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.

A Biocentrist Strikes Back

Sterba, James P.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 20/4 (1998), pages 361-376

Biocentrists are criticized (1) for being biased in favor of the human species, (2) for basing their view on an ecology that is now widely challenged, and (3) for failing to reasonably distinguish the life that they claim has intrinsic value from the animate and inanimate things that they claim lack intrinsic value. In this paper, I show how biocentrism can be defended against these three criticisms, thus permitting biocentrists to justifiably appropriate the salutation, “Let the life force (or better the ethical demands of life) be with you.”

Appreciating Nature on Its Own Terms

Saito, Yuriko
Environmental Ethics Vol. 20/2 (1998), pages 135-149

I propose that the appropriate appreciation of nature must include the moral capacity for acknowledging the reality of nature apart from humans and the sensitivity for listening to its own story. I argue that appreciating nature exclusively as design is inappropriate to the extent that we impose upon nature a preconceived artistic standard as well as appreciation based upon historical/cultural/literary associations insofar as we treat nature as a background of our own story. In contrast, aesthetic appreciation informed by our attempt to make sense of nature, such as science, mythology, and folklore, is appropriate because it guides our experience toward understanding nature’s own story embodied in its sensuous surface.

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.

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.