Environmental Ethics
and Public Policy
Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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Conscience of a Progressive
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Proposed Anthology Papers

Ernest Partridge
Cedarpines Park, California

These are seven of my published papers which I believe are suitable for inclusion in an anthology dealing with environmental ethics or environmental philosophy. There are still others that might interest anthology editors. (See links, below), In fact, several papers not listed here have been included in previously published collections.

I have selected these from among the seventy refereed and invited papers that have been published during my career. The most recent publications (since 1981) are listed on my website, The Online Gadfly, at
www.igc.org/gadfly/features/bio-pub.htm#pubs  . In addition, during the past ten years, I have written and published approximately two-hundred essays for the internet, mostly on political topics. The internet publications are listed at www.igc.org/gadfly/partridgepubs.htm  .

I am, of course, willing to extract excerpts and to make other alterations as suggested by the anthology editors. I would also be pleased to consider invitations to write original essays.

“Perilous Optimism.” Originally, "Holes in the Cornucopia," The Business of Consumption: Environmental Ethics and the Global Economy, eds., Werhane and Westra, (Rowman and Littlefield), 1998. Republished as "Gefaerlicher Optimismus," ("Perilous Optimism"), Natur und Kultur, Summer, 2001. Also "The Perils of Panglossism," Global Dialogue, 4:1, Winter, 2002. Revised and expanded in The Online Gadfly: www.igc.org/gadfly/papers/cornuc.htm .

The late Julian Simon argued that "The supply of natural resources [is] really infinite!" Accordingly, all environmental problems can be solved through human ingenuity (“the ultimate resource”) combined with economic incentives. The essay identifies the elements of Simon’s argument and concludes that it can not stand up against scientific evidence, fundamental natural laws, logical scrutiny, or even plain common sense. Although, at 16,000 words, this is a long essay, some sections can be readily extracted and stand alone. In particular: “The Entropy Trap,” which employs the physical principle of entropy to demonstrate the limitations of technological and economic solutions to environmental problems. Also the final section, “A Triumph of Theory over Realism,” which criticizes the neo-classical economic approach to environmental policy. (Incorporates another essay: "How Much is Too Much?," Business Ethics Quarterly, The Ruffin Lectures, University of Virginia, Series 2, 2000).


"In Search of Sustainable Values," International Journal of Sustainable Development, 6:1, 2003. (From a conference, “Reflections on Discounting,” University of Vilm, Germany, 1999).
www.igc.org/gadfly/papers/sustain.htm  .

Distinguishes economic values (“costs”) from moral values, and concludes that while the former are justifiably discounted through time, the latter are not. Furthermore, economic values, by themselves, are inadequate grounds for a just environmental policy. (10,300 words)


"With Liberty for Some," Environmental Philosophy, 3rd ed. ed. Michael Zimmerman et al, (Prentice Hall, 2004). (Presented at Conferences at Novgorod, Russia, and Oxford University). www.igc.org/gadfly/papers/liberty.htm .

Libertarians contend that privatization, the free market, individual initiative, and the enforcement of property rights will result in optimal environmental consequences. (“Good for each, good for all”). This essay challenges each of these contentions. Expanding on the concepts of the social contract and the tragedy of the commons, I argue that environmental protection requires regulation and management under the rule of law for the benefit of society at large. (“Good for each, bad for all; bad for each, good for all”). (10,000 words).


"On the Rights of Future Generations," in D. Scherer (ed), Upstream/ Downstream: Issues in Environmental Ethics, Temple University Press, 1990 www.igc.org/gadfly/papers/orfg.htm .

Future persons have moral rights which entail duties on the part of present persons. Those who argue to the contrary often fail to distinguish among the separate categories of rights, in particular the distinction between active and passive rights. Granted, future persons do not have the capacity, at the present time, to exercise their “active rights” (to do, or refrain from doing, such-and-such). However, they have rights not to be harmed, or to be benefited, that might extend back in time to entail duties in the present. These entailed duties are not to identifiable individuals (who are unknowable) but to classes of persons. (9600 words)


"Should We Seek a Better Future," Ethics and the Environment, 3:1, 1998. (Expanded and revised at this website ). www.igc.org/gadfly/papers/swsabf.htm .

“The future persons paradox” indicates that policies intended to improve the living conditions of future generations results in generations populated by different individuals than would otherwise have been born. Accordingly, such policies do not improve the life qualities of any particular individuals. This remarkable consequence challenges the widespread belief that the present generation has responsibilities to its remote successors. I reply that the present generation has an obligation to create conditions in the future that will result in alternative populations that will be better-off due to present policies, despite the conceded fact that no particular individual lives will be benefited. While this abstract suggests a simple and obvious solution to a trivial problem, close inspection will disclose that the paradox is compelling and troubling, and thus that a resolution must be scrupulously argued. The online version is expanded and vastly improved over the published version. (8300 words)


"The Tonic of Wildness," Wolves and Human Communities, Hastings Center/Island Press, 2001. www.igc.org/gadfly/papers/wildness.htm .

An examination of natural aesthetics and responsibility to nature. Artistic and natural beauty are distinguished by composition, framing, and inclusion. Art is created by an artist, nature by natural forces and evolution. The experience of art, unlike that of nature, is “framed” – has boundaries in space or time. The spectator is apart from the art object, while the spectator of nature is included within nature. Responsibility implies knowledge, capacity, choice and value significance. Science has expanded human knowledge, and technology has expanded human capacity and choice. Thus the present generation has an unprecedented responsibility to nature. Because humans are natural creatures, but also creatures with moral agency, as we alienate ourselves from nature, we become alienated from ourselves. “In wildness,” wrote Thoreau, “is the preservation of the world.” (3600 words)


"Just Provision for the Future," Intergenerational Justice Review, Forthcoming, 2008.
www.igc.org/papers/provision.pdb .

Can individuals of one generation devise rules of just provision for all successor generations, despite a profound and unresolvable ignorance of life conditions of future people whose lives are not concurrent? I review and refute six arguments against the responsibility to future generations. . I then propose seven rules of just provision for the future. (4400 words)


Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .