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
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
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:
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,"
Journal of Sustainable Development, 6:1, 2003. (From a
conference, “Reflections on Discounting,” University of Vilm,
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,"
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
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 ).
“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.
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,"
Justice Review, Forthcoming, 2008.
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