There have been a number of scholars who've tried to categorize the various ways the natural environment is valued. Alan Marshall and Michael Smith are two examples of this, as cited by Peter Vardy in "The Puzzle of Ethics". For Marshall, three general ethical approaches have emerged over the last 40 years. Marshall uses the following terms to describe them: Libertarian Extension, the Ecologic Extension and Conservation Ethics.
Marshall‘s Libertarian extension echoes a civil liberty approach (i.e. a commitment to extend equal rights to all members of a community). In environmentalism, though, the community is generally thought to consist of non-humans as well as humans.
Andrew Brennan was an advocate of ecologic humanism (eco- humanism), the argument that all ontological entities, animate and in-animate, can be given ethical worth purely on the basis that they exist. The work of Arne Noses and his collaborator Sessions also falls under the libertarian extension, although they preferred the term "deep ecology". Deep ecology is the argument for the intrinsic value or inherent worth of the environment – the view that it is valuable in itself. Their argument, incidentally, falls under both the libertarian extension and the ecologic extension.
Alan Marshall's category of ecologic extension places emphas is not on human rights but on the recognition of the fundamental interdependence of all biological (and some abiological) entities and their essential diversity. Whereas Libertarian Extension can be thought of as flowing from a political reflection of the natural world, Ecologic Extension is best thought of as a scientific reflection of the natural world. Ecological Extension is roughly the same classification of Smith‘s eco-holism, and it argues for the intrinsic value inherent in collective ecological ent ities like ecosystems or the global environment as a whole entity. Holmes Rolston, among others, has taken this approach.
Marshall's category of 'conservation ethics' is an extension of use- value into the non-human biological world. It focuses only on the worth of the environment in terms of its utility or usefulness to humans. It contrasts the intrinsic value ideas of 'deep ecology', hence is often referred to as 'shallow ecology', and generally argues for the preservation of the environment on the basis that it has extrinsic value – instrumental to the welfare of human beings. Conservation is therefore a means to an end and purely concerned with mankind and inter- generational considerations. It could be argued that it is this ethic that formed the underlying arguments proposed by Governments at the Kyoto summit in 1997 and three agreements reached in Rio in 1992
Following the bio-centric and eco-holist theory distinctions, Michael Smith further classifies Humanist theories as those that require a set of criteria for moral status and ethical worth, such as sentience. This applies to the work of Peter Singer who advocated a hierarchy of value similar to the one devised by Aristotle which relies on the ability to reason. This was Singer's solution to the problem that arises when attempting to determine the interests of a non-sentient entity such as a garden weed.
The Christian world view sees the universe as created by God, and humankind accountable to God for the use of the resources entrusted to humankind. Ultimate values are seen in the light of being valuable to God. This applies both in breadth of scope - caring for people (Matthew 25) and environmental issues, e.g. environmental health (Deuteronomy 22.8; 23.12-14) - and dynamic motivation, the love of Christ controlling (2 Corinthians 5.14f) and dealing with the underlying spiritual disease of sin, which shows itself in selfishness and thoughtlessness. In many countries this relationship of accountability is symbolised at harvest thanksgiving. (B.T. Adeney: Global Ethics in New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology 1995 Leicester)
Anthropocentrism simply places humans at the centre of the universe; the human race must always be its own primary concern. It has become customary in the Western tradition to consider only our species when considering the environmental ethics of a situation. Therefore, everything else in existence should be evaluated in terms of its utility for us, thus committing specia lism. All environmental studies should include an assessment of the intrinsic value of non- human beings. In fact, based on this very assumption, a philosophical article has explored recently the possibility of humans' willing extinction as a gesture toward other beings. The authors refer to the idea as a thought experiment that should not be understood as a call for action.
A recent view relates anthropocentrism to the future of life. Biotic ethics are based on the human identity as part of gene/protein organic life whose effective purpose is self-propagation. This implies a human purpose to secure and propagate life. Humans are central because only we can secure life beyond the duration of the Sun, possibly for trillions of eons.] Biotic ethics values life itself, as embodied in biological structures and processes. Humans are special because we can secure the future of life on cosmological scales. In particular, humans can continue sentient life that enjoys its existence, adding further motivation to propagate life. Humans can secure the future of life, and this future can give human existence a cosmic purpose.
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