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Biodiversity Loss, the Motivation Problem, and the Future of Conservation Education in the United States

Description: The purpose of this dissertation is to make sense of two sets of reactions. On the one hand, Americans can barely lift a finger to help threatened and endangered species while on the other, they routinely come to the aid of human victims of disaster. I argue that in contrast to cases of human tragedy, for the biodiversity crisis conservationists are faced not only with the familiar yet arduous task of motivating the American public to care for living other-than-humans, but they are also saddled with having to overcome the motivation problem of future ethics. The motivation problem consists in eliminating or bridging a motivational gap that lies between knowledge of the effects of our actions on future generations and action taken based upon such knowledge. The gap exists because motives that typically move people to action are either ineffective or unavailable. What is more, the gap influences not only our ability to care for future humans, but it affects our ability to care for future other-than-humans as well. Biodiversity loss is in fact a subset of the problem of future generations, an identification hitherto little appreciated. I argue that conservationists can overcome the motivational gap not by appealing directly to the value of species or biodiversity, both of which are temporally distant, abstract and general moral patients, but indirectly, by focusing on the concrete and particular lives of extant and near future moral patients. By applying techniques that have been developed to overcome the motivation problem as it pertains to distant future human generations, conservationists have additional resources to draw upon in their efforts to motivate American citizens to preserve biodiversity. This dissertation’s contribution to the fields of environmental philosophy and conservation biology is both theoretical and practical. It is theoretically significant to elucidate the nature of moral failure ...
Date: December 2011
Creator: Grove-Fanning, William

The Contribution of Mira Behn and Sarala Behn to Social and Environmental Transformation in the Indian State of Uttarakhand

Description: The influence of Mohandas K. Gandhi on social and environmental movements in post-colonial India has been widely acknowledged. Yet, the contributions of two European associates of Gandhi, Madeleine Slade and Catherine Mary Heilemann, better known in India as Mira Behn and Sarala Behn, have not received the due attention of the academic community. This dissertation is an examination of the philosophy and social activism of Mira Behn and Sarala Behn and their roles in the evolution of Gandhian philosophy of socioeconomic reconstruction and environmental conservation in the present Indian state of Uttarakhand. Instead of just being acolytes of Gandhi, I argue that these women developed ideas and practices that drew upon from an extensive intellectual terrain that cannot be limited to Gandhi’s work. I delineate the directions in which Gandhian thought and experiments in rural development work evolved through the lives, activism, and written contributions of these two women. Particularly, I examine their influence on social and environmental movements, such as the Chipko and the Anti-Tehri Dam movements, and their roles in promoting grassroots social development and environmental sustainability in the mountain communities of Uttarakhand. Mira Behn and Sarala Behn’s integrative philosophical worldviews present epistemological, sociopolitical, ethical, and metaphysical principles and practices that have local and global significance for understanding interfaith dialog, social justice, and environmental sustainability and thus constitute a useful contribution to the theory and practice of human emancipation in our times.
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Date: May 2014
Creator: Mallik, Bidisha

Environmental Imagination: the Constitution and Projection of a Sustainable Ethos

Description: This dissertation provides a theoretical analysis and examination of the role of imagination in the formation of an environmental ethos. The majority of ethical theories in environmental thought largely neglect the role that imagination plays in both the relationships that humans form with their environment, and the subsequent role that imagination plays in constituting the way that those relationships are understood ethically. To explore the role of imagination in constituting and subsequently projecting such an ethical way of being, this dissertation selectively analyzes the history of imagination in philosophy, cognitive science, and environmental thought. In addition, this dissertation also explores the role that images play in forming collective responses to environmental disasters, and the further role that imagination plays in overcoming the moral motivation gap.
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Date: December 2014
Creator: Day, Philip Garrett

The Environmental is Political: Exploring the Geography of Environmental Justice

Description: The dissertation is a philosophical approach to politicizing place and space, or environments broadly construed, that is motivated by three questions. How can geography be employed to analyze the spatialities of environmental justice? How do spatial concepts inform understandings of environmentalism? And, how can geography help overcome social/political philosophy's redistribution-recognition debate in a way that accounts for the multiscalar dimensions of environmental justice? Accordingly, the dissertation's objective is threefold. First, I develop a critical geography framework that explores the spatialities of environmental injustices as they pertain to economic marginalization across spaces of inequitable distribution, cultural subordination in places of misrecognition, and political exclusion from public places of deliberation and policy. Place and space are relationally constituted by intricate networks of social relations, cultural practices, socioecological flows, and political-economic processes, and I contend that urban and natural environments are best represented as "places-in-space." Second, I argue that spatial frameworks and environmental discourses interlock because conceptualizations of place and space affect how environments are perceived, serve as framing devices to identify environmental issues, and entail different solutions to problems. In the midst of demonstrating how the racialization of place upholds inequitable distributions of pollution burdens, I introduce notions of "social location" and "white privilege" to account for the conflicting agendas of the mainstream environmental movement and the environmental justice movement, and consequent accusations of discriminatory environmentalism. Third, I outline a bivalent environmental justice theory that deals with the spatialities of environmental injustices. The theory synergizes distributive justice and the politics of social equality with recognition justice and the politics of identity and difference, therefore connecting cultural issues to a broader materialist analysis concerned with economic issues that extend across space. In doing so, I provide a justice framework that assesses critically the particularities of place and concurrently identifies commonalities to diverse social ...
Date: August 2010
Creator: Mysak, Mark

Environmental Philosophy and the Ethics of Terraforming Mars: Adding the Voices of Environmental Justice and Ecofeminism to the Ongoing Debate

Description: Questions concerning the ethics of terraforming Mars have received some attention from both philosophers and scientists during recent decades. A variety of theoretical approaches have been supplied by a number of authors, however research pursuant to this thesis has indicated at least two major blindspots in the published literature on the topic. First, a broad category of human considerations involving risks, dangers, and social, political, and economic inequalities that would likely be associated with efforts to terraform Mars have been woefully overlooked in the published literature to date. I attempt to rectify that oversight by employing the interpretive lens of environmental justice to address questions of environmental colonialism, equality in terms of political participation and inclusion in decision making structures, risks associated with technological progressivism, and responses to anthropogenic climate change. Only by including the historically marginalized and politically disenfranchised "voices," of both humans and nonhumans, can any future plan to terraform Mars be deemed ethical, moral or just according to the framework provided by environmental justice. Furthermore, broader political inclusion of this sort conforms to what ecofeminist author Val Plumwood calls the "intentional recognition stance" and provides an avenue through which globally societies can include nonanthropocentric considerations in decision making frameworks both for questions of terraforming Mars and also for a more local, contemporary set of environmental issues. The second blindspot I seek to correct concerns motivations for attempting terraforming on Mars previously inadequately philosophically elaborated in the published discourse. Specifically, the nonanthropocentric considerations postulated in the second chapter by various authors writing about terraforming, and elaborated in third with regard to environmental justice, reach their culmination in an ecofeminist ethic of care, sustainability, reproduction, and healthy growth which I uniquely elaborate based on a metaphorical similarity to the relationship between a gardener and a garden. Although at first ...
Date: August 2013
Creator: French, Robert Heath

The Green Horizon: An (Environmental) Hermeneutics of Identification with Nature through Literature

Description: This thesis is an examination of transformative effects of literature on environmental identity. The work begins by examining and expanding the Deep Ecology concept of identification-with-nature. The potential problems with identification through direct encounters are used to argue for the relevance of the possibility of identification-through-literature. Identification-through-literature is then argued for using the hermeneutic and narrative theories of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur, as well as various examples of nature writing and fiction.
Date: August 2010
Creator: Bell, Nathan M.

Ye Si Ye Jong: a Martial Arts Approach to Business Ethics

Description: The purpose of this dissertation is to offer a new approach to business ethics grounded in the martial arts. This dissertation argues that traditional rules and regulations approaches to business ethics, though important, are inadequate. Such “top down” approaches must be complimented with corporate reform that comes “from the inside out.” The dissertation consults the martial arts to develop a core, multifaceted virtue – Ye Si Ye Jong – that ought to form the foundation for creating a corporate culture (or an ethos for business) that embraces a new approach to decision-making at every level of the organization – from the boards of directors, to individual employees. This dissertation frames the problem as a matter of corporate culture or ethos. This framing is a distinctive approach to corporate or business ethics in two respects: its emphasis on virtue and its integration of core concepts from the martial arts. This dissertation utilizes an uncommon example of business decision-making as its source for a case-study – a prominent university. While many may not think of colleges or universities as exemplars of common business activities, they do, in fact, provide a source of many ethical business dilemmas, both common and unique. Universities have boards of directors, consumers (students and others), and regularly evaluate many financial and cost accounting situations that are not unusual to most businesses. The Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State University provides an opportunity that is ripe for consideration of various business ethics decision-making and, as such, is analyzed later in this paper.
Date: December 2013
Creator: House, Shaun D.

Situating Cost-Benefit Analysis for Environmental Justice

Description: Cost-benefit analysis plays a significant role in the process of siting hazardous waste facilities throughout the United States. Controversy regarding definitively disparate, albeit unintentional, racist practices in reaching these siting decisions abounds, yet cost-benefit analysis stands incapable of commenting on normative topics. This thesis traces the developments of both cost-benefit analysis and its normative cousin utilitarianism by focusing on the impacts they have had on the contemporary environmental justice discourse and highlighting valid claims, misunderstandings, and sedimented ideas surrounding the popularity of cost-benefit analysis. This analysis ultimately leads to an alternative means of realizing environmental justice that both acknowledges the need for greater democratic interactions and attempts to work with, rather than against, the prevailing paradigm of reaching siting decisions.
Date: December 2010
Creator: Wohlmuth, Erik Michael

Sustainable Environmental Identities for Environmental Sustainability: Remaking Environmental Identities with the Help of Indigenous Knowledge

Description: Early literature in the field of environmental ethics suggests that environmental problems are not technological problems requiring technological solutions, but rather are problems deeply rooted in Western value systems calling for a reorientation of our values. This dissertation examines what resources are available to us in reorienting our values if this starting point is correct. Three positions can be observed in the environmental ethics literature on this issue: 1. We can go back and reinterpret our Western canonical texts and figures to determine if they can be useful in providing fresh insight on today's environmental challenges; 2. We abandon the traditional approaches, since these are what led to the crisis in the first place, and we seek to establish entirely new approaches and new environmental identities to face the environmental challenges of the 21st century; 3. We look outside of the Western tradition for guidance from other cultures to see how they inhabit and interact with the natural world. This dissertation presents and evaluates these three options and ultimately argues for an approach similar to the third option, suggesting that dialogue with indigenous cultures and traditions can help us to reorient our values and assist in developing more sustainable environmental identities.
Date: December 2012
Creator: Parker, Jonathan

Tracing the Path of Sustainable Development through Major International Conferences: A Brief History and Overview of Sustainable Development 1964-2002

Description: Starting with the idea that unsustainable practices contribute to issues of social justice and poverty as much as to ecological issues. Chapter 1 traces the origins of the terms sustainable and development individually to see how it is that they came together. Chapter 2 traces the major international conferences and documents and their use of the terms sustainable development. Chapter 3 takes a phenomenology approach to get a bit deeper into sustainable development. I examine the most commonly cited definition of sustainable development as well as a broader definition of sustainable development as a process of change. Chapter 4 examines the field of environmental ethics and argues that constant debates over value distract policy makers from the central question of what morally motivates people to support environmental ethics views. Chapter 5 examines the institution and regime building process, and the conclusion offers three questions to measure our progress.
Date: May 2010
Creator: Dunn, Benjamin P.