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Críticas: An ethical training manual that will guide decision-makers and individuals at the sharp end of protecting the environment. Kees Vromans, Rainer Paslack, Gamze Yucel Isildar, Rob de Vrind and Jurgen Walter Simon (Eds), Environmental Ethics: An Introduction and Learning Guide, Sheffield, UK: Greenleaf Publishing Limited, 2012, 177 pp. DOI: 10.1177/0971355713490846 Environmental Ethics: An Introduction and Learning Guide was an outcome of the Environmental Ethics Project-an international programme for the creation of training tools and strategies that applied environmental ethics to decision-making in the area of pollution control. This learning guide was designed to facilitate decisions about environmental pollution control by 'increasing the environmental awareness of individuals... (changing) the target groups' perception of the environment and their attitudes, improving their skills and competences...' (p. 157). Specifically, the editors claim that readers can use the book as a training manual and learn how to place a value on various aspects of nature based on an understanding of environmental problems and how to balance environmental knowledge with environmental ethics (see Preface, page xii). The primer is meant to be an ethics training manual that will guide decision makers in making sound judgments and decisions and will act as a bridge between environmental knowledge and environmental behaviour. These are lofty (and overly simplistic and somewhat narrowly defined) aspirations. Has this learning guide or teaching primer lived up to them? Unfortunately it has not. My review of the training manual is centred on three critiques: scope, content, and application. The editors' contention is that environmental problems cannot be solved only with technical knowledge. Technical knowledge must be supported by ethical insights and environmental awareness. Therefore the first chapter, called 'Introduction to Environmental Ethics', focuses on imparting environmental knowledge and awareness. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 concentrate on philosophy and ethics and Chapters 5 and 6 are devoted to sustainable decision-making. Chapter 1, consisting of three lessons, begins with two brief case studies in which readers (presumably pollution control decision makers and policymakers) are meant to be illuminated to the complexity of environmental decision-making. The case studies are poorly written and it is unclear what the educational value is since very little context or background is provided to ground the cases. There is a box on page 6 with a quote by Albert Einstein-'We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.' This quote is out of place and not linked to the material in the text or in the cases. Figure 1.1 (Your Choice?) has two pictures which have no captions so the reader has no clue what these pictures refer to and how they are related to the material in the lesson. The lesson ends abruptly with a statement about how it is necessary for decision makers to be 'morally developed' in order to make sound environmental decisions and how this book will provide a code of ethics that environmental experts can and should internalise. One wonders when one reads such statements whether the authors truly grasp the nature of ethics and values, and the process of internalisation of values. Moving forward, the chapter becomes even more bizarre with topics such as 'Water pollution', 'Air pollution', and 'Land pollution'. These sections read like elementary school text books. For example: Water is used for nature itself, for agriculture, for drinking and personal hygiene, for transport, for energy production, for industrial production, for recreational activities (bathing or fishing etc.) It has a tremendous effect on our planet. (p. 8) Atmosphere is a gaseous envelope surrounding the earth and comprises of four important gases and other trace gases. (p. 10) One would hope that environmental experts and decision makers (for whom this book is meant) know this basic information already. Lesson 2, similarly, is very thin in terms of content. If this is what the authors mean by 'technical knowledge' concerning the environment for environmental professionals, this book falls sorely short of providing it. Lesson 3 (The history of environmentalism) is the saving grace of this chapter. However, it is marred by several typographical errors and could have been better organised with sub-headings. The publishers should note that there are many typographical errors throughout the book. The questions at the end of this lesson are interesting but do not relate directly to the material covered in the lesson. The same problem occurs in the questions presented for Lessons 1 and 2. Chapter 2, 3, and 4 are concerned with Ethics. Overall these chapters provide a modest introduction to Western philosophy (Chapter 2) which could be useful for someone who knows nothing about philosophy or ethics. The material is very rudimentary but still it is successful in meeting the learning objectives stated at the outset of the chapter. Chapters 3 and 4 introduce readers to different terms, concepts, and theories in the area of environmental ethics: anthropocentrism, ecocentricism, aesthetic, instrumental, and intrinsic value. Although the chapters are chunky, disjointed, and abrupt, they provide a quick synopsis of the main ideas in the environmental ethics-resembling a Wikipedia entry on 'environmental ethics'. Chapters 5 (The Need for Political and Legal Regulation) and Chapter 6 (From Environmental Ethics to Sustainable Decision Making) are the authors' efforts to link environmental values and ethics to behavioural guidelines. This is where the editors fall short of the stated goals and application of the learning guide. It is not clear what the empirical and theoretical foundations of the editors 'A Step-by-Step Plan for Sustainable Decision Making' are. How did the authors come up with is set of explicit steps? Is it based on psychological, economics, or systems thinking decision making processes? It is hard to categorise Environmental Ethics: An Introduction and Learning Guide. It is certainly not a traditional Environmental Ethics academic book since it is far too narrow in scope. It is not an environmental decision-making toolbox since it does not cover topics such as the science of decision-making (systems thinking, ecological systems, environmental economics and decision making, valuation and valuation techniques, objective and subjective values, scaling values). At best, the learning guide is a loosely defined amalgam of topics that introduce... some aspects of what is actually involved in making environmental decisions and building a set of skills for making those decisions. Shalini Misra Assistant Professor School of Public and International Affairs Virginia Tech, VA, USA ...the learning guide is a loosely defined amalgam of topics that introduce... some aspects of what is actually involved in making environmental decisions and building a set of skills for making those decisions. Shalini Misra Assistant Professor School of Public and International Affairs Virginia Tech, VA, USA
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