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Chapter 26. Environmental Worldviews, Ethics, and Sustainability. Chapter Overview Questions. What philosophies and religions can help us decide how to value life and distinguish between right and wrong environmental behavior?

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Chapter 26

Chapter 26

Environmental Worldviews, Ethics, and Sustainability

Chapter overview questions
Chapter Overview Questions

  • What philosophies and religions can help us decide how to value life and distinguish between right and wrong environmental behavior?

  • What human-centered environmental worldviews guide most industrial societies?

  • What are some life-centered and earth-centered environmental worldviews?

  • How can we live more sustainably?

Updates online
Updates Online

The latest references for topics covered in this section can be found at the book companion website. Log in to the book’s e-resources page at to access InfoTrac articles.

  • InfoTrac: The ethical dilemma of genetically modified food. Valeria Jefferson. Journal of Environmental Health, July-August 2006 v69 i1 p33(2).

  • InfoTrac: Putting a Price Tag on the Planet. Lila Guterman. The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 7, 2006 v52 i31.

  • InfoTrac: THE GREEN MACHINE. Marc Gunther. Fortune, August 7, 2006 v154 i3 p42 .

  • Scientific American: Soccer Goes Green

  • The Earth Charter Initiative

  • Common Vision

Core case study biosphere 2 a lesson in humility
Core Case Study: Biosphere 2 - A Lesson in Humility

  • Biosphere 2, was designed to be self sustaining life-supporting system for eight people sealed in the facility in 1991. The experiment failed because of a breakdown in its nutrient cycling systems.

Figure 26-1

Environmental worldviews and values

  • Your environmental worldview encompasses:

    • How you think the world works.

    • What you believe your environmental role in the world should be.

    • What you believe is right and wrong environmental behavior.

Environmental worldviews and values1

  • Environmental worldviews lie on a continuum.

Figure 26-2

More holistic

Biosphere- or Earth-centered

More atomistic


Biocentric (life-centered)

Anthropocentric (human-centered)

Intrinsic values play bigger role

Instrumental values play bigger role







Fig. 26-2, p. 616

Human centered and life centered environmental worldviews

  • The major difference among environmental worldviews is the emphasis they put on the role of humans dealing with environmental problems.

    • Some view that humans are the planet’s most important species and should become managers or stewards of the earth.

Environmental Worldviews

Planetary Management

• We are apart from the rest of

nature and can manage nature to

meet our increasing needs and


• Because of our ingenuity and

technology we will not run out of


• The potential for economic

growth is essentially unlimited.

• Our success depends on how

well we manage the earth's life

support systems mostly for our



• We have an ethical

responsibility to be caring

managers, or stewards,

of the earth.

• We will probably not run out of

resources, but they should not be


• We should encourage

environmentally beneficial forms

of economic growth & discourage

environmentally harmful forms.

• Our success depends on how

well we manage the earth's life

support systems for our benefit

and for the rest of nature.

Environmental Wisdom

• We are a part of and totally

dependent on nature and nature

exists for all species.

• Resources are limited, should

not be wasted, and are not all

for us.

• We should encourage earth

sustaining forms of economic

growth & discourage earth

degrading forms.

• Our success depends on

learning how nature sustains

itself and integrating such lessons

from nature into the ways we

think and act.

Fig. 26-3, p. 617

Environmental worldviews an overview
Environmental Worldviews: An Overview

  • Some analysts doubt that we can effectively manage the earth because we do not have enough knowledge to do so.

  • Life-centered and earth-centeredenvironmental worldviews believe that we have an ethical responsibility to prevent degradation of the earth’s ecosystems, biodiversity, and biosphere.

Environmental worldviews
Environmental Worldviews

  • Deep ecology calls for us to think more deeply about our obligations toward both human and nonhuman life.

  • Ecofeminist environmental worldview believes that women should be given the same rights that men have in our joint quest to develop more environmentally sustainable and socially just societies.

Shifts in environmental values and worldviews some encouraging trends
Shifts in Environmental Values and Worldviews: Some Encouraging Trends

  • Global and national polls reveal a shift towards the stewardship, environmental wisdom, and deep ecology worldviews.

How would you vote
How Would You Vote?

To conduct an instant in-class survey using a classroom response system, access “JoinIn Clicker Content” from the PowerLecture main menu for Living in the Environment.

  • Which one of the following comes closest to your environmental worldview: planetary management, stewardship, environmental wisdom, deep ecology, ecofeminist?

    • a. Planetary management

    • b. Stewartship

    • c. Environmental wisdom

    • d. Deep ecology

    • e. Ecofeminist

    • f. Other

Which worldview is more likely to prove correct
Which Worldview Is More Likely to Prove Correct?

  • Using images of economic or ecological collapse can deter us from preventing or slowing environmental degradation.

How would you vote1
How Would You Vote?

To conduct an instant in-class survey using a classroom response system, access “JoinIn Clicker Content” from the PowerLecture main menu for Living in the Environment.

  • Do you believe there are physical and biological limits to human economic growth?

    • a. No. I have faith in human ingenuity and creativity.

    • b. Depends. Some (but not all) aspects of economic growth are limited.

    • c. Yes. Ecological economists are generally correct.

Living more sustainably

  • Environmental literate citizens and leaders are needed to build more environmentally sustainable and socially just societies.

  • In addition to formal learning, we need to learn by experiencing nature directly.

Living more sustainably1

  • Some affluent people are voluntarily adopting lifestyles in which they enjoy life more by consuming less.

Figure 26-7

Biosphere and Ecosystems

Species and Cultures

Individual Responsibility

Help sustain the earth’s natural capital and biodiversity

Avoid premature extinction of any species mostly by protecting and restoring its habitat

Do not inflict unnecessary suffering or pain on any animal

Do the least possible environmental harm when altering nature

Avoid premature extinction of any human culture

Use no more of the earth’s resources than you need

Fig. 26-7, p. 623


Developing Environmentally Sustainable Societies



Learn from & copy nature

Sustain biodiversity

Eliminate poverty

Do not degrade or deplete the earth's natural capital, and live off the natural income it provides

Develop eco-economies

Build sustainable communities

Take no more than we need

Do not use renewable resources faster than nature can replace them

Do not reduce biodiversity

Use sustainable agriculture

Try not to harm life, air, water, soil

Depend more on locally available renewable energy from the sun, wind, flowing water, and sustainable biomass

Do not change the world's climate

Emphasize pollution prevention and waste reduction

Do not overshoot the earth's carrying capacity

Do not waste matter and energy resources

Help maintain the earth's capacity for self-repair

Recycle, reuse, and compost 60–80% of matter resources

Repair past ecological damage

Maintain a human population size such that needs are met without threatening life support systems

Leave the world in as good a shape as—or better than—we found it

Emphasize ecological restoration

Fig. 26-6, p. 622

Living more sustainably2

  • We can help make the world a better place by not falling into mental traps that lead to denial and inaction and by keeping our empowering feelings of hope ahead of any immobilizing feeling of despair.

Living more lightly on the earth the sustainable dozen
Living More Lightly on the Earth: The Sustainable Dozen

  • Agriculture

    • Reduce you meat consumption.

    • Buy locally grown and produced food.

    • Buy more organic food and grow your own.

    • Don’t use pesticides.

  • Transportation

    • Drive an energy-efficient vehicle.

    • Walk, bike, carpool, or take mass transit.

    • Work at home or live near work.

Living more lightly on the earth the sustainable dozen1
Living More Lightly on the Earth: The Sustainable Dozen

  • Home Energy Use

    • Caulk leaks, add insulation, use energy efficient appliances.

    • Try to use solar, wind, flowing water, biomass for home energy.

  • Water

    • Use water-saving showers and toilets, use drip irrigation, landscape yard with natural plants that do not require excess water.

Living more lightly on the earth the sustainable dozen2
Living More Lightly on the Earth: The Sustainable Dozen

  • Resource Consumption

    • Reduce your consumption and waste of stuff by at least 10%: Refuse and Reuse.

Figure 26-5

Living more sustainably3

  • The Earth Charter calls for us to respect and care for life and biodiversity and to build more sustainable, just, democratic, and peaceful societies for present and future generations.

  • We need hope, a positive vision of the future, and commitment to making the world a better place to live.