The Quest for
Environmentalists' affirmation of temporal and spatial interdependence expands the horizon of human caring. Efforts to protect the environment are carried out not only for the benefit of the near and dear, but for fellow humans in future generations and other lands. This expansive concern for human welfare is the primary motivation for most environmentalists. But it is far from the only motivation. Environmentalists protect the environment not only for the benefit it accords human beings in the here and now or across time and space but also for the sake of other species and the habitats that sustain them. Environmental care is actuated by concern for the welfare of the plants and animals that share the earth with us. The struggle to protect this interconnected web of life is best characterized as a quest for environmental integrity.
How significant is concern for the nonhuman denizens of the earth in environmental affairs? Garrett Hardin has offered this analysis of the Greenpeace effort to save whales:
In large groups, social policy institutions necessarily must be guided by what I have called the Cardinal Rule of Policy: Never ask a person to act against his own self-interest. It is within the limitations of this rule that we must seek to create our future. … Weare told of idealists on board this [Greenpeace] vessel who appealed by megaphone to the captain of a Russian whaler to cease his activities in the interests of the whales and posterity. The captain's reply was, of course, of the sort that we of the older generation call “unprint-