Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Internship Wrap-up

The internship has ended (both in terms of my time at ASOC for credit and my time at ASOC for the year - I'm going abroad in the fall).  All in all, it has been a very rewarding experience.  I had fun, I learned a lot about Antarctica, and I think I'm well on my way toward discovering my personal feelings on environmental ethics.  

If anyone at any time has questions about what it's like to work for a small NGO, the ever important field of environmental ethics, or just what having an internship is like on a day-to-day basis, I can always be reached by email:

Thanks for a great semester!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thoughts on Deep Ecology

Today I watched "The Call of the Mountain," a documentary about Arne Naess and deep ecology with other deep ecologists Bill Devall, Vandana Shiva, George Sessions, Helena Norberg-Hodge, and Harold Glasser. The movie was made in 1997 by Rerun Productions.

Naess's friends describe deep ecology as a social movement centered on a passion for nature.  It is the cooperative efforts of people working together in community based upon ecology (the relationship between organisms and their habitats).   

Deep Ecology encourages people to develop a concern for nature that is deep within themselves through a physical, intellectual and spiritual connection to the natural world.  The motivation for saving the earth should come from a deeply philosophical and religious influence.  For example, Buddhism, which teaches the interconnectedness of all things, influenced Naess heavily.  People are encouraged to act and live in a way that is universalizable and forward-thinking.  Decisions must take into account the potentials of evolutions of the system; they should plan for the unpredictability of nature.

Supporters of Deep Ecology argues that a life live connected with nature in this way will lead to a richer life, both spiritually and in terms of biodiversity.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Teacher/ Student Activity Packet

Hmm...  Blogger doesn't seem to have an option for uploading files...

But, I finished the Teacher / Student Activity Packet and want to share it with you guys.  Let me see what I can do and I'll try and get it up later tonight.

**Update - it is impossible to upload the packet to blogger.  I'll let you know when it is put up on the ASOC website.  If you want to see it before then, let me know and I can print out a copy!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Arne Naess

I figured since I'm getting down to my last couple of blog posts, I'd cover Arne Naess, a contemporary environmental ethicist who had a lot of influence on the environmental movement.

For today I read two articles written by Naess which gave me a basic sense of his philosophy, deep ecology.  Naess advocates for a child-like curiosity about nature.  He claims that we should spend time reflecting on the millions of miracles that take place each day - from the regeneration of our own human cells to the way that soil and minerals can nourish a 300 year old redwood. He want us to imagine ourselves as connected to the larger natural world as a whole and from this feeling of interconnectedness, work to protect nature.  This doesn't mean that humans aren't allowed to value human lives more than the lives of other creatures or that humans aren't allowed to take on any form of a stewardship role (as we saw with Aldo Leopold), but rather just that we must respect nature in all of its diverse forms. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


So I'm at work trying to finish up the children's/teacher activity packet.  I don't think it'll be done today, but definitely by next time if all goes well (meaning if I'm not supposed to be working on something else first).  It looks pretty good so far, though.  I have spent a lot of time editing, moving things around, adding finishing touches, etc.  I have also been learning a lot from doing the research (as you saw in my last two posts) - I can finally identify the 6 different penguin species (for the most part at least - some of them look incredibly similar!).

Other work projects I have been doing as of late are focused on our donors.  ASOC is a registered non-profit and all of our income comes from one of two sources: private donors and membership fees (since ASOC is a coalition, all groups within the coalition pay an annual fee).  I have been sending out copies of ASOC's 2008 Annual Report and when Claire gets back from the ATCM meeting, we will both work together to streamline the entire database.  It's not exactly the most exciting work (stuffing envelopes = blah...), but it does serve a very important purpose.

I have been reading through some writings by Arnae Naess, the founder of the deep ecology movement, and hope to post on those as soon as I finish my HUGE group project this weekend.

Enjoy the spring weather!

Monday, March 30, 2009

The ASOC Take on Antarctic Tourism

I promised this post a little while back...

ASOC has a great pamphlet called "Know Before You Go" that we're getting printed up for distribution at the ATCM next month.  It has important information that people should keep in mind when visiting the continent.  In the past, commercial tour operations have contributed to environmental pollution and disturbance of wildlife.  Though many companies have taken steps in recent years to reduce the impact they have on the environment and the wildlife, tourists can still do a lot of damage if they're not properly educated.

ASOC stresses in the pamphlet that ALL human activity in Antarctica leads to environmental pollution and impacts.  Therefore, it is important for visitors to weigh the benefits of their activities in the region against the negative impacts BEFORE THEY GO.  And, if people chose to visit the continent, they should be diligent in minimizing any and all impacts.  People can accomplish this by doing the following things:

- Minimize the waste they create while in Antarctica.  It takes a lot of fuel to either treat that waste on sight or to transport it back on the ship.
- As much as possible, avoid carrying non-native plants, animals and microorganisms with them on their trip.
-Make sure that their expedition completes an environmental impact assessment before leaving (required under the Antarctic Treaty).
-Avoid disturbing wildlife through noise, pollution, human presence and habitat destruction.  DO NOT GET TO CLOSE TO THE ANIMALS! Close proximity to humans has been shown to cause a heart rate increase of 20- 100% in birds.  Being approached by humans may also cause birds to abandon their young/nests.
-Take extra care not to uproot moss and lichen wherever possible.  

Information summarized from the Know Before You Go pamphlet. (FYI: It's a massive file...)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I'm putting up a few more cool facts today as I continue work on the educational packet.  Hopefully, I'll be able to post the who thing on here once it's completed.  It may take a while, though - I really want it to look professional and I've been taking my time structuring it in MS Word.  I found out I could do some pretty cool things...

Anyway, here are the cool facts I wanted to share:

Many people assume that Antarctica's largest land animal is the penguin or seal. However, the continent largest land animal is the wingless midge, a type of fly that is no more than ½ an inch long. Penguins and seals are aquatic animals - they spend most of their time in the water.

One of the six species of seals in Antarctica, Weddell seals, can hold their breath 30 times longer than humans. This allows them to dive to depths of almost 2000 feet and to spend more than an hour under the thick ice.  

There are two flowering plants found on the Antarctic Peninsula: Deschampsia antarctica (Antarctic hair grass) and Colobanthus quitensis (Antarctic pearlwort). Most other plant life is composed of lichens and mosses.

Scientists have discovered fossils of plants and animals revealing that millions of years ago, Antarctica was much warmer with temperate forests (SHOCKING, right?).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Children's Section

Things have been hectic with midterms and papers and such - I haven't had as much time for blogging as I'd like. Also - I've been working on my two big projects:
*The ASOC history, which is almost done (I'm just gathering stories from campaigners and organizing things), and
*The children's section - my new (and probably last) project.

Here are some fun facts I've gathered as I've worked to put together an educational packet:

Antarctica is the fifth largest continent. It has a land area of 14.4 million sq. km (5.4 million sq. miles) – about 10% of the earth’s land surface. The continent is as big as the U.S. and Mexico combined.

The ice sheet covering the continent actually doubles the continent’s surface. Without the ice sheet, the Antarctica would actually be the smallest continent.

98% of Antarctica is covered by ice and snow. Only a few high mountain peaks and a few bare rocky areas are visible. This ice averages at least 1 mile thick, with some places being as much as 4 miles thick.

The ice covering Antarctica is very heavy. The weight of the ice cap causes the ice to spread outward and slide toward the coast at a rate of 660 ft./year.

The coldest natural temperature ever was -89.2 ˚C (-128.6˚F), recorded at the Russian Vostok Station in Antarctica on 21 July 1983. This temperature is colder than the surface of Mars!

Antarctica is divided by the Transantarctic mountains. This mountain range crosses the entire continent and divides it into East Antarctica and West Antarctica. The Eastern part of Antarctica is colder than the Western part because of its higher elevation (thicker ice).

Antarctica is the windiest place on earth. On the coast, katabatic winds (winds that carry high density air from a high elevation down a slope under the force of gravity) can blow up to 200 miles an hour.

Antarctica is considered a desert because it gets so little precipitation. Annual precipitation is estimated at only 200 mm (8 inches).

During the summer months in the Southern Hemisphere, daylight in Antarctica lasts 6 months. The South Pole faces the sun for half of the year because of the tilt of the earth’s axis. During the winter, though, the continent is in the dark.


Also - check out ASOC's webpage! Claire recently revamped the whole thing and it looks AWESOME!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Environmental Ethics - Non-anthropocentric Philosophies

I've been busy at ASOC working on finishing up the 30 history in preparation for the upcoming ATCM meeting in Baltimore, hence the lack of posts. But I have been reading and today I want to share with you one of the articles I recently read.

In the book Environmental Values I picked up from the AU library a few months back, there was an article entitled "Non-Anthropocentric Value Theory and Environmental Ethics" by J. Baird Callicott. The article was on the dry side, so unless it's something that really interests you, I wouldn't recommend trying to muddle your way through it. Instead, I'll sum it up as best I can here:

The author begins by discussing that the definition on environmental ethics is one that isn't completely agreed upon. Some view environmental ethics as an application of established philosophical ideas with respect to the environment, yet others see environmental ethics as it's own unique ethics - something that may perhaps require its own moral and even metaphysical principles. The author argues that if environmental ethics is in fact a theoretical, as opposed to applied discipline, that the "most important philosophical task for environmental ethics is the development of non-anthropocentric value theory" (Callicott 67).

Anthropocentric value theory, as I've already discussed, is defined as any theory that assigns intrinsic value to human beings and regards all other things (other life forms included) as being valuable only to the extent that they are means to some human end (instrumentally valuable). The use of a utilitarian calculus to decide the moral rightness/wrongness of any action with environmental consequences would be inherently anthropocentric.

Callicott then goes on to discuss a number of non-anthropocentric theories; theories that challenge the idea that human beings are the only species with intrinsic value.

He begins with what he describes as the most conservative theory: 'animal liberation' theory. This theory is the most conservative because it requires the least change from our prevailing anthropocentric, utilitarian ethical paradigm. Animal liberation, or ethical hedonism, only requires that classical utilitarianism be implemented consistently. Proponents of this theory argue that the idea that only human experiences of pleasure and pain was never within the original principles of utilitarianism. Problems we incur with this theory are similar to the problems we incur with utilitarianism as more commonly interpreted. That is to say, ethical hedonism would allow the destruction of forest for pasture for cattle, since plants are not sentient beings. Also, this theory doesn't take into account the delicate balance of species necessary for a healthy ecosystem.

The next theory Calicott explains is ethical conativism. Ethical conativism is born out of the Schweizerian reverence for life. This theory defines interest in terms of conatations (will-to-live) and intrinsic value in terms of interest. That is, things have intrinsic value if interests may intelligibly be assigned to them. Ethical conitavism opens up the realm of ethics to plants as well as humans and other animals because it argues that plants have interests even if they are not conscious of them. However, it still is an inadequate theory because, like ethical hedonism, it doesn't acknowledge the difference between wild vs. domestic species, and the role of super organismic entities (i.e. biomes, the biosphere). Also, if ethical conativism were to be strictly followed, its proponents would have to be fruititarians (only eating already dead fruits and vegetables).

Calicott identifies better alternatives such as 'theistic axiology' (all things in the world are good and have intrinsic value because they are created by God, the 'stewardship view' (in which humans are obligated to protect and take care of nature), and 'holistic rationalism' (all good things are inherently good/valuable to the degree of their 'goodness').  However, he finds these theories inadequate as well.

Though Calicott does not propose a theory for environmental ethics, he identifies four characteristics that any appropriate value theory for environmental ethics must have.  
These are: 
1.Both individual organisms and 'super organismic entities' (such as food webs) must be seen as possessing intrinsic value,
2. Should distinguish between wild and domesticated animals and plants,
3. Must be consistent with current evolutionary and ecological biology,
4. Must give intrinsic value to all the parts and species of our present ecosystem.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ecocentrism - what Aldo Leopold has to say

This blog post is going to be a bit more formal (I basically wrote a short essay for it), but bear with me - it's worth reading. Aldo Leopold is an important environmentalist and a great author (hence all the quotes). I suggest everyone read his book A Sand County Almanac, which I reference in this post.

Aldo Leopold, an environmentalist from the early decades of the 20th century, is the creator of the land ethic and the father of modern wildlife conservationism. In his highly influential book, A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold develops his ideas about conservation, ones that are deeply tied to ecocentrism and the idea that all things - plants, animals, even rocks - are inherently good in themselves. In order to understand how Leopold believes humans have a duty to act in relation to their environment, we must first understand his beliefs surrounding the proper functioning of the earth and its ecosystems.

Leopold explains the functioning of ecosystems using the idea of a biotic pyramid as a model. He describes land as not merely soil but “a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals" (Sand County Almanac, pg. 253). He uses the pyramid model because the sun’s energy, which fuels all living entities on the planet, “flows through a circuit called the biota, which may be represented by a pyramid consisting of layers” (Pg. 252). Beginning with the bottom layer of the soil, energy travels up through the levels of the pyramid, with each successive layer depending “on those below it for food and other services,” and in turn providing food and other services for those above it (Pg. 252). As the energy moves up the pyramid, each layer “decreases in numerical abundance” compared to the one below it; it is for this reason that there are billions more plants than there are predators (pg. 252).

This pyramid system, however, is not a linear one: each species is linked in numerous dependency relationships (referred to as food-chains) with countless other forms of nature. Thus, the pyramid is really a “tangle of chains so complex as to seem disorderly, yet the stability of the system proves to be a highly organized structure. Its functioning depends on the co-operation and competition of its diverse parts” (pg. 252). In the Earth’s energy circuit, “food chains are the living channels which conduct energy upward; death and decay return it to the soil. The circuit is not closed… but it is a sustained circuit, like a slowly augmented revolving fund of life” (pg. 253). Leopold explains that “the velocity and character of the upward flow of energy depend on the complex structure of the plant and animal community…” (Pg. 253). He defines structure a referring to the “characteristic numbers, as well as the characteristic kinds and functions, of the component species” (Pg. 253). Here we begin to see how human interference can interrupt the complicated balance of an ecosystem.

Leopold elucidates how such a complex but vital system can begin to unravel. “When a change occurs in part of the circuit,” he writes, “many other parts must adjust themselves to it” (Pg. 254). He clarifies that not all changes are bad (in fact, without evolution we would not have the incredible biodiversity to protect at all), but that those changes made by man tend to be larger in intensity, rapidity, and scope than anything nature can adjust to (at least without serious consequences to the health of the planet as it now exists). For that reason, Leopold develops a role for humans that is very different than the role of “leader” that man has tended to assign for himself.

Aldo Leopold’s land ethic changes the “role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. [The land ethic] implies respect for his fellow-members…” including soil, plants, and animals of all kinds (Pg. 240). Leopold informs us that we need to examine each question about decent land-use in “terms of what is ethically and esthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise” (pg. 262). Intuitively, nature represents that which is “good” under the land-ethic.

The principle tenet of the land ethic is conservation, the effort to understand and preserve the lands capacity for health and self-renewal. Leopold describes conservation as “a state of harmony between men and land,” though one we are slow to achieve (Pg. 243). Practicing conservation requires that man learn to manage his environment in a way that helps to support balance in the ecosystem. In order to best achieve this, land ethic advocates something referred to as “reading the land” which centers on the understanding of the interconnectivity of all life forms discussed above. Leopold acknowledges that this new role for humans creates a paradox: somehow man must be both a conqueror of the land and a biotic citizen. He argues that in order to fill both of these roles simultaneously that we must cultivate an appreciation for the intrinsic value of nature, one that is based in love, respect and admiration. It is my hope that one day (soon) we can all achieve this.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tourism - good or bad?!

Yesterday at work, I spent a lot of time finishing up the IWC mailings I talked about in my last post. The envelope stuffing wasn't terrible exciting but if it helps to protect the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary then it was worth it.

I also spent some time talking with journalists. One television station in Ukraine asked ASOC for pictures on human impact in Anarctica, so I gathered together all relevant pictures and emailed them to her. If you want to see some examples, check out the ASOC Flickr account (there is some beautiful photography on there).

Another conversation I had was with a reporter from TV3 in New Zealand (where I plan to study abroad next semester!) asking about tourism and the Ocean Nova, a tourist cruise ship that ran aground on February 17th (it was re-floated by the tide earlier today). Though there were no spills (i.e. no tears in the bottom of the ship from dragging on the rocks) and no injuries to anyone on-board, this incident is another example of why we need to start regulating tourism in the Antarctic. Every year, there are an increasing number of tourists going down to the region during only a small window of time (their summer, our winter...). The 2007-08 numbers are somewhere around 46,000. Also, due in part to less ice because of global warming, people are now able to access more remote places. This means more areas of the continent (and consequently, more animals and plants) could be damaged due to human interference.

It's hard to know where to draw the lines, though. It's great that people can visit Antarctica so they can appreciate its beauty, but we need to also prevent them from destroying it in the process. I'm going to do some research on the subject and on ASOC's take on tourism, and post next time with some well-thought-out feelings on the issue.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Internship

Since I haven't posted much on my role at ASOC up to this point, I thought I'd devote a short entry to the work that I've been doing.

A lot of what I'm working on right now is in preparation for Antarctica related meetings in 2009. Right now, I'm addressing letters to all IWC (International Whaling Commission) Commissioners to encourage them to develop a comprehensive Management Plan for a Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary at the intersessional meeting on March 9-11. It's not the most exciting thing to be doing, but I know that all work at a non-profit (no matter how mundane) is important. For more on whales in the Southern Ocean, check out this fact sheet (produced by ASOC of course!).

I've also been working on my big ongoing project: creating documents, slideshows, videos, etc. to highlight the important work ASOC has done over the past 30 years. The work on this project involves reading old files, scanning in old files/pictures, and communicating with ASOC employees from around the world. I tried to upload a video I created with this post but blogger won't let me. I'll see if I can't mess around with it a bit and get it up next time I post.

Anyway, I'm going to go back to the letters but I promise I'll keep you updated on my ASOC work along with my research on environmental ethics.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ecocentric, Anthropocentric, Biocentric

Here are my beginning definitions of anthropocentrism, biocentrism, and ecocentrism. Later in the semester I will do a large post on each with readings that support each belief system.

Anthropocentrism is the idea that the earth and its resources exists for human consumption. People who hold this view believe that we ought to protect the earth for future generations. Anthropocentrism often focuses on fixing the problem of limited resources through the use of technology rather than a reduction in consumption.

Biocentrism views animals as important beings. Stereotypically, biocentrics are against hamrming other life forms for their own ends - many of them are vegitarians or vegans.

Ecocentrism holds that humans are only one part of the complicated system that is the earth. Ecocentrism believes tht everything has intrinsic value and emphasized the interconnectedness of all life.

Side Note:

The book I was reading, Green versus Gold, had a very different conception of ecocentric and anthropocentric ethics. The author, Carolyn Merchant, described three forms of ethics - egocentric, homocentric, and ecocentric. In the book, egocentric ethic was grounded in the idea that what is good for the individual is good for the society. However, with environmental issues, this is not the case, as we saw with Garret Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons. The book describes homocentric (anthropocentric) ethic as grounded in society. Homocentrism is tied to utilitarianism and the idea that the right action should maximize the good for the greatest number of people. This also often ends badly - for example, building a dam that floods a valley may produce power for a large city, but it does so at the expense of the inhabitants (human and otherwise) of the area. The third ethic described by the book is ecocentric. This ethic holds that everything (plant life, animal life, rocks, dirt, air, etc.) has intrinsic value; that is, it is good in ITSELF, not only as a means to some end. Decisions based on an ecocentric ethic take into account the whole system to be affected by the decision and therefore are more environmentally sound.

Hope this helps to clear up some of the confusion... I'll expand on all of these definitions as I continue to read and learn more!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Few Readings

Yesterday I went to the AU Library and picked up a few books on environmental movements and environmental ethics. One of the books I selected, Green Versus Gold, had some great essays on various environmental movements on California. I decided to let the location of focus slide since most of the concepts discussed in the book are universal. Also, I really liked the title!

I selected a few readings from the last chapter (Chapter 13: Revisioning California: Contemporary Environmental Movements), and I'll discuss them under the essay titles below. These paragraphs will hopefully give a brief overview of three environmental movements, all of which I will revisit as the semester goes on.

"Raymond Dasmann and Peter Berg Advocate Bioregionalism, 1980" -
This essay discussed the concept of bioregionalism, something I wholeheartedly support. The idea behind bioregionalism is that if we have chosen to live in a particular area of the world, we must tailor our behaviors and consumption to that region in a way that will ensure long-term occupancy of the area. Tailoring our behaviors and consumption to the area requires that we work in cooperation with the geography, seasons, water cycles and other life forms that characterize the place. Too often, humans attempt to change the working order of a place through technology. People seem to expect that it should be possible to live in the same way everywhere on the planet. However, as we are beginning to see, living in this manner is destructive and unsustainable in the long run. Instead of working against the land, bioregionalism is all about working with (and understanding) the land on which you live.

"Bill Deval and George Sessions Explain Deep Ecology, 1982" -
Deep ecology emphasizes a more spiritual connection with nature. Practicing deep ecology involves cultivating ecological consciousness - the insight that everything (birds, trees, rocks, water, etc.) is connected. Deep ecologist also advocate experiencing nature - taking the time to stop and sigh... smell the roses (or less cliche, taking a hike and appreciating the silence of being alone in the woods).

"Irene Diamond and Gloria Orenstein on the Emergence of Ecofeminism, 1990" -
Ecofeminism was born out of the marriage of femism and environmentalism. Ecofeminists emphasize women's roles in the environmental movement and make the claim that, especially in the Third World, women are among those most affected by poor environmental conditions.

Later this week, I'll be back to explain the larger concepts of anthropocentrism, biocentrism, and ecocentrism.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Chilean Sea Bass Part 2

Hi everyone, I'm back this week with a bit more on the Chilean Sea Bass. In this post I'm going to discuss more reasons why this fish should be a no-go when dining out....

-The Chilean Sea Bass is caught by longline fishing. Longlining is the process of fishing by which a boat drops a long line (usually from about 2 - 80 km) in the water. Attached to this central line are smaller lines, and attached to the smaller lines are baited hooks. After the line is left to soak for a time, the boat returns to reel in the catch. Longline fishing comes with the problem of bycatch - in Antarctica seabirds such as Petrels and Albatross will nab the bait as the line is being dropped into the water. These birds get ensnared in the hook and drown as the line sinks. Longline fishing operations also end up catching other species of fish. These other fish and birds end up wasted - killed without a purpose.

Many fishing boats catching Chilean Sea Bass are doing so illegally. They are disregarding the catch limits and endangering the species. All to make money. BUT - if consumers say no to Chilean Sea Bass, prices will drop and overfishing will become less and less attractive.

There are plenty of tasty fish out there. If you're unsure what's best to eat, check out this guide from the Blue Ocean Institute (an ASOC member!).

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tragedy of the Commons Applied

Last week, I spent part of my time at work reviewing old VHS tapes. ASOC is trying to add more interactive materials to the website and the programs on many of the tapes would be great additions. Many of the tapes that I watched that Tuesday had to do with the Chilean Sea Bass ban in major cities across the U.S. As I was watching the interview with former ASOC employee Beth Marks, I thought about how the Chilean Sea Bass problem illustrated a concept I have learned about in all of my environmental policy classes - the Tragedy of the Commons.

The Tragedy of the Commons is an idea developed by Garrett Hardin in his article "The Tragedy of the Commons" (published in Science, 1968). This influential article talks a lot about population size as well (Hardin believed that the population problem is a problem for which there is no technical solution; the only answer to the problem is, well, a reduction in the Earth's population), but I'll save that discussion for a later post. Instead, let me begin with a brief summary of the tragedy of the commons as Hardin explains it:

Hardin asks us to imagine a society of herdsmen (of a significant and stable number) that shares open access to a single pasture. Each herdsman is allowed to keep and graze as many cattle there as he chooses. Naturally, we assume that each of the herdsmen seeks to maximize his gain. Hardin posits that each herdsman would consider the utility of adding one more animal to their herd. This utility, according to Hardin, would have one negative and one positive component.

The positive component is that the herdsman would have one more animal. He and only he receives the benefit of having this animal. We can quantify this as +1.

The negative component is the effects of overgrazing on the pasture. This negative effect is felt by all the herdsmen, so we can quantify this as a fraction of -1.

Since the herdsman in question realizes that he will benefit from the addition of the new animal, it is logical for him to expand his herd. All other herdsmen in the society would come to the same conclusion. Thus, the total number of animals grazing on the pasture would increase until the damage from overgrazing left the pasture defunct.

The tragedy lies in the fact that these herdsmen are living within a system that encourages them to increase the size of their herd/their profit without limit, in a world where resources are limited.


The Chilean Sea Bass illustrates the tragedy of the commons in that overfishing has caused a decline in the fishes' population. I'll discuss numbers next week, but in the meantime, here's a bit of background on this fish we call the "Chilean Sea Bass."

Chilean Sea Bass is the marketing name for two separate but related fish, the Patagonian Toothfish and the Antarctic Toothfish (also called the Antarctic Cod). Both fish live in the cold waters of the Southern Hemisphere -the Patagonian Toothfish can be found in the South Pacific, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and the Southern Atlantic; Antarctic Toothfish live only in the Southern Ocean - the waters surrounding Antarctica. Both fish are slow growing and slow to mature (this is a result of their having adapted to living in cold temperatures), meaning that they reproduce later in life relative to many other species of fish. Consequently, when large numbers of fish are harvested, it takes longer for the species to repopulate.

Next week I'll be back with more on the "Chilean Sea Bass."

For information on environmentally friendly seafood, check out Seafood Watch.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Missed Week

With all of the excitement over Obama's Inauguration (and a messed up schedule of days off of school and doctor's appointments back home), I didn't get a chance to post anything last week. Work at ASOC has been steady; I've continued to work on digitizing many of the files and pictures slides sitting around the office. All of the slides are now in JPG files and will soon be uploaded to the ASOC Flickr account so more people can share in the beauty of Antarctica. As for readings, I've been having a bit of a hard time finding literature on Environmental Ethics. One would think that more scholars would involve themselves with such a necessary subject...

I am of the mindset that in order to address most global problems, we must first address the critical environmental issues such as global warming, the food crisis, species loss, etc. However, before we (or our governing bodies) can make decisions on these crucial issues, we need to know WHY such measures need to be taken. Before we can ban the trapping of such and such an animal, we need to understand why that animal is important - we need to think about what gives that animal value.

I'm going to read two Garrett Hardin articles tonight and I'll post again later this week with a summary and an explanation of how they connect to the work that I'm doing at ASOC.

...And here's to hoping that this new administration will spend some of there time and energy on the environment. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

On the Job

Yesterday was my first day at ASOC (the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition) for school credit. To be honest, working there didn't feel any different than it was last semester. I'm doing the same jobs and thinking about the same things while I'm at work. It's nice, actually, to get school credit for something I would want to do anyway (and to get paid for something I'm passionate about - but that's been the case for months now...). And the readings I have planned are of particular interest to me. I'm really excited!

I plan to use this blog as my journal - or at least one version of my journal. I figure this way, I can inspire others to ask themselves some of the questions I will be exploring this semester: What is our responsibility to the earth? Why should we care - is it for future human generations, protecting animals or just for the good of the planet as an interconnected system? Are we as humans supposed to take on a stewardship role? Why are virtually untouched places like Antarctica important? etc, etc. Comments and opinions are always appreciated, of course. And I'd love to share readings with other interested environmentalists and or philosophy students.

I'll be back this weekend with more...


Junior at American University
International Studies (Global Environmental Politics)