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Good Reads: ugly oil harvests; dueling environmentalists; and morality in animals

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Many environmentalists strongly oppose genetically modified crops, nuclear power, and shale gas development (so-called fracking) but can’t show solid science to back up their opposition, says Mr. Pearce in an essay at Yale Environment 360, a publication of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. “[T]he voices of those with genuine environmental credentials, but who take a different view [on these issues], are being drowned out by sometimes abusive and irrational argument,” he says.

“[T]he environmental movement has done more harm with its opposition to genetic engineering than any other thing we’ve been wrong about,” he quotes Stewart Brand as saying. While many people have a visceral fear of invisible nuclear radiation, nuclear power has a better safety record than many think. Fracking to release natural gas presents significant environmental hazards, but it is far preferable to burning coal, Pearce says, and natural gas can serve as a valuable bridge until the use of alternative fuels can be ramped up.

Kindness found in creatures
Animal lovers have no trouble attributing acts of kindness, selflessness, or compassion to nonhumans. But scientists and philosophers have been skeptical, worrying that these attitudes are one example of “anthropomorphism,” attributing human characteristics to animals or inanimate things.

In an essay titled “The kindness of beasts” in Aeon, a digital magazine of ideas and culture, Mark Rowlands, a professor of philosophy at the University of Miami says, “A growing number of animal scientists, however, are going over to the dark side, and at least flirting with the idea that animals can act morally.”

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