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Topic: Environmental Conservation
February 13, 2014 | Posted By Jane Jankowski, LMSW, MS

During a long cold drive home a couple weeks ago, there was a broadcast on NPR about efforts to help promote the survival of the rare northern spotted owl. The controversy has not centered on the importance of saving the spotted owl, but on whether or not it is ethically acceptable to hunt the barred owl which has moved into territory thereby dangerously threatening the spotted owl population. The barred owl is also an “at risk” species, but has been thriving in the northwestern forests where the spotted owls had fed, bred, and nested.  The government faced a “Sophie’s choice” (Shogran 2014, NPR),  and reluctantly accepted the morally disturbing decision to kill 3600 barred owls in order to try to help the spotted owl maintain a sustainable population.  This distressing environmental dilemma serves as a unique analogy for responsible business decisions related to healthcare. We can turn to business ethics here, which offers the “precautionary principle” (Weber 2001, 134) whereby avoiding harm and meeting the needs of a community requires that if any deleterious action is going to be taken, the proponents of the activity must establish that safety is the intent and there is no other way to accomplish the task than to inflict some degree of harm. Though the cause of reduced numbers of spotted owls and the migration of barred owls is related to man’s stripping timber from the natural habitats of each, the solution needs to balance the competing interests in the existing ecosystem. Similarly, people seeking healthcare in the US are not to blame for the economic woes of our system but it seems compromises from everyone will be needed in order to assure a basic level of service for all.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI's online graduate programs, please visit our website.

June 4, 2012 | Posted By Posted By David Lemberg, M.S., D.C.

Ethics as a foundation of human affairs is fast disappearing from our world. The litany of human selfishness, crassness, and sheer bad behavior is unending. Whether the topic is Wall Street robber barons betting against securities they sold to clients (who naively trusted their “bankers” and purchased the recommended financial instruments in good faith) or the venality and mendacity of congressional “representatives” whose true loyalty is to those who fill their campaign war chests rather than to the citizens who elected them and foolishly count on their wisdom and judgement, the public arena and daily news cycle are replete with cautionary tales of failed trust.

So it can't be a surprise that our own brief period of prominence is seemingly bereft of any substantive ethical framework. Ethics provides solutions to every problem humanity is facing. The problem is that ethics is in short supply. Implicitly, thinking is in very short supply. This assertion is awfully ironic, as the primary difference between humans and all other species is self-knowledge. Humans know that we know. But if we don’t know much, we’re not going to be able to help ourselves. Now more than at any time in history, our survival advantage depends on our being able to take care of each other. But we have never done a very good job of that. Not even close.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.

April 30, 2012 | Posted By Posted By David Lemberg, M.S., D.C.

“A call to arms” may be a bit martial for many bioethicists, but we live in perilous times. Meaningful action is needed across the board with respect to the functioning of government, whether federal, state, or local. We are confronted with the effects of benighted policies (or lack of policies and lack of regulations) that threaten to destroy our national (and global) financial system, our national health care “system” (really a default hodgepodge of buyers, sellers, and canny middlemen), and our global ecosystem. Standards of living continue to erode in the U.S. and Europe. Unemployment persists at high levels. In the United States, at least, educational achievement is in free fall. We live in a national culture that has degraded to the narrow perspective of me and mine. It is not an exaggeration to assert that many Americans have lost their moral compass, if indeed they ever had one. For the rest of us, those who recall what it means to be blessed with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, it is long past time to do what anchorman  Howard Beale did in Network: throw open the windows to the street, lean our heads out, and shout I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.

April 11, 2012 | Posted By Posted By David Lemberg, M.S., D.C.

Scientists now have the capability of changing the world. Literally. A prominent researcher observed in a 2011 Science article that "our genome engineering technologies treat the chromosome as an editable and evolvable template". The advent of such technologies is disturbing from many points of view.

Until very recently scientific research contributed to the advancement of knowledge about the world around us without simultaneously creating tools for altering the characteristics and parameters of that world. None of these activities threatened the integrity of the biosphere — namely, that of planet earth. The ability to do so should give all of us, primarily scientists, pause, but they do not. As Hans Jonas observed, the deeds of biological engineering are irrevocable.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.

March 15, 2012 | Posted By Posted By David Lemberg, M.S., D.C.

If we were not capable of autonomous thought and merely accepted and acted on what others told us, the future prospects of our communities, nations, and race would be bleak indeed. Fortunately, a few humans are capable of independent thinking, creativity, insight, and innovation. Every "benefit" of modern existence is a direct result of independent thinking in the form of scientific activity. Those of us who live in developed nations would be very hard-pressed to get through a day without readily available electricity and running water. Imagine living without automated transportation. Imagine living without television or cinema. Imagine living without a computer.

The study, investigation, and application of mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology, and their combined disciplines such as engineering, agriculture, and architecture, have given us the world we inhabit. And yet in the United States close to half the population is being trained daily to believe that science is a bad thing.

For example, the theory of evolution (a classical example of the scientific method) has been under attack for several decades. A Gallup Poll conducted two years ago, around the time of the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth, revealed that only 39% of Americans "believe in the theory of evolution". Twenty-five percent did not believe in the theory and 36% had no opinion.

Of course, in order to be able to assess the value of a scientific theory, even from a high-level view, one has to have the ability to assemble facts and be able to recognize associations and connections among disparate threads and competing explanations. Sadly, it seems that such abilities, formerly mastered in grade school, are no longer accessible to the majority of our fellow citizens.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.

March 9, 2012 | Posted By Posted By David Lemberg, M.S., D.C.

For 500 years science has built an ever-increasing knowledge base, proceeding in fits and starts and yet moving inexorably toward improved explanations of the universe in which we live. But science has reached a crossroads. Thus society, too, is similarly positioned.

Years ago, during the Enlightenment and the subsequent Industrial Revolution, Nature as such was vast and apparently infinitely replenishable. It was inconceivable that harm was being done to the environment on a large scale.

But as Inigo Montoya remarks to Vizzini in The Princess Bride, "You keep using that word [inconceivable]. I do not think it means what you think it means."

What was inconceivable then is now, appallingly, very conceivable. The outcomes of many scientific fields of inquiry have the potential to destroy the biosphere.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.

February 23, 2012 | Posted By Posted By David Lemberg, M.S., D.C.

Anyone who's ever seen the terrific documentary, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" knows that our decades-long putative energy crisis is an unnecessary, highly destructive burden on all persons, not only on Americans but on the man- and woman-in-the-street, worldwide.

The General Motors EV1 electric car was a gorgeous machine, developed the EV1 in response to strict California emissions laws established by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The board mandated zero emission vehicles (ZEV) in 1990. The EV1 was a sleek, futuristic electric car with an emissions-free range of 100 miles. A 300-mile range could have been implemented. But, EV1 production was nipped in the bud.

Thus in 2012, more than 15 years after the introduction of the EV1, we could all be driving zero-emission vehicles and hugely reducing our use of oil, specifically, foreign oil. But such a scenario is at great odds with certain corporate interests. The prospect of fracking is yet another manifestation of this energy madness.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.

January 17, 2012 | Posted By Posted By David Lemberg, M.S., D.C.

The United States spent $2.5 trillion on health care in 2009. That's "trillion". With a "T". This expenditure represents outlays of $8100 per person and 17.6% of our gross domestic product (GDP). Exactly what are we getting for these prodigious sums? Not very much. Infant mortality, for example, is a key marker of how wisely a nation is spending its health care dollars. The U.S. ranks a dismal 41st. These statistics tell a very sad tale. Despite spending huge amounts of ever-scarcer personal dollars on health care, the key metrics for U.S. residents continue to demonstrate how badly America is underperforming.  Where are the U.S. monies actually going, if not toward developing and providing effective means of health care delivery?

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.

August 5, 2011 | Posted By Posted By David Lemberg, M.S., D.C.
Dr. Vandana Shiva Navdanya
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Dr. Vandana Shiva, renowned environmentalist, is the author of Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development and Earth Democracy. She is the recipient of the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize and is listed by Forbes magazine as one of the "seven most powerful women in the world".

Dr. Shiva is the founder of Navdanya, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources. She leads an international movement of women working in food, agriculture, patents, and biotechnology called Diverse Women for Diversity and chairs the Commission on the Future of Food launched in Tuscany, Italy in 2002.

Dr. Shiva has been awarded the 1993 Alternative Nobel Prize and the Lennon Ono Grant for Peace.

“Dr. Vandana Shiva makes a profound difference in diverse communities, societies, and nations on a daily basis,” said David Lemberg, editor of BIOETHICS TODAY. “She is a true environmental hero, championing the rights of each and every one of us. Our conversation with Dr. Shiva focuses on a range of issues and concerns of critical importance to a global audience.”

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.

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ABOUT BIOETHICS TODAY
BIOETHICS TODAY is the blog of the Alden March Bioethics Institute, presenting topical and timely commentary on issues, trends, and breaking news in the broad arena of bioethics. BIOETHICS TODAY presents interviews, opinion pieces, and ongoing articles on health care policy, end-of-life decision making, emerging issues in genetics and genomics, procreative liberty and reproductive health, ethics in clinical trials, medicine and the media, distributive justice and health care delivery in developing nations, and the intersection of environmental conservation and bioethics.
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