Let’s get serious about (Un)Sustainability (Or is it already too late?)

Rees, William E.
Natural Resources & Environmental Studies Institute Occasional Paper No. 2, March 2008, University of Northern Prince George, B.C., Canada

The Millenium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) issued a “stark warning” to world leaders – indeed, to all of us: “Human activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of the Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted.” In this paper I examine the biological, cultural and biophysical factors that have driven modern society to the point where such “stark warnings” have become necessary. I then show why concepts and policies currently advanced under the rubric of “sustainable development” are so generally ineffective. Finally, consistent with biophysical and human behavioural reality, I outline a minimal set of ecological and socio-political conditions that would have to be met for true sustainability.

Ecofeminism and Wilderness

Gaard, Greta
Environmental Ethics Vol. 19/1 (1997), pages 5-24

I argue that ecofeminism must be concerned with the preservation and expansion of wilderness on the grounds that wilderness is an Other to the Self of Western culture and the master identity and that ecofeminism is concerned with the liberation of all subordinated Others. I suggest replacing the master identity with an ecofeminist ecological self, an identity defined through interdependence with Others, and I argue for the necessity of restoring and valuing human relationships with the Other of wilderness as integral to the construction and maintenance of an ecofeminist ecological self. I conclude that ecofeminists must be concerned with the redefinition, preservation, and expansion of wilderness.

Francis of Assisi and the Diversity of Creation

Hughes, J. Donald
Environmental Ethics Vol. 18/3 (1996), pages 311-320

Francis’ view of nature has been seen as positive in an ecological sense even by those who are for the most part critical of Christianity’s attitude to nature, such as Lynn White, Jr. I argue that one element of Francis’ uniqueness was that he saw the diversity of life as an expression of God’s creativity and benevolence and attempted to carry out that vision in ethical behavior. Much of what has been written about him has precedents in traditional hagiography, but there remains an unmistakable impression of originality. It has been noted that Francis insisted on the goodness of creation, used terms of family relationship to refer to creatures other than human, and preached to them. However, another element has escaped notice: his emphasis on the presence of God in the diversity of created entities and his desire that humans should rejoice in this diversity and glorify God for it and with it. His devotion did not immediately dissolve multiplicity into oneness, but glorified God in each created being and delighted in their individuality. He advocated that praise be expressed by acting in ways consistent with respect for created diversity, not only by observing a strict rule of abstaining from harm to living beings, but also in positive treatment of all creatures. Nature took its meaning not from its serviceability to mankind, but from its expression of the multiple forms of God’s benevolent presence.

From Biocentric Individualism to Biocentric Pluralism

Sterba, James P.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 17/2 (1995), pages 191-207

Drawing on and inspired by Paul Taylor’s Respect for Nature, I develop a view which I call “biocentric pluralism,” which, I claim, avoids the major criticisms that have been directed at Taylor’s account. In addition, I show that biocentric pluralism has certain advantages over biocentric utilitarianism (VanDeVeer) and concentric circle theories (Wenz and Callicott).

Contextualism and Norton’s Convergence Hypothesis

Steverson, Brian K.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 17/2 (1995), pages 135-150

Toward Unity among Environmentalists is Bryan Norton’s most developed effort to surmount the frequently intractable debate between anthropocentrists and nonanthropocentrists. Norton argues that the basic axiological differences between the two positions have become irrelevant at the level of policy formation. His thesis is that the two camps converge when dealing with practical goals and aims for environmental management. I argue that Norton’s approach falls significantly short of establishing such a convergence because of the overall methodological framework for policy formation that he defends. The key problem with that framework is that it fails to provide for the degree of species protection most suitable to the nonanthropocentrist position.