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Does the environment have moral standing? Must look at criteria for moral standing. What ... http://www.geocities.com/eco-action/pics/siritharn_waterfall_sm.jpg ...

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environmental ethics
Environmental Ethics


  • Moral Agents
    • Those who have the freedom and rational capacity to be responsible for choices
    • Those capable of moral reflection and decision.
    • Example: adult humans of sound mind
      • Infants and mentally infirm adults are NOT moral agents


  • Moral Standing:
    • If you have moral standing:
      • Your continued existence or welfare is valuable in itself
        • intrinsic value
      • Your interests and well-being must be weighed when deciding what is permissible to do.
    • Example: humans of all kinds
      • Babies, children, adults, old people, etc.
      • Women, different races, different cultures


  • Moral Duties
    • That which is owed by moral agents to those with moral standing.
    • Example: It is wrong to kill our children
      • because we have a moral duty toward them


philosophical issue
Philosophical Issue
  • Who or what has moral standing, and why?
    • Does the environment have moral standing?
    • Must look at criteria for moral standing
  • What moral duty do we (moral agents) have toward those with moral standing?
    • Different ethical positions suggest different moral duties.

Yosemite National Park


ideas on criteria for moral standing
Ideas on Criteria for Moral Standing
  • Membership in the speciesHomo sapiens
    • Humans have a soul
    • Humans are moral agents
      • and are responsible for knowing right from wrong
    • Humans are intelligent
    • Humans have personhood
      • and self-consciousness
    • Humans have language


ideas on criteria for moral standing7
Ideas on Criteria for Moral Standing
  • Sentience: the ability to feel pain
    • Therefore extend moral standing to animals


ideas on criteria for moral standing8
Ideas on Criteria for Moral Standing
  • Being alive
    • Therefore extend moral standing to animals and plants:
    • All living things.


ideas on criteria for moral standing9
Ideas on Criteria for Moral Standing
  • Being part of nature
    • Therefore extend moral standing to the
      • earth
      • ecosystems
      • rocks
      • rivers
      • plants animals
      • the entire natural world

Grand Canyon


ethical positions
Ethical Positions
  • Anthropocentrism: Human centered morality
    • Only humans have moral standing
      • intrinsic value
    • The rest of the natural world has use to humans
      • instrumental value
  • Argument for protecting nature:
    • We can best protect nature by looking out for human needs.
    • Ex: Ducks Unlimited preserves wetlands
    • Ex: Saving the rainforests will provide O2 and medicines for humans.
  • Problem: Would you blow up the world if you were the last human?


ethical positions12
Ethical Positions
  • Sentio-centrism: Sentient-beingcentered morality
    • Only animals that feel pain (sentient biengs) have intrinsic value and moral standing.
      • The rest of the natural world has instrumental value.
      • Both humans and sentient animals have rights and/or interests that must be considered


ethical positions13
Ethical Positions
  • Biocentric Individualism: Life-centered morality
    • All living beings (individual organisms) have intrinsic value and moral standing.
      • Not species or ecosystems
    • Humans are not superior to other life forms nor privileged
      • must respect the inherent worth of every organism
    • Humans should minimize harm and interference with nature
      • eat vegetarian since less land needs to be cultivated.

Endangered Tiger


moral positions
Moral Positions
  • Eco-centric Holism: ecosystem centered morality
  • The earth as an interconnected ecosystem (species, natural processes) has moral standing and intrinsic value
    • deserving of respect.
  • Individuals must be concerned about the whole community of life/nature
    • Humans should strive to preserve ecological balance and stability.


patriarchal dualisms
Patriarchal Dualisms
  • Greek, Roman, Hebrew:
    • Humans are separate from
      • and superior to nature
    • Human, mind, rationality, and man
      • are linked and superior
    • Nature, body, feelings, and woman
      • are linked, and inferior
    • Justifies domination by men over
      • Nature
      • Women



  • Rejects Patriarchal Dualisms
    • The domination of nature by men is wrong
      • is similar to and related to the domination of women by men.
    • Must break the pattern of "power over" relationships
      • will benefit both women and the natural world.

Acid attack victims





deep ecology
Deep Ecology
  • Humans are deeply connected with nature
    • If humans identify with nature
      • then taking care of the natural world will become part of taking care of one's self.


sitting bull 1877
Sitting Bull, 1877
  • “Behold, my brothers, the spring has come;
  • the earth has received the embraces of the sun and we shall soon see the results of that love!
  • Every seed has awakened and so has all animal life.
  • It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being and we therefore yield to our neighbors, even our animal neighbors, the same right as ourselves, to inhabit this land…


sitting bull 187720
Sitting Bull, 1877
  • “Yet hear me, my people, we have now to deal with another race –
  • small and feeble when our fathers first met them, but now great and overbearing.
  • Strangely enough they have a mind to till the soil and the love of possessions is a disease with them . . ..


sitting bull 187721
Sitting Bull, 1877
  • “They claim this mother of ours, the earth, for their own, and fence their neighbors away;
  • they deface her with their buildings and their refuse.
  • They threaten to take [the land] away from us.
  • My brothers, shall we submit, or shall we say to them:
  • "First kill me before you take possession of my Fatherland."


  • Animals should be treated with compassion
    • Not enslaved
    • Not made into commodities
    • Not made to suffer
    • Not killed
      • Meat, leather, fur
    • Not stolen from
      • Eggs, milk
  • Animals are sentient and deserve respect


  • Perpetuation of our “herding culture”
    • Promotes hierarchical and uncompassionate social structures
      • Based on conquest, domination, and ownership
      • Compassion for humans difficult when animals not treated with compassion
        • Branded, enslaved, commoditized, killed, etc.
    • Promotes unhealthy diets
      • High in saturated fats
    • Promotes environmental destruction
      • 1/3 of grain, ½ fish used for animal feed
      • Rainforest destruction for grazing and cropland to feed livestock

Rainforest cleared for cattle ranching


bio regionalism
  • Lead a simple life
    • with local production of food and other products by people that you know
      • Increases environmental awareness and caring
      • decreases exploitation of the environment and people.