The Ecological Citizen: Confronting human supremacy

 


 

What is ecocentrism? (A definition)

 

Ecocentrism recognises the Earth as the ultimate source of value, meaning and enablement for all beings, including – but not only – human beings. Ecocentrics therefore put the well-being of the Earth at the centre of their ethical, intellectual and practical deliberations. 'The Earth' here means its living parts plus its non-organic components, both of which are necessary to the well-being of the whole.

Of paramount concern is the ecological integrity of the Earth's ecosystems, wild places, and natural processes, which we humans, like the rest of life, are completely dependent upon. Since wild animals play vital roles in maintaining that integrity, they are also highly valued. And since all natural entities are (at least to some extent and in their own ways) agents and subjects, the key focus of ecocentrism is on the quality of our relationships with them. Since that includes taking responsibility for how we affect them, ethics is fundamental.

To a unique extent, of course, the impact of one species – humans – tends to degrade or destroy ecological integrity. Ecocentrics thus urge that human numbers and activities (such as 'development') need to be self-limited in order to become truly sustainable. In particular, when there is a conflict between relatively narrow or short-term human interests and ecological health, the former must give way. Ecocentrics therefore try to promote cultures, societies and economies in which such an outcome is possible, even encouraged.

The relevant contrast is with anthropocentrism.

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For further reading, see: Curry P (2017) Ecological Ethics: An Introduction, Polity Press.

 

 


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