“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cultures of Energy Liveblog 8

I'm going to call the court's strategy out-Hume-ing the modern corporation

Judge: because we DON'T know about the heavy ones, that is REASON ENOUGH to know that people may have been endangered

"The lack of regulation does not imply an authorization to dump this substance into the environment"

The substances were known to be hazardous: the director of Texaco collaborated in 1962 study that outlined extreme care in handling hydrocarbons

Need for vigorous defense of human values in face of all providing and threatening science

Risk theory: whoever uses any benefit yielding medium generates social risk and must therefore assume liability

You don't need to determine WHICH element caused harm; the mere existence of harm is enough to establish a causal nexus.

It's an emergent legal logic that recognizes that relying on limited knowledge on hydrocarbons is not the best way to secure care for lifeforms

The 2011 ruling only evokes the precautionary principle: you should take them...

Addressing plausible dangers despite uncertainty
legal causation versus scientific causation

The judgment doesn't fixate on science but rather focused on the extent to which the corporation violated the broader spirit of the law

Scientific knowledge is inherently lacking in closure
indeterminacy, uncertainty, probability >> platform for stakes (actually this is more Kantian-Humean!)

vs corporate risk management logic: trying to establish certainty; to control the capacity to assess and prove a hazard

misleading: "we only know the health effects of some fractions" "far fewer well characterized compounds"
many of the un and understudied hydrocarbons could be deleterious to human health: we just don't know

the toxicological studies of crude are highly circumscribed as Kim Fortun has shown (hi Kim!)
effect of chemical exposure difficult to establish outside the lab

Toxicity is not an inherent thing, but a probability; not just calculated by measuring but must be determined by the production of scientific knowledge
differentially materialized by methods
toxicity and hazards are made to matter through technical and legal work

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