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Lecture 1

Environmental Science 1021F/G Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Ecocentrism, Love Canal, Ozone Depletion

Environmental Science
Course Code
Christie Stewart

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Environmental Issues
Environmental Philosophy and History
Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species -- man -- acquired significant
power to alter the nature of his world. ~ Rachel Carson
Course Themes
Perspectives (subjectivity- beautiful, hurting, gendered-in the case of environmental issues, facts are often
ignored and issues are addressed based on subjective positions vs. facts (objectivity)
Environment, economic and social causes = triple bottom line
Cannot truly understand environmental issues unless you understand the whole pictures
Environmental issues are at the cross section of physical science and social science
What is “the environment”?
All biotic and abiotic factors (external factors) that act on an organism, population, or ecological community
Biotic factors: (alive) organisms, their food, and their interactions
Abiotic factors: (not alive) e.g. sunlight, soil, air, water, climate, and pollution
The biotic and abiotic factors influence survival and development
Focuses on living things and their interactions with each other and their surroundings; resource limits,
coexistence; problems, causes and solutions
Parallel in the “larger Oikos”?
Business as usual not precautionary principle (action or policy has a potential risk of causing harm to
the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is
harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action)
History of environmentalism is framed with the business as usual cliché until something goes
obviously wrong, nothing is addressed
Precautionary principle: action or policy has a potential risk of causing harm to the public or to the
environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of
proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action
”IF” they agree on the nature of the problem something about preventing recurrences may be learned
Priorities and Worldviews
Important environmental issues are often determined and influenced by
Prevailing social attitudes and dominant groups
Hegemonic power: a position held by a state or class when it so dominates its sphere of operation that other states or
classes are forced to comply with its wishes (E.g. political group in power)
Cultural practices, traditions, values and education
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prevailing social attitudes: why grass roots movements can and do work with a critical mass corporations and
politicians esp.
our actions as humans are influenced by cultural practices and values
based on religious/spiritual, and philosophical beliefs
scientists, politicians, economists, CEO’s all are human
Paradigm: pattern or model or concept of how something is viewed. Exist in all different disciplines; shape culture,
history, environment, politics, education;
Paradigm shift: how a set of theories or hegemonic set of ideas gives way to another over time. Occur when the current
paradigm is challenged leading to alternative theories that provide better explanation in light of the data; science
develops with the continuance of the challenge of paradigms
Worldviews: Two Basic Groups
1. Individual-centred or Atomistic
Human centred (Anthropocentric)
Life centred (Biocentric)
Anthropocentric Worldview
Place in history
18th century; secular, individualism
Basis of French and American revolutions
Planetary worldview, human-centred, Western industrial/post-industrial
Four themes
Dualism - Humans are separate from nature
Hierarchy - Humans are most important
Utility - Nature as a resource for humans; intrinsic vs. instrumental value
Stewardship - Humans in charge of taking care of nature for other species and generations
-intrinsic value: Something is said to have intrinsic value if it is good ‘in and of itself,'' i.e., not merely as a
means for acquiring something else.
-instrumental value: Having those assets is good only to the extent that you can use them to get something else-
Understanding, controlling and managing the planet for our benefit means success
Assumption: Economic growth is good and unlimited
Healthy environment depends on healthy economy
Earth’s resources are unlimited and indefinitely renewable with science and technology (technological fix)
- Indigenous and radical alternatives are tolerated because of societal pride in tolerance and democracy, but
presented as impractical minority interests
-this way of thinking dominates global economies outsourcing biofuel production in Global South and
developing economies deforestation
-economy maintains primacy and environmental improvements are introduced where they deliver economic
developments or where resource depletion is imminent
-technology focused issues: biofuels, hydrogen power, energy efficiency, CO2 reduction instead of living
Biocentric Worldview
We need the earth, the earth does not need us
Earth’s resources are limited and to be sustainably used by all species (intrinsic value) (use them at the rate they
can be renewed so future generations can use too)
Not all economic growth is beneficial
Earth-degrading growth should be discouraged/ prohibited
Healthy economy depends on a healthy environment (if we dont have any more trees how will we have a
resources based economy for timber?)
We will never have enough information/understanding to manage the planet
-change in the view of the relationship between humans and nature
Recognizes earth was here long before we were
2. Earth Centred or Holistic
Ecosystem or ecosphere centred (Ecocentric)
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