The Principle Of Human Preservation Philosophy
The questioning of the relationship between us and the natural environment began quite recently, in the 1970s, as pollutants such as DDT were proven to be harmful to the environment. In order to better understand our position in the crisis, philosophers around the world has conceives two main ideas of a new branch of philosophy called Environmental Ethics, the Anthropocentric view and the Ecocentric view.
The view of the environment having only instrumental value in our lives, aka killing animals for our benefit, is the view of Anthropocentrism (human centered), and I do believe that this point of view is acceptable to a point. Anthropocentrism is acceptable, where there are near infinite resources for us humans to use, but our resources are finite and they even go to the extent of producing unwanted externalities to harm these resources that we strive to extract, so if we are to use them Anthropocentrically, we have to use them carefully, so that we either don't deplete the resource, or pollute our world to the extent that we have to live in an alternate method.
That alternate method is following the view of Ecocentrism (eco centered), that the environment has an intrinsic value and as Ecocentrists believe that organisms are people, that Kantian Ethics also apply to them, that "we must never treat others merely as means to our own ends, but also as ends in themselves", aka that when we use the world's resources, we shouldn't disturb Mother Nature as that the environment has a sort of personhood - that they are entitled to the same rights as us. In this essay I will argue the pros and cons of each view and which one I favor.
Throughout the history of mankind, there have been many ideas on what nature is and how we should treat it. Some of the earliest ideas root from several religions including: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh perspectives which represent various perspectives of both Anthropocentrism, but mainly Ecocentrism. Religious perspectives have helped shape the way we think about nature, as back before the Age of Enlightenment when science was at its prime, people were classified not by race or culture, but by religion, and various religions had various rules and principles about how we should treat nature and the environment.
For example, Christian Environmental ideology can be separated into two different perspectives. One such perspective is the idea that it is part of the human undertaking to "subdue" the earth and to "have dominion overâ€¦every moving thing that moveth upon this earth [including] all of the earth, and every tree". St. Thomas Aquinas conformed to this idea and maintained that "all animals are naturally subject to man" and didn't even acknowledge the possibility that nature can be considered a person. This Christian model is heavily Anthropocentric, as it assumes that earth was created for us, and naturally "God" believed that it was only fair for us humans to do whatever we want with it. The second view is a more moderate Christian view on the treatment of the environment, which states that we have "custodial" responsibilities in relation to the environment and to nature, as many followers prefer the idea that they are guardians over it on behalf of "God". This perspective therefore considers us, humans, as part of nature and the environment as all earth is created by "God".
An issue that arises from the latter model of Christianity, is the oblivious nature of believers, that by having a special responsibility for all of nature, they take issues like extinction as part of "Nature" and into their own hands, although it is a fact that 99.9% of all the species that have existed on this planet has since been extinct (remembering that it is proven the earth has been in existence for over four billion years and animals have been in existence on the face of this planet for over ten million years), but many mislead theists, who think the earth has been in existence for less than ten thousand years, believe that it is our business to interfere with nature and "protect endangered species" although the act of extinction is just part of the evolutionary survival of the fittest, and not wanton destruction of nature by human beings.
The Jewish Perspective, which the Christian ideas are based upon, is similar in terms of contradicting ideas that make up their Environmental Ethics. Although Ancient texts place restrictions on the human use of the natural environment, David Vogel states that "Judaism does not regard the preservation or protection if nature as the most important societal valueâ€¦it believes that nature can threaten humans as well as the obverse", meaning that dealing with nature is a double edged sword: you can use it to the extent that you don't destroy nature and ourselves in the process. Judaism also points out that God's creation of animals and other organisms which have seemingly no direct benefit to humankind implies that they have a value of their own, emphasizing the importance of nature as a whole. The Jewish also practice kosher, laws that minimize the pain of slaughtering animals. Overall, Nature in Judaism represents human nature, helping us when we use it occasionally, but destroying us when we resolve to overconsumption of the very resources that keep us alive.
Philosophical perspectives on Environmental Ethics are also separated into Anthropocentrism and Ecocentrism. Philosophers tend to favor the idea of Ecocentrism with the emergence of Deep Ecology and the Gaia Hypothesis. Deep ecology is the perspective that recognizes value in all life-forms and earthly systems. On the other hand is Shallow Ecology, where humans are seen as the only source of value and resemble the former Christian point-of -view that "all animals are naturally subject to man". However, this viewpoint tends to be rejected nowadays with the recent knowledge that overconsumption of natural resources is destructive to the earth we live on and plan on living on for generations to come. Philosopher Arne Næss claimed that Deep Ecology pursued the idea of "preserving the integrity of the biosphere" not because of the "human benefits", but "for its own sake". Although Næss maintained the idea that all life-forms and systems on earth had value, he did not state that we can't obtain resources from it, but rather that "Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs", which differentiates Deep Ecology from the Gaia Hypothesis.
The Gaia Hypothesis is the idea that sees the whole ecosystem as an entity in its own right, that all the organisms in the Biological Kingdom - Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Protista, Archaea, Bacteria - deserve the personhood that we, humans possess, that we should respect every life-bound organism as "pursuing its own good in its unique ways". An opposing view to this seemingly humane idea is the perspective of Mechanical Materialism, the belief that it is the industrialization - the politics and the economics - that drive us, aka Capitalism. Capitalism famously has it downs of creating climate change and ups for developing civilization as it is today. The Gaia Hypothesis also, like all things, have its downs, as Peter Singer states, that it is fallacious to think of all organisms of being sentient life-forms, because they don't possess the sentiency that we do. Although the Gaia Hypothesis may seem righteous as a whole as well as being harmonious with nature, we will plummet to the stone age, as if we cannot use nature at all, all of our economic systems, including trade and finance, will collapse, and since we are a sentient being and we are fuelled by egoism and greed, so even when climate change reaches to the point of no return, we humans will only think of the future in economic terms and not in environmental terms, therefore I think it is possible to refute the hypothesis out of our basic human nature.
Overall, both religion and philosophers have given us various perspectives on how the environment should be utilized, but every take has its ups and downs. However, if we want to keep living the way we do - industrialized and economically developed - we have to live anthropocentrically, but we will also need to find alternate sources of renewable-energy, or the climate change that we helped accelerate will wipe us off the face of the earth in a hubristic moment of arrogance and egoism. The downside of Ecocentricism is that if we don't live in the information era of technology and economics, our production, housing and countless other capabilities will diminish, causing worldwide death and famine. Therefore, unless we cut down the rate of deforestation, or carbon monoxide poisoning, our future generations will live very painful lives and will be forced to live in extreme poverty, that is, if they survive at all with all of that pollution and unwanted externalities.
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