Deep & Shallow Ecology and the Gaia Hypothesis (Environmental ethics)

See my other document for the ethical approaches to environmental ethics (e.g. natural law, kant etc)

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  • Created on: 14-06-14 15:24
Preview of Deep & Shallow Ecology and the Gaia Hypothesis (Environmental ethics)

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Environmental ethics
Deep Ecology
Ecocentric (nature is at the heart, not humanity)
Developed by Arne Naess
Sees humans are one part of a larger structure, we are not special
He calls this understanding of the unity of all things `ecosophy'
This view is related to Aristotle and Aquinas but Aquinas' view was anthropocentric
Humans being in control is the problem not solution
However, humanity still matters as a vital part of the jigsaw of creation
American friend George Sessions and Naess developed the deep ecology platform that
stresses the important for change via peaceful protests though contemporary deep ecologists
argue about this approach to change and about what the best method is to reduce population
A few argue that starvation is a natural process and that unsustainable populations should be
allowed to die. Luc Ferry (French scholar) says this is an eco-fascism
Despite these criticisms, the deep ecology movement developed as a result of growing worries
about the sustainability of the planet.
Bron Taylor claims there is a growing fear the world is coming to the end and Deep ecology
taps into this view
Shallow Ecology
Also known as social environmentalism it is fundamentally anthropocentric (humankind is at
the centre). The environment is a means to an end, the end being the survival and well-being
of humankind, this is the only reason it matters
Plants and animals only have instrumental value; only valuable because of their importance to
humanity. Humans have intrinsic value, protection of our interests at the expense of other
non-human entities is believed to be fully ethical; only humans have moral worth
Conservation is at the heart of Shallow Ecology; the preservation of the natural environment
but unlike deep ecology it does not believe that maintaining biodiversity is a principle virtuous of
Relies heavily on calculations of what is and what is not environmentally beneficial for the
welfare of people. This leads to a utilitarian approach to the environment, which many criticize
as difficult to assess e.g. National Parks good or bad in long term?
There are some environmentalists who argue that it is important morally to restore the habitat
to its natural state whereas others argue that this is not cost effective
Life goes on and nature is forever changing. Michael LaBossiere argues that this means that
species should be allowed to die out if their natural habitat ceases to exist, it is impossible to
stop changes occurring
Gaia Hypothesis

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James Lovelock first put forward this hypothesis
It claims the earth is a massive, self regulating biological organism unconcerned with our survival
Individual parts are really part of a bigger single entity (like cogs in a machine), called Gaia
Gaia was the Greek goddess of the Earth
The idea that man is superior to other life forms is flawed
The perception of earth as a living organism has its origins in Plato who wrote that the earth is
`complete and free from age and sickness'…read more


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