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.