Table of Contents
Clashing Views on Environmental Issues, Sixteenth Edition
Unit: Environmental Philosophy
- Issue: Do We Need the Precautionary Principle?
YES: Alexandros Khoury, from Is It Time for an EU Definition of the Precautionary Principle? Kings Law Journal (February 2010)
NO: Jonathan H. Adler, from The Problems with Precaution: A Principle without Principle, The American Enterprise (May 25, 2011)
Alexandros Khoury argues that the Precautionary Principle is valuable because it provides a framework for dealing with risk assessment and management. Used properly, it may highlight and address environmental and public health concerns without dictating courses of action. Precautionary policies should come only after citizen involvement in identifying concerns and desired levels of protection. Jonathan H. Adler argues that although the basic idea of taking precautions is good, the regulatory system already takes many precautions. The Precautionary Principle is so vague, ill-defined, and value-ridden that it provides little guidance and holds the potential to do more harm than good. In addition, by focusing on the risks of action, it ignores the risks of inaction, and it is worth noting that despite the ill effects of novel technologies, the world is far better off because of those technologies.
- Issue: Are There Limits to Growth?
YES: Graham M. Turner, from On the Cusp of Global Collapse?: Updated Comparison of the Limits to Growth with Historical Data, GAIAEcological Perspectives for Science and Society (2012)
NO: Tsvi Bisk, from No Limits to Growth, World Future Review (Spring 2012)
Graham M. Turner argues that the computer-modeled projections of the 1972 Limits to Growth studys standard run or business as usual scenario, which forecast a twenty-first century collapse in living standards and population due to resource constraints, continue to be matched very well by actual data. We have now reached the point where we can expect global collapse to begin in the current decade (it may have started already). In addition, it may now be too late to avoid the crisis; planning should focus on coping with it. Tsvi Bisk argues that the prophets of doom have consistently been proved wrong by the infinite resource of the human mind. Yes, we have problems, but new technologies now under development mean that there are no real limits to growth. By 2100, the Earth will be able to support 12 billion people (well above UN projections) with an American standard of living and a tenth of the present environmental impact.
- Issue: Should We Be Pricing Ecosystem Services?
YES: David C. Holzman, from Accounting for Natures Benefits: The Dollar Value of Ecosystem Services, Environmental Health Perspectives (April 2012)
NO: Marino Gatto and Giulio A. De Leo, from Pricing Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: The Never-Ending Story, BioScience (April 2000)
David C. Holzman argues that ecosystems provide valuable services without which humanity would perish. Efforts to assess the value of these services are difficult but necessary to help policy makers and resource managers make rational decisions that factor important environmental and human health outcomes into the bottom line. Professors of Applied Ecology Marino Gatto and Giulio A. De Leo contend that the pricing approach to valuing natures services is misleading because it falsely implies that only economic values matter.
Unit: Principles versus Politics
- Issue: Does Designating Wild Lands Harm Rural Economies?
YES: Mike McKee, from Testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee Hearing on The Impact of the Administrations Wild Lands Order on Jobs and Economic Growth, Illinois House State Government Administration Committee (March 1, 2011)
NO: Robert Abbey, from Testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee Hearing on The Impact of the Administrations Wild Lands Order on Jobs and Economic Growth, Illinois House State Government Administration Committee (March 1, 2011)
Mike McKee, Uintah County Commissioner, argues that the governments new Wild Lands policy is illegal, contradicts previously approved land use plans for public lands, and will have dire effects on rural economies based on extractive industries. It should be repealed. Robert Abbey, Director of the Bureau of Land Management, argues that the governments new Wild Lands policy is legal, restores balance and clarity to multiple-use public land management, and will be implemented in collaboration with the public. Destruction of local extractive economies is by no means a foregone conclusion.
- Issue: Does Excessive Endangered Species Act Litigation Threaten Species Recovery, Job Creation, and Economic Growth?
YES: Brandon M. Middleton, from Testimony before the House Committee on Natural Resources Oversight Hearing on The Endangered Species Act: How Litigation Is Costing Jobs and Impeding True Recovery Efforts (December 6, 2011)
NO: James J. Tutchton from Testimony before the House Committee on Natural Resources Oversight Hearing on The Endangered Species Act: How Litigation Is Costing Jobs and Impeding True Recovery Efforts (December 6, 2011)
Brandon M. Middleton argues that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) elevates species protection above human well-being, punishes landowners, fails to bring species back from the brink of extinction, frustrates local conservation efforts, and unfairly favors environmental groups in the courtroom. As written, the ESA encourages litigation. A more balanced approach is needed. James J. Tutchton of WildEarth Guardians argues that litigation is a tool to enforce the law. It is not true that litigation costs jobs or impedes true recovery efforts, and there is no need to make litigation more difficult.
- Issue: Can Green Marketing Claims Be Believed?
YES: Jessica Tsai, from Marketing the New Green, Customer Relationship Management (April 2010)
NO: Richard Dahl, from Green Washing: Do You Know What Youre Buying? Environmental HealthPerspectives (June 2010)
Jessica Tsai argues that even though marketing is all about gaining attention in a very noisy environment, it is possible to improve brand image by being environmentally responsible without being guilty of greenwashing. Richard Dahl argues that consumers are reluctant to believe corporate claims of environmental responsibility because in the past such claims have been so overblown as to amount to greenwashing.
Unit: Energy Issues
- Issue: Do We Need Research Guidelines for Geoengineering?
YES: M. Granger Morgan, Robert R. Nordhaus, and Paul Gottlieb, from Needed: Research Guidelines for Solar Radiation Management, Issues in Science and Technology (Spring 2013)
NO: Jane C. S. Long and Dane Scott, from Vested Interests and Geoengineering Research, Issues in Science and Technology (Spring 2013)
M. Granger Morgan, Robert R. Nordhaus, and Paul Gottlieb argue that before we can embark on geoengineering a great deal of research will be needed. First, however, we need a plan to guide research by developing standards and ensuring open access to research results. Jane C. S. Long and Dane Scott argue that though we need to do much research into geoengineering, not all issues are technical. Vested interests (whose fortunes may be threatened by change, who may fear consequences, who may be driven by the craving for fame, or whose thinking may be dominated by ideology rather than facts), mismanagement, and human weakness must be addressed before engaging in geoengineering.
- Issue: Should We Continue to Rely on Fossil Fuels?
YES: Mark J. Perry, from Testimony at Committee on House Oversight and Government Reform Hearing on Administration Energy Policies (May 31, 2012)
NO: Daniel J. Weiss, from Testimony at Committee on House Oversight and Government Reform Hearing on Administration Energy Policies (May 31, 2012)
Mark J. Perry argues that the Obama administrations All-of-the-Above energy policy shows unwarranted favoritism toward alternative energy sources. Fossil fuel production is up and supplies are ample. Oil is not at all the energy of the past, for fossil fuels will continue to power the American economy for generations to come. Daniel J. Weiss argues that though we do need to develop current energy resources, we must also use less of them, develop cleaner energy technologies, and reduce fossil fuel pollution. The Obama administrations All-of-the-Above energy policy is what is needed, not the oil-above-all policy favored by the U.S. House of Representatives, as shown in repeated votes cutting investments in alternative energy sources and pollution control and extending fossil-fuel subsidies.
- Issue: Is Shale Gas the Solution to Our Energy Woes?
YES: Diane Katz, from Shale Gas: A Reliable and Affordable Alternative to Costly Green Schemes, Fraser Forum (?July/August 2010)
NO: Deborah Weisberg, from Fracking Our Rivers, Fly Fisherman (April/May 2010)
Diane Katz argues that new technology has made it possible to release vast amounts of natural gas from shale far underground. As a result, we should stop spending massive sums of public money to develop renewable energy sources. The knowledge and wisdom of private investors are more likely to solve energy problems than government policymakers. Deborah Weisberg argues that the huge amounts of water and chemicals involved in frackinghydraulic fracturing of shale beds to release natural gaspose tremendous risks to both ground and surface water, and hence to public health. There is a need for stronger regulation of the industry.
- Issue: Is Renewable Energy Green?
YES: Andrea Larson, from Growing U.S. Trade in Green Technology, testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection (October 7, 2009)
NO: Lamar Alexander, from The Perils of Energy Sprawl, remarks given to Resources for the Future Policy Leadership Forum (October 5, 2009)
Professor Andrea Larson argues that green technologies include, among other things, renewable energy technologies and these technologies are essential to future U.S. domestic economic growth and to international competitiveness. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) argues that the land use requirements of solar and wind power threaten the environment. We must therefore be very careful in how we implement these green energy technologies. He also believes the best way to address climate change (by cutting carbon emissions) is with nuclear power.
- Issue: Are Biofuels a Reasonable Substitute for Fossil Fuels?
YES: Keith Kline et al., from In Defense of Biofuels, Done Right, Issues in Science and Technology (Spring 2009)
NO: David Pimentel et al., from Food Versus Biofuels: Environmental and Economic Costs, Human Ecology (February 2009)
Keith Kline, Virginia H. Dale, Russell Lee, and Paul Leiby argue that the impact of biofuels production on food prices is much less than alarmists claim. If biofuels development focused on converting biowastes and fast-growing trees and grasses into fuels, the overall impact would be even better, with a host of benefits in reduced fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions, increased employment, enhanced wildlife habitat, improved soil and water quality, and more stable land use. David Pimentel, Alison Marklein, Megan A. Tuth, Marissa N. Karpoff, Gillian S. Paul, Robert McCormack, Joanna Kyriazis, and Tim Krueger argue that it is not possible to replace more than a small fraction of fossil fuels with biofuels. Furthermore, producing biofuels consumes more energy (as fossil fuels) than it makes available, and because biofuels compete with food production for land, water, fertilizer, and other resources, they necessarily drive up the price of food, which disproportionately harms the worlds poor. It must also damage the environment in numerous ways.
- Issue: Is Hydropower a Sound Choice for Renewable Energy?
YES: Steve Blankinship, from Hydroelectricity: The Versatile Renewable, Power Engineering (June 2009)
NO: Mike Ives, from Dam Bad, Earth Island Journal (Autumn 2011)
Steve Blankinship argues that hydroelectric power is efficient, cheap, reliable, and flexible. It can serve as baseload electricity, backup for wind farms, and even as energy storage, and there is significant room for expansion, including using new technology that does not require dams. It is therefore drawing increasing interest as a way of dealing with rising demand and ever more expensive fossil fuels. Mike Ives argues that hydroelectric dams such as one proposed for the Mekong River in Laos pose flooding risks, threaten the livelihoods of farmers and fishers, and may be vulnerable to earthquakes. Decisions to build them (or not) are guided by politics, not environmental and social impacts.
Unit: Food and Population
- Issue: Do We Have a Population Problem?
YES: David Attenborough, from This Heaving Planet, New Statesman (April 25, 2011)
NO: Sean Lanahan, from Debunking the Over-Population Myth, Countryside & Small Stock Journal (January/February 2013)
Sir David Attenborough argues that the environmental problems faced by the world are exacerbated by human numbers. Without population reduction, the problems will become ever more difficultand ultimately impossibleto solve. Sean Lanahan argues that the worlds agricultural system currently produces enough food for at least double the current world population. The over-population myth of unsustainability is a scare tactic designed to control the lives of individuals and justify dehumanizing acts such as abortion and euthanasia.
- Issue: Does Commercial Fishing Have a Future?
YES: Carl Safina, from A Future for U.S. Fisheries, Issues in Science and Technology (Summer 2009)
NO: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, from World Review of Fisheries and Aquaculture, in The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (2010)
Carl Safina argues that despite an abundance of bad news about the state of the oceans and commercial fisheries, there are some signs that conservation and even restoration of fish stocks to a sustainable state are possible. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations argues that the proportion of marine fish stocks that are overexploited has increased tremendously since the 1970s. Despite some progress, there remains cause for concern. The continuing need for fish as food means there will be continued growth in aquaculture.
- Issue: Does the World Need High-Tech Agriculture?
YES: N. V. Fedoroff et al., from Radically Rethinking Agriculture for the 21st Century, Science (February 12, 2010)
NO: Satish B. Aher, Bhaveshananda Swami, and B. Sengupta, from Organic Agriculture: Way towards Sustainable Development, International Journal of Environmental Sciences (July 2012)
N. V. Fedoroff et al. argue that given the growing human population and demand for food, we need to pursue every available technological meansnotably including genetic modification of cropsto increase crop production. Satish B. Aher, Bhaveshananda Swami, and B. Sengupta argue that organic agriculture (which does not include genetic modification of crops) is good for the soil, can help fight global warming, and has the potential to feed the growing world population, and to do so in a sustainable way.
Unit: Hazardous Releases
- Issue: Should Society Impose a Moratorium on the Use and Release of Synthetic Biology Organisms?
YES: Jim Thomas, Eric Hoffman, and Jaydee Hanson, from Offering Testimony from Civil Society on the Environmental and Societal Implications of Synthetic Biology, Hearing on Developments in Synthetic Genomics and Implications for Health and Energy (May 27, 2010)
NO: Gregory E. Kaebnick, from Testimony to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Hearing on Developments in Synthetic Genomics and Implications for Health and Energy (May 27, 2010)
Jim Thomas, Eric Hoffman, and Jaydee Hanson, representing the Civil Society on the Environmental and Societal Implications of Synthetic Biology, argue that the risks posed by synthetic biology to human health, the environment, and natural ecosystems are so great that Congress should declare an immediate moratorium on releases to the environment and commercial uses of synthetic organisms and require comprehensive environmental and social impact reviews of all federally funded synthetic biology research. Gregory E. Kaebnick of the Hastings Center argues that although synthetic biology is surrounded by genuine ethical and moral concernsincluding risks to health and environmentwhich warrant discussion, the potential benefits are too great to call for a general moratorium.
- Issue: Is Bisphenol A a Potentially Serious Health Threat?
YES: Ted Schettler, from Testimony before Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Hearing on EPAs Efforts to Protect Childrens Health (March 17, 2010)
NO: Jon Entine, from The Troubling Case of Bisphenol A: At What Point Should Science Prevail? The American Enterprise (March 2010)
Ted Schettler argues that a great many synthetic chemicals that have reached the environment interfere with normal hormone function and threaten the reproductive functioning of wildlife and humans. One of these chemicals is bisphenol A, which has been linked to altered brain development, heart disease, and diabetes. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) needs to act more quickly to evaluate and regulate these chemicals. Jon Entine argues that the effects of endocrine disruptors are at most quite modest, and the effects of bisphenol A are inconsequential. What the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) need to do is to stand by the science and resist political pressures, else we place the entire system of checks and balances in danger.
- Issue: Should Agricultural Animal Wastes Be Exempt from the Requirements of Superfund Legislation?
YES: Walter Bradley, from Testimony before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, regarding H.R. 2997, the Superfund Common Sense Act of 2011 (June 27, 2012)
NO: Ed Hopkins, from Testimony before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, regarding H.R. 2997, the Superfund Common Sense Act of 2011 (June 27, 2012)
Walter Bradley, of the Dairy Farmers of America, Inc., argues that Superfund legislation is and has been targeted at industrial chemicals, not animal manure. Despite agricultural exemptions in existing law, there is a need to make such exemptions more explicit and thereby protect the ability of dairy farmers to make a living. Ed Hopkins of the Sierra Club argues that large animal feeding operations (or factory farms) emit such large quantities of toxic chemicals such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, as well as pollutants that damage water supplies and ecosystems, that they should not be exempted from Superfund legislation.
- Issue: Should the United States Reprocess Spent Nuclear Fuel?
YES: Kate J. Dennis et al., from The Case for Reprocessing, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (November/December 2009)
NO: David M. Romps et al., from The Case Against Nuclear Reprocessing, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (November/December 2009)
Kate J. Dennis, Jason Rugolo, Lee T. Murray, and Justin Parrella argue that nuclear fuel reprocessing extracts more energy from nuclear fuel and reduces the amount of nuclear waste to be disposed of. If the United States truly wants to proceed with nuclear energy as a viable, low-carbon emitting source of energy, it should pursue reprocessing in combination with the development of fast reactors. Once such a decision is made, the debate should turn to how best to develop cheaper and safer reprocessing options, rather than denying its general benefit. David M. Romps, Christopher D. Holmes, Kurt Z. House, Benjamin G. Lee, and Mark T. Winkler argue that reprocessing is both dangerous and unnecessary. It is in the best interests of the United Statesfrom the perspective of waste management, national security, economics, and environmental protectionto maintain its de facto moratorium on reprocessing and encourage other countries to follow suit.