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Christopher Preston and Holly Buck

October 18, 2010

UPDATE 1:41: Q&A now. Clark Miller has a question about the assignment of value to different sets of outcomes. Holly responds that a universally environmental ethics may be impossible, but it’s at least desirable. I asked a question and obviously couldn’t type at the same time. Basically I expressed my gripe that some forms of geoengineering are different than others, and some are more restorative than others. Most, however, move the world to a different state. Now Nicole Hassoun is asking a question, but i’m typing and have no idea how to document what she’s just said. David Keith is speaking now. He’s raising this concern about there are some landscapes that haven’t been manipulated in many ways. Once you get to carbon concentrations of (arbitrarily) 2 or 3 times the natural levels, then basically, he says, you’re dealing with an artifact.

UPDATE 1:25: Holly Buck says she has a soft voice, apologetically, but it’s not really true. She asks What Climate Engineering Can Do for Us. Wrote this paper while in Azerbaijan, or however you spell it. Apparently they have pictures of the benzene molecule on their monetary notes. Introduces seven premises about media:

  1. media is an environment
  2. this environment is interactive, but that doesn’t make it equally authored.
  3. there is no ‘public’ — only publics
  4. both media texts and audience have an active part in making meaning
  5. communication serves a ritual function
  6. media doesn’t just relate events, it also performs them
  7. language can create conceptual changes.

I stopped taking notes on her slides. They’re way too long. But she’s kindly provided her full paper, link above, so you can read that if you want to read  her slides, which, basically, are clippings from her paper.

UPDATE 1:10: Lunch was dee-lunchious. Institutional food doesn’t get much better. Now Christopher Preston (Montana homeboy) is telling us what’s up. Here’s his abstract.

Oops. He’s made a mistake about a quote by a scientist and a guy from the American Enterprise Institute. Like dogs to an ice cream cone, the scientists have corrected him, irrelevant though the actual speaker of the quote is. Christopher has also just cited Holmes Rolston III, though he’s put a quote up on a non-white background. Picture of sky. Pretty, but you can’t read what Rolston has to say.

What Preston says is basically that there’s a presumptive environmental ethics argument against geoengineering. And he’s concerned, in particular, that you’ll turn the earth into some sort of artifact. Now he’s quoting Keekok Lee, though this time he used a white background. Bill McKibben’s now the guy in question, who raises, obviously, this point in End of Nature. Preston’s attributing McKibben’s stance to an “unintentional” manipulation of the earth, and I suppose that’s right, though I hadn’t quite thought of that before.

There are many knotty — ‘knotty’ is a good word — ethical issues associated with geoengineering, he says. Procedural/participatory questions, risk management, distributional, public/private, legal, security, goals/intentions, and so on.

Now he’s moving on to other questions. Wants to talk about the lesser of two evils argument. Wants to look at putative arguments in favor of using geoengineering. Channeling Steve Gardiner (obviously; duh; he’s the lesser of two evils guy).

Moved on to another kind of waiving of presumption case: the “Necessary action to save human life.” Suggests perhaps that the deep ecologists might object to the general saving of a human life, but these are relatively rare positions in the environmental community. If it’s about saving life, then all bets are more or less off for the environmental community.

A third way in which we might waive the assumption is to suggest that “Large Scale Manipulation is What We Do.” He says he’s not persuaded by this. The case might be made that basically this is can be undercut by suggesting also that sometimes humans overstep the mark.

Fourth, sometimes there’s a sense in which geoengineering is a sort of environmental restoration.

Fifth, someone might waive the presumption because it could be the case that we couldn’t possible blight ourselves further.

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