Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Avoiding conflict over land and water resources in the 21st century: Scientific, sociological, economic, legal and ethical considerations
by Schittone, Joe, D.L.S., Georgetown University, 2011, 262; 3493882
Abstract (Summary)

This thesis advances the proposition that the effects of climate change and various socially-driven population and resource usage choices will result in the misery and deaths of millions of human beings over the next several decades. The overall situation presents certain issues relevant to the field of moral philosophy that are traditionally thought of as problems falling within the purview of the sub-discipline known as distributive justice. In order to investigate all (or at least many) aspects of the multitude of circumstances that combine to present the dilemmas with which society is faced, the thesis consist of three major parts.

First, the scientific basis of climate change is presented in summary fashion. This includes the fact that such change is not only something facing humanity in the distant future—since it is in fact occurring now—but does stress the fact that such change is self-reinforcing and is expected to accelerate going forward. Particularly relevant to this thesis is one component of the plethora of issues involved, namely, concerns involving water. And the situations considered include both the surfeit and the scarcity of this, by turns, life-sustaining or life-depriving resource.

Next, various societal factors impacting upon water availability and utilization are explored. These include such areas of study as sociology and/or demography, as well as healthy doses of both economics and legal considerations. To state such categorizations so distinctly is not to insinuate that such academic distinctions pertain in actual practice; indeed, as will be seen, such classification schemes are quite often blurred. In fact, the same might often be said for each of the main subdivisions of the thesis. Hard and fast disciplinary lines become indistinct or "fuzzy" both within, and even between, each of the major categories presented.

Third, the last and single largest portion of the thesis is concerned with the moral philosophic implications of everything that has gone before. This is usually considered as ethics, and a number of ethical modes of thinking, both older and modern, are brought to bear as tools or "lenses" with which to sharpen focus upon the issues presented. For example, consideration is given from the perspectives of: utilitarianism/consequentialism; cosmopolitanism or global ethics; and human rights duties or obligations. The argument is that any of these methods of analysis, broadly speaking, lead to the same overall conclusion.

Finally, a proposed implementing mechanism, a policy recommendation, is advanced for near-universal adoption by developed states—and the stark and unavoidable consequences of the failure to do so are squarely presented. Thus, the "human value" addressed here is revealed as patently obvious; it is nothing less than human life, i.e., the very survival of millions of people—the most fundamental human value of all.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: White, Gladys B.
Commitee: Eecke, Wilfried Ver, Reuscher, John A.
School: Georgetown University
Department: Liberal Studies
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 73/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Environmental philosophy, Ethics, Philosophy, Natural Resource Management
Keywords: Climate change, Distributive justice, Economic growth, Resource scarcity, World population
Publication Number: 3493882
ISBN: 978-1-267-14896-4
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