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Ethics and Stewardship

Ethics and Stewardship

Author: Sophia Tutorial
Description:

Determine the focus of the different types of environmental ethical positions.

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Tutorial

what's covered
This tutorial will cover the topic of environmental ethics and stewardship. We will discuss the three main environmental ethical philosophies and explore what environmental stewardship means.

Our discussion breaks down as follows:

  1. Environmental Ethical Philosophies
  2. Environmental Stewardship


1. Environmental Ethical Philosophies

The three main environmental ethical philosophies are: anthropocentrism, biocentrism, and ecocentrism, all of which are our key terms for today. Ethics are basically moral principles; therefore, environmental ethics are the moral principles about the relationship between humans and the environment.

First is anthropocentrism, which means to be concerned with actions to improve the state of the environment for the well-being of humans.

Next is biocentrism, which means to be concerned with actions to improve the state of the environment for the well-being of all living things.

The third and last environmental perspective is ecocentrism, which means to be concerned with actions to improve the state of the environment for the environment itself, which includes humans.

hint
Ecocentrism is concerned with the Earth as a whole system, not just individual parts. Both biocentrism and ecocentrism believe in intrinsic value, or the belief that everything — human or non-human — has intrinsic value regardless of whether or not humans acknowledge it.

IN CONTEXT

Let's look at a single environmental issue from each of the three angles: deforestation.

Anthropocentrists would view deforestation as valuable if done at a rate that enables future humans use of tree resources.

Biocentrists would view deforestation as harmful, because it is damaging living beings.

Ecocentrists would view deforestation depending on its global ecosystem impacts, which would most likely be in a negative light.
terms to know
Anthropocentrism
Concerned with actions to improve the state of the environment for the well-being of humans.
Biocentrism
Concerned with actions to improve the state of the environment for the well-being of all living beings.
Ecocentrism
Concerned with actions to improve the state of the environment for the environment itself, which includes humans.


2. Environmental Stewardship

Environmental stewardship is when humans take action to protect the environment based on their ethical beliefs. Anthropocentrists, biocentrists, and ecocentrists can all be environmental stewards, though the actions they might choose to take could look very different.

EXAMPLE

Conservation of resources, recycling, and land restoration are all stewardship actions.

Environmental stewardship is essentially environmentalism in action. Again, environmentalism is not determined by scientific objectivity, like environmental science, but is a subjective interpretation of good or bad actions that humans should make in relation to the environment.

IN CONTEXT

Let's look at a more specific example of environmental stewardship: wastewater management. The photo below shows what is called a living machine. Living machines were invented to clean human wastewater by moving the dirty water through various tanks to mimic how a natural wetland cleans water. The goal is to clean water without harmful chemicals. Living machines use microbial life, plants, and fish to clean and test water before it is returned to the surrounding natural ecosystem. This is a form of environmental stewardship.

Living Machine


summary
Today we learned about three major environmental ethical philosophies: anthropocentrism, biocentrism, and ecocentrism. We also defined what environmental stewardship means, and explored an example of environmentalism in action. Don't forget that each of those philosophies is also a key term: anthropocentrism, to be concerned with actions to improve the state of the environment for the well-being of humans; biocentrism, to be concerned with actions to improve the state of the environment for the well-being of all living things; and ecocentrism, to be concerned with actions to improve the state of the environment for the environment itself, which includes humans.

Source: Adapted from Sophia instructor Jensen Morgan, LIVING MACHINE CC HTTP://BIT.LY/1BZE80I

Terms to Know
Anthropocentrism

concerned with actions to improve the state of the environment for the well being of humans.

Biocentrism

concerned with actions to improve the state of the environment for the well being of all living beings.

Ecocentrism

concerned with actions to improve the state of the environment for the environment itself, which includes humans.