Mid-November Mathews

Biomimicry: http://www.freyamathews.net/downloads/Biomimicry.pdf

Her most recent paper, a new articulation of an ethos: http://www.freyamathews.net/downloads/Bioproportionality.pdf

One of her classics: http://www.australianhumanitiesreview.org/archive/Issue-August-2004/matthews.html

Land Metaphysics (check to to see if relevance): http://www.freyamathews.net/downloads/LandMetaphysics.pdf


Published in: on November 7, 2017 at 5:49 pm  Comments (4)  


Geoengineering has come back into the spotlight after years of being labeled impossible, and a waste of time by both climate change activists, and normal humans. At the end of September, a piece in Forbes discussed the rigor with which geoengineering debates have recently made their way to the United Nations: “Governments, universities, think tanks and international bodies are turning to the idea of tinkering with the earth by making it absorb more carbon dioxide or reflect more sunlight into space” (Forbes).

Just as speculation, it is likely that increased interest in geoengineering is due to recent projects such as self-driving cars, advanced medical technology, and others which have an impact on people’s everyday lives. Suddenly with companies like Uber and Google working to ingrain technology into every aspect of our lives, changing parts of the earth doesn’t seem so far off.

Even with companies and governments becoming more intrigued by the idea of geoengineering as a means to fight climate change, discussion about what this means for humanity’s relationship with our planet has remained closed. Alan Robock, author of “20 reasons why geoengineering may be a bad idea,” lists those twenty reasons, and explains the consequences of each. His worries range from an ecological perspective, to human error perspective, an economic perspective, and ends with a moral concern about our potential ability to control the planet.

Robock discusses many environmental and biological consequences of geoengineering. He notes the changes in atmosphere and weather patterns can have affect the plant life in a region: “… inserting aerosols or reflective disks into the atmosphere would reduce the total sunlight to reach Earth’s surface. Scientists need to assess the impacts on crops and natural vegetation of reductions in total, diffuse, and direct solar radiation” (16).  Robock also mentions the dangers of allowing humans to have the control over nature:

“Eighty-five countries, including the United States, have signed the U.N. Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques (ENMOD), but could techniques developed to control global climate forever be limited to peaceful uses?”

Another human consequences may be deciding who is in charge of controlling the climate in the future: “There’s no global agency to require an environmental impact statement for geoengineering. So, how should humans judge how much climate control they may try?”

Since geoengineering falls under the category of human intervention in nature, parallels were drawn between Robock and Sandler. Sandler lists three concerns with interventionist motives:

1 “One is that human interventions into ecological systems are the cause of ecological degradation and the species.”

extinction crisis in the first place.”

  1. “A second concern is that even if the interventions are successful –e.g. species are translocated and established without becoming ecologically problematic– what is most important about them is not preserved.”
  2. “A third concern is that interventionist conservation strategies are something of a distraction.”

While Sandler’s focus on human intervention is preserving ecosystems and species, while Robock and other geoengineering articles refer to preserving humanity through intervention, they both have similar consequences. Four of Robock’s twenty reason have a direct relationship with the three of Sandler’s points. Robock’s point 12 (Human Error) supports Sandler’s first point:

Humans can make mistakes in the design, manufacturing, and operation of such systems. (Think of Chernobyl, the Exxon Valdez, airplane crashes, and friendly fire on the battlefield.) Should we stake the future of Earth on a much more complicated arrangement than these, built by the lowest bidder?” (p.17).

Human error will forever occur as long as humans are thinking, creating, and exploring. Much of our innovations have resulted in the inadvertent warming of the Earth, and we are just now aware of the issue. If humans have altered and interfered with nature when we do not even realize we’re doing it, what risks and consequences will occur when we are aware?

Robock’s first point, Effects on regional climate, is a broader version of Sandler’s second point:

“Scientists have also seen volcanic eruptions in the tropics produce changes in atmospheric circulation, causing winter warming over continents in the Northern Hemisphere, as well as eruptions at high latitudes weaken the Asian and African monsoons, causing reduced precipitation”(p.15).

While Robock does not mention the ecosystems that are present in these areas, it is clear that if we start manipulating atmospheric particles, the defining climate patterns of some areas will be affected. Eventually these regions, which have unique ecosystems, and species will change and adapt and will no longer be valued for what they once were.

Robock points 2 and 13 (Ocean acidification, and undermining emission mitigation, respectively) strongly support Sandler’s third point while many of Robock’s last points also contribute.

While titled ocean acidification Robock mentions that if geoengineering occurs, not all aspects of global warming will reduce or stop:

“If humans adopted geoengineering as a solution to global warming, with no restriction on continued carbon emissions, the ocean would continue to become more acidic, because about half of all excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is removed by ocean uptake” (p. 15).

Ocean acidification is one of the largest consequences of global warming, and can be the most destructive since minute changes in ocean pH levels have already caused coral bleachings, fish migrations, and will affect the billions of people that rely on the ocean as a direct resource. If humans focus too much on cooling the Earth for the sake of humans, we may become to compliant with trying to change our other negative actions.

Point 13, blunty states “If humans perceive an easy technological fix to global warming that allows for “business as usual,” gathering the national (particularly in the United States and China) and international will to change consumption patterns and energy infrastructure will be even more difficult.”

This remains a concern today; if humans have the ability to control parts of nature, will we wholeheartedly do it for the general good, or will it be a crutch to keep humans from adapting? Humans have a notorious history for not wanting to adapt, so it is not a surprise that many worry the latter is truer.

One of Robock’s last points is the moral authority of geoengineering. He makes the point that up until a few decades ago, humans were unaware that our actions inadvertently affected the state of the planet, so now that we do know, would it morally right to continue to send particles and pollutants, such as the sulfate particles, into the atmosphere when we know they might do damage? Yes, these particles may help cool the planet, but will we ever be confident that these drastic actions will not have further negative effects?

Robock’s essay was published in 2008, which makes it almost a decade old. It was interesting to research current opinions on geoengineering in 2017 and find that Robock, who is an atmospheric chemistry professor at Rutgers University, attended a geoengineering conference in August. This may suggest that he is more open to the idea today than he was in 2008:

“‘We all agree that climate change is real and that the solution is to reduce the emissions of the gases that cause global warming’,… ‘The Paris Agreement was a good start, but those pledges aren’t enough, and we have to reduce more. Even then it [won’t be] fast enough. So what we’re looking at is: If global warming is so dangerous, could we shave off a little warming while we continue to mitigate greenhouse gases?’” (The Atlantic).


The Atlantic Article: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/08/geoengineers-meet-off-the-record/536004/

The Forbes Article:



Published in: on November 6, 2017 at 6:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

NEW discussions on geoengineering and mention of some experiments

October 11th: https://www.carbonbrief.org/geoengineering-scientists-berlin-debate-radicaly-ways-reverse-global-warming 

Published in: on October 27, 2017 at 5:27 am  Comments (1)  

Analysis of Sandler 10/10: “The Anthropocene”, Ecosystem Management, and Environmental Virtue

Despite humans being only one of roughly 8.7 million known species on Earth, we continue to be the most powerful in a multitude of ways. Humans are the ultimate generalists and have expanded onto every continent, and every biome. We consume resources beyond our necessity, and are able to outcompete most other species. It is essential then to understand just how great our impact is in an ecological preservation sense. Sandler’s article addresses this question by confronting the term “anthropocene.” He addresses the definition of anthropocene, whether it applies to today, how this title affects ecological preservation tactics, and whether we should embrace those tactics. One of the largest debates concerning the anthropocene is how humans should interact with the environment—should humans be more or less involved? This idea is a larger version of whether anthropogenic involvement in coral reefs is ethical based on current states, and Sandler’s article provides an abundance of insight into humans’ roles in environmental ethics. (more…)

Published in: on October 10, 2017 at 6:17 am  Comments (7)  

Summary of Martha Chen’s Women’s Right to Employment in India and Bangladesh

Response to Martha Chen’s A Matter of Survival: Women’s Right to Employment in India and Bangladesh

In this article, Martha Chen tracks the history of the food-for-work program in South Asia, and the struggle women have had to go through to be able to work and provide enough money and food for their families. In South Asia the divisions of labor are divided by sex. Women are in charge of the family and home life, and men are in charge of the public, work, and market life. Within these societies there is a “hierarchical social structure” divided into castes. What is startling about the caste system is that the higher up in caste a women is the more secluded and less free she becomes. Also, the middle castes try to mimic the higher castes, so often time those in middles castes also seclude their women, but those women may be allowed to work in the fields of their own farm, as opposed to not going outside at all. In many households in the lower castes, they women work either on their own lands, or neighboring lands to help support their families. (more…)

Published in: on September 27, 2006 at 1:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mike Huemer’s 8 Objections to Rand: A Response

A response to Michael Huemer’s “Critique of ‘The Objectivist Ethics’”
My comments this week will serve as an introduction to a more in-depth commentary on Michael Huemer’s article “Critique of ‘The Objectivist Ethics.’” Overall I must say that this article does reflect my general impression thusfar about Rand, but there are a lot of places in Huemer’s essay that seem to miss the mark on Rand. I believe he does a very good job of outlining Rand’s argument, point by point. However, my edition of Rand’s ‘The Objectivist Ethics” does not coincide with Huemer’s citations. Huemer has 8 main problems with Rand’s essay, or rather, with her logical premises and conclusions. I find major fault with 6 of his objections. The final two objections, however, are valid and definitely require further analysis and study. At this time however, I will give a brief explanation of why I feel the first six of his eight objections are slightly flawed. (more…)

Published in: on September 27, 2006 at 2:26 am  Comments (1)  

Response to Sen Questions


Published in: on September 26, 2006 at 11:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

J.J.C. Smart in Utilitarianism: for and against

J.J.C. Smart in Utilitarianism: for and against       I read the first forty-two pages of Utilitarianism: for and against (which were authored, as is the whole first half, by J.C.C. Smart). The selection was divided into 5 parts, excluding the introduction: act- vs. rule-utilitarianism, hedonistic vs. non-hedonistic utilitarianism, average vs. total happiness, negative utilitarianism, and rightness/wrongness of actions. Each of these sections seemed to be treated in an incomplete manner; ignoring the tendency of Smart to delay his explanations to later pages in the text, it is evident that Smart cannot attend all the questions before utilitarianism in the space provided (although that seems desirable). And, in fact, it was not his intention to battle with critics of the system, unfortunately for us. He aimed this book at convincing those who are so inclined to adopt utilitarianism that their choice is a valid one. Unfortunately, Smart did not convince me; rather, he left me with some questions. Addressing each section in turn, my queries should make evident a general question of what utilitarianism, according to Smart, can really say to guide man’s moral behavior.      (more…)

Published in: on September 15, 2006 at 6:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Convince me

1. Describe the “relative” conditions of virtue ethics?

2. Can’t wait to see more on the connection between existentialism and
Rand. Weird connection. Existance proceeds essence: how many ways can this be interpreted?

3. If you can represent Nietzsche’s view in a numbered way, and contrast it to
Rand’s, that would be really cool.

Published in: on September 15, 2006 at 6:52 pm  Comments (1)  

Comments on Eric Mack’s “The Fundamental Moral Elements of Rand’s Theory of Rights” – published in The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand

Mack’s piece did answer some of my questions and revealed that I had been incorrectly interpreting
Rand’s work, and was working from far too incomplete of an understanding of her idea of “self-interest.” My main problem with
Rand was my incorrect understanding of valid self-interest. The quote that Mack gives of her objectivist ethics “The fact that a living entity is, determines what it ought to do” does explain some concerns I had. A being’s purpose is entailed in its existence. The way in which this is used is to identify valuing in respect to life and living. Living, being the ultimate purpose of a man, is properly facilitated by valuing things correctly in respect to that goal. The thing about this that I admire is that
Rand finally has given some  grounding for her absolute-ish claims about ethics, or at the very least, the possibility of an objective view of ethics. This seemed striking to me for the reason that most of the views of ethics I’ve been accustomed with are subjective and relative. Even virtue ethics, which, if I had to choose my favourite, would be such, relies on relative conditions. (more…)

Published in: on September 13, 2006 at 3:43 pm  Comments (3)