Friday, June 29, 2012

Transitory Places, part 1

Transitory Places

Very briefly, an experiential approach to ethics takes the project as its basic unit of analysis, considering what it is like to choose and pursue a project, and how people, alone and together, actually deliberate about whether a project is worth pursuing. By project I mean nothing more than a course of action aimed at a particular goal. Projects may run the gamut from the small, short-term, individual projects, like driving a mile to buy a cup of coffee, to large, long-term, group projects, like passing a vibrant culture on to the future. (Kirkman, 2010, p. 10).

All manner of normative questions may be asked about a given project, concerning its ends, its means, and even the manner in which it was chosen.  A variety of ethical frameworks may be brought to bear both in choosing a project and in evaluating its progress and its results, encompassing virtues, values, and obligations.

Projects do not take place in a vacuum, of course. In pursuing a project, a human agent is always interacting not only with other people but with a particular place, which presents itself as an array of opportunities for and constraints upon choice and action (see Kirkman, 2010, pp. 35-36).  Place, in this sense, is relative to the project, so that the meaning of any particular object – and its value – will shift as one project gives way to another (Kirkman, 2005, p. 44). 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Transitory Places: Introduction

My paper on the Karori Sanctuary has at last seen the light of day, in The Journal of Environmental Philosophy. Since the journal has a small circulation, the editors have encouraged contributors to share our papers more widely.

Below and in the subsequent three posts I offer the final typescript version of the paper, beginning here with the introduction.

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Sic transit gloria mundi

“Thus passes the glory of the world.”

The phrase stole into my thoughts as I took my last walk through the Karori Sanctuary in Wellington, New Zealand, in early 2010, just before I returned home to Atlanta.  Even at the time, it struck me as an odd thing to be thinking, in that context. Nestled in a steep-sided valley only a few kilometers from the central business district, lush with vegetation and teeming with bird life, the sanctuary is, to all appearances, doing very well. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Note from Maumee: More of the Same

In the Preface of the book, I gave an account of a formative experience of change in the built environment focusing on a triangular field adjacent to the elementary school I attended. Because of a slow down in the housing market, the landscape was for a time frozen in the transition from agricultural production to suburban subdivision. It was, for a brief time, on its way to becoming a meadow that could support what seemed to me a surprising diversity of bird life.

That field was a short walk from the house in which I grew up.

My parents have moved twice since then, most recently to a new condo development in unincorporated Monclova Township, just outside Maumee. When I first visited them here, just over a decade ago, I heard a rumbling out back, some time after sundown. When I looked out the back window, I was surprised to see the words "John Deere" pass by, just a few yards away. The field behind my parents' place was then still in cultivation.

Since then, the same developer who built my parents' place has been at work preparing the surrounding fields for further construction but, as with the triangular field of my youth, the housing market has soured and the pace of development has slowed to a crawl. Once again, a landscape is stuck in transition from one state to another, and so is taking the opportunity to become something else entirely.