The Relevance of Environmental Ethical Theories for Policy Making

Stenmark, Mikael
Environmental Ethics Vol. 24/2 (2002), pages 135-148

I address the issue of whether differences in ethical theory have any relevance for the practical issues of environmental management and policy making. Norton’s answer, expressed as a convergence hypothesis, is that environmentalists are evolving toward a consensus in policy even though they remain divided regarding basic values. I suggest that there are good reasons for rejecting Norton’s position. I elaborate on these reasons, first, by distinguishing between different forms of anthropocentrism and nonanthropocentrism, second, by contrasting the different goals that anthropocentrists, biocentrists, and ecocentrists set up for environmental policy making, and, lastly, by identifying three important policy areas (population growth, wilderness preservation, and wildlife management) where differences in basic values generate divergent policies.

Rethinking Communities: Environmental Ethics in an Urbanized World

Gunn, Alastair S.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 20/4 (1998), pages 341-360

Humans have largely transformed the natural environment and there is scarcely an area of the world which has not been affected by human activity. Human domination of the environment, in particular by the creation of infrastructure, urbanization, and conversion to agriculture, has mostly proceeded in an unplanned and frequently destructive manner. Almost fifty percent of humans already live in cities and this proportion will continue to grow. However, issues of urbanization are little addressed in the environmental philosophical literature. I explore community and sustainability in an urban context, drawing on the work of the landscape architect Ian McHarg who, I argue, may have more to offer an urbanized world than iconic figures such as Aldo Leopold.

Progress and Environmental Sustainability

Gowdy, John M.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 16/1 (1994), pages 41-55

One of the most pervasive ideas in Western culture is the notion of progress. Among economists, it is synonymous with economic growth. According to advocates of unlimited growth, more growth will result in a cleaner environment, a stable population level, and social and economic equality. Although most environmentalists do not subscribe to the growth ethic, they generally cling to a notion of progress by arguing that there has been continual enlightenment in public attitudes toward the environment and that this enlightenment can lead to environmental salvation. I argue that there is no convincing argument for past human progress and no reason to believe that it will occur in the future. Once we abandon notions of progress, we free ourselves to concentrate on making do with what we have rather than placing our hopes on some future material or ethical utopia.

Environmental Ethics and Tropical Rain Forests: Should Greens Have Standing?

Gunn, Alastair S.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 16/1 (1994), pages 21-40

Almost everyone in the developed world wants the logging of tropical rain forests to stop. Like Antarctica, they are said to be much too important and much too valuable to be utilized just for development and are said to be part of a global heritage. However, it is not that simple. People in the developing world consider our criticisms to be ill-informed, patronizing, and self-serving. We are seen as having “dirty hands.” They hold that we neither have nor deserve moral standing as critics until we change our trade policies, rhetoric, and extravagant lifestyles.

Moving beyond Anthropocentrism: Environmental Ethics, Development, and the Amazon

Katz, Eric; Oechsli, Lauren
Environmental Ethics Vol. 15/1 (1993), pages 49-59

We argue for the rejection of an anthropocentric and instrumental system of normative ethics. Moral arguments for the preservation of the environment cannot be based on the promotion of human interests or goods. The failure of anthropocentric arguments is exemplified by the dilemma of Third World development policy, e.g., the controversy over the preservation of the Amazon rain forest. Considerations of both utility and justice preclude a solution to the problems of Third World development from the restrictive framework of anthropocentric interests. A moral theory in which nature is considered to be morally considerable in itself can justify environmental policies of preservation, even in the Third World. Thus, a nonanthropocentric framework for environmental ethics should be adopted as the basis for policy decisions.