Culture & Ethics

Planet Earth as Desert Island: “Lord of the Flies” or “Gilligan’s Island”?

Or in more technical terms, the Tragedy of the Commons? Or its inverse?

Lord of the Flies is a memorable novel about a group of English schoolboys who are marooned on a desert island.  They quickly descend into savagery and violence. The book can be seen as a parable of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes’s view that human life in a state of nature is short, nasty, and brutish. But …

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Jefferson’s Bridge

Anticipating modern environmental views, Jefferson viewed nature as a public trust.

Saturday being the Fourth of July, it seems appropriate to think about how the author of the Declaration of Independence felt about nature. A revealing example involves some land Jefferson owned between Lexington and Roanoke, which he sought to preserve. Two years before the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson purchased 157 acres of land  from the …

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The Danger of Climate Change Deadlines

deadline, by geralt at pixabay

Essential targets set by some of the world’s leading climate scientists and policymakers just passed. Now what?

Seven prominent figures in the global climate change policy discourse published an opinion essay in Nature. In “Three years to safeguard our climate,” they set a deadline for key targets to be met in order to stay on track to meet the Paris Agreement’s global warming goals. The notable thing is that the essay was …

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D.C. and Puerto Rico are not the same.

Blanket calls for D.C. and Puerto Rico statehood miss a critical difference: D.C. is the American capital. Puerto Rico is an American colony.

“D.C. and Puerto Rico should be states. Pass it on.” With passage of the D.C. statehood bill in the House of Representatives last Friday, variations on this statement have been gaining traction as a liberal rallying cry. Because they are not states, neither D.C. nor Puerto Rico have voting representation in Congress. The votes of …

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A Black Staffer’s Noisy Exit from a Green NGO

Resignation letter at Union of Concerned Scientists calls out dominant white culture in large environmental organizations

On this Juneteenth, it is fitting to lift up and celebrate a recent, significant emancipatory act that until now has ramified little beyond the niche trade press. I refer here to the dramatic early June exit of 26-year-old Black staffer ruth tyson from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), via letter e-mailed to all staff …

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We All Have a Role in This Fight

Those who fight for the environment must fight for racial justice, as well.

All people have a moral obligation to express outrage about the disgraceful violence against African Americans and about the systemic racism that feeds it. Even more so if one considers oneself to be an environmentalist. A key component of an ecological perspective is an understanding of the interconnection of all living things. Violence against some …

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The Deregulator’s Dictionary

Members of the Trump Administration speak their own, very special language.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.” The Trump Administration’s …

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Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary: A Reflection

Why Celebrating Environmental Values & Goals Is Now More Important Than Ever

Today marks the 50th anniversary of America’s first Earth Day.  Beginning on April 22, 1970, the United States and global community have rallied each year to celebrate environmental values and goals.  It seems especially important to commemorate and continue that tradition in the midst of the current coronavirus pandemic. The first Earth Day was a …

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How the Coronavirus is (Not) Like Climate Change

The two have some informative parallels, although some observers draw the wrong conclusions

The coronavirus dominates the news and much of our minds. Here at Legal Planet, we have written about the coronavirus and presidential powers, disaster declarations, fossil fuel production, decision-making under uncertainty, inequality, and cities. I will join the party and consider what are the parallels and differences between the coronavirus crisis and anthropogenic climate change, …

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Lessons of the Little Ice Age

What can we learn from the climate disruptions of the previous millennium?

The Little Ice Age wasn’t actually an ice age, but it was a period of markedly colder temperatures that began in the 1200s and lasted into the mid-1800s, with the 1600s a particular low point. It was a time when London winter fairs were regularly held on the middle of a frozen Thames river, glaciers …

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