Scenario 6

Sustainability vs. Economic Development

Assume you have been hired as a staff member at a new non-partisan Center for Environmental Ethics and Public Policy that is well funded with aprivate endowment from a not-very-well-know philanthropist. You've been hired because you have a background in political philosophy and environmental ethics, and because you have some experience in the environmental planning and policy-making world.

The leadership of the Center, including the founder (who made his money as the manager of a giant hedge fund), wants you to put together a report making the case for greater reliance on the precautionary principle as the basis for environmental policy-making. Recent published work by Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein and others have raised doubts about the viability of the precautionary principle. (Google Cass Sunstein and precautionary principle, and look at his Boston Globe op-ed on the subject).

The reason the leadership of the Center likes the precautionary principle is because it appears to offer a pragmatic approach to environmental protection. It basically argues that it makes sense to act as if the worst case might occur and we shouldn't wait until scientific certainty has been established, by which time it might be too late to save a dwindling or irreplaceable resource.

What they want you to do is outline a philosophical argument for the precautionary principle that draws on both utilitarian ideals as well as the core beliefs of deep ecology. Based on what you have read by Des Jardins, do you rbest to lay out the case they are looking for.


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