Environmental ethics is the discipline in philosophy that studies the moral relationship of human beings to, and also the value and moral status of, the environment and its non-human contents.
-The Idea that Nature has intrinsic value. Deep ecologists argue that human life is just one part of the ecosphere.-Aldo Leopold - something is good if it preserves"integrity, stability and beauty". Not right to see the natural world simply in terms of economic worth. We need to develop an ethics to deal with man's relationship to the land, animals and plants and revert our priorities from people to land.-Arne Naess - Naess argues that every living thing has a right to flourish. He criticises the Christian view of dominion, simply calling it"arrogant". every being has an equal right to live and blossom, which he defined as ecosophy - a philosophy of ecological harmony and equilibrium. Nature does not exist to serve humans; nature has intrinsic value. We should abandon all goals of economic growth.
George Sessions worked with Arne Naess to put forward an 8-point manifesto in favour of deep ecology. The points are as follows:
all life has intrinsic value
diversity creates well-being of all
humans must protect this responsibility
human impact on the environment is excessive
lifestyle and population change are critical
human impact must be reduced
political and economic systems must change
those who accept the above must commit to peaceful change
Weaknesses of Deep ecology
Deep ecology is arguably misanthropic (human-hating) and discourages a growing population
however, deep ecologists would argue that by decreasing the population, the value of each individual increases
If followed to the extreme, deep ecology could lead to the destruction of the human race - Do diseases (bacterium) have the same right to live as humans, they are alive as well.
this is a stupid weakness, hyperbolic/far-fetched
Earth summits such as Kyoto have proved not to be very effective, raising questions about the practicality of Sessions's 8-point manifesto
Daniel Botkin has likened deep ecology to its antithesis, the wise use movement, when he says that they both "misunderstand scientific information and then arrive at conclusions based on their misunderstanding, which are in turn used as justification for their ideologies. Both begin with an ideology and are political and social in focus." Elsewhere though, he asserts that deep ecology must be taken seriously in the debate about the relationship between humans and nature because it challenges the fundamental assumptions of western philosophy.
Botkin has also criticized Naess' restatement and reliance upon the balance of nature idea and the perceived contradiction between his argument that all species are morally equal and his disparaging description of pioneering species.
The Gaia Hypothesis
James Lovelock argues that we are part of planet earth and not masters of it. He argued for the existence of 'Gaia' - a self-regulating living system which controls the earth and keeps everything constant. Lovelock says that Gaia keeps the planet at a constant state of management, and lists two examples to support this:
if there was any less than 12% oxygen in the atmosphere, fires couldn't burn
the salt level in seas has remained at 3.4% for millions of years
Lovelock says we shouldn't be anthropocentric (focussing solely on ourselves) but biocentric, and says that Gaia restores balance to the imbalance caused by humans.The earth is, Lovelock states, a holistic system (a 'whole'). Gaia possesses the power to change everything.
Weaknesses of Gaia
Richard Dawkins - claims that Lovelock's theory that all life 'clubs together' for some mutual benefit is inconceivable. The basic concept of evolutionary theory, survival of the fittest, means that species adapt and develop in response to the environment. Not the other way around.Lynn Margulis - Suggested that Dawkins and Gaia are compatible with symbiosis. Organisms will at times combine with other organisms in a symbiotic relationship in order to survive, e.g. Pilot fish clean shark's mouths in return for protection. The idea of symbiosis suggests that living organisms work together for mutual survival making Dawkins and Gaia compatible.
-The idea that the environment has instrumental value. Shallow ecologists argue that the environment is a means for human flourishing; however, they accept that the environment provides happiness and benefits humanity, so it must be preserved. - Michael La Bossiere - Some species should be allowed to die out as it is part of a natural selection of evolution, they should not be protected by humans, however we don't have the right to hunt them to extinction either. - Conservation ethics - Means to an end and is purely concerned with humanity - a person chooses to avoid pollution or recycle because the effects are beneficial to humans.
Weaknesses of Shallow Ecology
-By completely disregarding the worth of the environment we risk causing damage to future human prosperity. e.g. Chernobyl caused colossal amounts of environmental damage and resulted in the area becoming uninhabitable for decades.-Relies heavily on calculations of what is and what is not environmentally beneficial for the welfare of people. This leads to a utilitarian approach to the environment, which many criticise as difficult to assess e.g. National Parks good or bad in long term?
- Dominion - The belief that God has given human kind authority over the Earth and all its animals and plants.- Stewardship - The belief that God has left us as caretakers of the Earth rather than its owners.- Creation spirituality + Pantheism - The idea that we are one with nature and that God can be found in all of creation.- Rapture Theology - The second coming of Jesus is imminent and with him will come the end of days, why protect that which will inevitable be destroyed.
Arguments for Dominion
- Humans are made in the image of God and thus share a special relationship with him meaning humans are of greater importance than the environment.- "Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and the birds of the air, and over the livestock, over all the Earth, and over all the creatures that have moved along the ground." (Genesis 1:28)- "She (nature) has made all animals for the sake of man" Aristotle, Politics.
Arguments of Stewardship
- The Fall can sometimes be seen as reason for world's environmental issues. Care for the environment will repair man's broken relationship with God and bring about peace, harmony and justice. - 'The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it' (Genesis 2:15)- "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." (Revelation 22:13) - To put ourselves equal to God is arrogant and conceited of humanity.
Arguments for Creation Spirituality and Pantheism
- St. Francis of Assisi spoke of creation spirituality - the notion that we are at one with nature. Francis felt so at one with nature that he referred to the moon as 'sister' and the sun as 'brother'. - Matthew Fox is similar, and argues for pantheism. Pantheism is the belief that God is within everything so by damaging the environment we are damaging God, the greatest sin that could be conceived.
- "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." 1 Thessalonian's 4:16-17- This is stupid.
- Preference Utilitarianism, the preferences of all sentient creatures must be included, this includes animals as well as humans. - He uses the example of an antelope and human caught in a trap. If you're walking in the woods with your close friend, Singer supposes, and your friend gets caught in an animal trap, you would obviously go to help him/her. However, if you notice there is also a nearby antelope caught in the trap, who should you help? Many of us would be inclined to help our friend, but Singer would free the antelope first. He argues that humans can reason, so you'd be able to reassure your friend you're going to help them first, whereas the antelope cannot reason and so would arguably suffer more pain as a sentient being.- "I don't think ethics is only for humans."
- Kant: "animals are there merely as a means to an end.", We should, of course, treat everything as an end in itself. This also applies to humans destroying the environment for our own benefit - Kant wouldn't agree. Similarly, modern Kantian Stephen Clark argues that respect for humans should be extended to respecting animals too.- Act Utilitarianism - Hedonic Calculus, need to consider both current and future impacts of environmental damage in order to decide what is good.- Rule Utilitarianism - Humans are of greater importance than the environment as they are able to experience higher pleasures, "It is better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied."- Natural law - Actions must not be in breach of primary precepts. Aquinas - "it matters not how man behaves to animals." "the life of animals and plants is preserved not for themselves but for men." - Virtue Ethics - Virtue ethics, being agent-centred, often takes the shallow ecology view. Aristotle - "natures has made all animals for the sake of men."
Ecosophy - A philosophy of ecological harmony and equilibrium. Kyoto Protocol - The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the UN, which commits its parties by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets.Pioneering Species - First species to inhabit land, later out competed resulting in local extinction.Anthropocentric - Human centred.Holistic - characterized by the belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole, similar to interconnectedness.Interconnectedness - Rachel Carson - All species and living organisms are linked and connected in some way.Symbiosis - Symbiosis is close and often long-term interaction between two different biological species.Conceited - Overly proud/vain .Sentient - Capable of experiencing pain and pleasure.Agent-Centred - Focus on the person committing the act rather than the act itself.