Monday, December 30, 2013

LD Jan/Feb 2014 - Environment vs Resources - Neg Values

Resolved: Developing countries should prioritize environmental protection over resource extraction when the two are in conflict.

For the introduction and definitions to this topic, click here.
This is the second of a two part exploration of the Negative position of the topic.

The Neg Position Values

In studying the possible arguments of the Neg position, it is important to evaluate the exact meaning of prioritizing environmental protection with respect to resource extraction.  I expect there will be tendency to believe that resource extraction nearly always results in some environmental damage.  After all, if it did not, then why prioritize environmental protection in the first place?  Further, in situations where resource depletion is likely, there is an assumption of environmental harm.  Affirmative debaters will likely exploit the ideology of Hardin's "Tragedy of the Commons" and link it to the idea of harms against the common interest through negative environmental impacts.  Regardless of one's views on the possible harms of resource depletion, which can be tragic in its own right, the Affirmative case is very weak if resources can be extracted without negative environmental impacts. As I have already stated, if resources can be extracted without environmental harm, then why prioritize environmental protection? Indeed, it is reasonable to assume the decision to extract resources is preceded by careful analysis of the Pros and Cons and certainly environmental impact will be one such consideration but not necessarily the most important consideration.  This is how it works in the so-called developed world, so what about the developing world?

Buch-Hansen 2008:
The developing countries have repeated at numerous international conferences that they should not be the first to cut down on the utilization of natural resources like preserving the tropical forests and the biodiversity or limiting their emission of green house gases or other pollutants threatening major ecological systems. They are just imitating what the rich part of the world has already done for centuries.

Regardless of the calculus used by developing countries to make their decisions, Negative can always make the claim that if environmental protection is not prioritized in the developed world, why should it be in the developing world?  That is not to say, that just because the developed world exploited its own resources to the harms of the environment in the past we should allow developing countries to do the same.  It is to say, we should allow countries to decide based upon criteria which are important to their own interests and not the interests of the world at large.  This leads to a host of useful values for the Neg, such as sovereignty, governmental legitimacy, security etc. with criteria such as upholding the common good, utilitarianism, and so on.  All values and criteria relative to the developing country and not the world at large.

The Hierarchy of Needs

We can begin our analysis of values looking at the hierarchy of needs which establishes a sort of prioritization of needs whose fulfillment increases the well-being of humans and assures their survivability.

Ayers 2011:
For a better future, we must design a society that meets our needs. And what are those needs? The most famous elaboration is Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs.  Maslow believed that humans are happy when these needs are met.  He listed the needs in order of priority.  Humans must first fill their basic "physiological" needs shown at the bottom of the pyramid, and then provide for "safety."   Meeting these needs makes it more likely that a human will survive long enough to fill the next need of "love/belonging," which makes it more likely that they will propagate their genes.  Because natural selection does not operate at levels higher than love/belonging, many people to not progress to "esteem" and finally "self-actualization," which is defined as a person meeting their full potential.  A sustainable society would give people the opportunity to become "self-actualized," to meet their full potential.

The needs hierarchy establishes a basis for understanding, not only what humans view as their must fundamental requirements for survivability but also establish a clear picture of how the fulfillment of needs are prioritized.

Lawn 2006:
... the needs hierarchy indicates that once basic physiological needs have been satisfied, desires originating from a higher level of existence begin to emerge. As they do, an individual’s desires are no longer dominated by the need for food, clothing, and shelter, but by the need to satisfy emerging psychological needs. It is at this point that a healthy human existence requires the emerging higher-order needs to be satisfied along with basic physiological needs – what Weisskopf (1973) refers to as a healthy existential balance.

If one accepts that humans place first priority on those concerns at the base of the oft-depicted pyramid, it is simply a matter of deciding where on the pyramid one places resource extraction and environmental protection.  Neg can easily defend the idea that resource extraction is very often aimed at supplying the most basic fundamental needs of developing societies, such as feeding and sheltering people in a sustainable and secure way.  Granted, a good environment plays a role in sustainability but the question is, at what level of needs fulfillment do humans begin to prioritize environmental protection? It hardly seems like the most important value when basic needs go unanswered.

Needs Criteria

Linking resource extraction to sustaining basic human needs allows us to uphold a number of values useful for the Negative debater's position. First and foremost, I suppose, life is sustained by meeting basic human needs and this value may be esteemed over all other values since otherwise there are no humans alive to esteem the values.  Still, in my experience, life is notoriously difficult to win when anything less than massive loss of life is at stake. Nevertheless, life is a value that can and should be considered for the Negative debater.  Related are all of the values which seem to flow from life or more properly the quality of life.  These include dignity, well-being, happiness and so on.  While the Affirmative side may claim the intrinsic value of the environment or other qualities arising from environmental protection enhance the quality of life, they are not essential to achieving the fundamental levels of the sense of well-being if basic human needs are being neglected.  In fact, I think Neg can make the argument that environmental protection will only succeed at adding a certain level of enrichment to the quality of life, only through development can the higher needs of self-actualization be met.  Thus environmental protection is positioned as a nicety while resource extractions meets the needs which drive well-being such as sustenance, security, and the ever-increasing needs sustained by development.

Resolving the Conflict

This resolution affirms environmental protection should be prioritized over resource extraction when the two are in conflict. But the question is, when are they in conflict?  I can understand on one level, that tensions and conflict will increase when resources are extracted and the stakeholders are not being adequately compensated and in many cases, environmental concerns provide a convenient justification for protest and conflict.  Nevertheless, on a fundamental level, it can be argued that virtually all forms of resources extraction leave an environmental impact.  Basically, it is impossible to extract resources without some level of harm to the environment and so the two are always in conflict.

Buch-Hansen 2008:
Nature is by definition manipulated by humans as we throughout history have been eking out the needs for survival and hereby have created our environments.  Nature, untouched by humans, is no longer thinkable. Even the most remote small plant on a faraway mountaintop is impacted by the changing composition of the atmosphere, acid rains, the thickness of the ozone layer, etc. Nature is transformed into 'natural environments', manipulated by human development.

In fact, it can be argued Aff concedes the requirement for resource extraction.  Since the two priorities can only conflict if resource extraction is occurring, then we must conclude the requirement for resource extraction is a foregone conclusion, undisputed by Aff.  Based on this revelation Neg can claim resource extraction always comes first or it would not even be possible to have this debate.  For those times, when environmental protection concerns rise to the level which triggers conflict, it is not a question of prioritizing those concerns, it is merely a question of how to alter the methods of extraction to be more environmentally friendly.  It can be argued that prioritizing technological development will enable the resolution of the environmental/resource conflict.

Deliberate emphasis on technological development to organize space and design man-made capital in built-up structures to enhance sustainability can certainly enhance both intra- and inter-generational equity. Everyone concerned with development, not least development studies, must contribute to that. However, we will never escape the moral/political question on how to define needs for the present generations and ensure equity around the world nor avoid the principle of precaution to care for future generations. We should focus on supporting livelihoods and enhance welfare with the environment and not against it!

The idea of intra- and inter-generational equity is discussed in relation to who reaps the benefits of resource extraction.  Obviously, the generation of individuals that extract resources will gain benefits. Equity is increased when all of the stakeholders receive benefits.  Inter-generational equity occurs when future generations are included in the group of stakeholders. Inter-generational equity is used to enhance arguments for sustainability of resources.  Please note that sustainability, which can be key to the Negative position does not mean, we cease extracting resources, rather it means we continue to extract in a way which ensures benefits to future generations. This includes benefits which arise from environmental integrity. A truly equitable method of resource extraction ensures sustainability to the greatest possible extent and potentially solves conflicts which may arise from concern over environmental protection.

This develops into sustainability as a value or at least as a criterion for achievement of other values such as equity or justice (of the Rawlsian variety).

Value Wrap-up

I have a feeling that initially, this debate will be difficult for the Negative.  The need for resource extraction is a practical reality which is implicitly acknowledged by the wording of the resolution itself.  Since resources must be extracted from the environment, it means the environment will be impacted and there will be calls to protect the environment by mitigating the negative impacts of extraction activities. But, what is the bright-line for conflict between the two?  As long as the extraction activities are conducted in a way which mitigates environmental impacts Negative can claim the bright-line for conflict does not exist.  One way Neg demonstrates proper consideration for the environment is by adhering to the principles and practices which establish sustainability.  For this we can look to Rawlsian principles and ensure that the extraction activities maximize fairness for the least advantaged including future generations.  I definitely think you will find support in Rawls philosophies if you decide to advance sustainability but I leave it to you to do the research.  The topic is diverse and often complex.

At minimum, Negative can never allow the debate to be a "one or the other but not both" position.  Without resource extraction there can be no conflict.  With no conflict there can be no debate.  For me, this is one of the difficulties in framing this position.  Nevertheless, if one allows the debate to be a mutually exclusive choice, Neg's position will be that resource extraction is absolutely necessary to meet the direct needs of individuals.  Perhaps Affirmative can argue the best position is to cease all extraction activities which exceed the environment's ability to sustain itself and assimilate anthropogenic waste products but I think it is a utopian position.  Generally speaking judges, at least in our region of the LD debate world, are very reluctant to vote up utopian worlds.

In the first part of the Negative position, I discussed the necessity of resource extraction and framed it as the key to the kinds of economic and technological advancement which can potentially solve the conflict and in this part I discussed how provisions for equitable resource extraction solves the conflict.  I think for now you have enough to frame-up a value framework which can fully turn the Affirmative position.


The Cooperation Commons
Summary of: Governing The Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action
Author(s) / Editor(s) Ostrom, Elinor

The Sustainability Revolution: A scientific analysis of beneficial changes for societies, communitiies, and individuals;
John C. Ayers, 2011

Sustainable Development Indicators in Ecological Economics
Edited by Philip Lawn, Flinders University, Adelaid; 2006

Space - the essential dimension of sustainable development;Global Governance for Sustainable Development
Mogens Buch-Hansen, Roskilde University, 2008

Friday, December 20, 2013

LD Jan/Feb 2014 - Environment vs Resources - Aff Values

Resolved: Developing countries should prioritize environmental protection over resource extraction when the two are in conflict.

For the introduction and definitions to this topic, click here.
This is the second of a two part exploration of the Affirmative position of the topic.

The Affirmative Values

You may be surprised to learn there is an entire study of environmental ethics and from this we can derive strong support for the Affirmative case.  The Affirmative will be able to approach the values of environmental protection from a very broad ethical framework or from a more localized point of view which looks at the direct needs of the stakeholders.  Consider the following:

UT 2010:
Sahotra Sarkar, a professor at The University of Texas at Austin and leader in the study of environmental ethics, worked with the conservationists and energy producers to develop strategies that balance economic development and biodiversity protection while respecting the needs of indigenous people. "We really are talking about people's values," Sarkar says of his approach to environmental questions, "not just facts."...Sarkar... dismisses the idea that environmentalists from developed countries know what's best for habitats around the world and can impose those values on less-developed regions. "Local residents are privileged stakeholders," Sarkar, who earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, wrote in an article on the ethics and politics of conservation published last month in the journal Biological Conservation. "Given that not every biotic feature can reasonably be targeted for protection, what we decide to protect must be a cultural choice," he wrote.

The Affirmative world can be as big or small as the debater can defend.  For this reason, I will try to take broad swipe at the philosophical values possible for the Aff from global to local points of view.  If you are a regular reader of Everyday Debate, in a previous article on the Philosophy of LD (see here) I spoke about virtue ethics and the requirement to establish a common understanding of the purpose of humans.  Environmental ethics is another such ethical framework which requires an understanding of the purpose of the environment and its subsystems.

Intrinsic Worth

At, perhaps, the highest level of philosophical positions Affirmative can look to the intrinsic of value of life and its relation to the environment.  One may claim the purpose of the environment is to sustain life.  While initially intuitive, this position must be properly framed since Negative will no doubt claim resource extraction is an essential activity to sustain life.  The answer to this lies in an examination of the locus of the Negative position.  The life being preserved by resource extraction is anthropocentric and ignores the broader context of the biosphere. What is our duty to preserve other kinds of life?  This debate is not an animal-rights debate.  It is about finding value in the environment by recognizing it as something that is intrinsically good and thus worth preserving.

McDonald 2004:
Anthropocentric moral philosophy, it is argued, only acknowledges the intrinsic value of humans. "An anthropocentric value theory, by common consensus, confers intrinsic value on human beings and regards all other things, including all other forms of life, as being only instrumentally valuable... Intrinsic value is immediately introduced as a central topic or issue in environmental ethics. This statement of the problem introduces the relational aspect of intrinsic value to instrumental value within the context of anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric ethics. Because anthropocentric ethics only confers intrinsic value on humans, and instrumental value on the balance of the world, it is judged inadequate as an environmental ethics. The implication is that an adequate environmental ethic requires that the nonhuman sphere, in some sense to be defined, is recognized as having intrinsic value...."

Interestingly, we can look back to the University of Texas press-release cited previously and note Professor Sarkar says, environmental protection is a cultural choice.  Indeed, the anthropocentric ethic can more precisely be described as a Western, cultural ethic common in the so-called developed world.  There may even be a religion-based perspective that all things on the earth are to be subjugated to humans.  Many native and indigenous cultures already place a much higher intrinsic value on nonhuman life and ecosystems. Accordingly, some religions also hold to the idea that man has a caretaker's duty to protect the environment.  The claim that Negative may be espousing a value criteria which is simply incapable of properly weighing Affirmative values based upon the common academic consensus of the context of environmental ethics is an extremely powerful mechanism for dismantling the Negative position.

While we can claim the value of life and perhaps construct a value criterion such as recognizing the intrinsic value of the environment or ecosystems, Professor Robert Paehlke (formerly of Trent University) sees ecology as one of the core values.

Paehlke 2000:
Human well-being, and indeed human survival, depends on the success of an almost endless list of plant and animal species, often in ways we barely understand. Our global food reserves would endure for but a matter of months should our food production capabilities suddenly decline. That capability is determined in turn by rainfall and temperature, by the activities of many insect species such as bees, and by microbiological life within the soils of the planet. All of these in turn are affected by both plants and animals. Our well-being is determined by other species in other ways as well, not the least of which is our deep need for contact with, or awareness of the existence of, wild nature. The significant place of wild nature in human history has been captured by Max Oelschlaeger, who writes: 
"By abandoning the view that nature is no more than an ecomachine or a stockpile of resources to fuel the human project, preservationists tend not to be bulls in an ecological china shop. They typically reject a strictly economic approach to valuing wilderness, and entertain other considerations such as rarity species diversity, and even beauty. And by adopting a holistic view, preservationists are attentive to the pervasive linkages and interactions essential to any concept of a wilderness ecosystem."

This view supports the intrinsic value of ecosystems and provides the criteria of appreciation of wild nature as supporting the values within the framework of environmental ethics.  All humans are somehow connected to the beauty and importance of nature even if we do not fully comprehend why.  There is a sense of peace and security in the beauty of a thriving ecosystem and a profound sense of loss in their destruction.

Who Owns the Environment?

Answering this question is as much a matter of philosophy as one of law.  Remarkably, many governments make claims of ownership on the environment. For example, many states in the U.S. claim it owns the rain and have made it illegal for individuals to collect rainwater.  In some jurisdictions, nations claim ownership of oceanic fisheries despite knowledge the fish migrate over wide areas of the world's oceans.  Air, water, animals, air-borne particles and seeds, and many other things, move about the planet without regard to political borders, and governmental laws.  If there is a particular hill on my legally owned land which I decide to excavate for my own purposes, I suppose under U.S. law, no one can stop me as long as my efforts do not violate the rights of others.  I may claim I own my little parcel of the earth but what exactly does ownership mean with respect to the others? What about those who feel violated because they can no longer enjoy the view of now excavated hill from their parcel of the earth?  Thus we examine the relationship between legal claims and the protection of the environment. The interconnection of eco-realms defies borders and laws and thus speaks to the weakness of environmental laws to truly protect the environment.

Plicanic 2004:
The ecocentric ontology (prima ontologia) and the ensuing ecocentric ethics has long-term consequences for the shaping of human nomos. It demands that man create law and social order in compliance with the mentioned premise of the “natural law.” This means a departure from the western man's centrality in ontological duality which places man apart from Nature (cosmos). In creating order, the rules of behaviour, and laws, man must take into account his position in Nature (he is part of Nature and not its master) and his vital connection with other biotic communities.

So we add to the discussion the unthinkable notion that the environment itself is an entity which has rights and thus any law or government which fails to recognize this premise is illegitimate.  It should not come as a shock that an ecosystem exists as an entity with rights since, as Christopher Stone, eloquently explains, the history of law has assigned rights to non-entities such as states or corporations which do not exist outside of a legal context.  Such a notion was literally unthinkable in history and continues to be subject of debate in some circles.

Stone 1972:
Yet, long before [Justice Thurgood] Marshall worried over the personifying of the modern corporation, the best medieval legal scholars had spent hundreds of years struggling with the notion of the legal nature of those great public "corporate bodies," the Church and the State. How could they exist in law, as entities transcending the living Pope and King?
...Now, to say that the natural environment should have rights is not to say anything as silly as that no one should be allowed to cut down a tree.  We say human beings have rights, but - at least as of the this writing - they can be executed.  corporations have rights, but they can not plead the fifth amendment;...Thus to say that the environment should have rights is not to say that it should have every right we can imagine, or even the same bod of rights as human beings have.

Thus Stone proposes a kind of guardian ad-litem structure to protect the rights of the environment, much like the legal guardians of children, invalids, corporations, etc. In any case, if an intangible entity such as a corporation can have rights, how much more so, a tangible such as a tree or an entire ecosystem?  So what does this mean for the Affirmative debater?  It demonstrates how to extend the system of legal rights to the environment and perhaps, even assigning moral agency which increases intrinsic value.

Plicanic 2004:
The system of (human) rights is one of the central elements of the social organisation of western cultures. The right is actually a materialisation of justice (a just state respects the rights; human interaction is just if rights are respected). If in our search for the answer to the question, we depart from the actual philosophical context of rights, a single conclusion is possible. Justice in relationship to others (and hence also natural entities) is only possible if they have rights.

With the assignment of rights, we can now look to the fair distribution of just desserts and uphold the value of justice.  We can only give "each his due" when we recognize the rights of nature as well the rights of human beings.

Plicanic defines justice in a legal context as the correctness of law and derives natural equilibrium as a criterion for justice.

Plicanic 2004:
The incorporation of Nature in the very essence of law inevitably triggers a redefinition of legal values. The natural equilibrium, i.e., the equilibrium of life (including human life), as a central value of ecocentric ecological awareness is becoming a legal value. In this sense, we could speak of the expansion of the legal subject, i.e. the expansion of values which are the subject of legal protection.The following is of crucial importance: natural equilibrium is becoming a basic and a common legal value. The definition of natural equilibrium as a criterion (framework) of correct law places the maintenance of natural equilibrium as a legal value in initial position. It is obvious that the natural equilibrium is thus becoming a fundamental legal value, a fundamental criterion of the correctness (justice) of law.

The Pragmatic Values

So now we can move the discussion toward a more pragmatic view and talk about the core values of environmental protection. As I have mentioned above, defending the value of life will require one to answer the Negative side's rebuttal, that resource extraction is essential to sustain life. Of course none of this means we should not place higher prioritization on environmental protection.  The quality of life is a value which can supersede life itself. We may live, but at what cost in terms of the joy of living, happiness, peace and safety? What about impact on human health? In a way, quality of life is a container for other values. We tend to judge the quality of our lives based upon how well we are doing at attaining our other values.
Let's examine one such value.


The value of health is important as the link which connects environmental protection with the legal framework of human rights.

Shelton 2002:
...the links between human rights, health and environmental protection were apparent at least from the first international conference on the human environment, held in Stockholm in 1972. Indeed, health has seemed to be the subject that bridges the two fields of environmental protection and human rights. At the Stockholm concluding session, the participants proclaimed that:
Man is both creature and moulder of his environment, which gives him physical sustenance and affords him the opportunity for intellectual, moral, social and spiritual growth. . . . Both aspects of man=s environment, the natural and the manmade, are essential to his well-being and to the enjoyment of basic human rights Β even the right to life itself. 
Principle 1 of the Stockholm Declaration established a foundation for linking human rights, health, and environmental protection, declaring that: 
Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being.

Shelton describes how environmental protection can be prioritized while at the same time permitting governments to act with "eyes-wide-open" as it were.

Shelton 2002:
Procedural human rights are emphasized in environmental agreements. Several dozen international treaties adopted since the Stockholm Conference call upon states to take specific measures to ensure that the public is adequately informed about environmental risks, including health risks, posed by specific activities.11 In addition to the right to information, the public is also given broad rights of participation in decision-making and access to remedies for environmental harm. The protections afforded have increased in scope and number since the adoption of Principle of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Among the many international agreements utilizing procedural human rights to achieve better environmental protection in order to protect human health, the important Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, (Aarhus, June 25, 1998), signed by thirty-five Sates and the European Community, takes a comprehensive approach. The Convention builds on prior texts, especially Principle 1 of the Stockholm Declaration, which it incorporates and strengthens. The Preamble forthrightly proclaims that Αevery person has the right to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and wellbeing, and the duty, both individually and in association with others, to protect and improve the environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

This idea of informed consent, in my opinion, demonstrates prioritization since actors are fully informed of the potential environmental health impacts of their actions in advance of moving forward with projects.  The value of protection of health, as a human right drives the protection of environment in principle. It at least provides a justification for actors to first consider the environmental impact of action and this is the definition of prioritization.

The Moral Values

On one level, the values at stake are driven by the market economy and so a cost-benefit analysis will be an inevitable outcome in this debate.  It is probably a rather unfair debate if that is the only evaluative standard.  How does Affirmative place a real dollar value on protection of the environment? At best one may be able to place a monetary value on environment damage in terms of health costs, loss of life, etc. with no real assurance that the next development project will produce the same quantified value of environmental impacts.  In reality, and I touched upon it earlier in the analysis; some things are beyond valuation.  For example, how does one price the impact of seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time?  what is the economic value of bird-song?  There are things in nature which can not be economically valued and yet are worth preserving at any cost.

Sagoff 2004:
Objects of ethical and aesthetic judgments do not as such have economic value but moral and aesthetic value; as the eighteenth-century philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote, they have a dignity, not a price.  These things are said to be good from the perspective of the world or from the perspective of a particular moral community. For example, we think of hallowed places, such as the  battleground at Gettysburg, as being important because of what happened there - because of sacrifices that occurred in the past, not benefits that may accrue now or in the future. We may think of some places as being so beautiful or majestic that they are worth preserving for their expressive and symbolic properties and not just for the uses we may make of them...

Immanuel Kant's views on environmental protection are notably anthropocentric as pointed out be several authors.  This may be problematic if you combine Kantian moral philosophy with the non-anthropocentric framework of normative environmental ethics.  In an of itself, it is not particularly troubling when the anthropocentric view is aimed toward preserving the environment rather than justifying its destruction.

Ataner 2012:
Adopting a Kantian perspective on ecological issues alleviates (at least potentially) the usual need for the advocate of environmental preservation to invoke considerations regarding the public good (health, welfare, wealth, etc.) in contraposition to concerns regarding the interests of the private owner (in using the things he owns as he pleases, to his benefit, for instance in making a profit, etc.). Instead, it demands that we ask the following basic question: is the sustainable use of natural resources a rational, normative imperative from the standpoint of the Kantian conception of freedom as such? 

Kant's view on the morality of environmental protection is somewhat complex and academics have written entire papers taking various paths (usually in defense of Kant's views) to explain Kant's position.  At the heart of the Kantian moral philosophy is the familiar categorical imperative.  The principle position basically claims one's duty to the environment is rooted in one's duty to self.

Oliviera 2011:
It should also be noted that the duty to preserve natural beauty does not arise from our duties to others, but from duties to ourselves, our duty to cultivate our moral disposition. The text that explains this shift in the grounding of duties towards nature is certainly the Doctrine of Virtue, which appears in the second part of The Metaphysics of Morals. This is the work where Kant distinguishes nature-related duties and duties to nature.
"A human being can therefore have no duty to any beings other than human beings; and if he thinks he has such duties, it is because of an amphiboly in his concepts of reflection, and his supposed duty to other beings is only a duty to himself. He is led to this misunderstanding by mistaking his duty with regard to other beings for a duty to those beings."
Kant is concerned, then, with duties that are grounded on morality’s supreme principle, whereby mankind is seen also as an end, and not just as a means. Such duties do not concern nature primarily, but have implications for it.

In the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant explicitly lays out his position.

A propensity to wanton destruction of what is beautiful in inanimate nature (spiritus destructionis) is opposed to man’s duty to himself; for it weakens or uproots that feeling in man which, though not of itself moral, is still a disposition of sensibility that greatly promotes morality or at least prepares the way for it: the disposition, namely, to love something (e.g., beautiful crystal formations, the indescribable beauty of plants) even apart from any intention to use it.
With regard to the animate but non rational part of creation, violent and cruel treatment of animals is far more intimately opposed to man´s duty to himself, and he has a duty to refrain from this; for it dulls his shared feeling of their pain and so weakens and gradually uproots a natural predisposition that is very serviceable to morality in one´s relations with other men. Man is authorized to kill animals quickly (without pain) and to put them to work that does not strain them beyond their capacities (such work as man himself must submit to). But agonizing physical experiments for the sake of mere speculation, when the end could also be achieved without these, are to be abhorred. Even gratitude for the long service of an old horse or dog (just as if they were members of the household) belongs indirectly to man’s duty with regard to these animals; considered as a direct duty, however, it is always only a duty of man to himself.

Kant therefore, sees our predisposition for respect of nature as a kind of reflection of our moral capacity. So whatever it is, that makes us capable of acting morally can be "weakened" or "uprooted" by improper treatment of the irrational nature.  This view does not require any kind of utilitarian framework, and has no need to assign moral agency to governments of corporations.  The decision to protect nature arises strictly from each individual's duty to oneself and no one else.


For now, I will conclude this discussion of the value of environment protection or more properly its prioritization.  There is obviously, much more ground that can be covered. For example, we did not discuss sustainability and our obligations to future generations.  No doubt, at this point in your LD career (we have been debating since September), you will be able to think of values that can be applied to the Affirmative position.  Check this article for advice on selecting values.


Philosopher Brings Human Values to Environmental Decisions
University of Texas, News
April 14, 2010

Environmental Ethics and Intrinsic Value; John Dewey and Environmental Philosophy
State University of New York Press, 2004
Hugh P. McDonald

Environmental Values and Public Policy 
(in Environmental Policy, 4th ed., 2000 , Vig and Kraft eds, CQ Press pp:77-97) 
Robert C Paehlke

Should Trees Have Standing? - Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects
christopher D. Stone, Professor of Law, USC.; 1972

The Concept of New (Ecocentric) Legal Philosophy
Gatherings, Journal of Internation Community for Ecopsychology
Dr. Senko Plicanic, 2004

Health and Human Rights Working Paper Series No 1
Human Rights, Health & Environmental Protection: Linkages in Law & Practice
A Background Paper for the World Health Organization, 2002
Dinah Shelton, Professor of Law, Notre Dame London Law Centre, London

Price, Principle and the Environment
Cambridge University Press
Mark Sagoff, 2004

Kant on Freedom, Property Rights and Environmental Protection; McMaster University
Attila Ataner, 2012

Law, Environmental Policy and Kantian Philosophy
Bioethics / Medicine / Technology / Environment
Maria Lucia de Paula Oliveira, 2011

Friday, December 13, 2013

LD Jan/Feb 2014 - Environnment vs Resources - Negative Part 1

Resolved: Developing countries should prioritize environmental protection over resource extraction when the two are in conflict.

For the introduction and definitions to this topic, click here.
This is the first of a two part exploration of the Negative position of the topic.

The Neg Position

When I first started researching the Neg position I assumed it would be easy to find evidence which weighed heavily in favor of the benefits of resource extraction for developing countries.  Unfortunately, there is the undeniable reality that such activities do impact the environment in ways that can be very easily construed as favorable to the Aff case. In fact, the wealth of opinions and papers which speak of environmental harms and the resource curse  soon had me thinking this was going to be a one-sided debate.  If there is a lesson in this, I suppose, it is keep researching and eventually one will see cracks in the armor.  I did.  What I present here is one such approach.  You should try to read and evaluate it for the concepts it attempts to reveal and then dig in deeper with your own research.  The value structure of the Neg position will be examined in a future post.  This is the contention debate. approach, anyway.

The Keys to the Future

The environmental impact of humans upon the planet is profound. Fact. And worse, because all emerging, industrialized societies need resources, the extraction, processing and consumption of resources comes with significant environmental cost.  Neg cannot easily deny this fact.  We acknowledge that today, our economies are driven by a scarcity of resources, many of which are non-renewable and often taken with significant environmental impact.  Paradoxically, these resources are enabling the development of new technologies and methods which will reduce the impacts of scarcity and environmental degradation.

Barbier 2013:
Today, we are on the verge of a new era, the “Age of Ecological Scarcity”. For the first time in history, fossil fuel energy and raw material use, environmental degradation and pollution may be occurring on such an unprecedented scale that the resulting consequences in terms of global warming, ecological scarcity and energy insecurity are generating worldwide impacts. If humankind is to succeed in overcoming these global problems, we need to find the next “new frontiers” of natural resources and adapt economic development accordingly. This will require developing low-carbon sources of energy, processes of production and technological innovation that require less environmental degradation and pollution. It will also mean instigating institutional changes, creating global carbon and environmental markets, and implementing new policies to foster a new era of “sustainable” economic development.

The technological advances needed to drive the new low-impact economy necessary to sustain our future is financed by the development of our global economy. The evidence will show, as we utilize our resources to expand wealth, we improve our environment.

The Development - Environment Link

In order to develop new technologies we need resources.  Extracting resources may create negative environmental impacts.The good news for Neg, as the level of development improves, the impact on the environment improves.

Berstam 1990:
The existing scarce long-term data suggest not only non-proportionality of pollution with respect to economic growth, but also non-linearity and concavity. Whenever long-term data exists, it shows the pollution decelerates over decades of economic growth. Even global aggregate data, which puts together different stages of development and different economic systems working in opposite directions, still shows marked deceleration of emissions.

This research is confirmed in other studies as well.  While the factors which drive the relation are complex and debated among scholars, the empirical data generally confirms the idea.  It is said, in keeping with the philosophy of Malthus, the poor have little concern for the environment when they are thinking about their next meal.  So, societies which can meet their basic needs will undertake higher-order projects to improve their lives. The relationship between national wealth and environmental impact is described as the Environmental Kuznets' Curve resembling an inverted U-shape curve.

Some forms of pollution appear first to worsen and later to improve as countries’ incomes grow. The world’s poorest and richest countries have relatively clean environments, while middle-income countries are the most polluted. Because of its resemblance to the pattern of inequality and income described by Simon Kuznets (1955), this pattern of pollution and income has been labelled an ‘environmental Kuznets curve’ (EKC). To date, the practical lessons from this theoretical literature are limited. Most of the models are designed to yield inverse-U-shaped pollution-income paths, and succeed using a variety of assumptions and mechanisms. Hence, any number of forces may be behind the empirical observation that pollution increases and then decreases with income. Moreover, that pattern cannot be interpreted causally, and is consistent with either efficient or inefficient growth paths. Perhaps the most important insight is in Grossman and Krueger’s original paper: ‘We find no evidence that economic growth does unavoidable harm to the natural habitat’ (1995, p. 370). Economists have long argued that environmental degradation is not an inevitable consequence of economic growth. The EKC literature provides empirical support for that claim. 

Based on the empiric of the EKC we can conclude that one mechanism for solvency of environmental impacts exists in increasing the wealth of nations. Especially those nations which are the source of the world's resources.

The Resource - Wealth Link

Many poor, developing countries are sitting on natural resources worth billions and in some cases trillions of dollars.  These countries can gain benefits for their citizens by extracting these resources.  The potential for developing countries to help themselves is enormous with respect to their present situations.  The Neg can argue we can not let the mistakes of the past be a deterrent to advancement.  It is possible for developing countries to reap benefits.

Oxfam 2009:
This situation should, and can, change. For those countries that depend on extractive industries, the income generated by this sector could be transformed into an opportunity if it is used properly. According to estimates by Intermón Oxfam (see Table 3, Annex 29), countries such as Angola, Chad, Nigeria, Ecuador, and Venezuela could use hydrocarbon exports to significantly increase their public spending per capita on education and health by 2015, investing 20 per cent of estimated tax revenues in education and 16 per cent in health. Angola for example, could multiply its spending on health by a factor of between eight and ten. Fiscal tools – taxes and public spending – are the main instruments that governments can use to improve the share of benefits accruing to the state and thus the sums available for public use. Fair systems of taxation and spending allocation policies that focus on universalising health care and improving the quality of education are necessary in countries with rich natural resources. Bolivia saw oil and gas revenues rise from $448m in 2004 to $1.531bn in 2006, due to the redistribution of profits agreed in contracts after 2005, although the revenues still needed to be allocated to increase social spending. Indonesia and Norway are good examples of countries with significant revenue from natural resource extraction, where public spending is aligned coherently with long-term development goals.

While past contracts for resource extraction have proven to be predatory in nature and have failed to yield significant benefits for the host countries, there is no reason that should be the model for all future activities.  There is an awareness of the environmental impacts of resource extraction but we can not let our concern for the environment over-ride our need for resources.  In fact, there is no reason we cannot approach the problem is a cooperative way. Those governments which have resources, and have arranged their affairs and contracts properly, do in fact realize positive benefits.  This is evidenced in Eastern Europe mining operations.

The mining industry has stimulated population imigration [sic] and thus promoted development. Historically, mining extraction activities have originated settlements in countries abundant with natural resources, such as gold, silver, coal and other minerals. Accessibility of the raw materials variously determined the pattern of residence, distribution of goods and types of settlements. Usually human settlements were created and maintained by groups of miners occupying simultaneously a given territory and sharing a limited stock of resources. Nowadays, the relationship between the development of the mining industry and urban growth is much more profound, particularly in developing countries and in countries in transition due to the presence of FDI [foreign direct investment]. In fact FDI is considered a tool to reach basic economic goals: stability, growth and knowledge transfer. By means of multinational corporations, which create new jobs and promote population migration, FDI leads to an increase in the population of certain urban settlements. Overall, the internationalization of capital markets, the internationalization of production processes by means of FDI, and the increasingly important role of multinational corporations may lead to positive consequences for the environment of a particular human settlement, mainly because of using less environmentally damaging technologies.

Models For Solvency

Foreign direct investments is one representative means for achieving the compatible goals of resource extraction with minimal environmental impact.  Foreign investors are already on the negative side of the Kuznets curve and bring their technology and environmental awareness with them.

Foreign direct investment plays an essential role in improving the national economies of developing countries and countries in transition and can be determined as a vehicle for attracting additional private investment. On the other hand, there is debate among policy makers and environmental activists concerning the implications of this trend for the environment and the social conditions of local populations. FDI may encourage environmental protection activities within human settlements. It may help to enhance awareness about environmental factors, increase efficiency of resource use, and provide new resources to cope with existing environmental problems.  According to Zarsky (1999) MNCs [multinational corporations] which have superior technology and management systems can promote better environmental performance in FDI host countries.  This can be explained by the fact that Organizations for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) usually have up-to-date cleaner technology and better environmental management systems, often due to their higher regulatory requirements. Indeed, world-wide sales of pollution-abatement equipment and related services are estimated at a total sum of US$ 200 billion with 90% of toal output being accounted for by OECD countries. Moreover, in their home countries MNCs perceive pressure from "green consumers" to introduce environmentally sound management practices.

Additional programs being explored by the World Bank builds certain safeguards into the investment terms which encourage good results.  The Country System Approach inhibits exploitation by corrupt recipient governments (i.e. the developing countries) requiring the legal and regulatory framework necessary to ensure a favorable outcome.

Larsen 2013:
In light of the world’s changing economic and political dynamics, developed and developing nations have over the past decade agreed on a set of principles and actions to guide development efforts. These are outlined in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (Paris Declaration) and subsequent agreements from meetings in Rome, Accra, and Busan. These documents highlight the principles of “ownership” and “mutual accountability.” Ownership over development is not easily defined. It is clear, however, that it entails giving voice to those most affected by development processes, including both governments and members of the public in developing countries.

The various implementations of this approach can be explored in detail in the referenced paper. The take-away, in my opinion, is the idea that investments in resource extraction are not being undertaken without a concerted effort to recognize and mitigate the negative impacts of the activities and this can only serve to accelerate movement toward the negative side of the Kusnets curve.

Achieving Balance

Negative will face plenty of opposition in this debate.  Even among scholars, there is substantial debate regarding the mechanisms and validity of the theories which explain the relationships between resource extraction and environmental degradation.  In order for Neg to win the contention level debate, Neg needs to hold its ground on the empirical data and show that solvency is possible despite the fact that some projects fail to yield the expected results in the short-term.  The path to the negative side of the Kusnets curve takes time.  In the meantime, and even if the judge refuses to accept the empirical data or rejects the solvency potential of FDI or Country Systems Approaches, there remains an over-arching recognition that environmental degradation is a global problem and the developed nations know it.  Continued exploitation of poorer countries is unsustainable.  We need resources, and we need a healthy environment.  Therefore, rather than prioritize one goal over another, we must assume a balanced point of view.

I will leave this part of the analysis with this worthwhile excerpt regarding the a British Columbia First Nation group as it examines the question of environmental protection versus resource extraction.

Hume 2013:
Darlene Simpson, chief negotiator for the Skii km Lax Ha, says almost every mine built in British Columbia comes with an environmental cost to native communities. But she knows there is something worse: poverty."
"The hardest thing for me is the question of where you find the balance between resource extraction and environmental protection. Every project has a cost attached to it, a cost to the land. Most of my life has been about hunting and fishing. Now it’s about dealing with human capacity. I understand the environmental risk – but seeing people getting healthy and leading a better life makes it worth it to me.” Ms. Simpson says families are transformed when a member of a household gets a good job. “You see people who were down and out, who had nothing, developing skills and becoming proud of who they are,” she said. “I see kids we employ helping their parents [financially] or helping their brothers and sisters. … I see them putting their own kids into organized sports more. It is healthy for the whole community.”


Oxfam Briefing Paper December 2009
Lifting the Resource Curse; How poor people can and should benefit from the revenues of extractive industries

Global Economic Development, Natural Resources and History; The World Financial Review
Edward B. Barbier; 2013

Human Settlement Development - Vol II Mineral extraction and the urban environment: the role of foreign direct investment in economies in transition and developing countries; Diana Urge-Vorsatz, Maia An

The Wealth of Nations and the Environment; Working Papers in Economics; The Hoover Institute, Standord University
Mikhail S. Bernstam, 1990

Environmental Kuznets Curve (entry in forthcoming New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics 2nd edition)
Arik Levinson (undated)

Does Foreign Direct Investment Harm the Host Country’s
Environment? Evidence from China
Feng Helen Liang, Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley, April 12, 2006

World Resources Institute

Why one first nation band is embracing mining, despite its environmental impacts
MARK HUME, VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Feb. 03 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

LD Jan/Feb 2014 - Environment vs. Resources - Affirmative Part 1

Resolved: Developing countries should prioritize environmental protection over resource extraction when the two are in conflict.

For the introduction and definitions to this topic, click here.
This is the first of a two part exploration of the Affirmative position of the topic.

Aff Position

The Affirmative side of this debate will have very little problem finding lots of evidence which makes the link between resource extraction and harms to the environment.  In fact, I isolate a few common examples below.  The harms to the environment also can be determined in any number of ways, from direct harms such as destroying habitats, upsetting the balance of life or the food chain, to indirect harms such as forcing people from their homes (a kind of habitat loss, I suppose) to the rise of conflicts and wars which further contribute to environmental harms.  On the other side of the debate, the Negative will be promoting the myriad benefits of resource extraction, not only as a stimulus for economic development, but also as a mechanism for improving national security, international standing and practically any advantage that can be linked to resource extraction.  Clearly the debate will have no problem establishing the harms versus benefits dichotomy. Indeed, it is necessary to do so.  The problem Affirmative must overcome is how to justify the superiority of environmental protection when, as the resolution states, the two are in conflict.  The fact is, there is a very pragmatic basis to the "conflict" which arises when weighing the options and I tend to believe the pragmatics of the Negative position will be hard to overcome when the debate is engaged on a contention level.  I do think, the Aff can find evidence which will turn some of Neg's economic advantages.  There is after all, the "resource curse".  Nevertheless, I believe the real strength of the Affirmative case will reside in the value framework.  Aff must not lose their value or they will be in for a fight.

In this post, I will provide a few of the many arguments which establish the harms, provide some arguments which oppose the Neg position, then deal with the value framework in a later installment.

Resource Extraction Harms the Environment

Establishing the link between resource extraction and environmental degradation will be easy.  There is a wealth of good, high-quality evidence which makes the argument for you.  Find it and cite it. For example, this source speaks of resources needed for the manufacture of computers.

Downey, et al; 2011:
Computer production, for example, could not occur without the extraction of minerals, fossil fuels, and other natural resources from around the world. One such category of resources is rare earth minerals, which are mined primarily in China (NRC, 2008). The mining of rare earth minerals produces as much as 2,000 tons of solid waste, including toxic heavy metals and radioactive thorium, for every ton of rare earth mineral produced (Farago, 2009; Rong & Yu, 2009). In China, it also results in topsoil loss, erosion, and widespread silting and contamination of rivers and reservoirs used for drinking and irrigation (Xu & Liu, 1999).

Here is another example which explores the problem of deforestation needed to support the vast array of wooden products used throughout the world.  While wood (trees) may be considered a renewable resource, it is a resource that must be managed to remain viable as a resource and all too often is poorly managed.

Berlik et al, 2002:
The environmental impacts of wood extraction depend on the condition and sensitivity of the forest and the expertise and approach of those managing it. For this reason, it is critical to focus on where and how wood is actually harvested. In principle, wood is a renewable resource, but in the absence of well-planned management, short-term exploitation can target inappropriate areas and induce environmental impacts or conversion to other uses yielding results better likened to mining than sustainable use (Allen, 1998). Even though much of the world is forested, population and consumption growth rates are jeopardizing the reliability of the global wood supply (Dekker-Robertson and Libby, 1998; Solberg, et al., 1996; Bowyer and Stockman, 2001). Global annual wood harvests average about 3.4 billion m3. With mean projections for 2010 of 4.6 billion m3 (a 35% increase in ten years), a shrinking amount of forest will need to provide increasing volumes of wood. Current projections forecast a gap between global fiber demand and availability of 400 to 800 million m3 in 2010 (World Resources Institute, 1998).

The result of resource mismanagement induces environmental stresses which escalate to violence.  This not only serves as a direct disadvantage, because violence is bad, but it also further degrades the environment in which people live.

Berlik et al, 2002:
Untenable resource development strategies can undermine long-term growth and generate unbalanced economic performance. At worst, untenable resource strategies feed violent conflict. The consequences of poorly calibrated resource strategies unfold at a number of levels and in different ways, depending upon both national and international circumstances. It is therefore difficult to draw a generic causal pathway, but several issues that can derail the momentum of development and lead to conflict are worth close attention. Resource extraction has an impact on the environment in which people live, whether because it means village communities have to be moved so mining can go ahead, or because of environmental degradation. If these issues are handled poorly by the authorities, through inadequate consultation with local communities about how to meet their interests, grievances can turn quickly to unrest. 

Resource Extraction Fosters Violence

There is a viable link between resource extraction and violence and the evidence for it is found in many journal articles.  Extraction is often accompanied by protest further which is complicated by the desire of the government to exploit its potential riches at any cost.  Protest often escalates.

Downey, et al; 2011:
In such instances, local and national governments, resource extraction firms, or rebels who control natural resources may feel that they have no choice but to use violence or the threat of violence to protect their resource extraction activities. Violent actions and threats of violence might include the forced relocation of local residents; the use of police, military, or mercenary forces to break up protests, arrest protestors and provide mine security; and the repression of local indigenous people from whose ranks protestors have emerged or might emerge. Violent actions might also include military conflict with groups that threaten resource extraction activities and foreign military aid and training to local police and military forces. Of course, armed violence may occur even in the absence of protest. For example, forced labor may be used to decrease labor costs or because working conditions are horrendous, and forced removal may occur in the absence of protest to either forestall protest or because there is no way to extract resources with people living on or near the extraction site. In either case, violence or threatened violence will likely be necessary because most people do not want to be forced to work or leave their homes.

Developing countries work with international partners to exploit/extract their natural resources.  These partners, whether other governments or more commonly, international corporations have productivity demands which exert enormous pressure on the stakeholders. The pressures push the governments of developing countries to do whatever it takes to meet its obligations.

Downey, et al; 2011:
For example, structural adjustment programs imposed on developing nations by the World Bank and IMF often force developing nations to maintain high levels of raw material exports (Bello et al., 1999); and in cases where mining projects require political risk insurance, developing nations are sometimes forced to agree that they will pay out potentially large insurance claims if mining activities are disrupted in any way (Moody, 2005, 2007). Developing nations’ high levels of debt and their resulting dependence on wealthy nations, the World Bank, the IMF, and corporate foreign investment also force developing nation governments to worry about how these organizations and states evaluate their activities. As a result, developing nation governments may feel that regardless of their own motives and interests, they have to use all means necessary to protect resource extraction activities so as to meet their debt obligations, ensure continued foreign investment, and minimize conflict with more powerful nations and institutions.

Violence Harms Countries and the Environment

Violence harms people, nations and environments.  Its seems as if the stress of extraction and associated environmental degradation, erupts into violence which further degrades the environment and a kind of spiraling degradation occurs.  There is little incentive or will for the stakeholders to break the cycle.

Berlik et al, 2002:
...armed violence plays a critical role in facilitating natural resource extraction, without which ecological unequal exchange could not occur and much environmental degradation would not occur. We have, therefore, achieved the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the article. More importantly, when one combines the evidence presented in this article with prior sociological research on ecological unequal exchange and the direct environmental consequences of armed violence, militarism, and war, it quickly becomes apparent that armed violence and the environmental degradation associated with it are intimately woven into the everyday lives of core nation citizens through the purchases they make and the fuels they consume. It also becomes apparent that armed violence is a key driver of the global ecological crisis and that this is likely the case because other key drivers of natural resource exploitation, such as the IMF, World Bank, WTO, and global marketplace, cannot, on their own, guarantee core nation access to and control over vital natural resources...Currently there is no environmental ethic focused on meeting wood needs locally and little criticism of consumption behavior. Instead, an anti-logging ethic reigns and degradation of the global environment ensues. A new environmental effort is needed to expose this illusion of preservation. This effort will depend primarily on greater discussions concerning the ethical implications of excessive consumption joined with indiscriminate protectionism. The message could become stronger and more locally relevant in the context of programs that reduce wood use and encourage ecologically sound harvesting.

Resource Extraction Does Not Help Developing Countries

Not only do the disadvantages of environmental degradation and violence serve to devalue the Negative case, but the direct economic benefits to be gained from resource extraction often turn out to be a driver of greater poverty.  The so-called "resource curse" is a statistical observation which shows that perhaps being rich in resources is not the boon one intuitively believes it should be.

Thorvaldur 2000:
Four main channels of transmission from abundant natural resoures to sluggish economic growth are discussed. First, natural resource abundance often results in an over evaluation of the national currency. This is a sympton of the Dutch disease. Moreover, recurrent booms and busts tend to increase exchange rate volatility. Sometimes this is enough to reduce total exports. Sometimes it just skews the composition of exports away from high-tech and other manufacturing and service exports that are particularly conducive to economic growth. In either case, economic growth is likely to slow down. Second, natural-resource-rich economies seem especially prone to socially damaging rent-seeking behaviour on the part of producers. For example, the government may be tempted to offer tariff protection to domestic producers, among other privileges. Rent seeking may also breed corruptiom, thereby distorting the allocation of resources. Import protection and corruption both tend to impede economic growth. Third, natural resource abundance may imbue people with a false sense of security and lead governments to lose sight of the need for growth-friendly economic management. Incentives to create wealth tend to become too blunted by the ability to extract weath from the soil or the sea. Rich parents sometimes spoil their kids. Mother Nature is no excpetion. Fourth, nations that are confident that their natural resources are their most important asset may inadvenrtently - and perhaps even deliberately! - neglect the development of their human resources, by devoting inadequate attention and expenditure to education. Their natural wealth may blind them to the need for educating their children.

In addition, the oil-rich nations suffer from another kind of "curse".

Friedrichs 2013:
Mineral resources are an economic and commercial asset, so one would expect them to contribute to the wealth of a nation. Paradoxically, this expectation is often frustrated by the resource course: countries with a rich resource endowment tend to be less well governed, to have lower growth rates, and to be less socially developed than other comparable countries. Even civil wars tend to be longer and more intense in resource rich countries (Sachs and Warner, 1995, 2001; Collier and Hoeffler, 2004; Humphreys et al., 2007; Ploeg, 2011). In this article, we propose the notion of the carbon curse. The core claim of this new theory is that a country's fossil fuel endowment drives its carbon intensity to a large extent. Other things being equal, countries rich in fossil fuel resources tend to follow more carbon-intensive developmental pathways than [if they were] fossil-fuel poor countries. While this leads to wasteful economic practices that significantly contribute to global warming, it is very hard for countries awash with fossil fuels to evade carbon-intensive developmental pathways. The carbon curse and the resource curse share a common foundation: they both focus on detrimental effects of resource abundance. But while inspired by the resource curse, the carbon curse stands on its own. To date, the scholarship on the resource curse has explored adverse economic and political effects linked to resource abundance such as violent conflict, rent seeking and income volatility, but has neglected the environmental dimension. The carbon curse gives an environmental twist to the resource curse, but it is more than simply a conceptual extension. For example, the “Dutch Disease”—an adverse trade-related phenomenon linked to the resource curse—predicts a wholesale decline of the industrial sector in resource rich economies, reflecting the loss of export price competitiveness as real exchange rates appreciate in the wake of commodity exports. It is easy to see that this particular aspect of the resource curse mitigates the carbon curse: a weaker industrial base suppresses carbon intensity, because the industrial sector typically represents a highly carbon intensive segment of aggregate economic output. Thus, the two curses are related but distinct.


In the second part of this analysis of the Aff position, I will look at some approaches to the all-important value framework.


Natural Resource Extraction, Armed Violence, and Environmental Degradation; PMC US National Library fo Medicine
Liam Downey, Eric Bonds, and Katherine Clark; September 8, 2011

Mary M. Berlik, David B. Kittredge, and David R. Foster ;2002

ConfliCt Prevention in Resource-Rich Economies; The United Nations, Interagency Framework Team for Preventive Action; December 2011

European Economic Review 45 (2001) 827}838
Natural Resources and Economic Development; The curse of natural resources
Jeffrey D. Sachs, Andrew M. Warner; 2001

Natural Resources, Education and Economic Development
Thorvaldur Gylfason, University of Iceland, October 2000

Friedrichs, J., Inderwildi, O.R., The carbon curse: Are fuel rich countries doomed to high CO2 intensities?
Energy Policy (2013),
Extracted from:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

LD Jan/Feb 2014 - Environment vs. Resources - Definitions

Resolved: Developing countries should prioritize environmental protection over resource extraction when the two are in conflict.


The 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.


developing countries
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".

environmental protection 
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.

resource extraction
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 Resolution

There 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 Impact

Under 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
Developing Countries

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
September 2013

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