SEP

KK provokes again with Ecocide on the Docket, referencing Trial tests whether ‘ecocide’ could join genocide as global crime. If this is just PR then I’m with KK: it is stupid. If it is real, it is also stupid.

They have a definition of ecocide:

Ecocide: The extensive damage, destruction to or loss of ecosystems of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished.

The addition of “by human agency or by other causes” is curious: that would make, say, Mt St Helens, or Pinatubo, guilty of ecocide. Perhaps Katrina was, too. Why that is any concern of the courts, though, is a mystery to me. By “inhabitants” I assume they mean humans (mind you, what is a “territory”? A country? A geographical area? A deliberately vague word designed to generate income for lawyers?); that would mean that total environmental destruction of, say, Antarctica would not be ecocide. Or any uninhabited portion of the Sahara, or the Amazon rain forests. I don’t think that a definition of ecocide that only works in inhabited areas makes any sense at all.

They give some examples: the BP gulf spill is one. I find that hard to fit as “ecocide”: it was all really exciting at the time, of course, but is very largely over now. Some people are still inconvenienced, but the ecosystem is largely back.

The Canada tar sands are another example of ecocide but (and I say this in near total ignorance) isn’t that too a largely unpopulated area? Should it matter whether it is inhabited or not?

Comments

  1. #1 Eli Rabett
    2011/09/30

    Mountain top removal

    [An excellent point. Do people live on the mountain tops? Would it be more or less ecocidal if they did? -W]

  2. #2 Ron Hart
    2011/09/30

    You write, “The Canada tar sands are another example of ecocide but (and I say this in near total ignorance) isn’t that too a largely unpopulated area? Should it matter whether it is inhabited or not?”

    Yes. An area the size of England is being despoiled, aboriginals are experiencing increases in cancer, one of the world’s great (scarce) fresh water sources is becoming polluted, the proposal to ship bitumen from Alberta to Texas via the Keystone XL pipeline, threatens the security of the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of Americans, the emissions from the development will be a major contributor to climate change, etc. Yes.

    [Ah, you're a "light green" then: you value the environment primarily for the use people make of it, rather than its own intrinsic worth? -W]

  3. #3 Steve Bloom
    2011/09/30

    Before WW II, older gentlemen and journalists doubtless would have scoffed similarly at the idea that national leaders could be placed in the dock for entirely legal policies carried out on their watch.

    [The Nuremburg principle is not a good one. The article, like so many others, tries to cast all the blame on Evil Giant Corporations. What about the people who still used their products? "You drove many miles in your car! You too are guilty"; "But everyone did the same, it was kinda-like I was just obeying orders" -W]

  4. #4 Paul S
    2011/09/30

    Mountain top removal

    I watched Superman IV yesterday. A volcano was erupting, with lava flowing towards a panicking town. Superman’s solution was to cut the top off a nearby mountain, then throw it into the caldera (I think that’s called ‘Top Kill’). Given that he could have simply used his super breath to cool the lava and stop the flow I can only conclude that he decimated the mountain for kicks. I say string him up. Perhaps that is what they had in mind when writing “by human agency or by other causes”.

    [A fair point. I only considered nature as distinct from human. But what about space aliens? -W]

  5. #5 Steve Bloom
    2011/09/30

    Well, IIRC ordinary German soldiers and civilians weren’t tossed in the slammer after the war unless they’d done something particularly bad, so I think my analogy stands.

    Anyway, I expect there’s been a fair amount of legal scholarship on this issue, none of which Kloor could be bothered to try to look up. He’s after all a journalist, not a mere fact-checker or doer of homework.

    This is of interest. Is there something in the air?

    Let’s also not forget that people do get tossed in the slammer (in the U.S. anyway) for breaking environmental laws. Even under current law, there’s a whole lot of prosecuting that could be done vis-a-vis conspiring to break environmental laws but isn’t because it’s “white collar” and traditionally wasn’t considered criminal. Long-term, I see that changing, and it’s not a gigantic step from that to instituting something along the lines of Nuremberg.

  6. #6 Eli Rabett
    2011/09/30

    Mountain top removal

    [An excellent point. Do people live on the mountain tops? Would it be more or less ecocidal if they did? -W]

    People live in the valleys, where the runoff goes, which is the problem, except, of course for the ruined landscape, the slurry floods, the dust and other small issues. Sometimes trying to be cool is not a good strategy.

    [You're still not getting the point. Let me try again. Does it matter, from the point of view of ecocide, sanely defined, if people live in the (directly or indirectly) affected region or not? -W]

  7. #7 Hank Roberts
    2011/09/30

    > live on mountaintops?
    People lived in the valleys between — which is where the mountaintops are dumped to get at the coal underneath them.
    http://www.dailyyonder.com/files/u2/mountaintop-highwall520.jpg

    The mountaintops aren’t all that far removed from the valleys between, in this area.
    http://www.sludgesafety.org/what_me_worry/marsh_fork/marsh_fork_elementary_hi_res.html (large image)

  8. #9 dhogaza
    2011/10/01

    An excellent point. Do people live on the mountain tops? Would it be more or less ecocidal if they did? -W

    Somebody has forgotten to ask himself … “where do the mountaintops end up once they’re removed?”.

    Among other things.

    You almost sound like Watts when you snark about stuff you don’t really know about.

    [They end up burnt, no? Isn't that the point, that is about coal-burning. Just because you like the idea of not-doing-ecocide, for some sane definition of ecocide, doesn't mean that anyone talking about ecocide makes sense -W]

  9. #10 Eli Rabett
    2011/10/01

    Nope.

    [Aha, excellent: then you like me disagree with their definition of ecocide -W]

  10. #11 Holly Stick
    2011/10/01

    Defining “ecocide” is one thing but suggesting the tar sands area is mostly uninhabited makes you sound like the stupid Conservatives misruling Canada, to wit the gormless Minister of Natural Resources:

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/inside-politics-blog/2011/09/the-uninhabitability-of-the-oil-sands-forests.html

    To put it another way, observe the map, which shows a city of some 77,000 people within the area of the tar sands. What are they all doing there? Well a lot of them work in the oil extraction business and a lot more are in support industries. It’s kind of hard to extract bitumen unless

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_sands

    [I'm not sure you're thinking this through. If (as in your example, lets say) the "inhabitants" are only inhabiting *because* of the environmental destruction, then it is hard to say that the ecocide has damaged them. Indeed, one could argue it has benefited them -W]

    Another way to look at it is Fort Chip which is not in the tar sands, but which gets toxic discharge which may explain higher than normal rates of rare cancer there; also the deformed fish:

    [That innocent people downstream from env damage may be damaged, and ideally should not be, is uncontroversial for me -W]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Chipewyan

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ottawa-kept-in-the-dark-on-abnormal-fish-found-in-oil-sands-rivers/article1841714/

  11. #12 David B. Benson
    2011/10/02

    It is well known that stoats are inhabitants of some ecologies.

  12. #13 Steve Bloom
    2011/10/02

    FYI little is burnt by volume and most ends up dumped into adjoining valleys. Historically some of those valleys have also been used for coal slurry reservoirs. IIRC newish rules keep new ones from being placed in such locations, but that leaves the small matter of the legacy reservoirs, many of which are poised above towns, all of which will do horrendous damage when they break, and will eventually break if not removed. After a few more such disasters some program to do so will probably be undertaken, I predict at little or no cost to those responsible for the problem.

    [That kind of damage - Eli brings up Aberfan - is already covered by existing law. If it isn't being properly enforced, the solution isn't to pile on yet more law -W]

    Just to be clear about my prior comments, the concept behind the “ecocide” idea is what I find interesting. Snarking at the inartful way those particular folks framed it is less so. My complaint about Kloor is that he does so much of this brainless stuff, which is rather in the mode of what wingnut pundits and think-tanks like to do here in the U.S. (and libertarians everywhere too, as Timmy periodically demonstrates).

    [I'm not sure "inartful" is good enough. If these people are serious (if they aren't, why are we wasting our time on them) they need to have thought carefully about what they are proposing. So lets assume that they have: they used "inhabited" deliberately. Why? Probably, because they need the legal concept of harm-to-people; so they really aren't prepared to value nature-in-itself. This is completely the wrong way to look at a problem like "ecocide"; if you want to worry about harm-to-people, we already have laws to do that -W]

  13. #14 Holly Stick
    2011/10/02

    I’m not arguing about the ecocide idea, which I doubt would be effective until we get governments and media to agree that protecting ecosystems is more important than sucking up to polluting corporations.

    But the idea that the tar sands area is uninhabited needs to be refuted. It doesn’t matter why people live in Fort McMurray, just that they do live there.

    [I don't agree with that. If they are only there for the tar sands, they can't complain about the damage (to them) that the tar sands work is doing; it is self-inflicted. Blaming it all on Evil Giant Corporations is evading the issue. We Are All Responsible and so on -W]

    and there are people living on Indian reserves in the area and at Fort Chipewyan, one of the oldest settlements in Alberta, and others. It may be a relatively low population, but people have lived in the area for thousands of years and would be quite offended to be told it’s uninhabited. Really, the only uninhabited land on earth would be the Antarctic.

    [That is more to the point -W]

    On the other hand, we want to protect ecosystems whether or not people live in them, both for their own sake and because diversity is always better for us than monoculture.

    [I agree that is the ideal -W]

  14. #15 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/02

    “… to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished.”

    Well, legal systems outside the USA may answer this differently; in the US, it was a “standing” argument (as in having the right to stand in court and argue) that went to the Supreme Court. Ecosystems don’t have standing.

    The argument for the idea that ecosystems (or charismatic megaflora anyhow) was made decades ago in this book from Oxford U. Press: http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Law/EnvironmentalLaw/?view=usa&ci=9780199736072

    Should Trees Have Standing?
    Law, Morality, and the Environment
    Third Edition
    Christopher D. Stone
    ISBN13: 9780199736072ISBN10: 0199736073 Paperback, 264 pages
    Mar 2010, $21.95 (01)

    The abstract at the press link begins:

    “Originally published in 1972, Should Trees Have Standing? was a rallying point for the then burgeoning environmental movement, launching a worldwide debate on the basic nature of legal rights that reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, in the 35th anniversary edition of this remarkably influential book, Christopher D. Stone updates his original thesis and explores the impact his ideas have had on the courts, the academy, and society as a whole. At the heart of the book is an eminently sensible, legally sound, and compelling argument that the environment should be granted legal rights. For the new edition, Stone explores a variety of recent cases and current events …. This enduring work continues to serve as the definitive statement as to why trees, oceans, animals, and the environment as a whole should be bestowed with legal rights, so that the voiceless elements in nature are protected for future generations.”

  15. #16 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/02

    Stone answered the knee-jerk argument that trees aren’t people in his first edition on the first page, pointing out that our legal systems protect many entities that are not competent to speak for themselves in court, from the incompetent to corporations. I may repeat myself there.

    [Describing corporations as not competent to speak for themselves is very odd. Are you speaking legalese rather than common sense? -W]

    The US subsequently went the route of declaring that corporations are people — although as someone said recently, “I’ll believe a corporation is a person when I see Texas execute one.” Well, that’s done: Exxon.

    Ecosystems not being people can’t be executed, technically.

  16. #17 Neven
    2011/10/02

    They give some examples: the BP gulf spill is one. I find that hard to fit as “ecocide”: it was all really exciting at the time, of course, but is very largely over now. Some people are still inconvenienced, but the ecosystem is largely back.

    Do you dream of the oil fairy at night as well? Such a a smart and tough guy, but so naive at the same time. :-)

    On topic: Ecocide, schmeekoside, as long as the system stays as it is (all must be sacrificed at the altar of infinite economic growth –> infinite profit for the elites), it’s all lip service. Too little, too late.

  17. #18 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/02

    > ecocide … inhabitants

    So do these people mean “humans” when they say “inhabitants”?
    If so, that’s nonsense; it’s saying “L’ecologie c’est moi!”

    We have a better idea:

    “Louis XIV is actually reported to have said on his death bed: ‘Je m’en vais, mais l’État demeurera toujours.’ (“I depart, but the State shall always remain”).[79]” –wikipedia

  18. #19 Vinny Burgoo
    2011/10/02

    Well, the verdict’s in and Evil-man-stroking-a-cat Tar Sands Inc (or something) was found guilty of ecocide. What a surprise. I can’t find an official PR transcript of the proceedings but news reports say that expert witnesses testified that the BP oil spill created dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico (is that you again, Dr Geoff ‘Seriously Inexpert Serial Expert Witness’ Meaden?), which might suggest that the trial was a hostile environment for facts. (But so are news reports, so …)

    Polly Higgins is a known loon, but what of The Hamilton Group, which organised the mock trial? Does it have greater climate credibility?

    Er, no. It’s a vanity outfit fronted by a globe-trotting ex-accountant who founded a company to persuade multinationals that management team-bonding exercises should be more global than the traditional wet weekend paint-balling in a wet Welsh wood.

    The only other named member of Simon Hamilton’s The Hamilton Group is Fiona Hayes, a ‘Certified Integral Coach’ (certified woo-merchant).

  19. #20 Eli Rabett
    2011/10/02

    [They end up burnt, no? Isn't that the point, that is about coal-burning.]

    Eli believes you were claiming that the top of the mountains are burnt. They are not and what remains is a problem, and of course, even what is burnt leaves ashes to be disposed of, and the slag occupies more volume than the coal.

    As to the matter of other causes, there are innumerable examples where species new to an area (not human) lead to an ecocide. The issue there is whether they should be eliminated as in cats on pacific islands. While most of those species were introduced first by people, there are inevitably examples from the past where they were not.

  20. #21 P. Lewis
    2011/10/03

    Nature: the ultimate ecocidal maniac.

    I suppose one could deify the notion, too.

    After all, who or what set that bloody great meteor on a collision course with Dino’s destiny?

    Pick another great demise? Try the Permian-Triassic.

    Get “the perpetrator” of those ecocides into court. Or is there a proposed statute of limitations?

    I think I would read “inhabitants” as all fauna (and flora) though.

    But anyway, as you say in your OP: “stupid” sums it up nicely.

  21. #22 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/03

    At least in US law, when Stone wrote that book, corporations have no voice — they are in the same category as any incompetent entity that can’t take the stand in court personally — children or vegetative adults or other legal entities that can’t speak for themselves. Lawyers speak for any of them. Because you can’t ask them what they think, there are lawsuits over what exactly the lawyers should be saying to represent the interests of the entity.

    [We're talking past each other. All that is just la-la-land lawyer talk. It is great for channelling money from the real world into lawyers pockets, but has no other value -W]

    Stone’s argument was that the natural world merited the right to legal defense. The US Supremes found otherwise, saying that unless you as an individual can prove you suffer a personal injury, you can’t complain about an environmental degradation.

    Drink from the aquifer? Maybe you can complain. Care generally about where the water’s coming from because you know that it’s stupid to overpump a sand aquifer that collapses its pore space and can’t ever be recharged again? Knowing that’s happening isn’t hurting you any, said the US court. mygeologypage.ucdavis.edu/cowen/~gel115/115CHXXsubsidence.html

    Those grandchildren you hope for? They don’t exist so they aren’t being harmed by the damage either.

    How may of these do you personally depend on so you’d be injured by their absence? extinctanimals.petermaas.nl/

  22. #23 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/03

    see also:

    Standing and Climate Change: Can Anyone Complain About the Weather?

    http://www.law.fsu.edu/journals/transnational/vol9_3/hodas.pdf

  23. #24 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/03

    A quote from that article on standing.
    Note that at _best_ you can complain about the weather, because you experience weather; you can hardly complain about climate, since that’s a longterm average, eh?

    Again, this is for contrast to whatever UK law is doing, it’s about US law:
    —–
    “… To maintain an action in federal court a plaintiff must have a sufficient interest in the litigation to satisfy the Constitution’s Article III case or controversy requirement. This standing requirement is jurisdictional and must be satisfied at all levels of federal litigation.13 The basic elements of standing under Article III are well established:

    [T]o satisfy Article III’s standing requirements, a plaintiff must show (1) it has suffered an “injury in fact” that is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant; and (3) it is likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.14

    —-

    [Yup, sounds reasonable. How can you complain if you haven't suffered injury? -W]

  24. #25 J Bowers
    2011/10/03

    “the BP gulf spill is one. I find that hard to fit as “ecocide”: it was all really exciting at the time, of course, but is very largely over now. Some people are still inconvenienced, but the ecosystem is largely back.”

    Maybe / maybe not.

    ["May cause cancer? Oh come on - cell phones "may cause cancer" if those are the levels of proof you require. Yes it was a disaster. But no, it isn't the permanent death of the region. A year, or two, is bad: but it isn't "ecocide" by any sane definition. Indeed, I now notice that their defn gives no clear idea of time, just "extensive", which I take to be in space -W]

  25. #26 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/03

    Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am
    Stuck in the middle with you

    [That is so last year -W]

  26. #28 Anonymous
    2011/10/04

    Have you seen this spectacular example of risk assessment – Jorge Lorenzo happily races and crashes motor cycles at 300+ km/h but won’t shower in Japanese water!

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-10-03/lorenzo-showering-in-bottled-water/3206790

  27. #29 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/04

    > so last year
    I was thinking of your prior on that lyric

    Along the same lines:
    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-court-petitions-20111004,0,4929166.story?track=rss
    “Reporting from Washington—
    The Supreme Court asked the Obama administration to weigh in on a clean-air dispute along California’s coast and take a stand on whether the state can force oceangoing vessels to switch to more costly low-sulfur fuel when they come within 24 miles of shore.
    ….

    On the first day of its new term, the high court turned down more than 1,800 appeals without comment.

    Those included a clean-air case from the San Joaquin Valley. The National Assn. of Home Builders had challenged a new county regulation that put emissions limits on development projects. County officials said residents breathe “an air that kills” because of dangerous levels of particulates and ozone.

    In their suit, the builders maintained that the local rules conflicted with the federal Clean Air Act, but the lower courts — and now the Supreme Court — rejected that claim.”

  28. #30 Eli Rabett
    2011/10/04

    Remind Eli to find a nice, big DOG, feed her laxative and come visit your house. Surely you can’t complain, because it will help your garden. Manure is a fertilizer.

    [Now you're just being silly. Dogshit isn't the same as cowshit; you know that. And even cowshit is only acceptable where wanted.

    You understand harm, and injury. What are you complaining about? -W]

  29. #32 J Bowers
    2011/10/04

    “May cause cancer? Oh come on… – W”

    We’ll know one way or another in a few years. I didn’t say it definitely would, though, but thought that was worth flagging at least.

    [The problem is that "may cause cancer" has become too debased a currency. It now means nothing -W]

  30. #33 Eli Rabett
    2011/10/04

    Remember CO2 is fertilizer, so more of it is no problem.

    To the point, the dose makes the poison, just about everything you are writing about mountaintop removal and ecocide is fertilizer.

    [You're going round in circles. Why not just be clear: do you think their defn of ecocide makes sense, or like me do you think it is wrong? -W]

  31. #34 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/05

    > How can you complain if you haven’t suffered injury? -W]

    How much climate change will it take before you suffer injury?

    [Indeed, this is the relevant question, the stuff about suing and the courts and armed insurrection is all fluff until you've got somewhere on the basics. And we don't have a good answer to that question. How do you even attempt to answer it? We can use the std economics calculations. Or we invent something new. But attempting to lightly skip over this step and assume that damage / inhury is already proven is to evade the main issue -W]

    Until that time, if you’re a US citizen:

    Of course you can complain.
    Complain all you want.
    The Supreme Court won’t stop you from complaining.
    Legal action is all they prohibit.

    As one Mr. A. Gore said after a recent presidential election, the step beyond a Supreme Court decision is armed insurrection, a step not taken lightly.
    http://trimtabmanagementsystems.blogspot.com/2007/05/al-gore-think-differently-to-create.html

  32. #35 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/05

    > and assume that damage / inhury is already proven

    You’re assuming there what US law requires: wait until suffering from injury is provable, then have courts allocate costs. It’s law for lawyers’ sake.

    In the EU, isn’t the concept to consider how to avoid and prevent suffering from injury, by taking precautions, in advance of the damage, for predictable problems?

    In theory, that is. I know about the codfish.
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,863791,00.html
    I realize precautions don’t always work and nobody likes taking on externalized costs even if they’re provable. But you’re apt to have grandchildren, it seems; how does this work out for you?

    [Are we talking at cross purposes? I'm saying, how can you assess-for-injury if you don't know what the damage is. It makes no difference to that argument if the damage you don't know about is in the past or future -W]

  33. #37 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/05

    > cross purposes?

    I don’t think so. Bradbury somewhere said his reason for writing was not to predict the future but to prevent it.

    > can’t assess for injury

    And suffering is even harder to assess.

    Alas, the dodo.

  34. #38 Eli Rabett
    2011/10/06

    While you can’t prove injury, the general rule is not to play in traffic. Of course, you always have the example of asbestos, where after injury was proved, the companies were stripped and then taken bankrupt.

  35. #39 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/06

    The rule is also not to drive through the nursery/playground.
    But if you don’t hit any of the kids, no injury ….

    http://www.chrisbeales.net/env_images/env_global%202degC%20emission%20limits%20from%20Copenhagen%20Diagnosis%20figure.jpg

    [You're confused. That's not a picture of damage comparable to doing something known dangerous like driving in a playground. That is a picture of CO2 pathways - it is more comparable to talking about fuel consumption when driving -W]

  36. #40 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/07

    Well, are we far away from the ‘ecocide’ ‘wittery by now?
    to talk about what’s dangerous, without making the ‘ecocide’ argument?

    Aside from acid rain and small particle airway disease, is the current rate of burning fossil fuel dangerous because it causes the CO2 content of the atmosphere to increase?

    Is anyone injured, or suffering from an injury, because the CO2 content of the atmosphere has increased?

    [Except from the trivial viewpoint (any change in CO2 inevitably leads to a change in weather, thus Katrina would not have happened otherwise) it isn't clear to me that anyone present-day has any claim to damages. The expected damages are all in the future. How big they are depends on many unknown factors - rate of GHG emissions, response of Greenland and Antarctica, ecosystem responses, etc etc - all the familiar things. Working out how much damage will occur - even working out an acceptable system for attempting to account for it - is very difficult. Balancing the damage against the goods of emitting GHGs - driving, flying, etc etc - is even harder. There is no way at this point that the courts can usefully be called in to say anything useful -W]

    If not, what other reason is there to try to change what other people do?

    Changing the world for one’s grandchildren: good reason to take political or military action in the present moment?

    I know there’s real ethical debate about this, going back to ‘just war’ theology.

    Seems to me the ‘ecocide’ stuff is an attempt to make the precautionary principle look silly.

    Seems to me it ain’t and I wish my own country took precautions more seriously rather than insisting on a body count as the measure of injury.

  37. #41 Gator
    2011/10/07

    And thus the march towards tragedy… It won’t hurt us!

    The same could be said for all sorts of ecological/industrial intersections. Dumping chemicals, polluting the air, clear cutting forests.

    The definition of “ecocide” might given at the start might be overly-vague. But a correct response should be to suggest improvements, not poke fun at the whole notion that the protecting the environment is important. By the time people are hurt it is too late. By the time a species is extinct it is too late. We should have a mechanism to legally deal with things that can’t complain in court.

    [You have failed to understand. I think that protecting the environment is important. But the defn we're discussing here isn't jsut vague - it is wrong. No-one has managed a defence of it; the most obvious error is that it only applies to inhabited areas -W]

  38. #42 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/07

    > it isn’t clear to me that anyone
    > present-day has any claim to damages.

    Is proof of damage required?

    [No. I'm just talking about people who have what one might call a moral claim, not a legal one. If you disagree, then presumably you have examples in mind of people who do have such a claim -W]

    Challenge: Without proof of damage, avoid or reduce foreseeable likely future damages.

    Lots on this out there. Here’s one:

    http://wps.prenhall.com/hss_velasquez_busethics_6/38/9874/2527844.cw/index.html
    The overview page is worth a look.

  39. #43 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/07

    > a moral claim

    That business ethics link does cover this pretty well.
    Anything public health deals with would also be relevant.

    Snow wasn’t harmed by the Broad Street pump.
    Nevertheless, he took the handle.
    http://www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/snow/snowbook2.html

  40. #44 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/07

    A couple more examples of what I’m thinking about — and I agree this isn’t simple and the wackos shouldn’t make the rules.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1497488/pdf/12576530.pdf
    Industry Challenges to the Principle of Prevention in Public Health

    “Historically, prevention of disease has been a cornerstone of public health practice. In the 19th century, the …. lead compounds were already known to be a slow, cumulative poison that should not be introduced into the general environment. …”

    http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1081/DMR-200033413
    The Precautionary Principle, Toxicological Science, and European-US Scientific Cooperation

    “Although it is an ages old concept, the precautionary principle is only a few decades old as a formal expression of a philosophy guiding protection of the environment and of human health. The emergence of the precautionary principle in the European Community …”

  41. #45 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/07

    A couple more examples of what I’m thinking about — and I agree this isn’t simple and the wackos shouldn’t make the rules.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1497488/pdf/12576530.pdf
    Industry Challenges to the Principle of Prevention in Public Health

    “Historically, prevention of disease has been a cornerstone of public health practice. In the 19th century, the …. lead compounds were already known to be a slow, cumulative poison that should not be introduced into the general environment. …”

    Wups, two’s too many. Here’s one, and …

  42. #46 Vinny Burgoo
    2011/10/08

    Hank, your Prenhall link is fun. I love bad questionnaires. There are three of them there, two multiple-choice and one fill-in-the-missing-word. (See the ‘Study Guide’). I tried the second quiz first and, having correctly guessed the mindset of the question-setter by the questions his questions begged, sailed through in about 30 seconds with 100%. The other two quizzes are a bit trickier. They cheat in different ways. (E.g. the first question of the first quiz, which asks for multiple answers but allows only one – though, as it happens, I got that one right.)

    Your informahealthcare link is less fun and not at all supportive of the point you were trying to make. The abstract you partially quoted goes on to say that precautionary legislation has caused problems in both the EU and the USA. (You must have read that. Have I misunderstood your point?)

    Anyway. Keep ‘em coming, Hank! More links, please – especially if they lead to bad questionnaires.

  43. #47 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/08

    Also recommended, from the European point of view:
    Late lessons from early warnings: the precautionary principle 1896–2000

    http://www.rachel.org/lib/late_lessons_from_early_warnings.030201.pdf

    “Late lessons from early warnings is about the gathering of information on the hazards of human economic activities and its use in taking action to better protect both the environment and the health of the species and ecosystems that are dependent on it, and then living with the consequences.
    The report is based on case studies. The authors of the case studies, all experts in their particular field of environmental, occupational and consumer hazards, were asked to identify the dates of early warnings, to analyse how this information was used, or not used, in reducing hazards, and to describe the resulting costs, benefits and lessons for the future.
    The lessons they drew from their histories were then distilled into twelve ‘late lessons’ …. In a separate EEA publication some implications of the late lessons for the policy process and associated information flows will be further explored….”

  44. #48 Neven
    2011/10/08

    Here’s a nice case for ecocide in the making: KeystoneGate.

    [Calling everything "-Gate" is bad. And while the pipeline will have some impact, it is but a pipleline like many others. The real env impact will be from the actual tar sands operation itself, no? Isn't focussing on the pipeline just a substitute? -W]

  45. #49 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/08

    > precautionary legislation has caused problems

    http://latelessons.ew.eea.europa.eu/fol572324/assessments

  46. #50 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/09

    > focussing on the pipeline just a substitute?

    Investing the money toward getting the permits, and then in building the pipeline, has to occur before burning the fuel.

    [There are tar sands works in operation now. People would like to stop them, because they are damaging. But they can't, because the government won't listen. So they go for the pipeline instead. But the case against the pipeline is weak - unsurprisingly, since it is just a substitute case, not the real problem. So, I'm not really interested in the pipeline -W]

    Where does one step in?

    “Biologically rational decisions may not be politically possible once investment has occurred.”
    — Science v315, 5 Jan. 2007, at 45

    ————–

    For discussion of public health, in depth:
    http://scienceblogs.com/thepumphandle/

  47. #51 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/09

    Another example where US policy has been waiting until there’s harm, and suffering from harm, and lawsuits — rather than stepping in early:
    Salmonella in chicken: Multiple missed opportunities for prevention

    Another example would be mad cow disease, where feeding sick cows to farm animals was known to cause multiple problems — most of which were treatable by regularly feeding antibiotics, until BSE came along.

    I don’t know how Britan handles this sort of problem.

  48. #52 Neven
    2011/10/09

    Calling everything “-Gate” is bad.

    I know. But this is a genuine scandal. :-P

    And while the pipeline will have some impact, it is but a pipleline like many others. The real env impact will be from the actual tar sands operation itself, no? Isn’t focussing on the pipeline just a substitute?

    1. For the other pipelines that were built we could claim wir haben es nicht gewußt. Not any longer.
    2. More pipelines means more tar sands can be processed.
    3. They rigged the system. Shamelessly. Just like they are doing with the BP oil spill and now drilling permits in the Arctic.

    It’s like saying ‘the bullet killed him, not the gun I was holding and aiming at his head, let alone me’.

    [I disagree. I think your position is rather closer to someone who dislikes gun use complaining bitterly about bullets causing lead poisoning. The problem with acting like this is that it isn't really honest, and it won't work: the bullet makers will switch to something else, just as deadly, but non-toxic; and then all your arguments fall over. Would you be happy if the pipeline people just switched to oil tankers? Of course not: your real problems - the tar sands - would remain. You have to argue against your real problems. Just because it hasn't worked doesn't mean you should switch to a fake target -W]

    We are committing ecocide, all of us. Whether it could be turned into a legal case, is IMO a boring and irrelevant discussion. And of course, some are more responsible than others.

    It is actually the people who are trying to prevent ecocide that are sentenced to jail, like Tim DeChristopher. That’s more deserving of a discussion than this ‘generic stupidity’.

  49. #53 Steve Bloom
    2011/10/10

    So don’t bother opposing the pipeline even while opposing exploitation of the oil? Say what?

    Stopping the pipeline is one phase of a longer campaign. I don’t see any lack of clarity on that point.

    Conversely, failing to stop the pipeline will mean that exploiting the oil will become such a large factor in the Canadian economy that the larger campaign will become much harder to win.

    [Not quite. Feel free to oppose the pipeline, just don't get too caught up in it, or forget that it isn't the real problem. As per the bullet example -W]

  50. #54 J Bowers
    2011/10/10

    Hank Roberts — “The rule is also not to drive through the nursery/playground.
    But if you don’t hit any of the kids, no injury ….”

    Reckless endangerment. Seen it prosecuted in the US for overtaking a debris spewing lorry on an otherwise empty road (even though the judge, sheriff and court clerks thought the prosecution silly, but not he state trooper and ADA) with my own eyes.

  51. #55 J Bowers
    2011/10/10

    On the XL Pipeline, bear in mind that Cornell found that there are only a few thousand US jobs to be had over a couple of years. The reports from the oil industry are massively overstated and outdated, and plain wrong in many instances to the point of being legitimately referred to as Big Lies. Much of the manufacture spend has already happened and mostly went to foreign firms.

    In terms of benefit to the overall US economy, quite frankly, there seems to be barely any at all in comparison to the potential external costs, especially with a Department of the Interior that has proven time and again to be ineffective at monitoring and enforcing regulations on hazardous operations, to the point of corruption.

  52. #56 Holly Stick
    2011/10/10

    William, your bullet analogy is silly. Stopping the pipeline is like cutting one of the enemy’s supply lines. Granted, the enemy can turn to other means of transport like tank trucks or other pipelines which have already been built and are already leaking like crazy, but they might run into more opposition there as well.

    One reason for taking a stand on this issue is that Obama makes the decision, not the corrupted Congress, so he can be pressured. Another is that the opposition is not just hippie-dippies but landowners who tend to vote somewhat more conservatively. Another reason is that you have to make a stand stomewhere, and this is as good a place as any.

    I wonder if the lengthy pipeline protest at the White House contributed to the lengthier anti-corporate protest near Wall Street which is growing into a movement.

  53. #57 Hank Roberts
    2011/10/12

    Remember the US is a capitalist government, and investing money toward an end that will be wasted if progress doesn’t continue establishes, well, something — dunno if it’s a right or a presumption or what. But on that basis, it’s also routine that stopping such investment is a way of steering where events are headed. Stockholders sue management over where they’re investing money, for example, as do other corporations — and other groups.

    It can seem silly the way these steps in the game play out:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228343.500-mowed-grass-triggers-tar-sand-lawsuit.html

    but “the more you pay, the more it’s worth” — spending money along a future path amounts to placing an actual monetary claim to some possible future.

    Telling a company that their investment is void because the goal isn’t one they will be allowed to attain might be considered a “taking” — taking means interfering with an established property right that has in the market some monetary value.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.