Environmental Ethics

Is your life more valuable than the life of one bee🐝? Is your life more valuable than the lives of all the bees? Your answer to this question will change based on what you value and how you value it. In environmental ethics, there are three main perspectives to the question of how we should value non-human life. The first is biocentrism which says that all life is valuable and shouldn’t be treated by humans as a means to an end. Biocentrism generally say bugs rule, and people suck if and when they mess with ants🐜. On the other hand, anthropocentrism says only humans are morally significant.

Basically, people rule, so tough luck, bugs. The third view is that value exists in the relationships between organisms, or between organisms and their nonliving context. This view it is called ecocentrism. In other words, snails🐌 rule, people👫 rule and we need to protect the relationship they share.

Understanding the three general branches of environmental ethics can help you make decisions about your diet, your appreciation of nature, your place in nature, and understand policies and decisions that directly affect you and/or nature. Interestingly enough, each of these branches leads you to care about climate change, so you should do your part!


  • Philosophy and Environmental Policy

    Eric Thomas Weber and Anthony Cashio

  • Philosophy Bites: Dale Jameison on Green Virtues

    Dale Jameison


Questions to Think About

  • What animals should we or should we not eat?

  • How do you compare the value of humans, animals, and ecosystems?

  • How should policies be written with regard to animals, people, and ecosystems?

  • Whose interests are more important — species we admire that are endangered like pandas, or species that are important to maintaining ecological balance within the local area like bats?

Key Thinkers

  • Aldo Leopold

  • Arne Naess

  • William Baxter

  • Paul Taylor

  • Karen Warren

  • Vandana Shiva

  • J. Baird Callicott

  • Holmes Rolston III

Key Texts

Key Terms

  • Anthropocentrism
    “human-centeredness” or the view that only humans have moral significance
  • Biocentrism
    the view that all life is morally significant
  • Deep ecology
    environmentalism that is not just concerned with pollution and conserving a planet for people (that’s the shallow ecology view), but thinks that the earth and ecosystems are worth preserving on their own and for their own sake
  • Ecocentrism
    ecosystem and ecological processes are morally significant and worth preserving
  • Ecofeminism
    combines ecological and feminist concerns

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