The Ethical Relevance of Earth-like Extrasolar Planets

Cockell, Charles S.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 28/3 (2006), pages 303-314

The discovery of Earth-sized extrasolar planets orbiting distant stars will merit an expansion of the sphere of entities worthy of moral consideration. Although it will be a long time, if ever, before humans visit these planets, it is nevertheless worthwhile to develop an environmental ethic that encompasses these planets, as this ethic reflects on our view of life on Earth and elsewhere. A particularly significant case would be a planet that displays spectroscopic signatures of life, although the discovery of many lifeless planets might itself intensify the value of life on Earth. A derivation of Schweitzer’s general principle of “reverence for life” and similar frameworks are appropriate ethics with which to view extrasolar planets. The development of an ethical framework for extrasolar planets might provide a means to fashion a deeper and more effective environmental ethic for Earth’s biosphere.

Extinction, Restoration, Naturalness

Elliot, Robert
Environmental Ethics Vol. 16/2 (1994), pages 135-144

Alastair S. Gunn has argued that it is in principle possible to restore degraded natural environments and to restore their full value, provided that species distinctive to them are extant. I argue, first, that the proviso is unnecessary. More importantly, I claim that full value cannot be restored because restored environments lack the relational property of being naturally evolved. I delineate and explain the structure and detail of the theoretical bases for this claim and show that Gunn’s reflections do not rule out the view that full value cannot be restored.

Refocusing Ecocentrism: De-emphasizing Stability and Defending Wildness

Hettinger, Ned; Throop, Bill
Environmental Ethics Vol. 21/1 (1999), pages 3-21

Traditional ecocentric ethics relies on an ecology that emphasizes the stability and integrity of ecosystems. Numerous ecologists now focus on natural systems that are less clearly characterized by these properties. We use the elimination and restoration of wolves in Yellowstone to illustrate troubles for traditional ecocentric ethics caused by ecological models emphasizing instability in natural systems. We identify several other problems for a stability-integrity based ecocentrism as well. We show how an ecocentric ethic can avoid these difficulties by emphasizing the value of the wildness of natural systems and we defend wildness value from a rising tide of criticisms.

Endangered Species: Costs and Benefits

Pister, Edwin P.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 1/4 (1979), pages 341-352

Biologists are often placed in the difficult position of defending a threatened habitat or animal with vague reasoning and faulty logic simply because they have no better rationale at their immediate disposal. This places them at a distinct disadvantage and literally at the mercy of resource exploiters and their easily assignable dollar values. Although the initial dollar cost of delaying or precluding “development” may be significant, the long-term benefits of saving the biological entities which might otherwise be destroyed are likewise great and are measurable in concrete terms which society is only now beginning to appreciate. Case histories are presented, a more profound rationale is explained, and the environmentalist is challenged to make his case sufficiently effective to reverse the current exploitive trends which threaten so many of Earth’s life forms.

Utilitarianism and Preservation

Katz, Eric
Environmental Ethics Vol. 1/4 (1979), pages 357-364

In “The Concept of the Irreplaceable,” John N. Martin claims that utilitarian arguments can explain the environmentalist position concerning the preservation of natural objects as long as human attitudes toward preservation are considered along with the direct benefits of environmental preservation. But this type of utilitarian justification is biased in favor of the satisfaction of human preferences. No ethical theory which calculates goodness in terms of the amount of human satisfaction can present an adequate justification of environmental preservation. Since human interests must be considered primary, natural objects will only be preserved when their preservation is in accord with human preferences.