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TOPIC: Ecocentric ethics - to balance the Anthropocentric

Ecocentric ethics - to balance the Anthropocentric 4 months, 1 week ago #1

There is a current debate about ‘ecosystem services’ (the ‘services’ nature provides humanity, never the other around!) we are drifting into a demanding self-serving and exploitative relationship with nature. ‘Nature’ is seen as just another resource which management gurus can plug into the cost/benefit analysis.

On a recent BBC programme about Manx shearwaters on Skomer we hear: “Oh the chicks are so lovely and fluffy, I want one”. Dormouse is usually described as the “cutest mammal”. This seems a harmless enough way for attracting people to nature conservation. But is it misleading? By only describing nature from a human perspective (anthropomorphism) we lose touch with its ecological core, its ‘naturalness’!

It is time to see how much we can learn from understanding more about nature and ecology, from an ‘Ecocentric’ perspective. Planting hybrid bluebells on wildlife sites is a case in point, where ecologists know the irreversible impact, but the estate-managers seeking quick visual results do not stop and reflect. 

We have forgotten that nature operates within its own ‘rules’. British ecosystems are largely the result of geology, soil and the climate that emerged after the glaciers retreated. Within a short time England was separated from the European mainland, to be left with a restricted but locally unique ecology.

An Ecocentric Ethic will progress the ideas which Aldo Leopold and Arne Naess proposed nearly half a century ago, within the 21st Century context and our improved technical scientific knowledge and economic understanding.

John Patmore

Re: Ecocentric ethics - to balance the Anthropocentric 3 weeks, 4 days ago #2

I agree, although I would change the tense: we have already drifted into a self-serving relationship with eco-systems. Systems thinking is the key here I think, and the idea of eco-systems providing services is by nature linear: resources in, waste/pollution out.

Ecocentric ethics would not be putting nature and eco-systems before humans, since humans are themselves part of those sytems, and I think recognition of this is essential if we are to achieve a sustainable way of life. Natural systems, such as a forest ecosystem, work, and continue to do so unless disrupted from outside. We can indeed learn from nature to create more resilient communities, as permaculture encourages us to do.
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