Chapter One; Introduces the fact that human interaction with the environment is something with innumerable perspectives. Yet, despite this, understanding and cooperation can be reached.
Chapter Two; Discusses several different ways to look at the current challenges facing the environment and their causes. The first being population growth. In this there are also several views, including how much of an impact each person has based on resource and energy use.
Chapter Three; Shows the population perspective not as one that only causes problems, but as one that can solve them as well, showing economic methods that can mitigate and even reverse environmental damage.
Questions; Can market solutions such as cap and trade and ‘banking’ environmental services really help solve the ecological problems we are facing, or will it simply create new problems in how the environment is legally defined as companies seek to change those definitions?
Chapter Four; Talks about the management of environmental resources by institutions and populations as a whole, questioning whether or not it is even possible to do so. The first issues discussed are;
The Prisoners Dilemma in terms of access to environmental resources. As he environment is something all people have access to and it is in each individuals personal interest to continue taking resources from the environment then how can people as a whole avoid environmental destruction on a massive scale in time? The chapter illustrates this problem using the tragedy of commons as presented by Garrett Hardin. Yet at the same time it presents how solutions to environmental problems the world over exist as a result of local communities regulating how they use these resources. It goes on to show how cooperation even which large populations manages and protects the environment. These efforts are often successful, though many are not, and the conditions regarding this cooperation are explored, including boundaries, proportionality of investment, collective choice, sanctions, conflict resolution, and autonomy of at least some kind from non-local authorities.
Questions; What is an example of a local common? Or resource that is used and managed collectively on a local level? Furthermore, what can we do about ‘commons’ that are not local, such as global climate?
Chapter 5; Steps back from the broad view of human systems and instead looks at just one of those systems in closer detail, farming. Not only this but rather than ask whether or this system can produce certain results, it asks whether or not the system itself is ethical. To illustrate this it gives an example of a factory farm where a hog is raised, currently the way 80% of pork is produced in the United States. A ‘breeding sow’ is artificially inseminated at 8 months old and moved to a seven by two foot box. This is large enough enough for her to stand and lie down in provided she rubs her skin against the bars (and as a result develops sores and infections) though she cannot turn around, or at all. When the piglets are almost birthed she is moved to a special box known as a ‘farrowing crate’ which will allow her to nurse the piglets without them being crushed. Once the baby pigs are just about weaned she is artificially inseminated again and moved back to her regular box. The economic benefits of this process include more land available for economic activities other than farming and a reduction in the price of meat (also affected by government subsidies and other factors). Yet the book brings up that there are criticisms of this and how ethical considerations of the environment have changed over time.
Questions; How should environmentalism balance its concern with individuals and its concern with ecosystems as a whole? How does this change how we approach issues such as water contamination as a result of pollution from factory farms, and the destruction of the rainforest in Brazil for cattle grazing?