The Value of Values ~ La valeur des valeurs

decision maker   

Some say that all environmentally harmful decisions and
behavior can be traced to a lack of environmental values
in a decision maker. Is this true?  Explain

On dit que toutes les décisions et les comportements
nuisibles à l'environnement peuvent être attribués à
l'absence de valeurs environnementales chez les décideurs. Est-ce vrai?  Expliquez

 

Josh Perry
USA
October 10, 2004
Having only fished commercially for a total of 145 days in Uyak Bay kodiak Alaska. My experience and senses have lead me to believe that the ramifications of allowing commercially farmed fish to thrive is not only wrong but it is also a blatant disregard to
fisherman who feed their families by the occupation of catching WILD salmon and a blatent dirgard that the stated facts in the scientific community have about how badly farmed fish effects nature. Dragging for wild salmon is only one way that fisherman catch fish. Dragging for fish should not give justification to farmed fish when there are plenty of other forms of fishing on a commercial scale.

Madeleine Polchies
Woodstock
First Nation

Jan 27, 2003
I think it can be traced to a lack of values... period. We do not possess the earth; we walk on Mother Earth. We do not control her; she lets live on her. In my Earthwalk I have observed that people who do not respect women, do not respect our Mother Earth, and therefore would make harmful decisions and behavior towards our Sacred Mother Earth. This has been observed in the communities that I have lived in, or those close by. Look around you and observe how people relate to women, and how they relate to Mother Earth. From a fishing or canoe trip on the river and all that will be left behind, all that has been disturbed, to throwing an old fridge or stove on a back road, dumping used oil from the old car, to taking decisions about the environment on an executive level, or to the lack of involvement and commitment to making a difference, to living in harmony. 
Ibironke Olubamise, Lagos, Nigeria
Sept. 13, 2002
Yes, It is either the decision maker deliberately lacks environmental values due to his/her
selfish desires or due to ignorance. The first reason however is stronger than the second because no one on earth today that is both old enough and well educated to know about environmental issues, will not be concerned about the various environmental threats the world is facing.

Caroline Lewis,
Miami, FL
Aug. 13, 2002
Rick Hutchins (March 4, 2002 response) hit the nail on the head. We need to make more
"deposits" so individuals can know-love-do what's right...in that order.

 

R. White
Norris Arm, NF
.
June 20, 2002

In response to your question, YES in some cases, but definitely not always.

In my opinion , we must move from the paternal model of “The Leaders and Lead” (i.e., father/mother and children) to a more evolved form of democracy. This Evolved Democratic model would shift responsibility from a small group of public representatives (elected or otherwise) to the individual.

As it is now most of us just throw up our hands and blame the leadership for the worlds woes and then take refuge in our complacency.

An Evolved Democracy might look something like:

How it would work 
All issues before our elected representatives (MP/MHA’s) that require a vote would be open to all registered voters. If an issue so engages the public’s interest that they wish to have direct involvement in the decision making process they could do so. The vote would take place via one of the many communication mediums (i.e., postal ballots, telephone, Internet etc.) that are used reliably every day by banks and governments all over the world. The collective votes of the electorate would proportionately diminish the weight of the MP/MHA’s vote in the House. If voters decided to abstain or became complacent about voting the full weight of the ridings vote would default to the MP/MHA (as the current system works now).

Some Legitimate Concerns
Legitimate concerns such as the cost or confusion, which would be associated with implementing this more democratic system, might be addressed in the following manner:

Concern #1. “Wouldn’t it be too costly?”
Our current system is not without is own direct cost, but consider the indirect costs of letting a handful of people make decisions for us.
In Newfoundland we live with a legacy of deals that traded our resource riches for a pittance while we are forced by economic disparity to migrate from our home to other places. There we build other’s economies and strengthen their political power bases.
Many decision made by politicians are for their political benefit NOT necessarily in the best interest of the citizens. I, for one, would rather live with a decision made collectively by our citizens than by a handful of people who may or may not have our best interests at heart.

Concern #2. “What happens if none of the electorate participated in the voting process?”
If an issue requiring a vote occurred and none of the electorate participated, the elected representative (MHA/MP) would cast one vote in the House of Assembly and his/her vote would carry the full weight of that seat.

Concern #3. “What happens if only half of the electorate participated in the voting process?”
If on the other hand, the electorate for that riding participated at a rate of 50% their will would be reflected as 1/2 of the riding’s vote and the MHA/MP as one half of the ridings vote.   Of course this means that the more voters participate in the decision making process the more the MHA’s/MP’s power would be diminished and he/she could theoretically be reduced to casting a vote as an individual citizen, NOT as an MHA/MP does when he/she votes for the whole riding.  Typically MHA’s/MP’s would carry on business as usual, however the people would have direct access to the decision making process.

Indirect Benefits of an Evolved Democracy
An indirect benefit of this evolved democratic system would be the demand for meaningful information. In an age where much of the information has very little real value (e.g. advertising) and is more opinion than fact (e.g. news reporting) a demand for factual information by the electorate to help them make meaningful and informed decisions might actually revive investigative journalism. There is one reality that remains; you can’t solve problems effectively (political or personal) unless you start with truth/reality as a basis from which to make your decisions.

How Our System Probably Evolved
I suspect that our current system evolved from a Monarchy that had diminishing support by the citizens it subjugated, especially when they came to realize that the King/Queen did not always act in the subject best interest. 
Since a Monarch cannot ultimately reign without the support of his/her subjects, it was most likely decided to let us into the decision making process through the parliamentary system. It seems reasonable that they went with the elected representatives model because of the lack of communication and information available to the electorate at that time.

Well times have changed and these obstacles no longer exist, Dad can I have the keys to the car?

Mark LaRochelle, Washington, DC
April 17, 2002
The problem is not values, but incentives. The folks who attend Earth Day rallies on the Mall here in Washington, DC, wear their environmental values on their T-shirts. Yet every year, they leave the Mall littered with tons of environmentalist leaflets. And why not? They are never fined for littering; the taxpayers simply pay higher taxes to have National Park Service employees clean up after them.
Those people would never dream of throwing trash all over their own front yards, or those of their neighbors. But when they find themselves on public property, on National Park Service land, their environmental ethics crumble like sand castles. The difference is the incentive structure of public property versus private property.
Even anti-environmental people do not seek to destroy the value of their own estates and that of their heirs. Nor do they destroy the property of their neighbors, who could sue them for trespass or nuisance. But when it comes to public property, even environmentalists lose their environmental ethics. This fact suggests that privatization may be more effective than nationalization as a strategy of environmental protection.

Paul Falvo,
Yellowknife NWT
Mar. 21, 2002
Human greed. I think that's at the root of environmentally harmful decisions, large and small. Even when governments, or corporations, or consumers KNOW what is right, we can't pass up making self-serving choices. 
Alex Mason
Mar. 18, 2002
I thought you might find this NY Times editorial interesting...

New York Times, March 15, 2002
ANWR and Peas.  By PAUL KRUGMAN

  On Wednesday the Senate voted down a proposal by John Kerry and John McCain to raise mileage standards on automobiles. The outcome came as no surprise, but what does it mean? Was it yet another victory for special interests at the expense of the national interest? No, it was much worse than that.
  What prevailed Wednesday was an alliance between conservatives who hate the very idea of conservation, on one side, and union leaders trying to demonstrate their influence by making politicians jump. It's the same alliance that, last summer, led the House to support drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) by a surprisingly large margin.
  About ANWR: The Times recently had an eye-opening article confirming something I had been hearing myself, that oil companies are not behind the push for drilling there — indeed, they are notably unexcited by the prospect. Studies by the U.S. Geological Survey suggest why: Arctic oil is so expensive to get at that it's barely worth extracting at current market prices. For energy companies it's the rest of the Bush energy plan, which 
would give them about $35 billion in tax breaks and subsidies, that really matters.
  But then why are the Bush administration and its allies so vehement about ANWR? Pay no attention to rhetoric about national security; the Kerry-McCain proposal would save about three times as much oil per year as ANWR would deliver even in its brief period of peak production.
  The real reason conservatives want to drill in ANWR is the same reason they want to keep snowmobiles roaring through Yellowstone: sheer symbolism. Forcing rangers to wear respirators won't make much difference to snowmobile sales — but it makes the tree-huggers furious, and that's what's appealing about it. The same is true about Arctic drilling; as one very moderate environmentalist told me, the reason the Bush administration pursues high-profile anti-environmental policies is not that they please special interests but that they are "red meat for the right." (The real special-interest payoffs come via less showy policies, like the way the administration is undermining enforcement of the Clean Air Act.)
  And what about the Teamsters union, which threw its support behind the Bush plan? It claimed to be motivated by the 700,000 jobs ANWR drilling would supposedly create. One suspects that the union's leadership knows that this figure is at least 10 times too high. But the union's members don't know that; so by making common cause with the anti-environmental right the leaders can seem to be bringing home the bacon.
  The debate over fuel efficiency played out according to the samescript. Conservative opponents of higher mileage standards followed closely the guidelines laid down by Ed Gillespie, the top Republican operative turned Enron lobbyist, in a memo last April. He proposed selling the administration's drill-and-burn energy plan by painting conservationists as "eat your peas" types, who want to take away our creature comforts.
Sure enough, opponents portrayed a modest proposal, which would have set a 36-mile-per-gallon standard 13 years from now, as an immediate threat to the American way of life. Trent Lott displayed a photo of a tiny 70-mile-per-gallon European compact and declared, "I don't want every American to have to drive this car." And senators who are indifferent to the air pollution that kills thousands of Americans each year got all weepy at 
the prospect — rejected by serious analysts — that making cars more efficient would lead to more traffic fatalities.
  The surprise, though, is that this dishonest anti-conservationism got crucial support from the United Auto Workers. There's no good reason to think that higher efficiency standards would actually cost any automobile worker jobs; certainly fighting a modest mileage increase phased over 15 years shouldn't be a priority for the union's members. But as with the Teamsters and ANWR drilling, fighting conservation gave the union's leadership an opportunity to look powerful; the appearance, not the reality, was what mattered.
  You may find it hard to believe that such crucial decisions are driven by such petty concerns, that an alliance between showboating union leaders and "drive 100 and freeze a Yankee" conservatives could do so much damage to our nation's future. But if that's what you think, you do not know with how little wisdom the world is governed.

Anonymous
March 15, 2002
First problem: How do we define "decision maker"? 
If everyone is, then your question has little meaning: "We make environmentally harmful
decisions because we have collectively lack of environmental values. Is this true?" 
If everyone isn't, we have to agree on just who these people are. Most environmentalists
never really sit down to think about this in an organized way. Do decision makers shape our society? Historians might ask: do great men shape history, or do social and economic forces propel certain types of people to positions of power? In my opinion, decision makers often have less power than the bureaucracies they head (whether they be governmental or corporate!). Many activists that oppose the power of the IMF/WB certainly seem to understand this: it doesn't matter who heads those machines, their mandate sucks.  Finally, there's another assumption in your question that is worth asking. Do values really affect behaviour or is it the other way around? Activism takes a heavy emotional toll: we hear about the worst things that are going on, have to learn a great deal, put ourselves in situations where we can look strange, attend meetings, etc... I'm amazed at how many of us don't burn out.  And we keep doing activism in a way that makes people face more stress: telling people about how bad things are, with out giving them options they believe will have an impact (most do not think writing letters or attending meetings have an impact).  
What if we invited people to take part in actions that make us feel power vis-a-vis the large
institutions (somehow challenging or reducing their power) before we really told them about how bad things are? Energy efficiency before education about climate change, beach cleanings before sewerage politics... we just might get somewhere then...

Jan Paul,
March 10, 2002
Your question seems to ask for a brief understanding about a complex dilemma. Not sure if that is possible, but when I try to comprehend what goes on in the governance process that destroys life rather than affirming it, the best I can come up with is that confusion and fear have really taken hold.
It's not so much a "lack of environmental values" as it is a misguided faith in technology to solve inappropriate behavior, combined with a confusion about economics and wealth having to do with money and control, that makes too many people's environmental values inappropriate and unrealistic.
Having been taught to compartmentalize almost everything in life in order to understand and handle situations, humanity in the "developed" world has totally lost sight of the interrelationship in the world that make life possible. Having placed what I would consider unrealistic faith in technology that can never be complete in its understanding, humanity has lost its faith in what is spiritual about life. And having accepted that salvation comes in a life in the here-after, humanity has grown care-less about life in the here-and-now and present.

Caroline Cameron
March 6, 2002
Briefly, People do what they need to do to get food and pay. If people are affluent
they can choose - these people, as said in Pigmaelian the wealthy - can afford to have morals. Likewise, people who are not free to choose how to spend their time are restricted in terms of what they can do.  Choice and morals apply to people who have excess time and money. Thus social justice is very important in environmental terms.

Caroline,
Edmundston
March 4, 2002
Le simple fait de vivre a un impact sur l'environnement... aucun décideur ne pourrait en décider autrement! Ils peuvent cependant réduire cet impact et c'est là leur vrai pouvoir.

Marc Champagne, 
La Plaine, (Québec)
4 mars, 2002
En réalité, la question devrait peut-être se poser de la façon suivante : 
Quelles sont les valeurs qui priment chez les décideurs ?
Je ne crois pas que les valeurs environnementales soient au premier plan lorsqu'il s'agit de prendre telle ou telle décision. Il est cependant plus que probable que les décideurs possèdent des valeurs environnementales comme vous et moi, cependant comme les intérêts politiques et économiques sont généralement considérés comme plus important par eux, les dites valeurs sont donc relayées au second plan.

Anonymous
March 4, 2002
Yes, I definitely think there is truth to this. In most cases powerful decision makers (like most people) are out of touch with nature. Maybe a tour of a garbage dump as well as a backcountry trip to some non-urban ecosystem, should be prerequisites to becoming a business or political leader. Without personal experience with both nature and its threats, it is impossible for people to fully empathize with loss of environmental value outside of cities.
Patty Donovan,
Campaign for
Pesticide Reduction,
Quispamsis NB
March 4, 2002
Yes/No!   Some try, but their vision is too short sighted. They are educated by the short sighted and filled with ideals that meet humankind's needs. Needs that we are schooled to believe out weigh the needs of Nature. Needs confused with wants and desires, our earthy rights!  Only those truly in tune with the flow of Mother Earth can relinquish materialism and claim to posses environmental values.  But then, because we have all been schooled by the short sighted, can any of us truly claim to have the highest of values.  All any one of us can do is strive to listen, and do our best to make decisions that we believe, based on our own personal learning, are what is right for all our relations.
Rick Hutchins
NB
March 4, 2002
I think that this question reminds me of a political science course I took at UNB. The course was on ethics and values and we were researching a book by Paola Friere, entitled "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" . In his book he talked about the "banking concept of education" . His theory was that our capacity to understand and deal with a number of life issues was based on the number of "deposits" made in our consciousness. Our "wealth" if you want to call it that was based on knowledge deposits. In the case of the environment I wonder if people have enough "deposits" to be knowledgeable and therefore concerned. I think it is all about raising consciousness' before true values can be built. Just a thought.
Ryan Ancelin
March 4, 2002 
I would disagree with this statement because it is too simply stated. Firstly, environmentally harmful decisions are not always made by people who understand the true scope of the problem. For example, the decision to release untreated effluent into a 
water system may be based on the false assumption that dilution will occur over the course of the water stream thus nullifying any point source effects. While this is a simple example, it highlights an important point. Environmentally "unfriendly" decisions are 
partly made because people (i.e. decision makers) do not understand all the facts or the alternative options. If you are trained in business management, it cannot be assumed that you will have any understanding of toxicology or the persistence of harmful compounds in a water ecosystem. Secondly, there is the element of complexity. It is often easier to ignore a complex problem and deal with easier issues on the perimeter of the true problem rather than tackle the core issue head on. Overall, and simply stated, I believe poor decisions are largely the result of a lack of good information or an understanding of that 
information, combined with a willingness (conscious or otherwise) to avoid the core issues and focus on peripheral issues.

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