Environmental Ethics and Policy Essay – Biology Research Paper(200 Level Course)
Determining a comprehensive, all-inclusive environmental ethic is no easy task. Human interests, desires, and consciences are hard to accommodate, considering that all vary with the individual. And according to world statistics, there are over six billion of us, each with a different experience of the natural world, its plants and animals. So, of the following perspectives, which makes the most sense when making decisions about environmental policy?
Considering the plethora of interests and varied needs of humans all over the world, a middle ground must be found, tempered by the radical reasoning of extremist ethics.
On the one extreme, anthropocentric ethicists view nature’s value only in relation to the well-being of humans. Nature’s value subsists only in its capacity to provide for the human race. Often, this takes the form of an economic capability, ignoring the destruction of parts of the environment that have no direct use to humans. A familiar case study involves the preservation of the north spotted owl.
Continuous logging in the Pacific Northwest threatened the habitat of the species, but logging companies argued that to discontinue logging would mean the loss of jobs and the logging companies themselves. Loggers argued that preserving the owl would be a detriment to the economy. In this case, the loggers held an anthropocentric view. Environmental champions, however, would argue that saving the spotted owl would save an entire ecosystem on which plants, other animals, and humans depend. The criticism of anthropocentrism then, is that it has a narrow view of what maintains the “well-being” of humans.
The other extreme environmental ethic, biocentrism, calls for all life forms to be treated as though they possess the same moral standing. Contrary to anthropocentrism, biocentrism says that all life is good in and of itself. It argues that no living thing is more valuable than another. This perspective is often criticized for ignoring the reality that life survives by feeding on life. In the case of the spotted owl, biocentrism would say that the owl should be preserved, not merely because its value can be measured in more than dollars, but because it shares the same rights as that of human, including the right to life.
The radicalism of this view is difficult to understand when trying to compare it with a more moderate view, like the third possible ethic, ecocentrism, because both recognize importance in preserving say, the life of the spotted owl. It is important to note therefore, that to align with the biocentrism ethic would be to go against many aspects of modern life, principally, the necessity of surviving on other life.