Tuesday, 9 September 2008

'Umwelt ethics' - further teaching, and another reference

My 2003 article Umwelt ethics was part of the compulsary literature for the 2005/2006 seminar Seminar zur Geschichte der Biologie: Ethik, Erkenntnis, Naturwissenschaft. Geschichte und post-moderne Rezeption der Umweltkonzeption Jakob von Uexkülls (Torstein Rüting, starting November 1st, 2005) at Universität Hamburg. It now appears that the seminar was repeated in the summer semester of 2006 (seminar starting April 4th, 2006), with an identical reading list.

Furthermore, as I just discovered, Timo Maran, my fellow Tartu semiotician, refers to my article in 'Where do your borders lie? Reflections on the semiotical ethics of nature', which was published (pgs. 455-476) in Nature in Literary and Cultural Studies: Transatlantic Conversations on Ecocriticism (eds. Catrin Gersdorf, Sylvia Mayer - Amsterdam/New York 2006: Rodopi). On pg. 467 (footnote 11), he writes:

"Seeing ourselves as intertwined with our environments, surroundings and contexts by meaning relations should also lead us to consider our fellow humans on the same premisses. As shown by Morten Tønnessen, this in its turn may bring along the need to consider ethically also higher semiotic structures, such as habitats, populations, cultures, with which other subjects are related (Tønnessen 2003: 291-2)."

This is to my knowledge the sixth academic reference to my work (2002x2, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007) - whereof the third to 'Umwelt ethics' (2005, 2006, 2007).

Biosemiotics on Scribd - top 10

A search on 'biosemiotics' at www.scribd.com results in 61 entries. Excluding marginal ones, such as Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology vol 2, and in stead displaying mostly only individual authors, these are the most viewed texts (most of which uploaded less than half a year ago):

1. [Kull] jakob von uexkull biography 431 views
2. [Sharov] The origin of a sign 175 views
3. Introduction To Semiotics - From Signals To Syntax 149 views
4. [Maran] Mimicry, a semiotic understanding of nature 148 views
5. [Kull] physics and semiotics 131 views
6. [Kotov] semiosphere - a chemistry of being 126 views
7. [Kravchenko] Cognitive linguistics, biology of cognition 108 views
8. [Morten Toennessen] Umwelt ethics 81 views
9. [Noth] Ecosemiotics 81 views
10. [Emmeche] A-life, organism and body - the semiotic of emergent properties 77 views

Tartu semioticians (Kull, Maran, Kotov, and me) are doing well, with 5 of the top 10 entries...

A musical note (The Schopenhauer Experience)

At Amplify Music TSE-tunes are ranked at no. 107 (Hey, thou), 108 (Let your spirit talk), 109 (Alene (på en stein i mørket)), 114 and 115 among about 2.000 uploaded songs. Whatever that means (the site appears to be mostly inactive).

At CrapTV, TSE's music video 'The face of love' has been played 322 times (ranks at approximately no. 300 out of 1.000 videoes).

At My Space, TSE-tunes have, all in all, been played 2,479 times (available now: Atomic, Herfra til ingensteder, En knott i havet, Hey thou Tartu remix). Profile displayed 3,659 times.

At NRK Urørt, TSE-tunes have been played 88 times, downloaded 556 times (Wille 279, Noizette 277).

All in all: Some 3-4.000 listenings...

Monday, 1 September 2008

The nature view held by environmentalists

I have submitted an abstract to the 2009 Copenhagen conference (March 10-12) 'Climate change: Global Risks, Challanges and Decisions', entitled 'The nature view held by environmentalists: Attitudes in the Norwegian environmental establishment'.


Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges and Decisions

Copenhagen, March 10-12, 2009


"Culture, Values and World Perspectives as Factors in Responding to Climate Change"

Morten Tønnessen

The nature view held by environmentalists

Attitudes in the Norwegian environmental establishment

The work to be presented is the outcome of a survey of partly qualitative and partly quantitative character, which was carried out in preparation of the debate book Utslippsfrie nye verden? [Pollution-free new world?].

The survey was carried out August-September 2006, with 37 respondents, made up of environmentalists, politicians, scholars and researchers and industry representatives. A total of 200 selected persons were invited to participate, all of them decision makers involved in Norwegian environmental discourse.

The questionnaire included the following open question:

- What do you have in common with all living beings?

- What is an environmental problem?

- For whom are the so-called environmental problems a problem?

- Do potential ‘environmental bombs’, left behind after humankind’s eventual extinction, concern us?

- Can the so-called environmental problems be overcome without changes in fundamental economic, technological and ideological structures?

- For how long can, will, and should the growth economy go on?

- Should the European population in 100 years be higher, lower or equal to that of today?

- To what extent does the Norwegian corporative model (where business interests as well as environmental NGOs have become an integrated part of an extended bureaucracy) make sense?

Two further tasks were of a more statistical nature.

- ranking of various energy sources (including electric power from natural gas and coal, with and without carbon capture and storage (CCS)), according to their environmental friendliness

- attribution of value to ten human/natural entities ranging from ‘individual human beings’ to ‘nature’

The respondents’ ranking of energy sources (according to ‘environmental friendliness’) seems to have reflected historically contingent ideological stands, dating back to major conflict in modern Norwegian environmental debate. One example is hydropower, which is still to some extent controversial. On coal plants and nuclear power, which has not been established in Norway, there is a near-consensus, negatively speaking. Controversies especially surround CCS-supported electric power from natural gas (a more recent, and ongoing strife), which was ranked any place from top to bottom, and appears, comparatively, to be over-rated by some while under-rated by others (in average, such energy ranked at no. 8 out of 15, that is, exactly at the middle of the ranking). While coal-fired electric plants without CCS shared the highest number of bottom-rankings with nuclear power (15 each), solar energy was superior at the top of the scale (with 20 top rankings), ahead of ocean wave energy (8 top rankings).

As for attribution of value, in all categories, more than 9 out of 10 attributed value to all or some entities belonging to all ten categories. Around 9 out of 10 attributed value to ‘all of’ ‘individual human beings’, ‘nature’ and ‘species’. At the other end of the scale, only 6 out of 10 attributed value to all ‘cultural landscapes’. Perhaps most surprisingly, only 7 out of 10 attributed value to all ‘cultures’, while 3 out of 10 attributed value only to ‘some’ cultures. Equivalently high scores for ‘some’ were only found for ‘landscapes’, ‘cultural landscapes’ and ‘individuals of other species’. On this point it was (perhaps surprisingly) more difficult to find patterns related to political/ideological stands, as most respondents were generally eager to attribute value to a whole range of human and natural entities.