Environmental Ethics Vol. 14/3 (1992), pages 265-273
In this essay, I use encounters with the white-tailed deer of Fire Island to explore the “call of the wild”—the attraction to value that exists in a natural world outside of human control. Value exists in nature to the extent that it avoids modification by human technology. Technology “fixes” the natural world by improving it for human use or by restoring degraded ecosystems. Technology creates a “new world,” an artifactual reality that is far removed from the “wildness” of nature. The technological “fix” of nature thus raises a moral issue: how is an artifact morally different from a natural and wild entity? Artifacts are human instruments; their value lies in their ability to meet human needs. Natural entities have no intrinsic functions; they were not created for any instrumental purpose. To attempt to manage natural entities is to deny their inherent autonomy: a form of domination. The moral claim of the wilderness is thus a claim against human technological domination. We have an obligation to struggle against this domination by preserving as much of the natural world as possible.
Rolston, Holmes III
Environmental Ethics Vol. 24/2 (2002), pages 115-134
The concerns of environmental ethics on other continents fail in Antarctica, which is without sustainable development, or ecosystems for a “land ethic,” or even familiar terrestrial fauna and flora. An Antarctic regime, developing politically, has been developing an ethics, underrunning the politics, remarkably exemplified in the Madrid Protocol, protecting “the intrinsic value of Antarctica.” Without inhabitants, claims of sovereignty are problematic. Antarctica is a continent for scientists and, more recently, tourists. Both focus on wild nature. Life is driven to extremes; these extremes can intensify an ethic. Antarctica as common heritage transforms into wilderness, sanctuary, wonderland. An appropriate ethics for the seventh continent differs radically from that for the other six.
Talk given at the Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Berkeley, CA. March, 1999
Recently a number of influential academic environmentalists have spoken out against wilderness, most prominently William Cronon and Baird Callicott. This is odd, given that these writers seem to support two cornerstone positions of environmentalism as it has developed over the past twenty years. First, the view articulated within environmental ethics that wild, nonhuman nature, or at least some parts of it, has intrinsic or inherent value. Second, the understanding developed within conservation biology that we have entered a period of massive anthropogenic biodiversity loss and that landscape-level habitat preservation is essential for combating this. I argue here that Cronon and Callicott are wrong. In fact, an ethics of respect for nonhuman nature and an informed, scientific understanding of what is necessary to preserve it do strongly support increased wilderness preservation.