Environmental ethics III: The biocentrist pipes in
First, I would like to welcome you all to the sixth mass extinction event, in case anyone forgot where we are at this juncture in geologic time.
We all fall somewhere on a scale (depending on the topic) that has VHEMT at the extreme left and the traditional Judeo-Christian belief that man is separate from nature and that nature exists solely to serve man on the extreme right (although change is in the wind, with new biblical interpretations to support the reversal being discovered daily).
What we have here is a tug-o-war over the word environmentalist, kicked off, I think, by some anthropocentric-leaning articles, and readers’ responses to them, and, ah, responses to those responses.
This site attempts to categorize environmental organizations. Note what they say here:
The environmental community has natural allies in organizations working on human rights, poverty, population, public health, consumption, corruption, energy efficiency, and preservation of cultural heritage.
They do not call these groups environmental organizations; they call them allies, and I would tend to agree. Which does not matter so much, it is only a word. What does seem clear is that a lot of Grist readers are nature lovers (biocentrists) and when articles appear suggesting that nature lovers are getting in the way of the environmental movement, they get testy. After all, without them, the movement would not even exist.
Now, of course, all Grist readers are nature lovers, to one extent or another, just as all would like to see an end to poverty. Again, it is a matter of scale. Conservation organizations are clearly the root of the environmental movement, and are clearly still a major branch of it. Without nature lovers there would be no Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, Wilderness Society, and on and on.
Maybe these readers fear their favorite read is getting too far from its roots and are dreading having to look elsewhere for the diversity that is Grist‘s strong suit?
I touched on this a few posts ago.
Two quotes from the cited interview with Dave’s former professor:
I was always interested in the environment as a kid, subscribing as a 10-year-old to Audubon and spending just about every afternoon at a place called Flat Rock Creek in the little town that I grew up in…
I wound up in this field mostly because it enabled me to connect three things: my childhood love for nature…
Based on that interview, I will venture to say that Professor Light leans toward biocentrism. By his own admission, he just happened to stumble upon a new, as yet unfilled academic niche in philosophy called Environmental Ethics.
I found all of the responses to Dave’s (excellent) original post impressive. In most instances, nature is not being traded for human survival; it is being traded for increased profit and status. It is hard to argue that the hardwoods and biofuels coming out of rainforests are necessary for humanity’s survival.
What the world could use is the mindset that those forests are already gone, before they actually are, and that we need to find solutions to our problems without consuming the last of our ecosystems first. The destruction of the planet’s biodiversity is not necessary.
Portraying the preservation of the planet’s biodiversity for future generations as a roadblock to fighting poverty is counterproductive. They both should be done, simultaneously, end of story. If consensus exists for that statement, the debate boils down to how to best accomplish both goals. If there isn’t consensus for that statement, then the environmental movement is heading for a rift. One group will be joining hands with the humanitarian aid NGOs; the other will continue the struggle to save what remains of the planet’s biodiversity. The problem is, they can’t keep sharing the same name. Somebody is going to have to give it up.
I seriously doubt that is going to happen, which is good because there is strength in numbers.