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.