, the winds, the waves, the rivers, the seas, the mountains, the valleys, are his subjects.The powers of nature are his servants, and the granite earth his throne.

Major John Wesley Powell, 1888



IN THE LITERATURE ON ETHICS, and in environmental ethics in particular, the term dominion has come to represent the position that water, and indeed all of the earths natural resources, is to be used at humanitys discretion. Regardless of any other uses these resources may be put to now or in the future, human uses take priority. Human claims to water vary from property rights to the rightful place of water within social or religious belief systems. Many authors criticize a dominion view of water as anthropocentric, instrumental, and patriarchal. Here we offer a brief explanation of the idea of dominion, introduce criticisms of it, and provide some subsequent responses to these criticisms.

 

Part Three - Utilitarianism

ePub

There are just two things on this material earthpeople and natural resources.

Gifford Pinchot1

Like other ethical perspectives, utilitarianism has a strong historical basis. It has antecedents in Epicureanism (300 BCE), which argued pleasure was the preeminent good, pain the sole evil. Its modern formulation relies on Jeremy Bentham (17481832) and John Stuart Mill (180673), who, though they disagreed on important matters, are typically referred to as the classical utilitarians. In its classical form, the principle of utility asserts that actions are right insofar as they promote the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Major elements in the appeal of utilitarianism, especially its flourishing in the 19th century, were that it provided a straightforward answer to two fundamental questions: (1) What is right? (2) Why should I do it?2

In answer to the question,What is right? utilitarianism suggests the use of a common metric of pleasure over pain, or happiness over unhappiness, the positive balance of which is defined as utility. In the 19th century, this idea was especially influential in providing some empirical measure of ethical correctness and aided utilitarianism in overcoming a form of ethics known as intuitionism, which supposed that ethical principles were to be derived from our intuitive sense about the good. As regards the second question,Why should I do it? utilitarianism offers at least two different responses. One of these emphasizes explicit duties to others, and grounds these duties in our sympathetic concerns for all affected persons. On this view, the well-to-do have obligations to help the less fortunate since this will result in an overall increase in utility.Those with lots of water should help the thirsty. The second answer suggests that, while there are duties to help all affected persons, these obligations can best be discharged indirectly by each person pursuing his or her own utility through market transactions. In this view we should individually seek to increase utility, and this will have the net effect of increasing the utility of society as a whole. In the period following World War II this school found common cause with like arguments of Adam Smith and his notion of the invisible hand that guides individual actions designed to increase ones own utility toward the benefit of all.

 

Part Four - Water as a Community Resource

ePub

Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.

Garrett Hardin1



SOME ELEMENTS OF EARTHS life support systems are such that individuals can behave in a manner that benefits them as individuals, while the costs of their actions are spread over an entire group. These are often called commons, or more accurately, open access systemswhere there are no barriers to use. Many of Earths freshwater systems have these characteristics. A factory located by a river may discharge its wastes into the stream, capturing the benefits of getting rid of the pollution while perhaps sharing the polluted water with all the other users. Depletion of an aquifer can have the same characteristics: the one person withdrawing the water gets all the benefits while the whole community has less at its disposal. Establishing ways for governing and managing resources held in common requires ethical principles and behaviors that work to preserve the commons. In essence, these systems convert open access systems to those managed by the community. This section considers different ways of conceptualizing community-based decision making.

 

Part Five - Water: Life’s Common Wealth

ePub

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.

Aldo Leopold1



UNDERSTANDING AND EVALUATING our moral obligations requires making judgments regarding which aspects of a particular situation are ethically relevant. In this sense, the ideas of the previous section on water as a community resource are primarily concerned with the interests of humans. Alternately, and as this section considers, one may begin with a broader determination of what interests count as part of the moral equation, or who and what belongs in the moral community.

Arguments regarding moral consideration and the environment typically take three forms. The first is to extend the boundaries of the moral community by appealing to a common characteristic between humans and nonhumans. For example,Albert Schweitzer argued that we must respect the will-to-live wherever we find it, including in the lives of individual nonhuman animals and plants.2 Schweitzers arguments, and ones like them, typically depend on finding a common characteristic between human and other life, and then arguing that if we respect humans because they have this characteristic then we have to respect other creatures that share it.

 

Part Six - Ethics in Complex Systems

ePub

[M]an must not revel either in the inventory of his qualities nor in his achievements; his freedom is unfathomable; he can be the author of the best and the worst; he has to reposition his being in relation to what caused him to emerge in the world and in relation to the life that supports him and whose sense he bears.

Dominique Janicaud1



SO FAR THIS BOOK HAS CONSIDERED some of the main ethical traditions influencing water use decisions, especially within the context of modern management concerns. This final section looks to the future of our relationship with water and our growing appreciation of the complexity of social and ecological systems. To do so it considers two ways forward:2 On the one hand, governing a complex system may be understood in terms of the need for more extensive and more effective management. On the other, complexity may lead us to a position of humility as we realize how little we understand of Earths systems or the effects of our actions on them. It is not necessary to see these two avenues as mutually exclusive. In a certain sense, they both point toward the same goal of making decisions regarding water under conditions of uncertainty. Here we introduce some of the basic elements necessary for understanding Earth as a complex system and outline how the essays in this section offer new perspectives for the future of water management.

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Slices

Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Sku
B000000003272
Isbn
9781597268769
File size
1.59 MB
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata