Environmental Values (Routledge Introductions to Environment: Environment and Society Texts)


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It draws on the significant and continuing growth and advances in the field of environmental communication research to show the increasing diversification and complexity of environmental communication and to stress the persistent urgency of analysing and understanding how communication about the environment isbeing influenced and manipulated, with implications for how and indeed whether environmental challenges are being addressed and dealt with. While every attempt has been made to ensure stock availability, occasionally we do run out of stock at our Fulfilment Centre.

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Making sense of environmental values: a typology of concepts

Wish List Welcome! Sign in New customer? Start here. View Cart 0 Your Shopping Cart is empty. Third, when basic interests clash, humans are not required to sacrifice themselves for the sake of others Taylor, , pp. As several philosophers have pointed out, however, this ethic is still incredibly demanding. For some, this makes the ethic unreasonably burdensome. No doubt because of these worries, other philosophers who accord moral standing to all living organisms have taken a rather different stance. Instead of adopting an egalitarian position on the interests of living things, they propose a hierarchical framework Attfield, and Varner, Such thinkers point out that moral standing is not the same as moral significance.

So while we could acknowledge that plants have moral standing, we might nevertheless accord them a much lower significance than human beings, thus making it easier to justify our use and destruction of them. Nevertheless, several philosophers remain uneasy about the construction of such hierarchies and wonder whether it negates the acknowledgement of moral standing in the first place. After all, if we accept such a hierarchy, just how low is the moral significance of plants?

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If it is low enough so that I can eat them, weed them and walk on them, what is the point of granting them any moral standing at all? There remain two crucial challenges facing philosophers who attribute moral standing to individual living organisms that have not yet been addressed. One challenge comes from the anthropocentric thinkers and animal liberationists.

For example, while plants may have a biological good, is it really good of their own? Indeed, there seems to be no sense in which something can be said to be good or bad from the point of view of the plant itself. In response to this challenge, environmental ethicists have pointed out that conscious volition of an object or state is not necessary for that object or state to be a good.

For example, consider a cat that needs worming. It is very unlikely that the cat has any understanding of what worming is, or that he needs worming in order to remain healthy and fit. Similarly, plants and tress may not consciously desire sunlight, water or nutrition, but each, according to some ethicists, can be said to be good for them in that they contribute to their biological flourishing. The second challenge comes from philosophers who question the individualistic nature of these particular ethics.

As mentioned above, these critics do not believe that an environmental ethic should place such a high premium on individuals. For many, this individualistic stance negates important ecological commitments to the interdependence of living things, and the harmony to be found in natural processes.

Moreover, it is alleged that these individualistic ethics suffer from the same faults as anthropocentric and animal-centered ethics: they simply cannot account for our real and demanding obligations to holistic entities such as species and ecosystems. Once again, however, a word of caution is warranted here.

Often the equilibrium of these entities is taken extremely seriously See Taylor, , p.


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However, it must be remembered that such concern is extended only insofar as such equilibrium is necessary in order for individual living organisms to flourish; the wholes themselves have no independent moral standing. For Leopold, land is not merely soil. Instead, land is a fountain of energy, flowing through a circuit of soils, plants and animals. While food chains conduct the energy upwards from the soil, death and decay returns the energy back to the soil. Thus, the flow of energy relies on a complex structure of relations between living things.

For one thing, it seems that Leopold jumps too quickly from a descriptive account of how the land is , to a prescriptive account of what we ought to do. What precisely is it about the biotic community that makes it deserving of moral standing?

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Unfortunately, Leopold seems to offer no answers to these important questions, and thus no reason to build our environmental obligations around his land ethic. However, J. Baird Callicott has argued that such criticisms of Leopold are unfair and misplaced. According to Callicott, Leopold lies outside of mainstream moral theory. Thus, the question is not, what quality does the land possess that makes it worthy of moral standing? But rather, how do we feel about the land Callicott, ? In this light, the land ethic can be seen as an injunction to broaden our moral sentiments beyond self-interest, and beyond humanity to include the whole biotic community.

Of course, some have questioned whether sentiment and feelings are suitable foundations for an environmental ethic. After all, there seem to be plenty of people out there who have no affection for the biotic community whatsoever.

In the search for more concrete foundations, Lawrence E. Johnson has built an alternative case for according moral standing to holistic entities Johnson, Johnson claims that once we recognize that interests are not always tied to conscious experience, the door is opened to the possibility of nonconscious entities having interests and thus moral standing. So, just as breathing oxygen is in the interests of a child, even though the child has neither a conscious desire for oxygen, nor any understanding of what oxygen is, so do species have an interest in fulfilling their nature.

This is because both have a good of their own, based on the integrated functioning of their life processes ibid. Children can flourish as living things, and so too can species and ecosystems; so, according to Johnson, both have interests that must be taken into account in our ethical deliberations. But even if we accept that moral standing should be extended to holistic entities on this basis, we still need to consider how we are then to flesh out our moral obligations concerning the environment.

For some, this is where holistic ethics fail to convince. In particular, it has been claimed that holistic ethics condone sacrificing individuals for the sake of the whole. Now while many holistic philosophers do explicitly condone sacrificing individuals in some situations, for example by shooting rabbits to preserve plant species, they are reluctant to sacrifice human interests in similar situations. In response, proponents of such ethics have claimed that acknowledging moral standing in holistic entities does not mean that one must deny the interests and rights of human beings.

While this is obviously true, that still leaves the question of what to do when the interests of wholes clash with the interests of individuals. If humans cannot be sacrificed for the good of the whole, why can rabbits? The answer that has been put forward by Callicott claims that while the biotic community matters morally, it is not the only community that matters. Thus, our obligations to the biotic community may require the culling of rabbits, but may not require the culling of humans.

This is because we are part of a tight-knit human community, but only a very loose human-rabbit community. In this way, we can adjudicate clashes of interest, based on our community commitments. This communitarian proposal certainly seems a way out of the dilemma. Unfortunately, it faces two key problems: first, just who decides the content and strength of our various community commitments; and second, if human relationships are the closest, does all this lead back to anthropocentrism?

As for the first point, if deciding on our community attachments is left up to individuals themselves, this will lead to quite diverse and even repugnant moral obligations. For example, if an individual believes that he has a much stronger attachment to white males than to black women, does this mean that he can legitimately favor the interests of the former over the latter?

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The need to respect nature and its limits challenges society and conservation science | PNAS

If not, and an objective standard is to be imposed, we are left with the enormous problem of discovering this standard and reaching consensus on it. Without doubt, extending moral standing to the degree of holistic ethics requires some extremely careful argumentation when it comes to working out the precise content of our environmental obligations.

Not all philosophers writing on our obligations concerning the environment see the problem simply in terms of extending moral standing. First of all, none see extending moral standing as sufficient to resolve the environmental crisis. They argue that a broader philosophical perspective is needed, requiring fundamental changes in both our attitude to and understanding of reality. This involves reexamining who we are as human beings and our place within the natural world.

For radical ecologists, ethical extensionism is inadequate because it is stuck in the traditional ways of thinking that led to these environmental problems in the first place. In short, it is argued that ethical extensionism remains too human-centered, because it takes human beings as the paradigm examples of entities with moral standing and then extends outwards to those things considered sufficiently similar. Secondly, none of these radical ecologies confine themselves solely to the arena of ethics. Instead, radical ecologies also demand fundamental changes in society and its institutions.

In other words, these ideologies have a distinctively political element, requiring us to confront the environmental crisis by changing the very way we live and function, both as a society and as individuals. According to deep ecologists, shallow ecology is anthropocentric and concerned with pollution and resource depletion. Shallow ecology might thus be regarded as very much the mainstream wing of environmentalism. In other words, deep ecologists are not aiming to formulate moral principles concerning the environment to supplement our existing ethical framework.

Instead, they demand an entirely new worldview and philosophical perspective. While the various eco-philosophies that have developed within deep ecology are diverse, Naess and George Sessions have compiled a list of eight principles or statements that are basic to deep ecology:. In other words deep ecologists do not offer one unified ultimate perspective, but possess various and divergent philosophical and religious allegiances. Moving to this wider Self involves recognizing that as human beings we are not removed from nature, but are interconnected with it.


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Recognizing our wider Self thus involves identifying ourselves with all other life forms on the planet. For Fox, as with Naess, this consciousness involves our widest possible identification with the non-human world. The usual ethical concern of formulating principles and obligations thus becomes unnecessary, according to Fox, for once the appropriate consciousness is established, one will naturally protect the environment and allow it to flourish, for that will be part and parcel of the protection and flourishing of oneself Fox, Critics of deep ecology argue that it is just too vague to address real environmental concerns.

For one thing, in its refusal to reject so many worldviews and philosophical perspectives, many have claimed that it is difficult to uncover just what deep ecology advocates. For example, on the one hand, Naess offers us eight principles that deep ecologists should accept, and on the other he claims that deep ecology is not about drawing up codes of conduct, but adopting a global comprehensive attitude.

Environmental Values (Routledge Introductions to Environment: Environment and Society Texts)
Environmental Values (Routledge Introductions to Environment: Environment and Society Texts)
Environmental Values (Routledge Introductions to Environment: Environment and Society Texts)
Environmental Values (Routledge Introductions to Environment: Environment and Society Texts)
Environmental Values (Routledge Introductions to Environment: Environment and Society Texts)
Environmental Values (Routledge Introductions to Environment: Environment and Society Texts)
Environmental Values (Routledge Introductions to Environment: Environment and Society Texts)
Environmental Values (Routledge Introductions to Environment: Environment and Society Texts)
Environmental Values (Routledge Introductions to Environment: Environment and Society Texts)

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