Environmental Worldviews and Ethics (Blog 3)

In chapter 25, Miller lays out the ethics of the top three environmental worldviews: Planetary Management, Stewardship and Environmental Wisdom. Each of these moves further away from the self-centered and human-centered ethics out towards a biosphere or earth-centered ethics. Planetary Management is a human centered worldview that I would argue relies on blind technological optimism. It portrays a “no worries” and “spaceship earth” type of thinking. The idea is that the Earth won’t run out of resources because of human ingenuity and technology. Therefore, we only have to manage planetary resources for human benefit. The stewardship worldview is a slight step up from planetary management in that it recognizes that resources aren’t infinite but doesn’t believe that it’s likely that we’ll run out of resources. Stewardship is still a human-centered worldview that advocates an ethical responsibility to make sure we leave the planet in at least as good of a condition as we received it. Finally, Environmental Wisdom is an earth-centered worldview that advocates, similarly to Aldo Leopold’s land ethics, that we are apart-not separate- of this earth community and the sustainability of our species and economies and way of life is dependent on the sustainability of Earth, it’s natural processes and all of its inhabitants not just humans.spaceship earth

When I first read through the overview of each of the worldviews I found myself, as did most of my classmates, somewhere between Stewardship and Environmental Wisdom. However, as I continued to read I realized that I agreed and identified most with the worldview of Environmental Wisdom. The idea that really hit home for me aenvir. wisdomnd sold me on this worldview was “talk about saving the earth makes no sense, because the earth does not need saving. Life on earth has sustained itself for billions of years and will continue…what we do need to save is the existence of our own species and culture… as well as the existence of other species that may become extinct because of our activities.”[1] Furthermore, in the “Individuals Matter” section, we are given a glimpse of Aldo Leopold’s Environmental Ethics through some of his notable quotations. The one that I found most intriguing was “to keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”[2] To me, this quote exemplifies what is wrong with the worldview of planetary management and partly stewardship as well. Relying on technology to help advance a society is fine and trying to find a way to incorporate technology to help create a sustainable biosphere is fine too. But we cannot exhaust natural resources in the tinkering process because we may come to find out that that resource that we took for granted as free and replaceable may just turnout to be the cornerstone of sustainability.

The other readings discussed this idea of education through emersion. Bringing children back in to nature to reconnect and find a love for trees and plants and animals rather than iPads and television. I think this is a great idea; just as biologist Stephen Jay Gould said, “We will not fight to svancli-logosave what we do not love. When we become part of a place, it becomes a part of us. Then we are driven to defend it from harm and to heal its wounds.”[3] This could be the very answer to our motivation problem. This connection that the children should feel is one that is related to the idea of biophilia. I see a negative and a positive side in the idea of biophilia and its connection to the Earth Wisdom movement. Biophilia is described as an “innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms… there is a general agreement among researchers that Homo sapiens’ long history as hunters and gatherers intimately involved with nature, has influenced how humans perceive and respond to the physical environment.”[4] The fact that biophilia is supposed to be this innate connection that humans have to nature is a good thing. It gives a solid basis for the idea that education and making sure children who live in this modern technological world go outside and know what it feels like to be connected to nature is going to make a difference. However, the fact that it’s based off of humans’ history of evolving from hunters and gatherers still gives the illusion that humans don’t exist just within nature as simply another member of the community, as Earth Wisdom would advocate, but rather are conquerors and dominators. It’s this type of ideal that we need to move away from if we ever hope to survive on this beautiful planet.

Question: Can we really say that the no child left inside movement is going to produce a love a nature leading to a greater desire for sustainability? The generations before us grew up around nature and without technology but still did the damage to the environment anyway.

[1] https://myfiles.fordham.edu/users/evanburen/4302/Miller7%20-%20chapter25.pdf, p.666.

[2] https://myfiles.fordham.edu/users/evanburen/4302/Miller7%20-%20chapter25.pdf, p.668.

[3] https://myfiles.fordham.edu/users/evanburen/4302/Miller7%20-%20chapter25.pdf, p.668.

[4] Judith Heerwagen, Biophilia (Encyclopedia of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy), 109.


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