By Camila Thorndike
Lately I have been pondering the significance and utility of reports and plans, as I write one myself as the summer intern with the Oregon Water Trust, a non-profit that uses free-market solutions to increase instream flow. In the small watershed that I am concerned with alone, there are countless assessments and analysis on the state of that environment complete with reasonable suggestions and imperatives regarding some serious environmental problems. I catch myself becoming cynical about such plans and published recommendations given the poor state of the watershed and the few people, albeit hard-working and well-intentioned people, who actually read and try to follow such scientific advice.
The precautionary principle is the Mother Suggestion/Recommendation/Imperative of them all. It is common sense, good logic, and undeniable cause-and-effect rolled into one brilliant idea – if only people would use it! Which brings me to some questions I often ask: is the Achilles Heel of humanity the inability to employ our gift of foresight? We have it, yes, but what circumstances determines our choice to use it? In the example of the suffering watershed, many people who made the original choices that we might now regret (over-channelization of streambeds, for instance) were only doing what they had to do to make a living: farm, feed their families, and live another hard-working day.
Also, the precautionary principle does require substantial EFFORT. So I ask, are people inherently lazy? Democracy too requires constant work and vigilance, which is interesting in the context of the fourth element of the Wingspread statement: “…decisions applying the precautionary principle must be
“open, informed, and democratic” and “must include affected
parties.” …because when we make decisions that are
unresolvable with science, these decisions, by their very
nature, involve ethics and politics” .
So, forget flying – if given a superpower, I would zap key decision-makers (some would say “everyone”) with undeniable foresight, and the heart to choose the outcome with least suffering for mankind and the earth.
Camila is a current student in my class in “worldviews and environmental” values. I hope we can encourage her to check in and let us know how her internship goes.
The Wingspread Statement is here:
You can find much more about the precautionary principle here (especially check out the Precaution Reporter) :