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EVSP508 Week 4 Forum Post on Ecological Ethics

EVSP508 Week 4 Forum Post on Ecological Ethics

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Published by mark_cave
My week 4 forum posting for the AMU Environmental Ethics course
My week 4 forum posting for the AMU Environmental Ethics course

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Published by: mark_cave on Jan 03, 2012
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American Military University - EVSP508: Environmental Ethics
Week 4 Forum Topic: Ecological Ethics
The Assignment
This week we focus on the topics of biological diversity, land ethics, and whether species should have legal standing.This collection of essays presents a diversity of views and ideas on the protection of species. One classic essayincluded this week is A
ldo Leopold‟s thoughts on a
 Land Ethic
. I wonder how many of you have read his
Sand County Almanac
.In the biological sciences, students are often faced with the age-
old question „why are there so many species?‟
Thinking through this leads to discussion on divergent and convergent evolution, environmental factors, naturalselection, and many more ideas. To spin this age-old question to environmental ethics, perhaps an appropriate
question is „do species matter?‟ You might consider expanding this concept t
o communities and ecosystems as well.Further, how does the protection of individual species fit in the context of environmental ethics?
My forum posting
Yes, species matter, for a fundamental reason captured in Leop
old‟s Land Ethic
(2011), Callicott
(2011) excellentexpository analysis of the Land Ethic, and
in Stone‟s
(2011) call for bestowing legal rights upon nature. One quote fromCallicott (2011) almost seems enough for me to rest my case:
“The trend of evolution [not its “goal,” since evolution
is ateleological] is to elaborate and diversify the biota”
...Hence, among our cardinal duties is the duty to preserve what species we can, especially the duty to preserve thoseat the apex of the pyramid
the top carnivores. (p. 241)Here is a wordier but (I think) simpler explanation of the above described fundamental reason that species matter: Thehealth and longevity of the entire earth ecosystem rely upon immeasurably complex and innumerableinterdependencies among its components, to include species (and plants; and soils, the oceans, the land and the sun);and those interdependencies have been developed over eons. Built into that evolution is a natural progression inwhich, generally, a relatively small number of species go extinct at any given point or period in time, either by virtueof not evolving enough to keep up with changes to their life support systems, or by virtue of keeping up with suchchanges so well that they develop into essentially new species.That exceptionally slow, localized and balanced evolution has been upended by humanity, which in an epochal flash hascompletely, and in a horrific way, changed the game.
Leopold explains that “evolution is a long series of self 
-induced changes, the net result of which has been toelaborate the flow mechanism and to lengthen the circuit. Evolutionary changes, however, are usually slow and
local. Man‟s invention of tools has enabled him to make changes of unprecedented violence, rapidity, and scope”
… Normally [natural]
speciation outpaces e
xtinction… What is wrong with anthropogenic species extirpation and
extinction is the
at which it is occurring and the
biological impoverishment instead of enrichment.(p.243)In my discussions above, I refer to species as members of a compon
ent subset in the “entire earth ecosystem” thatinterdependently interacts in complex ways with other components, like “…plants (although in this discussion I
separate animals and plants, all the different types of both can and should be considered members of the speciessubset); and soils, the oceans, the land and the
sun…” My purpose in going with that construct was to expansively and
not subtly communicate full agreement with Leopold and the other Chapter 4 authors, except Russow, (2011) inurgently calling
explicitly (Leopold, Callicott, Taylor) or implicitly (Meadows, Schweitzer and Stone) (2011)
for anew, substantially evolved human ethic. That ethic appreciates
that to reverse humanity‟s current trajectory towards
annihilation of life on earth, humans must1.
intrinsically and objectively value
versus anthropocentrically and subjectively value
all life and all thatsustains life;

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