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Lecture 10

PHIL 331 Lecture Notes - Lecture 10: Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation, Sawmill, Canadian Pacific Limited

Course Code
PHIL 331
R. Ahmad

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Module 6: Part 2 - Environmental
In this section, we will investigate the ways in which decisions get made about the type
and degree of environmental harms that should be allowed.
Learning Objectives
At the end of Part 2, you should be able to:
1. Explain the ways in which corporations may have disproportionate influence over
government's attempts to implement environmental protection policies.
2. Describe the limitations of cost benefit analysis as a decision making tool in the
environmental domain.
Environments, People, and Power
Please read this Commentary before the assigned readings. This section will give you a
brief, general introduction to the question of how environmental decisions get made.
As noted in Part 1 of this Module, questions regarding the way we treat the environment
are moral questions. This statement leaves open the question of just who it is that will
make the moral decisions required with regard to our relationship to the natural
The most accurate answer to this question is also the most vague one: each of us has
to make moral decisions about how to treat our environment. Each of us, as an
individual, has to make a number of decisions (either consciously or without thinking
about it) about the kind of car we will drive, whether we will purchase overly-packaged
products, how meticulous we will be about recycling, and so on. Of course, businesses
also have decisions to make about their treatment of the environment. And, as noted
above in Section 1, the moral decisions faced by businesses in this regard will often be
particularly weighty, given the exceptionally large degree to which corporate actions
stand to affect the environment.
Decisions about our treatment of the natural environment also get made, of course, by
various branches of government. Legislators at both the Federal and Provincial levels
have the power to enact legislation of various kinds that affect our treatment of the
environment. When such legislation is in place, it is often left up to civil servants to
determine the specific policies and guidelines that will carry out the intent of the
legislation. Finally, courts are often asked to interpret the law as set out in legislation.
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The readings in this Section discuss issues concerning both who it is that gets to make
various environmental decisions, and whose interests are likely to be taken into
Now turn to your textbook and read the following:
#22. "Risks versus Rights: Economic Power and Economic Analysis in Environmental
Politics," by Ted Schrecker.
Commentary on the Reading
Schrecker's article focusses on some economic and political aspects of debates over
environmental regulation. Schrecker begins by noting that, from a strictly economic
point of view, environmental protection regulations are bad for business. Such
regulations, for example, limit the freedom of businesses to dispose of waste products
cheaply, and demand costly pollution-reduction technologies be installed in
manufacturing plants. Other things being equal, businesses have an interest
in resisting moves by government to impose limits on their use of the natural
environment. Schrecker's basic position is that business, in general, has, for a variety of
reasons, too much influence on the process by which environmental policy decisions
get made.
First, Schrecker discusses the political resources that businesses have at their disposal
in their attempts to limit the effect of environmental regulations on their operations. He
points to three main factors.
1. Companies subject to environmental regulation actually provide much of the
technical information that is necessary for the policy-making process. Schrecker's
implication is that in order to assure a continuing flow of information, regulators may
tend to be conciliatory toward (rather than strict with) regulated companies.
2. Corporations often have enormous financial and organizational resources.
Corporations (and industry trade associations) have the resources to make
campaign contributions to key politicians, hire lobbyists to work on their behalf in
Ottawa, and so on.
3. In some regards, the interests of regulated companies and government agencies
coincide. There are government ministries responsible for resource development,
industrial expansion and so on. The implication is that these ministries may prove to
be powerful allies in industry's attempts to limit environmental legislation (or limit the
enforcement of such legislation).
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