Throughout the duration of this course, I have developed my environmental ethic by assessing several arguments provided by students as well as philosophers and authors who are concerned with the topic. Prior to taking this course, I was aware of the human impact on the world and how our consumption of natural resources and treatment of animals has prompted movements such as wilderness preservation and animal liberation. However, I did not analyze how embedded these issues were in terms of systematic structures that promote certain behavior and take advantage of the human susceptibility to excess and greed. Out of the two major ethical positions concerning the environment, ecological and animal liberationist, I have concluded that my views are in the middle accepting aspects from both views while simultaneously leaning more towards an animal liberationist view. I have identified this view because I recognize the importance of an attitude of respect for nature but I reject the notion that natural resources should be preserved. Rather, I think a conscious conservation of nature while developing new methods and techniques to reduce waste and increase reusability is ideal. Also, I am a proponent of individualistic and anthropocentric perspectives while embracing the notion that moderation is key and essential to a harmonious biotic community.

In the second prompt, the class was instructed to take a quiz that presented various situations and scenarios that have become taboo, at least in certain western schools of thought. The scenarios dealt with several morally valuable decisions that were made by different people. Among the questions asked was the moral value of eating ones pets upon their inadvertent death, copulation between relatives, and the act of lying performed to a dying relative. I think that this introductory prompt was the first of a series of prompts that challenged our traditional and long held moral stances on certain issues. This enabled me to open my mind and equally evaluate arguments made by others that I reject just as I would evaluate them if they were arguments that I accept or hold to be true. This prompt was crucial to the breakdown of my moral views to their fundamental core, so that they were ready to be refined and supported with prevailing arguments and relevant discussions.

Prompt 4 was the first assignment that introduced me to an argument of any type belonging to the two major ethical positions concerning the environment. Peter Singer illustrates that although the prevalent idea concerning animals and humans are that we are superior, there is nothing that makes us superior and we are actually equal due to our inherent ability to experience suffering. He likens humanitarian movements that formed to combat discrimination due to race, sex, and gender to the discrimination practiced regarding individuals of different species. Singer refers to this practice as Speciesism and claims that we are guilty of speciesism when we impede the equal pursuit of interests of members belonging to other species. While Singer offers an interesting and convincing set of arguments, such as the fact that other species posses abilities other than rational thought that surpass our own abilities in those fields, he fails to provide a practical solution to the problem of speciesism. Upon reading Singer’s utilitarian defense, I felt obligated to acquiesce to his requests but found no method to accomplish such goals. I then found it necessary to seek practicality as one of the ground rules for accepting an ethical position for the environment.

After evaluating several critiques and arguments in the animal liberationist perspective, I found myself researching aspects of the vegan lifestyle and challenging beliefs I had in terms of eating meat and using animals strictly as tools instead of treating them as ends in themselves. While completing Prompt 8, I finally found an acceptable approach and starting point for developing my own unique environmental ethic. According to Russow, ascribing value to species, as a whole, is problematic and value should be ascribed to individuals. I immediately made the connection first illustrated by Peter Singer when he equated the animal liberation movement to comparable humanitarian movements for equality. Black people are not seen as equals because they are black but because they are individuals belonging to the human race and that qualification is all that is necessary for equality. In regards to speciesism, endangered species are ascribed higher value due to their probability of extinction. Russow adamantly rejects this approach because it is still favoring a group of endangered animals over those that are not. This approach fails at equal consideration but is still utilized by several groups claiming that they want to liberate animals and spread awareness of their equality. Only when the individual is ascribed inherent value is equal consideration practically possible. At the end of the course, I realized that Russows illustrations were one of the aspects of animal liberationist ethics that appealed to me. It equipped me with a lens that I used to evaluate further arguments, even those of the ecological school of thought.

The next prompt introduced me to Paul Taylor and his dynamic Bio-centric Egalitarianism. This was a critical point in my ethical development because the notion of an attitude of respect for nature was presented and at this point, I realized that balance is key and used this notion of balance to further develop my complete environmental ethic. Every prompt that followed either strengthened my resolve for my nearly complete ethical position or provided me with refutations that forced me to further reevaluate and refine my position. Taylor brilliantly illustrates the importance of a life-centered ethic that focused on the fact that each individual existing in the biotic community possessed intrinsic value and a teleological center that enabled them to pursue their own good. With his notion of respect for nature in mind, I realized that regardless of the human activity present in the biotic community balance is essential to a harmonious co-existence. But according to Taylor, this approach is only viable if humans reject their notion of superiority in regards to the rest of the biotic community. This requirement led me to discard Taylor’s total view and only accept components of his ethic, applying it to my own developing position. I think that anthropocentrism is the only practical perspective to have. We are human beings so what other view are we going to have? We cannot and do not know what it is like to be a tree or a chicken or a mosquito. Their experiences and interests are of importance to us and must be respected but certainly not equated with our own. If we were no superior to other animals and members of the biotic community, then there would be no moral obligation for us to have concerning them. The very fact that our rational thought is the basis for any argument concerning the environment, proves that rational thought makes us at least morally superior to other members of the biotic community.

Finally, prompt 11 instructed us to evaluate the arguments of another student. I chose to evaluate the argument of a student who favored and holistic approach. Completing this prompt enabled me to realize that it would be difficult to defend my position while it still allowed the consumption of natural resources and the eating of meat. But regardless of any argument I was presented with, balance remained triumphant and even led other students who accepted ecological ethical positions to agree with my formulation of an intermediate compromise of both positions with a favorable lean to animal liberationist ethics. These five prompts signify my growth and development. They also signify my most pivotal changes and where I challenge my own beliefs while evaluating and accepting certain aspects of opposing beliefs and views.

I am extremely ecstatic that I took this course and was able to find my environmental ethical position amidst intensive writing assignments, dense reading assignments and dynamic group work. This ethic will be valuable years after we all hand in our last assignment for this course and I will equip my same lens to evaluate my behavior from this point on and challenge myself and others to be self-aware and conscious in how their habits affect the environment and what a little critical thinking can do to benefit not only themselves but every member of the biotic community. My ethical position, as it currently stands, critically demands that every individual embody respect for nature and mindful, moderate use of natural resources. At the very least, even if one chooses to not ascribe value to the environment, balance should be employed to conserve natural resources for future generations and populations of humans as well as animals. The dynamic of balance transcends wither justification for ascribing inherent value and instrument value. Animals that are used for food, clothes etc. should never be treated inhumanely because we posses a give and take relationship with them and every other member of the biotic community. Compromise and balance are the most important aspects of my ethical position while individual value is essential to the anthropocentric perspective that exists as the secondary foundation for my argument.



7 Responses to A Compromising Balance

  1. avatar Cindy says:

    You bring up an interesting point that I hadn’t thought about which is moderation. I think that we would all be better offif we practiced using the environment and animals in moderation. I feel like this isn’t very practical though, especially it he United States where we’re known to consume and use in excess, which would explain why we eat so much meat that causes health concerns and why we output so much CO2. I still don’t believe that it’s necessarily right to use the environment, resources, and animals for our own mean (I’m definitely a deontologist) however I feel like your solution is the most practical because it’s not like people are going to completely stop and be self-reliant.

    I also agree that anthropocentric views are the most practical. I actually dislike and reject the idea of using anthropocentrisim and specieism as a means or defense for using the animals and the environment to suit our will, however, I feel that if we want to make real changes in the word, appealing to humans and our sentiments is the sort practical means. Even if we’re superior with our abilities to think and reason, I don’t think we should use that to exploit the rest of life. The power of human intelligence could actually lead to our demise, if we continue to destroy the earth and disrupt the ecosystem. We don’t know what consequences lie ahead and we shouldn’t be anxious to figure out; hopefully we learn the value of moderation, but it’s going to take a lot to reconstruct our habits of excess.

  2. avatar Sbranch says:

    Dom, I think that this post was extremely well written and you were very successful in articulating your points. I too felt a turning point after reading Taylor’s work. Taylor’s text helped me to establish a stand that I worked around for the rest of the class. I also think that your transition during this class has been interesting and I feel that I had a similar transition in arriving at my final post on my environmental ethic. I think that your emphasis on balance is something that I did not touch too much upon but I think is paramount if humans are to continue to exist on this earth. Compromise is the only way that we will be able to continue on as a species, even if we choose not recognize any of the intrinsic value, we must recognize that existing in harmony and preserving wilderness is crucial for our own preservation as a species.

  3. avatar Allie says:

    Dom, this is a great reflection and I really feel like I took something away from it. After reading it I wish that I too wrote about the quiz and how my own answers surprised me. I was really impacted by Singer’s impracticality as well and found in Russow a suitable compromise between logic and sentimentality. When reading your last paragraph I found myself remembering a quote I once read “the earth is not inherited from our parents but rather borrowed from our children”
    This is still true and I really relate to your environmental ethic.

  4. avatar Wilma Chen says:

    Your points were very intriguing and refreshing. I knew I had to make sure to read your post because you had a very different view from the rest of our group members. Most of us had the combination of both a liberationist and an ecologist with a lean towards a more holistic position. However, yours was a combination of both with a dip towards the individualistic approach. Thus, I was very curious to see how you tied all of your prompts together and your final conclusion on your philosophy. You disagreed with the notion that natural resources should be preserved. Instead, it is more important to conserve and develop new methods and techniques to reduce waste and increase reusability. This belief made a lot of sense to me because we need certain resources in order to survive. It would be impossible to cease use on resources completely. You went on to discuss how the exercise in prompt 2 allowed a breakdown of your moral views to their fundamental core so they can be refined and adjusted by future philosophies. This statement really caught my attention because a lot of our philosophies in our class were adjusted by the ones we encountered in our readings. Instead, you allowed a complete breakdown of your beliefs in order to take on new ways. I didn’t realize that this could be a different approach on how one approaches the formulations of their beliefs so it was very interesting to read your case. Finally, you rejected Taylor’s notion that humans are not superior to animals and I was surprised. Normally, I thought people would have generally agreed with Taylor’s argument. You also stated that “anthropocentrism is the only practical perspective to have. We are human beings so what other view are we going to have?”Although I disagree that we are superior to animals, I realize that it is anthropocentric arguments are not necessarily bad. It was hard for me to refute that statement because it is true that it would be very difficult to have a view centered on something else besides one’s own species. It reminds me that holistic biotic communities are essentially anthropocentric in nature because some philosophies suggests what humans can do for the good of the system as a whole.

  5. avatar Cherieyw says:

    I had same statement and I have taken the same position as you on my first prompt. I thought about zoos taking away animals’ freedom but never thought about they would have mental stress. I too wish we could eliminate those zoos built for profit so that we could provide animals a better living condition. I feel when you saying “I believed (and still do) that this treatment of animals was unethical since they are also species on this planet that we all share, and need to be respected as such” Ii is more likely a view from environmental ethicist. I also found this course have taught me a lot. It not only helped me in developing of environmental ethic thoughts, but also taught me how to think and critique others idea.

  6. avatar Cherieyw says:

    sorry, the last comment is for another post,i pasted it to the wrong place:(

    As I read though your prompt, your thought on “eating meat and using animals strictly as tools instead of treating them as ends in themselves” made me reasoning the definition of “treated animals well”. I insisted human and nonhuman should not be equally but I believe nonhumans should be treated in a good way, so what is the “good way”? To not distribute animals’ life and let them be? But what if they are in hunger and need our help? Or to feed them well? Then others would argue you again that you lows their competitive power in the wild. I did not stand on environmental ethical position, but I agree with you the key to solve the problems is to compromise and balance the relationship between individuals in this biotic community.

  7. You did something special in your post. While the rest of us in the class have gotten sucked into these readings, and created all kinds of posts based on theories, you have maintained a level of reality. There has been something about your posts causing them to sound different than the rest of ours in the group (as Wilma said) and now I have it figured out. The rest of us are talking in theory, utopian theory really. And you have maintained more of a realistic stance. I would suggest that you look at one statement you made backwards and then re-think it. “In regards to speciesism, endangered species are ascribed higher value due to their probability of extinction. Russow adamantly rejects this approach because it is still favoring a group of endangered animals over those that are not. This approach fails at equal consideration but is still utilized by several groups claiming that they want to liberate animals and spread awareness of their equality.” What I mean by think of it backwards is to consider that maybe focusing on endangered animals is a way to right the wrongs done by humanity. Consider the gorillas in Africa that are being killed as a result of the tribal warfare issues. If we think of the gorilla population as not having a problem prior to humans screwing it all up, then maybe we can also consider the focus of their endangerment as equal consideration to “restore” their equality.