Earthly Goods: Environmental Change and Social Justice

By Fen Osler Hampson; Judith Reppy | Go to book overview

3
Inherent Value and
Moral Standing in
Environmental Change

WENDY DONNER

WHAT obligations do humans have to the environment? Do individuals such as plants and nonhuman animals and wholes such as species, ecosystems, and the entire biotic community have inherent value or moral standing? In this chapter I critically survey some positions on this question that have been prominent in recent debates in environmental ethics.

One fundamental assumption underlying much of the dialogue in the global change and social justice project has been that the framework for analyzing these issues should be human-centered or anthropocentric. For the most part, I agree. Since the work of philosophers is often taken to be the probing questioning of assumptions, however, in this chapter I look at some environmental theories that reject this assumption. Debate on environmental issues in many cases seems to be carried on in two different worlds. In one world are those theorists propounding what Arne Naess calls anthropocentrism or "shallow ecology." 1 Shallow ecologists or human-centered theorists see environmental problems as problems of appropriate resource use.The environment has no moral standing in its own right, and questions of who counts or who has standing are all questions about which human claims, preferences, or rights deserve to be given weight or taken into account in moral deliberations. The other world is inhabited by radical environmentalists who see all such human-centered approaches

____________________
1
Arne Naess, Ecology, Community, and Lifestyle, ed. and trans. David Rothenberg ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 14-20.

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