The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
3 Points

Environmental protection should take precedence over resource extraction

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/8/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,494 times Debate No: 43619
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I affirm.
Before reading through my framework and contentions I would like to define some of the key terms in this resolution.
First, Should: implies a moral obligation. Two are in Conflict: a difference that prevents agreement. Prioritize: designate or treat (something) as more important than other things (Oxford Dictionary). Developing Country: a poor agricultural country that is seeking to become more advanced economically and socially (Oxford Dictionary). Resource Extraction: The process or business of extracting ore, minerals, and natural resources from the ground. Environmental Protection: refers to any activity to maintain or restore the quality of environmental media through preventing the emission of pollutants or reducing the presence of polluting substances in environmental media.
The value for the round is morality as implied by the resolution.
First, Decision makers, such as the government, must save the larger group. Rakowski writes:
The core conviction behind the "ends not means" principle is that normal, blameless human beings are equally valuable, autonomous crea"tures who cannot rightly be used as the tools of other people. But this conviction points in two directions in which Costa and others who have trumpeted the principle (or some related distinction between doing and allowing or positive and negative duties) are loath to go. On one side, it presses toward the consequentialist view that individuals' status as moral equals requires that the number of people kept alive be maximized. Only in this way, the thought runs, can we give due weight to the fundamental equality of persons; to allow more deaths when we can ensure fewer is to treat some people as less valuable than others. Further, killing some to save others, or letting some die for that purpose, does not entail that those who are killed or left to their fate are being used merely as means to the well"being of others, as would be true if they were slain or left to drown merely to please people who would live anyway. They do, of course, in some cases serve as means. But they do not act merely as means. Those who die are no less ends than those who live. It is because they are also no more ends than others whose lives are in the balance that an impartial decision maker must choose to save the more numerous group, even if she must kill to do so.
Furthermore Neuro"imaging shows that utilitarianism is the most rational moral theory. Other moral intuitions arise as a result of emotional bias. Greene writes[3]
To summarize, people"s moral judgments appear to be products of at least two different kinds of psychological processes. First, both brain imaging and reaction "time data suggest that there are prepotent negative emotion[s]al responses that drive people to disapprove of the personally harmful actions proposed in cases like the footbridge and crying baby dilemmas. These responses are characteristic of deontology, but not of consequentialism. Second, further brain imaging results suggest that "cognitive" psychological processes can compete with the aforementioned emotional processes, driving people to approve of personally harmful moral violations, primarily when there is a strong consequentialist rationale for doing so, as in the crying baby case. The [active] parts of the brain that exhibit increased activity when people make characteristically consequentialist judgments are those that are most closely associated with higher cognitive functions such as executive control (Koechlin et al., 2003; Miller and Cohen, 2001), complex planning ( Koechlin, Basso, Pietrini, Panzer, & Grafman, 1999), deductive and nductive reasoning (Goel & Dolan, 2004), taking the long view in economic decision making (McClure, Laibson, Loewenstein, & Cohen., 2004), and so on. Moreover, these brain regions are among those most dramatically expanded in humans compared with other primates (Allman, Hakeem, & Watson, 2002).
The value criterion is maximizing life.
The first contention is that not prioritizing environmental protection over resource extraction will lead to environmental damage, which will lead to extinction. BacTech states:
To illustrate the severity and impact of mining on land that is not properly reclamated, there are hundreds of thousands of sites around the world that display unnaturally high levels of toxins, such as arsenic, sulfuric acid, and mercury. Massive contamination from chemicals and compounds used in and extracted via the mining process, as well as water produced from mine drainage, affects every aspect of a surrounding ecosystem, from rivers and creeks to forests and farm lands.
The contamination from the process of resource extraction is harmful to the ecosystem.

The second contention is that not prioritizing environmental protection over resource extraction will lead to violence in developing countries. Downey Bonds and Clark state:
Thus, in addition to developing our theoretical argument, we also demonstrate that an important empirical link exists between natural resource extraction and armed violence. To establish this link, we use a recent National Research Council (NRC; 2008) study to identify 10 minerals that are critical to the functioning of the U.S. economy and/or military (platinum, palladium, rhodium, manganese, indium, niobium, vanadium, titanium, copper, and rare earth elements) and then ask whether the extraction of these minerals has involved the use of armed violence at any point in the past 10 to 15 years. We define armed violence as violence and threatened violence perpetrated by military, police, mercenary, and rebel forces, and thus we investigate violent acts such as military and police forces beating, arresting, or firing weapons at protestors, the use of mercenaries to provide mine security, the forced removal of local populations, and the use of forced labor to carry out resource extraction activities.



I negate.

I Value Life, defined as not only the state of being alive, but also the quality found therein. It is the primary object of any good government to ensure that its citizens are physically safe and have access to basic needs sufficient for them to pursue happiness.

The Criterion that we can look to then is Utility. Whatever action best promotes the value is the action developing nations should take. Prof. Gary Woller explains why an ends-based standard is needed when referencing governmental actors: “Appeals to a priori moral principles…often fail to acknowledge that public policies inevitably entail trade-offs among competing values. Thus since policymakers cannot justify inherent value conflicts to the public in any philosophical sense…the policymakers' duty to the public interest requires them to demonstrate that…their policies are somehow to the overall advantage of society.”

Contention One: Resource extraction is key for poverty reduction.

Sub-point A: Poverty kills millions.

Prof. James Gilligan asserts, “The 14 to 18 million deaths a year caused by [poverty] compare with about 100,000 deaths per year from armed conflict. Comparing this frequency of deaths…to the frequency of those caused by major military and political violence, such as World War II [where] an estimated 49 million military and civilian deaths, including those caused by genocide--or about eight million per year, [occurred]…In other words...every single year, two to three times as many people die from poverty throughout the world as were killed” in WWII.

Sub-point B: Extraction reduces poverty.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports that industries like “mining can contribute to economic development in several ways: …direct investment (DI), employment, government revenues, foreign exchange earnings, innovation and development of related sectors. Minerals’ supply is essential to modern economies and minerals exploitation represents the major part of DI flows in many developing countries, often dwarfing aid flows.” Additionally, The World Bank states, “natural resource extraction is capital-intensive, with annual global investments approaching $1 trillion, hence offering the potential for rapid infrastructure development and structural transformation in developing economies. Riches from the sector promise to be massive, with resource rents…estimated at about $4 trillion annually.” The World Bank, after a meta-analysis of more than 50 nations, concludes that “poorest and least-poor quartiles obtain about 18 percent of their income from [extraction], while middle-income groups obtain more. Across all income quartiles, dependence on resources is much lower in resource-scarce areas than in resource-rich areas.” Thus, downplaying resource extraction would deprive the impoverished with a key source of income.

Contention Two: Resource extraction reduces conflict.

Sub-point A: War is decentivized via extraction policies.

Harvard Hegre of the International Peace Institute holds that “the incentives for states to choose between the trading world and the military-political one change with economic development…development has made the trading world increasingly more attractive to states…development alters four variables that are crucial to the calculations of the leader of a state: it increases the potential gains from trade, the economic costs of war, and the political costs of war, as well as decreasing the utility of occupying territories relative to the pursuit of trade policies.” Prof. Michael Mousseau furthers, asserting, “economic development affects the costs associated with interstate violence. War waged on territory with the vast investments in plants equipment and infrastructure associated with development is apt to be costly in absolute terms, and it is likely to destroy a larger fraction of a state’s productive resources than war fought on less developed territory.”

Sub-point B: Extraction reduces ethnic cleansing.

Michael Armacost of the Brookings Institute claims, “culture wars…are markedly less lethal in prosperous societies than in poor ones. It is easier for rival cultures to share power when they are not competing over basic resources. Economic growth has dampened ethnic violence in places like Quebec and Ireland—just as economic decline has aggravated it in countries like Indonesia and Yugoslavia.” When wealth is abundant, in other words, there is less for groups to clash over, and societies are better able to coexist.



Pro asserts that the term "should" implies a moral obligation. This is clearly incorrect. If I said, "you should take that job--you'll earn more," I am not saying that you have a moral obligation to take the job, I am saying that it is rational/in your best interests to do so. Consequently, "should" expresses desirability.

Pro's only justification for his Value of Morality was that it was implied by "should" in the resolution. Clearly, this is false, and so Pro has no valid reasoning for asserting his value. We can also take out Pro's value because it is vague. Many people have many different ideas about what morality is. The role of the value is to be the ultimate thing achieved in the round; yet, if we don't know what morality is, how can we fairly determine if we have achieved it? Pro asserts that utilitariansim, in a sense, defines morality. Yet, utility's core doctrine is to choose the best option--even if that means doing something vile in the process. The lesser of two evils is still evil, and therefore, utility cannot link to morality.

Prefer my value as it is more easy to evaluate and has a clear justification in-round.

We both agree on a utilitarian framework, even if our value premises differ. My argument is not the utility is the moral option, but rather the pragmatic and rational one. Pro tries to link utility to morality, and, as I pointed out, this approach fails.

As for the Criterion debate, Pro's criterion easily fits into my framework, so there is no clash there.

C1: Environmental Damage

Firstly, it is important to note now that I am not against environmental protections. Merely, I am arguing that resource extraction should be priortized.

Secondly, resource extraction's negative impacts can be minimized: Emily Sinnot states, “Potential environmental impacts can be mitigated, and in some cases avoided, by good project planning and design. Beyond the design stage, measures to minimize environmental impacts can be…reversal of counterproductive policies, incentives and market-based enforcement, and enforcement by civil society and external stakeholders…In recent years, many large mining companies have come to realize that it is in their long-term interests to behave in environmentally (and socially) responsible ways. In Chile…large mining companies voluntarily committed to substantive voluntary environmental agreements. There is also some empirical evidence that this need not negatively impact companies' bottom lines. One study found that top environmental performers among the mining companies worldwide posted returns 60 percent higher over a three year period than those that were classified as poor performers.”

C2: Violence

Pro sources utterly fail to show how much violence occurred. All of Pro's evidence simply explains the methodology of the study, but the quote fails to include the study's results. Without the results, we don't know what the study concluded, and we don't know whether violence actually occurred.

Moreover, if "arrests" count as violence, scores of legitmate arrests and police actions could be erroneously included in the calculations, inflating the results of the study.

Also, cross-apply my C2 here. My cards have fuller analysis of the issue and should be preferred as a consequence.

Finally, even if you accept Pro's argument, he is unable to tell you how many people are impacted by this conflict.


Extraction reduces famine

Consider, the World Bank estimates that every 3.6 seconds someone dies from hunger, and 90% of those going hungry are in Africa, Southeast Asia, and India. According to Indur Goklany, “economic development reduces the level of undernourishment. Cross-country data show that both crop yield and per capita food supply…both increase with income. Crop yields increase because richer countries are better able to afford yield- and productivity-enhancing technologies, such as fertilizers, pesticides, better seeds, and tractors. But even if a country has poor yields or insufficient production, if it is rich it can import its food needs. Hence…the richer the country, the greater its available food supplies.”


  1. Pro offers no evidence of how he can solve for poverty; I do.
  2. Pro offers no evidence of how he can solve for disease; I do.
  3. I can mitigate Pro's C1 impacts.
  4. We don't know how many people are affected by Pro's C2, so we can't give it much weight under a numbers-based evaluative mechanism like utility.
  5. Under a utility-based analysis, I outweigh all of Pro's offense with my Contentions; i.e. I'm benefitting more people.

Thanks! Vote Con!

Debate Round No. 1
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1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Oromagi 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: While Con's arguments were not sufficient to make me change my mind on the subject, there's little doubt Pro was outmatched in this short contest. Pro has the burden & wasted a lot of time on utilitarianism before making two general contentions without much backing. Con absorbed all the utilitarian arguments by endorsement and then knocked out environment, violence args with sensible appeals to feed the people first.