People Or Penguins Essay, Research Paper
Essay Summary: People or Penguins In the essay People or Penguins author William F. Baxter held the view that environmental issues should be human-centered and cost beneficial. In other words, his observations are that our affect on the environment is irrelevant except as it affects human interest. He also feels that we have no obligation to respect the balance of nature because no natural state of nature exists. Baxter’s main goal was to have an “optimal state of pollution” which means an amount of pollution that yields the highest amount of human satisfaction. Baxter used the example of the use of DDT hurting the penguin population. His thoughts were that we, as a human race did not halt the use of DDT for the penguin’s sake but rather for our own enjoyment. People like watching penguins “walk about on rocks” and to see them is more important than using DDT. Baxter’s observations of environmental problems are people oriented, he has no interest in saving penguins for their own sake. Although Baxter stated that when people act as if each person represents one unit of importance is undeniably selfish, it is the only starting place for analysis. He felt that this is the way we really think, or “correspond to reality.” One example he used was that we as humans are surrogates for plant and animal life. The point being that clean air is important to humans for their own sake, yet the penguins and pine trees will benefit from this desire. Another example Baxter used in substantiating his position was that if one person is free to act privately he/she might give preferences to other forms of life. If a person wishes to use his/her resources to feed animals rather than him/herself it is their choice. Baxter rejected the idea that there is a “right” or “morally correct” state of nature we should return to. He felt that because the earth and its inhabitants have evolved over millions of years, there is no point in time when nature was “right”. He ask if it was right or wrong for the earth’s crust to create the mountains and seas or for the “first amphibian to crawl up out of the primordial ooze.” Baxter felt these were meaningless questions and no answer could be given. Thus he brought to point that the controversy over the environment and that the assumptions about nonnormative phenomena; it is wrong to hurt penguins with DDT, but right to slaughter cattle for meat.
The most fundamental step Baxter thought would be a solution to our environmental problems was to recognize that there is an optimal state of pollution. His point is that in order to attain lower levels of pollution we must sacrifice other things such as food, shelter, and education. In effect, we must find what has more value to each of us, and make the trade-off that leads us to the optimum satisfaction. Baxter stated that all of our resources (labor, technology, capitol, and natural) need to be used in an efficient combination to yield the goods and services we desire. If a natural resource such as sugar pine is limited, then there will be fewer goods than we would like to have available. In summing up, Baxter restated his view on optimal pollution. He felt that people enjoy watching penguins as well as they enjoy clean air. These are benefits of a good or service. He has no problem with a person giving up their washing machine if the resources that produced the machine would give greater satisfaction if diverted into pollution control. Baxter’s thought is that we should divert the production of goods for the production of a cleaner nation “up to the point at which we value more highly the washing machine that we would have to do without” in order to have the environmental improvement the diverted sources would create.