Some Facts

Dams are a very controversial alternative to energies such as oil and coal. Here are the facts. Dams are clean, reliable, and cheap ways to produce electricity. In addition to this they are exceptionally valuable for prevent floods that would normally making housing near that river next to impossible. However the problem that dams cause is that they prevent fish from being able to swim upstream, the heat generated by them tends to kill sea life making these rivers pretty uninhabitable for creatures in the river. The Three Gorges Dam is especially controversial. It is used to help trade along the river, provide power for many areas, and prevent major floods along the Yangtze river. The Yangtze river is especially prone to flooding, and one of the main reasons why it was built was to prevent erosion along the river and protect farming near the river. In addition it has been shown to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately though this Dam is believed to be a contributor to pollution on the river, there are some safety issues one of which is it is on a fault line, and it has endangered many of the species that live on that river. One of the main criticisms of the Three Gorges Dam is that it could lead to the extinction of a rare river dolphin that lives in that river. The warm waters and the inability to allow fish to go up and down stream tends to destroy the biodiversity in these habitats. So while Dams like this might seem like a good idea because of how it helps humans, how it prevents greenhouse gases, among other things, it also causes many problems for the non-humans in that environment. Below are just a couple of the ways people can look at this issue.

Anthropocentric View Utilitarian [http://rhodes-enviroethics.wikidot.com/anthropocentric]

The problem with the dam seems to be a problem of an anthropocentric way to look at environmental ethics and non-anthropocentric views. People who are anthropocentric are likely to support dams because they make the areas habitable for humans, they prevent flooding that causes erosion, and it helps to cut down on greenhouse gasses. When looking at the environment as to how it benefits humans it is clear to see that Dams are a very good thing. The ability to prevent floods and control water levels are extremely important in some areas for farming and prevent droughts. Without Dams many parts of the American country side would suffer. Dams are needed to manage water levels in many areas where there is farming, they are necessary to prevent droughts and floods that would cause housing damage and erosion. For example there are many places in Texas along the Colorado river that rely on Dams to prevent serious droughts in those areas. Without the Dams housing near those areas would be difficult due to the floods that often occur. Agriculture would be crippled by droughts in many of these areas if it wasn't for Dams. So without Dams many people could suffer. From an anthropocentric point of view that tries to benefit humans and the environment they live in, Dams are good even if it does cause some problems with the fish in the river.

Non-Anthropocentric View Leopold [http://rhodes-enviroethics.wikidot.com/ecocentrism]

However when a person looks at the problem from a non-anthropocentric view the idea of a Dam seems like a bad idea. While it is true that the do prevent greenhouse gasses, they also attempt to change the environment in a way that only benefits humans. A non-anthropocentric view of the environment like that of Aldo Leopold's Land Ethic has a serious problem with Dams. Humans rather than being a part of the environment, attempt to be masters of it. This is a view that Leopold points out as dangerous and Wrong in his "Land Ethic". Leopold points out that attempt to control nature many times backfire, and it fails to subvert all things in the environment below humans, something he disagrees with.
In addition according to Leopold, since the Dams kill the wildlife in that river, it fails to realize the rights that these animals have, and they have a right not to have their habitat destroyed by us. Leopold believes that all members of the ecosystem from the animals, to the plants, to the water, and even the soil have rights in his land ethic. Views like Leopold's argue against the way we look at things like Dams. He says need to have a value for the land that is “far broader than mere economic value” (Leopold 46). By looking at nature this way, we end up exploiting it and destroying it. Leopold argues that because we end up violating the rights of the animals that live in that river, it is an immoral act. Leopold argues that we cannot because nature is so fragile attempt to control nature. Any small change in the environment could end up leading to the entire destruction of that ecosystem. Dams kill fish in that area, they violate there ability to move freely, and they drastically attempt to change the ecosystem. These are all examples of why a non-anthropocentric view of of nature like Leopold's land ethic have problems with Dams.


The problem is again a problem of how we should look at environmental ethics. Should we value the environment and adjust in ways to make it beneficial for humans, or do we need to take into account the needs of other species as well. Before we can move forward we first need to settle the meta-ethical problem of how to view nature before we can do anything else.

Works Cited
Leopold, Aldo. "The Land Ethic." Environmental Ethics An Anthology. 10. Malden MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2008. Print.

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