May 4, 2008

Can Mineral Rights Be Far Behind? [Dan Collins]

For the minerals, not the miners. Glenn Reynolds points out this Weekly Standard article by Wesley J. Smith on plants rights:

You just knew it was coming: At the request of the Swiss government, an ethics panel has weighed in on the “dignity” of plants and opined that the arbitrary killing of flora is morally wrong. This is no hoax. The concept of what could be called “plant rights” is being seriously debated.

A few years ago the Swiss added to their national constitution a provision requiring “account to be taken of the dignity of creation when handling animals, plants and other organisms.” No one knew exactly what it meant, so they asked the Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology to figure it out. The resulting report, “The Dignity of Living Beings with Regard to Plants,” is enough to short circuit the brain.

Reminiscent of Keats’s lines from To Autumn:

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; 15
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers

is this passage:

The committee offered this illustration: A farmer mows his field (apparently an acceptable action, perhaps because the hay is intended to feed the farmer’s herd–the report doesn’t say). But then, while walking home, he casually “decapitates” some wildflowers with his scythe. The panel decries this act as immoral, though its members can’t agree why.

But check out Reynolds for the video antidote to this madness, as well.

Posted by Dan Collins @ 7:02am

Comments (27)

  1. “account to be taken of the dignity of creation…”

    Sheesh, you’re gonna attract Nishi, with more rants about the audacity of believing that sanctimonious garbage concerning the possibility of a ‘creator’, when we all should be concerned with is where the next stem cell line comes from.

    Here, throw her one of these


  3. Because of the Chipped Rockracy!

  4. Can we abort seedlings before a certain point of maturity? Or is it up to mother earth? And if so, is there money to be made?

  5. could zero population growth of say Trillium, for instance, be far behind?

  6. I liked this comment in Volokh by Sal(?):
    I’m confused. Even as a pretty hardcore conservative, isn’t it just true — as in, beyond debate — that the senseless destruction of beautiful things (including flowers) is morally wrong? They may be crazy for saying it’s morally wrong because the plant has independent dignity, but the conclusion is absolutely correct. (The question is whether pulling up ugly weeds violates their rule. If so, then they diverge from good sense. But the fact that they chose wildflowers shows that they’re just articulating a fundamental truth in a mistaken way.)

    I’m always struck by anti-liberals — a subset of conservatives — who love to say things like it doesn’t matter if whales get wiped out or if our great forests were replaced by Walmarts. The fact is that the beauty of the world is largely often irreplaceable and is either a gift to man from Heaven or the particularly pleasing environment to which we are evolutionarily attuned (perhaps both?). As silly as liberals can be in articulating the reasons for preserving that beauty, they’re often inadvertently correct in their conclusions.

  7. It was satire, right? Tell me the Onion was involved, please?

  8. Hmmmmm.

    “Dear Swiss government. I have currently in my backyard several examples of extremely helpless dandelions. If I am not paid $10,000 USD immediately in small unmarked bills I will decapitate them, one per day, over the course of the next couple weeks. I will of course mail you the bleeding stalk for verification.

    These tragic, and entirely unnecessary, vegetable deaths can be avoided by prompt payment. But if that payment is neither forthcoming nor prompt, then these horrific deaths are on your soul.”

  9. Hmmmm.

    So. Let me get this straight.

    They think “decapitating wildflowers” is bad.

    They also think aborting helpless fetuses is ok.

    Ok I got nothing. Way to illogical for me.

  10. SAVE THE BALES !!!

  11. Even as a pretty hardcore conservative, isn’t it just true — as in, beyond debate — that the senseless destruction of beautiful things (including flowers) is morally wrong?

    Keep your morality off my scythe. Or it’s gonna get cut.

  12. Sashal, I suppose we should excuse you on grounds of cultural collision, but you are missing something the homegrown have no excuse for.

    There exists — or used to; I haven’t looked them up recently — something calling itself the “Pave the Earth Foundation”. (So far as I know it never had recognized legal existence, and is very likely a single individual.) Its slogan is, “One People, One World, One Giant Parking Lot.” It sold a T-shirt depicting the Western Hemisphere with the continents rendered in the smooth flat black of fresh asphalt, with a dashed white line curving gracefully from Hudson’s Bay to Tierra del Fuego. What can we say about somebody who took that seriously, and began agitating for fines and jail time for anyone propagating the notion? “Intelligent” and “nuanced” are not the first words that spring to mind…

    Hyperbolic satire has a long tradition in Western, especially English, culture and letters. It appears to be dying out, and this Swiss action is an example of why. Have you ever encountered many Swiss? The caricature is of Germans with no sense of humor, and that comes closer than most stereotypes to absolute truth. It is easy to visualize the deliberations of the committee, carried out with the utmost gravitas and solemn care to insure that the Rules of Order were scrupulously ahered to; dissenters, if any, would have been greeted by solemn expressions of disappointment — die gultig Herr is not taking the matter seriously. The fact that a truly serious attitude toward the proposal would be expressed in white greasepaint and the flapping of pig bladders is beside the point.

    We still occasionally try. Here at PW it tends to be a bit subtle; for a better introduction to the genre, consult Ace of Spades HQ, where they tend to a broader and less nuanced approach, or Iowahawk, who works in an extended form reminiscent of Jonathan Swift (whom you should also consult.) But how the Hell do you parody people who argue for the rights of vegetables with perfect seriousness? How long before one of them starts arguing that DDT should continue to be banned on the ground that it’s unfair to the anopholes mosquito? How do you satirize self-satire?


  13. Having lived there for two years, I can tell you the Swiss do their darnedest to avoid moving lawns. If possible, they’ll lease out their lawns to a shepherd and let the lambs graze. And boy to they get uptight if your dog craps on their even if it looks like an empty lot full of weeds. Yes, the Swiss are weird but I do miss the place sometimes. It is quite beautiful there.

  14. I have hay fever. Fuck a bunch of flowers.

  15. how the Hell do you parody people who argue for the rights of vegetables with perfect seriousness?

    Eat me.

  16. I just don’t think I can recall any conservative – except, perhaps myself – who has ever advocated wiping out whales or paving the continent.

    There does exist however, what is known in America as a “sense of humor”

    More than once, I have had a bumper sticker on my car that said “Nuke The Whales”. However, only a six year old could possibly take it seriously.

    My new bumper sticker says: “Jesus is coming! Look busy”. Who in their right mind could think that was serious?

    And by the way. I would feel bad about needlessly cutting down a living tree, but not for the tree’s “sense of dignity”. It would be for my own.

    It just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?

  17. There is a solution to conservatives like Sashal’s commenter that think that nature has value… pay for it. In fact, that’s the way things work right here in the US right now. If you want a house with a view of woods and streams and other natural stuff, you pay extra for it. The fact that many Americans aren’t willing to pay for it is an indicator that the increase in price for that extra large lot with trees isn’t worth it.

    The important question comes when the choice is between species, even beautiful ones, and millions of human lives. If the debate was explicitly between saving the unborn baby whales and saving a million starving people in Africa, that’s when you get the real important debate that the political environmentalists don’t want to have, especially because these things aren’t absolute knowns. Is a 25% increase in the mortality rate of the bald eagle worth one million cases of malaria a year?. 10% increase? 1% increase?

  18. if it saves just one… erm… child-stalk of a plant or something, then i think it makes sense to enforce safety-belt legislation in their transport. it’s for the child-plant-dignity-anime-thingy-spirit.

  19. Sounds like they got a hold of Roald Dahl’s Sound Machine.

  20. Pave the Whales?

  21. Cauliflower:

    I don’t like you that way.

  22. “Horta feels pain,”

  23. You just knew this was coming.

  24. I used to riff on similar stuff as this to militant veggies giving me guff about being a carnivore: “Oh yeah? Well I don’t rip the sex organs from living things and eat them raw, you barbarian!” Never thought folks would take it serious.

  25. In all fairness to the Swiss, it was Justice Douglas, after all, who proposed allowing standing — the judicial concept comprising the right of legal presence for the purpose of litigation — to a tree (or a forest, presumably, for class action purposes) in order to advance environmental protection causes. The Reaper’s scythe may not have swung any too early in his case.

  26. Oh, and #16: I suggest they wouldn’t accept that as parody … though they might consider it as an invitation.

  27. Dear Sir,

    We at the Virii Liberation Front would like to protest these upstart vegetables usurping our acronym without so much as a by-your-leave. We demand that they change their organisation’s name to “Popular Front for the Liberation of Vegetables” at once!

    Yours, etc.