American Environmentalism: Values, Tactics, Priorities

By Joseph M. Petulla | Go to book overview
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Epilogue Sincerity and Authenticity

It is obvious that environmentalists have been concerned to develop an environmental ethic because of their perception of the environmental crisis. They believe that new norms need to be generated immediately so that people may be moved to action quickly in order to save the natural environment, and indeed the world, from ecological disaster.

A major thesis of this book has been that the special imperatives and environmental ethics which are proposed by biocentric advocates, ecological scientists, and efficiency economists are derived from powerful but limited traditions and often are not intelligible within an institutional context. Worse, the directives are framed in such a generalized or unbelievable mode that when applied concretely in special situations, the prescriptions seem either meaningless, impossible to fulfill, or creative of undue economic hardships.

Of course, those who accept the traditions from which the dicta are taken understand their meaning and find them congenial to follow. It is difficult for these sometimes sectarian apologists to comprehend why, in the face of such impressive evidence, others do not share their morality, their classically imposed categorical imperatives. Their commitment comes from reasons they perceive to be overriding despite the incomprehension of outsiders. The latter, as has been emphasized throughout the book, have their own value systems.

It can be assumed that conflicting parties are sincere about their personal viewpoints. Most advocates of a sectarian position, from

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