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Lecture 24

ENVS 1030 Lecture Notes - Lecture 24: Land Ethic, Risk Assessment, Wingspread

Environmental Sciences
Course Code
ENVS 1030
Shelley Hunt

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Friday, November 18, 2016
ENVS Lecture Slides Summarized
Lecture Seventeen and Eighteen
Environmental ethics…
-What is right or wrong in terms of our behaviour towards the environment?
-The answer to this question influences how we treat nature and deal with
environmental issues.
Different world views can lead to different answers…
-Human centred vs. earth-centred
What counts, morally?
- Humans?
-Sentient organisms?
-Non-sentient organisms?
-Species, habitats, ecosystems?
Sentience: ability to experience pleasure or pain
Terms to Know: Environmentalist views on these philosophies
Anthropocentrism: Generally, viewed very negatively; an inadequate basis for sound
environmental policy, because it does not recognize the moral standing or intrinsic value
of non-human animals and plants, endangered species or ecosystems.
Sentientism: Generally, viewed very negatively; although it recognizes the moral
standing of sentient animals, because neither ecosystems nor endangered species are
conscious, it neglects them.
Biocentrism: still some criticism of this view by environmentalist thinkers.
Since neither species nor ecosystems are literally living organisms, neither have moral
standing or intrinsic value according to biocentrism, which is individualistic (i.e. pertains
to individual organisms)
Holism/ecocentrism: favourite view of environmental thinkers, largely because it is
seen as lacking the very faults listed for the other views.
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Friday, November 18, 2016
On the other hand, anthropocentrists and sentientists criticize holism for de-
emphasizing respect for individuals.
Has been called “environmental fascism” because it seems to make the value of all
individuals a function of their contribution (or lack thereof) to ecosystem health or
Philosophical problems with Ecocentrism…
Conservation ethics for example.. there are four postulates on which conservation
ethics are based
-Diversity of organisms is good
-Ecological complexity of good
-Evolution is good
-Biodiversity has intrinsic value
If these are true then the conclusion should be that we ought to conserve biodiversity.
But in what way are these things good?
Utilitarian reasons
-Ecosystem services
All are instrumental values and can be dealt with in terms of willingness to pay
Problems with instrumental value…
-as a defence of the core goals of conservation, is that it doesn't cover all species,
populations, habitats, and ecosystems — some are simply not ‘useful’ to us!
-even if it did, it puts conservation within the economic arena, a place where many
conservationists are morally uncomfortable.
-to conserve all these things, all the time, we need something else — intrinsic value?
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Friday, November 18, 2016
Intrinsic value: Something has intrinsic value if it is an end in itself and not merely a
means to an end. (i.e. if it is valuable for its own sake)
All the world’s forests and forest species have significant intrinsic value for the present
and all future generations.”
Views of intrinsic value
Anthroposentric: Only humans have intrinsic value. Value gets into the world via
valuers, and humans are the only valuers. So intrinsic value can't exist without humans,
it is purely human concept.
Sentientism: Only sentient animals have intrinsic value. Shares with anthropocentrism
the need to have valuers, but does not assume that only humans are capable of valuing
things. In this view, sentient creatures can value things, but living things that do not
have preferences are excluded.
Biocentrism: Holds that all living things have intrinsic value.
Ecocentrism: Holds that species, habitats, and ecosystems have intrinsic value. (i.e.
non-living things)
With biocentrism and ecocentrism, something can be intrinsically valuable even if no
human or other sentient creature is available to recognize that value.
We must explain how we justify and evaluate the claim that something is intrinsically
valuable — how can there be value with no need for a valuer?
Moral harm
Two ways someone or something can be harmed in a morally significant way:
One harms X if:
-One fails to respect X’s interest
-One’s actions negatively impact Xs intrinsic value
So, if X is something that can be harmed it must either have interests or intrinsic value.
Does nature have interests?
Nature haas nothing it “cares about” since it is not sentient.
“Welfare interest” Nature has an interest in things that contribute to its faring ill or well.
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