Progress and the Environment

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

What Is It

Does the value of preserving our environment conflict with the development of a world community in which all enjoy the fruits of human progress? Is the environment important intrinsically, or only as a source of pleasure and other goods for human beings? Ken and John discuss these and other issues with Terry Tamminen, Cabinet Secretary to California Governor Schwarzenegger, and an environmental activist.

Listening Notes

Is the environment intrinsically valuable? Even if it isn't valuable independent of us, it surely has extrinsic or instrumental value. Does the value of the environment make moral demands on us as nations and communities? Ken introduces the guest, Terry Tamminen, cabinet secretary to Governor Schwarzenegger. Tamminen puts forward a few changes that must be made to help solve environmental problems, such as sustainable living. While it is clear that some of our practices, like driving, will need to change, must we also change our eating practices?

Nobody wants their quality of life diminished. Can the third-world take the same route to modernization as the first-world? Tamminen says that the developing nations can leap frog the developed nations. Apart from global warming, most resource problems are localized. Is the value of nature entirely dependent on our using it? Tamminen thinks that it is more important to ask how we can get people to respect the point of view that species have a right to exist.

Tamminen points out that the state constitution of California has a provision to use public resources in such a way as not to diminish their value to others. Can capitalism and environmentalism be reconciled? Who pays the costs of environmental externalities? Tamminen says that a completely free market would absorb all the externalities. The political system has to be such that it does not pass laws passing the costs from corporations to consumers' health care. In a more just world, would Americans have to pay more of the costs for the environment since we did more of the damage? Tamminen says that we are going to have to learn to do more with less.

  • Ian Shoales the Sixty-Second Philosopher (Seek to 05:00): Ian Shoales gives a brief history of the problem known as the tragedy of the commons.