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ECO-ETHICS AND SUSTAINABILITY ETHICS TO PROTECT THE BIOSPHERIC LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEM. John Cairns, Jr. University Distinguished Professor of Environmental Biology Emeritus Department of Biological Sciences Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg, Virginia 24061, U.S.A.
John Cairns, Jr.
University Distinguished Professor of Environmental Biology Emeritus
Department of Biological Sciences
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061, U.S.A.
Eco-ethics is the essential foundation for sustainable use of the planet. Such a foundation must consist of a series of value judgments to which humanity is committed.1 Sustainability ethics is a utopian vision that requires living harmoniously with nature, which will exact harsh penalties on species that exceed Earth’s carrying capacity and violate nature’s laws.2
Ignoring natural laws (e.g., physics, biology, chemistry) will place humans in a default position so that Mother Nature (natural laws) takes over.
The biosphere consists of all life (including humans) on Earth. Biotic impoverishment (loss of biodiversity) impairs the biosphere’s function.
Earth is overpopulated. How can the population be reduced in a humane way in order to be congruent with Earth’s carrying capacity for humans?
Homo sapiens has survived for over 160,000 years because it was adaptable and, except for the last 12,000 years, has had superb naturalist intelligence.7
Acknowledgments: I am indebted to Karen Cairns for providing review and useful comments, as well as for transcribing the handwritten first draft of this manuscript, and to Darla Donald for editorial assistance. Karen Cairns, Paul Ehrlich, and Paula Kullberg called valuable references to my attention.References1Cairns, J., Jr. 2002. A declaration of eco-ethics. Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics 18Nov:79-81. http://www.esep.de/articles/esep/2002/E20.pdf.2Cairns, J., Jr. 2003. A preliminary declaration of sustainability ethics: making peace with the ultimate bioexecutioneer. Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics 18Nov:79-81. http://www.esep.de/articles/esep/2002/E20.pdf.3Wilson, E. O. 2002. The Future of Life. Random House, New York.4Cairns, J., Jr. 2002. Goals and Conditions for a Sustainable World. Inter-Research, Oldendorf/Luhe, Germany. www.esep.de/journals/esep/esepbooks/CairnsEsepBook.pdf.5Cairns, J., Jr. 2009. Going, going, gone: the fate of low-lying islands and estuaries. Commentaries 23Nov http://www.johncairns.net/Commentaries/Going_Going_Gone.pdf.6McKibben, B. 2010. Foreword: Gaia in turmoil. Pages ix-x in Gaia in Turmoil:Climate Change, Biodepletion, and Earth Ethics in an Age of Crisis. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. 7Gardner, H. 2006. Multiple Intelligences. Basic Books, New York.