Christopher Stone addresses environmental issues in Convocation

April West

Christopher Stone posed the question “Do we value whales more in the ocean or on a plate?” at Tuesday’s convocation, entitled “Mending the Earth: Ethical Issues in Healing the Global Environment.” Speaking in Memorial Chapel, Stone touched upon overpopulation, deforestation, damage to the oceans, and what can and should be done about these issues.
As a prelude to Stone’s convocation, Lawrence student Jesse Dochnahl performed a modern piece on saxophone and electronics, followed by Dean of the Faculty David Burrows’ introduction of Stone and his various accomplishments.
A law professor at the University of Southern California, Stone is considered to have great influence on contemporary environmental ethics. He is an established author and has worked for a number of governmental agencies. He is a member of the Commission on Environmental Law of the World Conservation Union and serves on the editorial boards of Environmental Ethics, Environmental Conservation, and the Journal of Economics and Development.
Stone began by referencing a paper that had greatly impacted him. The author, a physician, alleged, “the earth has cancer, and that cancer is man.” He stated that humans, as the reigning species on the planet, have to consider how the population expansion occurs at the expense of many other organisms. Some examples of this are soil erosion and overgrazing.
In addressing overpopulation, Stone declared it is not the problem it had previously been assumed to be because production increases proportionally to current population. Increased production, however, creates problems in and of itself, including greenhouse gases and toxic waste. Stone continued by discussing the depletion in ocean biodiversity and the increased number of newly discovered creatures being harmed.
Stone’s answer to these problems is bioremediation: the use of biological agents, such as bacteria or plants, to remove or neutralize contaminants.
Stone’s conclusion emphasized the importance of morals – what humans are obligated, or ought to do. Stone asserted that the problems of today cannot be left for later generations. “Some things we’ve inherited are like family jewels,” he said.

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