Prompt 1: Anthropocentric Environmentalism
According to Genesis, “humans occupy a privileged position in all creation” (DesJardins 98). Naturally, those who subscribed to Western Christian philosophy assumed this position as well, considering themselves the closest thing to the Creator, as they were created in His image. Thus, the Western world blossomed by living without much concern for the environmental wellbeing of the planet. Today, we are realizing that the irresponsible way we used resources and polluted the Earth has done significant damage to the ecosystem in which we live. Based on the new circumstances that previous generations have created, we must take care of the environment for the wellbeing of future generations, the knowledge attainable by having a healthy environment, and for the welfare of those people alive today.
The damage done on the Earth’s environment today will impact those for generations to come. According to John Passmore’s Man’s Responsibility for Nature, “And we have now discovered that the disposal of wastes into sea or air, the destruction of ecosystems, the procreation of large families, the depletion of resources, constitute injury to fellow-men, present and future” (DesJardins 99). Each of these activities that Passmore presents is a self-serving want by the human community. Disposing of waste in an irresponsible manner is always presently convenient and less expensive than the alternative. This is yet another example of humans seeking instant gratification, as opposed to taking the responsible course of action. However, an anthropocentric idea would discourage putting the desires of now above the health of the Earth for future people to use. “We can identify the practice of extending moral standing to include future humans or to develop new human rights as anthropocentric extensionalism” (Desjardins 104). This idea is a reason to protect the environment from a human-centric point-of-view. From a deontological perspective, “Blackstone further argues that we can realize none of those basic human rights that follow from out nature as free and rational beings—equality, liberty, happiness, life, and property—without a safe, healthful, and livable environment” (DesJardens 101). If human activity continues in the way that it currently is, the Earth will no longer be able to support human thriving. There is currently “enough oil to last the world 53.3 years at the current production rates” (Smith 2). Not only does the consumption of fossil fuels poison the environment, but the next generation will not be able to rely on them as an energy source like they have been in the past. Because of the polluting qualities of using fossil fuels and the lack of supply, humans must turn to Thus, out of duty to the future of mankind, the global community must come together to reduce their environmental footprint.
Past and present human activity is the cause of the environmental crisis occurring today. In relation to the animal kingdom, global warming, introduction of exotic species, and the repurposing of habitat are propelling species extinction (“The Extinction Crisis” 1). Although the current human inhabitants of the Earth are not entirely responsible for the damage done to the ecosystem, living people are the only beings that can try to fix the damage. As rational thinkers concerned about the wellbeing about our home planet, we must recognize that if we do not do anything about these issues, no other organisms will.
As humans, we are unique in the way we perceive our lives. Homo sapiens are the only species know to be moral agents. To be a moral agent “means to be a being capable of acting with reference to right and wrong, and rationality is often associated with this capability” (“Moral Agency” 1). If an invasive species of a worm begins ravaging all of the trees in a forest, diminishing the food sources for other animals which are native to the area, we as moral agents can look to exterminate the worm. Moral agents are able to reason that what the worms are doing is damaging the ecosystem for the other animals. Thus, they can maximize the utility of the environment by killing the worm, protecting primary and secondary human resources. By ridding the area of the one invasive species, the diverse set of animals that rely on the stability of the ecosystem can thrive again, helping humans by keeping biodiversity.
Naturally, extinction “occurs at a natural ‘background’ rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1.000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day. It could be a scary future indeed, with as many as 30 to 50 percent of all species possibly heading toward extinction by mid-century” (“The Extinction Crisis” 1). Because of the immense discrepancy between the background and actual extinction rates, the rest of the community of life is taking an enormous hit. Biodiversity gives humans more variety of resources to choose from in order to best serve mankind.
By definition, the world of scientific understanding is not complete. There will forever be more to know, which is especially evident when considering the ground that has been gained in the past century. Throughout human history, we have found different chemicals that occur naturally to hold medicinal value to humans. For example, humans have been using the gel from aloe vera leaves to heal damaged skin for thousands of years. Over the years, we have found a myriad of uses for different things in nature, and this expansion of understanding continues daily. It is a fact that there are still some undiscovered, humanity-changing medicinal uses for natural organisms. When paired with the scientific method, the sustained growth of technology will continue to provide mankind with more tools to find different uses out of the natural world. However, if we do not protect biodiversity, we will be limiting the variety of the organisms that scientists can apply research and new technology to. This may seem like a weak reason to protect the environment, but it must be kept in mind that some predictions forecast half of all species may be winding up extinct during our lifetimes. Half is For science, this decimates the amount of potential organisms to study to see if we can extract or create something that will help human society. Sometimes, the instrumental value of organisms is not immediately apparent and requires further study in order to fully utilize them. For example, there may be a plant that contains a compound that stunts the growth of cancerous cells. If we let this species go extinct prior to having the opportunity to study its capabilities, humans may never be able to reap the benefit of the plant.
Most importantly from an anthropocentric point of view, having a damaged environment can cause direct negative impact on humans currently alive. The conditions required for the Earth to be able to support human life are very specific. Global warming can hurt humans in any number of ways. The rise in global temperatures due to pollution may increase the rate of the spread of diseases. “Scientists expect a warmer world to bring changes in ‘disease vectors’—the mechanisms that spread some diseases. Insects previously stopped by cold winters are already moving to higher latitudes(toward the poles). Warmer oceans and other surface waters may also mean severe cholera outbreaks and harmful bacteria in certain types of seafood” (“Climate Hot Map” 2). The higher these temperatures rise, the better the mobility of disease will be. We cannot continue to poison the Earth, as we, as residents of this planet, are essentially poisoning ourselves. Change in climate due to human activity is even predicted to cause more natural disasters. For example, the mega-drought in California this past summer caused rampant wildfires of unprecedented levels in the mountains. The three fires combined to burn down over 280,000 acres of forest, destroy over 1,000 homes, and take the lives of five individuals (Weather.com). Clearly, a sickly Earth negatively affects humans.
From an anthropocentric perspective, caring for the environment is beneficial because it allows humans the most opportunity for expansion of knowledge and the present and future wellbeing of mankind. As the only moral agents of the Earth’s living community, we must realize that action by us in necessary in order to keep our home inhabitable.