William Baxter starts with the proposition that, when dealing with pollution or any other problem, it is very important to know what one is trying to accomplish. Agreeing on whether and on how to pursue a given objective is not possible without identifying and stating with precision a more general objective. Often people talk about of having clean water, clean air and preserving wilderness areas. But then, these objectives are not sufficient general objective. Each of them is view as a means and not really an end. For example, in the case of clean water, one needs to ask, “how clean?”, “what does clean mean?” and “why have clean water?” Therefore, a more general community goal needs to be stated, a goal that is sufficient general enough in its scope. A goal that enjoy sufficient general assent among the members of the community in a way that questions such as “why” no longer looks to be admissible in relation to the stated goal. The stated goal should be beneficial to the human beings.
It is not easy for a society to subscribe to four or more general objectives. This is because each new general objective will conflict with the prior listed objective in certain applications. Therefore, each new objective serves as a limiting factor to the prior objectives or goals. Since there is no expectation of getting an unanimous consent to all the goals, Baxter set forth four criterions which can be used as in attempting to frame human organization problem solutions. The first criterion is the sphere of freedom. For instance, one needs to state a prepos...
ition that everyone is supposed to be free to chose to do whatever the person wishes to as long as the actions does not interfere with other people’s interest. This proposition is unlikely to be with questions such as “why”. This goal is so basic as it reflects a cultural value that is broadly shared in that the question “why” is seen as both imponderable and impertinent. The second criterion states that waste is a bad thing. Scarcity is the dominant characteristic of human existence. The available resources, skills and labor are scarce. They are not adequate to yield to everyone both tangible and intangible satisfactions. Therefore, these resources should never be wasted.
The third criterion states that every individual should be seen as an end rather than a means to be used in another’s betterment. Every person needs to be afforded the same level of dignity and have an absolute claim to the application of rules that governs the community. The forth criterion states that every individual should be preserved with both the opportunity and incentive to improve his or her share of satisfaction. Every individual should receive, through continuous redistribution, some minimal share of the total wealth. This helps to avoid a privation so that an individual has an opportunity to improve his or her situation.
The relationship of these goals can be applied to the specific environmental issues at hand. For instance, recently scientists have stated that the use of DDT in food production causes damage to the penguin population. Therefore, the scientific
fact is that, people must stop use of DDT in agriculture. This criterion is oriented towards people and not penguins. The damage to penguins is irrelevant. Therefore, we need to go further and identify that penguins are important to people because they enjoy watching them walk about rocks. Furthermore, halting the use of DDT less impairs the well being of individuals than giving up penguins. Therefore, observations about environmental problems should always be people orientated.
There may be objections that this proposition is very selfish of people to act if nothing else was of importance. But then, this is the only reasonable starting point in the analysis for a number reason. First, there is no other proposition that corresponds to, reality, the way most individual think and act. Second, this proposition does not portend to the destruction of nonhuman flora and fauna since people depend on them and thus will need to preserve them. Third, what is considered good to people, e.g. clan air, is as well as good to the penguins and other nonhumans making humans surrogates for animal and plant life. Forth, there is no other way to administer the system. This is because only humans have the opportunity to take part in the collective decisions. Fifth if the other forms of life, e.g. penguins and pine trees, were to be regarded, like men, as ends rather than means, they will be unable to express their preferences. Finally, the set of these environmental issues ultimately raise a question; what do we ought to do? Such questions of “ought” can only be answered by humans; they are meaningless to other forms of animal and plant life.
Baxter reject the proposition that people ought to respect what is termed as the balance of nature or preserving the environment unless it is beneficial to humans. There is no morally correct state of nature to return to. There is no clear definition of natural state and therefore no clear definition of pure water, clean air or pollution except by referring to the needs of humans. This means that to solve our environmental problems, we need to recognize that our objective isn’t clean water or air but rather some optimal level of pollution, a level of pollution that will yield the optimum human satisfaction. This process involves trade of among human needs. For instance, we need to accept some level of pollution so as to increase food production.
Baxter states that all the environmental protection issues should be based on the well being of the humans. This is not because humans are more important in nature but rather because there is no other way to do it. Other forms of lives are unable to participate in collective decisions. Also what is good to human beings is good to penguins and other animal and plant life. Therefore, other forms of life, other than human life, are irrelevant in environmental protection.
- Baxter, W. (1975). People or Penguins: The Case for Optimal Pollution. Technology And Culture, 16(4), 687.