Resolved: Developing countries should prioritize environmental protection over resource extraction when the two are in conflict.
IntroductionThe January-February Lincoln-Douglas topic, resurrects on old debate which has been done several times in the past in both LD and PF with slightly different wording. Still, the general idea is the same. There is a conflict which arises because resource extraction seems to inevitably harm the environment to such a degree we must decide if the benefits outweigh the costs. The resolution assumes at some point the two will come into conflict but does not give us any clue as to how to determine the brightline between, opposition and conflict. In addition, the resolution assumes the resource extraction activities will result in some kind of immediately observable environment impact which merits conflict. For sure, I think if Neg, for example, can show evidence that some extraction activity will result in significant environmental impacts in the long term it may be possible to claim conflict and engage the debate. However, within the context of this resolution, I think one or two conditions will be the most convincing for showing negative environmental impacts. One, the damage must be measurable or observable while the resource extraction is occurring or two, there must be evidence that past activities resulted in measurable negative impacts and so we can assume it will occur again if we don't change the procedures.
What is a developing country? We know, right? It's a country that is in the act of - er - developing. But then again, development is a kind of on-going process so...
There is no internationally accepted definition for what is a developing country, neither in the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. In fact, the U.N. says, a country more-or-less just announces its status and thus we know. I dealt with the nebulous definition in 2012 (see the article here) with respect to the resolution about developed countries having an obligation to mitigate the effects of climate change. I think, most debaters used dictionary definitions and just went for it, I think the same may be expected for this resolution. We have a sort of defacto understanding that a developing country is one which is not quite up to U.S., western European, or Japanese standard of living and I guess that is measured in terms of GDP, GNI and a range of subjective standards, like infrastructure development, healthcare systems, law enforcement, defense capability, etc. The sources below will give several lists and criteria for categorizing nations (in case it becomes an issue). Here is what the IMF said in 2011:
"While many economists would readily agree that Burkina Faso is a developing country and Japan is a developed country, they would be more hesitant to classify Malaysia or Russia. Where exactly to draw the line between developing and developed countries is not obvious, and this may explain the absence of a generally agreed criterion. This could suggest that a developing/developed country dichotomy is too restrictive and that a classification system with more than two categories could better capture the diversity in development outcomes across countries. Another possible explanation for the absence of a generally accepted classification system is the inherent normative nature of any such system. The word pair developing/developed countries became in the 1960s the more common way to characterize countries, especially in the context of policy discussions on transfering real resources from richer (developed) to poorer (developing) countries (Pearson et al, 1969). Where resource transfers are involved countries have an economic interest in these definitions and therefore the definitions are much debated. As will be discussed later, in the absence of a methodology or a consensus for how to classify countries based on their level of development, some international organizations have used membership of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as the main criterion for developed country status. While the OECD has not used such a country classification system, the preamble to the OECD convention does include a reference to the belief of the contracting parties that “economically more advanced nations should co-operate in assisting to the best of their ability the countries in process of economic development.” As OECD membership is limited to a small subset of countries (it has 34 members up from 20 members at its establishment in 1961), this heuristic approach results in the designation of about 80–85 percent of the world’s countries as developing and about 15–20 percent as developed."
For reference (and it is a good as any) the Google default definition is:
a poor agricultural country that is seeking to become more advanced economically and socially.
The word "should" is used to express condition or obligation (Merriam Webster). Used in the context of resolution it conveys the same meaning as "ought". Note the Cambridge Dictionary defines "should" as " used to say or ask what is the correct or best thing to do". For this reason, I expect some debaters will apply the meaning to a moral framework.
Merriam Webster - "to organize (things) so that the most important thing is done or dealt with first".
For this definition, I look first to the Merriam Webster dictionary:
the circumstances, objects, or conditions by which one is surrounded; the complex of physical, chemical, and biotic factors (as climate, soil, and living things) that act upon an organism or an ecological community and ultimately determine its form and survival; the aggregate of social and cultural conditions that influence the life of an individual or community
the act of protecting; the state of being protected
to cover or shield from exposure, injury, damage, or destruction; defend; to maintain the status or integrity of especially through financial or legal guarantees
A composite definition is provided by the OECD (see here):
Environmental protection refers to any activity to maintain or restore the quality of environmental media through preventing the emission of pollutants or reducing the presence of polluting substances in environmental media. It may consist of:
(a) changes in characteristics of goods and services,
(b) changes in consumption patterns,
(c) changes in production techniques,
(d) treatment or disposal of residuals in separate environmental protection facilities,
(e) recycling, and
(f) prevention of degradation of the landscape and ecosystems.
How harms to the environment are measured, is not clear. When one declares we must protect the environment, how does one know when one is damaging it?
Merriam Webster - above. In the context of prioritization, a thing should be considered more important than another.
We can generally define "resource extraction" as any action which removes or separates resources from the places in which they exist. Also we can broadly define a resource as any asset or action which can be used or adapted to yield some advantage. Merriam Webster provides several possibilities:
a : a source of supply or support : an available means —usually used in plural
b : a natural source of wealth or revenue —often used in plural
c : a natural feature or phenomenon that enhances the quality of human life
d : computable wealth —usually used in plural
e : a source of information or expertise
Please note, the resolution does not specify "natural resources" which typically consist of resources which exist in a natural environment. Thus, it seems intuitive most debaters will be assuming the resources being extracted are natural resources which need to be removed from their natural environment and as we should be aware, this process of extraction usually results in some kind of damage to the natural environment.
We can make a distinction, the resolution is specific to resource extraction, not resource consumption. Therefore considering a resource like petroleum, we cannot debate the environmental impact of consuming (burning) petroleum products, we can only debate the impact of extracting the petroleum resource.
when the two are in conflict
The dictionary definition (Merriam Webster) of conflict is:
fight, battle, war; competitive or opposing action of incompatibles; mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands; the opposition of persons or forces that gives rise to the dramatic action in a drama or fiction
The meaning suggests a struggle which goes beyond simple disagreement. It conveys the idea of clash in which two conditions may not coexist because they are mutually exclusive. Of course, while one side of the debate may claim environmental protect and resource extraction may, under certain conditions be mutually exclusive (i.e. they are in conflict), it does not mean that new approaches, plans, techniques or ways of thinking could resolve the conflict.
Interpreting the ResolutionThere are many vague terms in this resolution when examined on a micro-level (breaking it down word by word) even though generally speaking it is clear the intent of this debate is to focus on the clash which occurs when resource extraction (i.e. deforestation, fracking, drilling, mining, etc) harms the environment in a profound way. To punctuate the debate, the focus is narrowed to the class of nations deemed "developing" - that is - underdeveloped, economically growing, politically legitimate nations who can most benefit from resource extraction. Really, the narrowing focus does not significantly change the debate except to perhaps add a sense of urgency or emotional impact due to the fact developing countries are often struggling to equip their populations with the resources necessary to thrive. The debate ignores the potential discussions of resource extraction in areas such as the arctic regions, in well-developed countries, and in outer space.
Environmental ImpactUnder a strict interpretation of the resolution, it may be possible to claim that no extraction of a resource can be done without disrupting the environment. After all, every resource, in its natural state, exists within an environment and in fact the resource is part of the environment. When the resource is removed, the environment is altered because the surrounding environment must be moved or pushed away, and in the end something that was part of the environment, namely the resource, is no longer there in the same capacity or quantity as before. So for me, the question of determining environmental impact has the potential of being a contention in the debate. This in turn impacts how one decides that conflict exists between resource extraction and the desire to protect the environment. Just looking at the U.S. for example, every effort to extract resources is met with some kind of protest or objection, but at what point do we claim the opposition has risen to the level of conflict? Finally, and I think this cannot be overstated, the political persuasion of the judge can be a factor. Debates about the potential anthropogenic contribution to global warming can invoke strong opinions within the experience of the judge and so it is an unknown that can effect the outcome of the round.
For the Aff position click here.
For the Neg position click here.
International Statistical Institute
Composition of macro geographical (continental) regions, geographical sub-regions, and selected economic and other groupings
United Nations, UNData
FtSe Global equity Index Series Country Classification
Who are the developing countries in the WTO?
World Treade Organization
International Visitiing Surgeons Fellowship
Definition and List of developing countries
New Country Classifications
The World Bank
Classifications of Countries Based on Their Level of Development: How it is Done and How it Could be Done
IMF Working Paper, Strategy and Review Department
Lynge Nielsen, 2011