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Resolved: Developing countries should prioritize environmental protection over resource extraction when the two are in conflict.
The 2013 January/February resolution also acts as the Tournament of Champions topic so it entails a longer period of debate. I noticed as a competitor that longer debates mean that Aff cases I could win with in January were different than those that I could win with in April. This fact personally altered the types of strategies I would be inclined to run during the totality of the Jan/Feb topic. Personally, I would save the positions that I thought were the most strategic for the TOC, and engage on more topical debates during Jan/Feb tournaments to have a refined understanding of the best stock arguments. My topic analysis will, thus, explore dual-interpretations of the topic: â€œdeveloping countries should prioritize environmental protection over resource extraction when the two conflict,â€ as some interpretations will be best suited for stock topical debate, while others may be appropriate in isolated strategic circumstances.
Basic structural features about phrases in the resolution make this topic good for debaters who want to run unique interpretations in rounds. I never debated a topic that used the word â€œshould,â€ so that initially stuck out to me after a first reading of the topic. â€œShouldâ€ functions as the evaluative term for this resolution. Evaluative terms are verbs that generate the source of burdens for both debaters. Typically, at least in the days of my debate career, resolutions used words or phrases like: ought, ought not, justified, unjustified, is permissible, is not permissible. Never have I ever seen a topic use the word â€œshouldâ€; so, to be honest, I initially laughed at the resolution thinking about the new ways debaters can spin the evaluative term â€œshouldâ€ to alter traditional affirmative and negative burdens. Minimally, debaters need to be prepared to precisely define â€œshouldâ€ to offset their opponentâ€™s definition.
On a more general note, however, the resolution seems extremely broadâ€”another reason why interpretative issues will remain highly important. The resolution gives us the terms, â€œenvironmental protection,â€ and â€œresource extraction.â€ The vagueness of protection and extraction means that the resolution does not have many natural topical limits. There are infinite policies that states can justify in the name of environmental protection or resource extraction; this resolution uniquely allows debaters to employ radically distinct ground under topical interpretations of these terms as they seek fit. In this way, the core substance of the resolution is itself up for debateâ€”in thinking about the topic then, debaters should feel prepared to discuss, research, and investigate a plethora of different types of examples of protecting the environment and extracting resources. Indeed, the vagueness of these terms should force debaters to think about crafting uniquely strategic cases that get out of traditional pitfalls that stock debate entails for their respective side.
Finally, the phrase â€œwhen the two conflictâ€ confuses me for multiple reasons, and Iâ€™m sure will provide for non-clashing debates. The resolution employs two conceivable plural subjects, first a plural subject â€œdeveloping countriesâ€ and a double comparison between â€œenvironmental protectionâ€ and â€œresource extraction.â€ As such, the pronoun â€œtwoâ€ at the end of the resolution, in the phrase â€œwhen the two conflictâ€ becomes unclearâ€”what exactly is the conflict of the resolution? Is the conflict between two developing countries, or is it a general conflict between environment and economy? There are multiple different types of cases that different interpretations of the phrase â€œwhen the two conflictâ€ can bring about. As such, debaters must take the time to carefully choose interpretations of the NFLâ€™s 2013 Jan/Feb resolution.
Developing Countries: This term will be the source of many T and kritikal positions. Negs will run topicality based upon what particular conception of developing countries the Aff chooses to defend in round. There are multiple interpretations of â€œdeveloping countries.â€ On the one hand, developing countries are states that are developing, so the resolution may be a question about the obligations of all states in the world. In topic literature however, the term of art â€œdeveloping countriesâ€ seems to be exclusive of developed countries, in which the modifier â€œdevelopingâ€ carries the connotation of that the country is â€œless-developed.â€ Under such an interpretation, the Aff would defend the resolution as a question only about third world nations. In this sense, topicality can inevitably be run on which of the two interpretations of â€œdeveloping countriesâ€ the Aff chooses to defend. More importantly, the latter interpretation of â€œdeveloping countries,â€ which paints these countries as having lesser or worse off living standards than first world countries, seems to open up good kritikal and possibly even pre-fiat ground for negatives to criticize affirmativeâ€™s discourse. To compensate, many Affs will specify a group of countries internationally recognized as and considered to be developing. Specification of particular developing countries will be very common for the duration of the topic so debaters should feel the need to explore countries they are interested in and think about unique cases for those countries. The most substantively engaging positions will be ones that are the most in-depth and use great empirical evidence.
My favorite thing about the new resolution is the use of a new evaluative term, should. This topic forces debaters to come up with new round-applicable interpretations of the word â€œshould.â€ â€œShouldâ€ implies there is reason that motivates action. The substance of the reason that motivates action is not a specified condition of the word should. In this sense, â€œshouldâ€ differs from words like ought, because ought seems to imply a moral obligation so fuels the normativity of morality in debate rounds. Should does not seem to imply morality. This leaves the gaping question, what type of reason is sufficient to argue for the prioritization of environmental protection over resource extraction? Because of this, I think this topic uniquely encourages debaters to investigate different political theories that motivate state action. Arguments about the cosmopolitan, realist, or moral nature of the state should be clarified or defended in frameworks of affirmative cases, otherwise I think debates may lack clash. Additionally, I think both sides can make new types of permissibility arguments regarding the nature of should, and, as such, new clash over permissibility will exist on this topic. Debaters should challenge themselves to think of warrants for permissibility for each side based off the word should, and be prepared to defend against converse interpretations.
On a different note, â€œshouldâ€ seems to imply a very straight forward efficacy-based interpretation of the resolution, so â€œshouldâ€ can be argued to wholly justify a comparative worlds util-based policy approach to adjudicating rounds. I suspect this will motivate a great majority of debaters to run plans.
Prioritize is one of the more straight-forward terms in the resolution as it seems to imply the aff must show environmental protection should come before issues of resource extraction when the two conflict. But, debaters can always find a way to problematize even the seemingly most innocuous word like prioritize. Affirmatives must be careful to watch for negative debaters who try to argue the resolution is false based upon a nuance in the meaning of the word prioritize.
Environmental Protection is officially defined by the Organisation for Economic co-Operation and Development:
â€œEnvironmental 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. It may consist of: (a) changes in characteristics of goods and services, ( changes in consumption patterns, © changes in production techniques, (d) treatment or disposal of residuals in separate environmental protection facilities, (e) recycling, and (f) prevention of degradation of the landscape and ecosystems.â€
The vast number of actions that qualify as â€œEnvironmental Protectionâ€ means the affirmative likely has a lot of ground to cover and should pick a policy that appeals to them. Alternatively, the resolution may be interpreted as a more general question, in which the principle of protecting the environment is the source of affirmative ground. In such a case, specification would be unnecessary as the resolution would be a more abstract question.
On a different level, â€œenvironmental protectionâ€ is vague, which leads me to ask myself a few questions. Does the Aff assume solvency for environmental protection? Can the Neg win by proving that environmental protection is impossible? Conversely, does the Aff win merely by proving they help the environment? Although some will probably try to argue such positions are sufficient, logically, I think they are not due to the word â€œover.â€
Over implies the Aff has the burden to prove environmental protection must specifically be prioritized above resource extraction. As such, does this mean the Aff must not only prove that they can protect the environment and that protecting the environment is good, but also that resource extraction is bad? This seems to imply a rather large burden of proof for affirmatives, something strategic negative debaters should strive to exploit.
Resource extraction is convoluted because there are questions of what counts as a resource, who is extracting the resources in the resolution, and if such resource extraction is the cause to environmental degradation claims that Affs will be making. I think that negatives should invest in specific examples, or counter plans, that defend a specific resource extraction. The ambiguity over resource extraction means that the Neg will likely be able to choose from multiple types of counter plans, ranging from actor CPs, advantage CPs, PICs, to normal CPs arguing for a specified implementation of resource extraction against environmental protection policies. Potential problems for specification arise out of concerns that the Negâ€™s counterplan need be specific to the environmental problem that the Aff specifies; debaters must be prepared to theoretically defend the interpretation they deem best.
â€œWhen the two conflict,â€ is a phrase that the framers of the resolution use to purposefully instill clash in rounds between the principles of environmental protection and resource extraction. The problem however, is this might give the Aff a burden to prove that there exists a specific conflict between environmental protection and resource extraction. In other words, can the negative win by proving resource extraction and environmental protection do not conflict? In my mind, the framerâ€™s include the phrase â€œwhen the two conflictâ€ to prohibit negatives from winning rounds in this way. Notice, this has larger strategic implications for negative counterplans since affirmatives can argue that the phrase â€œwhen the two conflictâ€ refers to counterplans that solve for environmental protection harms being unfair. Minimally, I think the phrase â€œwhen the two conflictâ€ has the potential for breeding frivolous apriori and T debates based upon the words â€œtwoâ€ and â€œconflict.â€
A) Debatable Interpretations of the phrase: â€œdeveloping countries should prioritize environmental protection over resource extraction when the two conflict.â€ Thinking about putting together the key terms to form a single coherent interpretation of the resolution is daunting, but reasonable, debatable interpretations of this resolution will resemble:
1. Benefits of environmental protection outweigh those of resource extraction when the two conflict, so affirm.
2. Two developing countries are conflicting over a specific environment-resource issue, and environment should come first.
3. As a global community, all developing countries have obligations to prioritize environmental protection.
This third interpretation gives rise to positions about environmental obligations, what will function as the source of vast Affirmative topic literature. Indeed, arguments about the existence of moral obligations against resource extraction will make up a great basis of affirmative philosophical ground. Negatives will strive to provide reasoning why resource extraction is normatively good for the state. As such, the clash of the substantive debate is very predictable.
Good Empirics. Debaters will want to defend empirical scenarios that they find interesting. Boring, antiquated policy DAâ€™s about environmental disasters in the nineties will be accounted for on this topic. As such, debaters will need to cut new empirics about environmental disasters, extinction, and diseases. Much like with the Nuclear Weapons topic, when debate about nuclear extinction became more contested, typical extinction scenarios were prepared for, so new environmental extinction scenarios ought to be justified with empirics from the status quo.
C) Negativeâ€™s and T. This resolution will have tons of Topicality issues. The Neg will most likely be able to garner violations from any term in the resolution which presents a challenge to Aff debaters. Aff debaters should think about embedding their own affirmative cases with offensive theory. Negatives could possibly violate the offensive theory that Affs lay out in the constructive structurally offsetting Negative advantages on the T debate. Offensive theory for the Aff can speak to anything from specifying which types of Neg counterplans are unfair to limiting the type of ground resource extraction that the Neg can access. Having embedded theory in the constructive will allow debaters to combat negatives reading a lot of theory in the 1NC by garnering new offensive theory violations in the 1AR.
Beyond interpretational issues remains the substance of the topical debate: whether developing countries should choose to protect their environment rather than extract resources.
Util AC. The most stock approach to this resolution on the Aff will be arguments that trace the route of all bad impacts back to environmental degradation in an effort to argue environmental protection must be prioritized over resource extraction. For these affirmatives to be topical however, this Aff case will need to speak to a few justificatory steps. First, any affirmative case that wants to win off of environmental destruction being bad must win inherency evidence and reasoning why there is a current crisis in the status quo that can be solved. Second, for this scenario to be topical, the Aff must show that a source of environmental degradation conflicts with resource extraction. The big question for the Aff is whether the Aff has to prove resource extraction always upsets the environment or just sometimes. Util affirmatives would be more strategic if they defined a particular form of environmental protection that is uniquely beneficial. This will allow the Aff to wield highly specific evidence about an environmental disaster resulting directly from resource extraction to strategically prevent the Neg from garnering benefits from resource extraction.
As the topic expands, there will be a myriad of different util plans that affirmatives run. Affirmative debaters should stay open-minded about the plan they run and should feel free to explore different types of positions. This topic lends itself to very interesting ground and has few limits so debaters should feel comfortable pushing their research limits to try to find a position no one on the circuit has heard. At the TOC, some of the best cases are plans that are new positions that other people have not heard before so are ill-prepared for. This means one thought debaters should have in their head when researching for the plan-util debate is how predictable their plan is, and if there are ways to make the plan more strategic.
On the contention level, Aff cases should focus on rigorous impact scenarios explaining that environmental degradation may reach the point of no return so there exists a status-quo obligation to deprioritize resource extraction. Evidence that speaks to this question will definitely make these cases more strategic. Debaters running this case need to be prepared to compare impacts of environmental degradation to the multi-billion dollar benefits derived from resource extraction. Comparison may come in the form of weighing impacts but alternatively, and more strategically, ought to come from an interpretation of what impacts are most important under util, IE what truly makes us most happy. Such a framework move can help affirmatives when wading between arguments in the 1AR.
Deontology AC. This affirmative position will argue the principle of preserving the environment for people to be treated as ends in themselves deontologically justifies developing states prioritizing environmental protection over resource extraction. This AC will most likely have Kantian based framework, but could also be combined with cosmopolitan-esque arguments to justify unique obligations between preserving land and humanityâ€™s unconditional end status.
The framework for this case must begin with an interpretation of what type of reason is sufficient to justify why developing countries should do something. Practical reason surely could be used as a meta-ethical warrant for why the standard must be deontological. The Aff would then need to provide links between deontology and practical reason. From there, this Aff could argue that the state has unique obligations as a political actor, and that global obligations create particular cosmopolitan duties. These arguments are not necessary for this framework to function, but could add critical strategic value in preempting likely Neg self-interest frameworks.
Once the Aff justifies a deontological standard, there exists a plethora of substantive contention level arguments that the Aff can explore as to why environmental protection ought to be prioritized above resource degradation. Affs can argue that the environment is the source in which humanityâ€™s existence lies, so is the ground for people to actualize practical reason. This would likely provide moral obligations for the government to protect the environment as a basis for its constituentâ€™s ability to reason and be valued as ends. An alternative form of offense to a deontology standard on this topic can be found through deontic criticism of self-interest, and resulting prohibition of resource extraction.
International Contracts AC. A third type of affirmative position will be an AC about international contracts that developing countries agree to speaking in favor of prioritizing environmental protection over resource extraction. UN agreements as well as multiple International Environmental Agreements (IEA) would be the source of sufficient Aff ground. Interestingly though, this Aff need not take the framework of a typical legal-contract affirmative.
There are two main routes of constructing a strategic contract-affirmative on this topic. Both lend themselves to different types of debate as one will embrace a legal (or possibly skeptical) form of obligation, and the other will most likely be utilitarian and resemble a plan-like Aff. Both have unique strategic upshots. The legal contracts standard will trace reasons why developing countries have legal obligation to follow contractual agreements. These arguments can be derived from the nature of states identity as legal actors, or morally from the nature of following promises and agreements. This Aff can justify a framework of following international contracts by simply adopting a standard of following international contracts. This standard can appeal to states having the utmost obligation to follow international contracts from multiple normative perspectives beyond legal issues. For example, the affirmative can push the terrible political impacts that states experience from not following international contracts. A standard justifying international law from a utilitarian or ends-based perspective can allow this AC to be run in plan-like fashion.
The contention level consists of reading a few international contracts that developing countries agree to which speak in favor of prioritizing policies of environmental protection. A more strategic contention level argument in my eyes would explore the specific agreements that developing countries have in the status quo and why those international agreements are necessary to procure long-term prosperity in the region. Lots of topic literature about developing countries speaks to the multilateral conditions imposed on countries from environmental degradation. Harms from the environment transcend boundaries, so if the cause of environmental damage is in one country, it may affect others around it. This provides countries with reasons to adopt agreements through international contracts with other countries to prioritize the protection of the environment. For this reason, international contract ACâ€™s are extremely topical and interestingly substantive on this resolution.
Realism NC. The most obvious negative position is a realism Neg. The Neg justifies a standard of self-interest to logically argue that developing countries should prioritize resource extraction. This Neg would be strategic because it could probably be very short, and would likely clash with the Affâ€™s standard very well.
Realism Negs can be framed as amoral, so would allow negatives to possibly employ skepticism against Aff standards. Beyond that, however, realism will likely conflict with most affirmatives that describe universal or external obligations on states to prioritize the environment. Realism explains that states act in self-interest so are not concerned with global problems.
Contention level arguments will be related to the nature of the resolution. Simply, resource extraction benefits self-interest more than environmental protection. The Neg can explain that the principles of resource extraction align strongly with those of realism, so states should not prioritize environmental protection. Realism argues that states should be allowed to do whatever they want in their borders, and so strongly justifies developing countries extracting resources within their sovereign boundaries. But, negatives may also want to have impact scenarios that demonstrate the benefits to self-interest from empirical resource extraction scenarios to combat affirmative arguments of environmental harm. Note that to prevent a normal util debate, this realism NC ought to be constructed in a more philosophical lens.
Resource Extraction CP. A different negative approach to the resolution will be a type of counter plan that specifies a scenario of resource extraction that is justified in a policy-making context. The way this NC becomes strategic is not necessarily based in its end-based impacts, but rather on advantage-solving structure. Thus, the most strategic counterplan on this topic is one that extracts natural resources to solve environmental problems, and then additionally accrues other benefits. There are overall strategic questions of whether the Neg is burdened to show that the CP has additional advantage beyond environmental solution. Can the Neg win by merely proving that resource extraction is necessary for and solves environmental protection? I think negatives certainly may want to make this claim.
Kritique of Developing Countries. Another strategic negative position that will most likely garner strong violations every round is a criticism of the affirmativeâ€™s focus on developing countries. When affirming, debaters are tied to the rhetoric of the resolution. The term â€œDeveloping Countriesâ€ historically attaches itself to the recognition of an inferior class of people so has colonially oppressive and racist content latent within it. As such, negative debaters will likely be able to garner criticism related to the dehumanizing discursive effect of labeling people and countries as developing.
This K is strategic in a few different ways, starting from the standard it should function under. The standard of the K could be a standard for judging appropriate discourse. The Neg would begin by explaining the normative importance of discourse. Then, they would derive a specific framework for analyzing discourse as appropriate or not. This framework would explain why the rhetoric that the Aff embraces is discursively oppressive and harmful, so ought to be voted down. In this way, the K would inherently function pre-fiat, so before the post-fiat arguments of the affirmative. Thus, on a structural level, a Neg K run on the Aff about their harmful discourse would allow the Neg to strategically function on a level higher than the AC.
Good luck in the coming months!
About Michael Fried
Michael Fried attended and competed for University School of Nova Southeastern University and graduated in May, 2012. He competed in LD Debate throughout his entire four years of high school. He qualified to the Tournament of Champions three times, reaching Semifinals as a Junior and Octos as a Senior. He won Apple Valley, the Crestian Classic, the Florida State Championship (twice), the Dowling Invitational, and The Dowling and Harvard Round Robins. In addition, he was a finalist at the Greenhill Invitational and reached late outrounds at the Glenbrooks, Emory, Blake, Valley, Harvard, and the Bronx Invitational. In total he amassed 14 TOC bids. This past year, he coached the 5th ever Freshman to qualify to the Tournament of Champions and a student to the Finals of the Emory Tournament. Michael is currently a sophomore at UC Berkeley.
Be sure to download Champion Briefs' March/April Lincoln-Douglas Brief for more analysis, tons of evidence, and more tools to help make you a Champion! https://championbriefs.com/store/janfeb2014ld