Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Environmental Decisions: No Easy Answers

As sustainability and conservation become more prevalent concerns, there is no hiding the ways that some environmental values conflict with other environmental values. While such conflicts could be used to help us refine our sense of what matters and why, ethical reflection is likely to be swamped by politics.

Serenity, a student in my environmental philosophy class, passed along this article on the environmental value of the Mojave Desert. Senator Feinstein has proposed that 570,000 acres of federal land be set aside as a national monument to prevent the most pristine lands from being developed. Who would want to develop land in the desert? Companies who would like to capture solar energy.

The argument for preservation seems to hang on Feinstein's assertion that there are other, better places for siting solar power facilities:
“While I strongly support renewable energy, it is critical that these projects move forward on public and private lands well-suited for that purpose. Unfortunately, many of the sites now being considered for leases are completely inappropriate and will lead to the wholesale destruction of some of the most pristine areas in the desert.”
Certainly, there are multiple options for energy production and conservation, and only the one shot at preservation. But it can also be difficult for environmentalists to convince others that deserts, which seem to be wastelands, have ecological and aesthetic value.

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