Personal Ethical Evaluation

The rehabilitated land of a former coal mine

The rehabilitated land of a former coal mine

My position as an environmental stakeholder is one of a student in the process of learning, a lover of nature, and someone who hopes to cultivate positive attitudes towards nature and biodiversity into the future. I hold the environmental ethic that is closest to that of a Land Ethicist. Aldo Leopold, one of the most influential founders of environmental ethics, has a philosophy that rings true to me, as someone who grew up in an urban environment but wants it to change and change people’s opinions about their power to make positive change in wild places across the globe. This entire year has been eye-opening to me and has reshaped my feelings on the environment. I now know what I want for future generations: my children and my children’s children. I want a world for them to explore and get lost in, a wild, natural world that still has a strong hope for the future of humankind as well.

Bringing children to nature at a young age will possibly help them cultivate positive feelings towards nature

Bringing children to nature at a young age will possibly help them cultivate positive feelings towards nature

I reason that, as Leopold does, the land is more than just lifeless soil, inanimate trees and animals that do not have a spirit like humanity does. Nature is more than what anthropocentric, ethicists see. It is more than just rating the different organisms on their intellectual levels. We are more than our intelligence, as philosophers such as Tom Regan maintain. We have a basic creativity that perhaps even began the universe as well, according to Thomas Berry. I think that recognizing the inherent value of the multivariate natural world and treating it less as a disposable means and more as an end we can reach a higher life fulfillment as well. Basically my reasoning involves forgetting what humans have typically valued: power in the form of wealth, intellect and control and instead the basic value of treating others better.

As someone who is also an atheist I maintain that it is also not necessary to force a belief of God on the value of nature in order to value creation. In my opinion, the idea that there is no God is much a more wondrous idea. The randomness of the universe is the most beautiful concept I can conceive of, and makes nature and the random happenstance that humans even exist as sentient beings even less likely. In order to fulfill this reasoning it is important to respect all beings in a non-anthropocentric way, not necessarily valuing one species over another. I still have work to do myself with my own sentiments and consumer habits, but one day I hope to reflect my own feelings towards the environment in everything I do.

In an extension of my own atheist ethics, it is shown that you can be morally good without believing in a higher power

In an extension of my own atheist ethics, it is shown that you can be morally good without believing in a higher power

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My Semester at Saint Rose’s and New York City Environmental History

Despite New York City’s current image as a man-made environment of pollution and desiccated lands, it has a past of being a bountiful, wild environment and a possible future of sustainability. Fordham University’s Rose Hill campus in the Bronx is a subset of New York City that also has a past of being a lush environment before it became a more urban campus. In my time as an Environmental studies major in Fordham University I have worked to be more environmentally friendly through programs at Fordham university and internships in New York City that support a future of sustainability in New York City. With my work in Saint Rose’s Garden for the past year and my future internship at the Bronx River Alliance, I think that I will make a difference in the future of sustainability because I personally feel changed after having worked for an organization with a strong environmental ethic.

Fordham University in the Bronx is a lush campus but is less natural and more sculpted, man-made nature than anything

Fordham University in the Bronx is a lush campus but is less natural and more sculpted, man-made nature than anything

New York City, defined by the island of Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs of the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island was not always a concrete jungle but actually verdant forest and marshlands, and even coastal plains. When Henry Hudson sailed up what is now known as the Hudson River he saw a land filled with diverse creatures, inhabited by Native Americans and also full of ripe resources to exploit. Unfortunately this land would soon become decimated by European settlement and the subsequent founding of one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world. Environmental problems ran rampant in New York City and especially the Bronx area that surrounds Fordham until the late Twentieth century when people began looking at their neighborhoods in a new way, one that would ultimately change the idea of what sustainability in a major city can be.

The Manahatta project used satellite imagery to create an idea of what the island of Manhattan used to look like before Colonization

The Manahatta project used satellite imagery to create an idea of what the island of Manhattan used to look like before Colonization

For this fall semester, continuing from last semester, I spent my practicum in St. Rose’s Garden on the Rose Hill campus. St. Rose’s Garden works hard to bring a message of sustainability to the Last year I was elected to the E-board of the garden and thus have spent the time since helping the best I can to get speakers to the garden, posting for the garden on social media, and helping welcome students during meetings, among other tasks. St. Rose’s garden hearkens back to the time when the Rose Hill campus was run through by a babbling brook and had a pond to water cattle that grazed there. St. Rose’s garden today is a beacon of sustainability for the future of Fordham’s Rose Hill campus.

As the association University Leaders for a Sustainable Future declares there are universities across the country that are ready to teach students about sustainability, conduct outreach to communities and much more. Fordham University is not as close to that goal as it could be, they are not even on the list. The administration, although they cite their adherence to recycling, certain electric vehicles and some LEED buildings does not have the environmental ethic that one would associate with an institution looking to spread better practices to its students. I think that student associations such as Students for Environmental Awareness and Justice as well as St. Rose’s Garden are the true starting points for change in our university, which is why I am a part of them.

Saint Rose's Garden is a flagship of sustainability  on Fordham's Rose Hill campus

Saint Rose’s Garden is a flagship of sustainability on Fordham’s Rose Hill campus

My time spent in St. Rose’s garden has taught me much more than Fordham’s self-proclaimed sustainable policies have by far. I have learned about the potential for urban farms and community gardens, the processes of soil formation, the micro-cosm that is the garden’s ecosystem, and much more. Although I am critical of Fordham’s policies, which seem to me like an afterthought among the bulk of their Jesuit principles, there is potential in them to incorporate truly sustainable practices.

My practicum at St. Rose’s Garden as a Secretary of the garden and someone who helped maintain a compost pile as well as harvesting crops in an environmentally friendly way reflects this sentiment of looking to bring neighborhoods to a different level of sustainability unlike any that has been seen in New York for some time.

Believe it or not, Fordham’s Rose Hill campus used to be a working farm. Cattle grazed and crops were tilled for students and Jesuit priests alike. What is more remarkable is that this tradition lasted for quite a while until the college became too big to handle the commitment to sustainability and plowed fields were built over and roads paved. Today, St. Rose’s garden is looking to bring back that feeling of nature by providing students access to the experience they could have had seventy years ago: tending a garden on campus. In addition St. Rose’s partners with a CSA in order to have fresh vegetables delivered to students from local, upstate farms. This message of sustainability is vital in this day and age, especially if Fordham wants to become more environmentally friendly.

St. John's College, now known as Fordham University, five years after its founding

St. John’s College, now known as Fordham University, five years after its founding

Unfortunately Fordham is not quite as sustainable as it could be. According to the 2011 most recent College Sustainability Report Card Fordham as a C+ in overall sustainability with a grade of F in categories such as investment and disclosure. If Fordham wants to push the bar higher and make the grade, it needs to divest. One program that fellow environmental policy students are working on to fulfill that goal is a program called Fossil Free Fordham. They look to push the economic investment of Fordham towards companies that are environmentally and fiscally sustainable. If Fordham can prove that it is up to the challenge of becoming the green haven it once was then it can be placed in the ratings of such associations as The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education or University Leaders for a Sustainable Future. This is not only an environmentally responsible choice, but one that can give better press for the University as well.

An initiative taken up by Environmental Policy majors was the Fossil Free Fordham campaign to push Fordham away from a fiscal carbon footprint

An initiative taken up by Environmental Policy majors was the Fossil Free Fordham campaign to push Fordham away from a fiscal carbon footprint

If we examine the Land Ethic, one environmental ethic that I cite time and time again as being an all-around fulfilling ethic, then we can get an idea of what Fordham needs to do as an institution to step up its game as an environmentally ethical place. As discussed previously, Aldo Leopold’s Land ethic examines human relations with the environment and points out how humans are inextricably connected to Earth. Because of this, Leopold recommends that humans treat the Land as if it were a living organism and even an entity with certain rights. I think that there is honestly truth in the idea of the Land Ethic being applied to land like Fordham University’s. When Fordham was an area of rolling hills and pastoral fields there was more respect for the natural movement of streams, the interaction of predators and prey and the abundance of diverse species. This can happen again.

Central to Leopold’s philosophy is the assertion to “quit thinking about decent land use as solely an economic problem.”

Central to Leopold’s philosophy is the assertion to “quit thinking about decent land use as solely an economic problem.”

My practicum was, I felt, a learning experience associated with the Land Ethic and its implications in the real world. As I composted and planted seeds as well as taught others to do so, I gained a new respect for the land that I never had before, as someone who grew up in a very urban area. Hours spent weeding the garden in order to avoid pesticide use, or plucking fresh tomatoes from the vine gave me a new knowledge of the ideas of the Land Ethic and the effort required to feed ecosystems and people alike. Digging through the soil I found the organisms that make it up like worms and grubs, and the rich minerals and nutrients that course through the rich humus of the soil. I felt a deeper connection to the land that once sprawled across Fordham’s campus and in New York City as well.

The Bronx River Alliance is an organization devoted to cleaning up the portions of the Bronx River that have been polluted for decades, as well as educating adults and children alike of the unique ecosystem that riparian zones have surrounding them. Through their work they craft their own form of the Land Ethic to bring it to people of the Bronx. I mention this organization because in the coming semester I will be interning for the group and helping continue their work with communities as a non-profit organization. The Land ethic is found in their work bringing people not just to a beautiful view of scenery but also to a unique ecosystem that has been lost in the past centuries to industrialization and urban growth.

My work with St. Rose’s Garden has prepared me to look at the world in a new way. I personally feel kinship with the soil and the organisms that rely on it, since I ate from the vegetables that we grew ourselves. If more people had a connection to the natural world then perhaps one day we could be a more environmentally aware society and be more conscious of our actions. I hope to one day change people’s minds about what it is to be an ethical person and include the treatment of the environment and animals in this definition. This may take many years of work in order to accomplish but I think that there is hope for the coming decades, especially with the looming menace of global climate change at our doorstep. I have hope in the basic idea that people can change their minds about the environment and the importance to protect it, all they need is an informed opinion and they can begin to love the land they inhabit.

Works Cited

“ABOUT ULSF.” University Leaders For A Sustainable Future. Accessed December 16, 2014. http://www.ulsf.org/about.html.

“Fordham University College Sustainability Report Card 2011.” The College Sustainability Report Card. January 1, 2011. Accessed December 16, 2014. http://www.greenreportcard.org/report-card-2011/schools/fordham-university.html.

“Natural and Social History.” Bronx River Alliance. Accessed December 16, 2014. http://bronxriver.org/?pg=content&p=abouttheriver&m1=9.

“Environmental Studies Program.” Fordham University. Accessed December 16, 2014. http://www.fordham.edu/info/20920/environmental_studies.

“St. Rose’s Garden.” Facebook. Accessed December 16, 2014. https://www.facebook.com/StRosesGarden.

Ecological Feminism

A symbol of feminist power

A symbol of feminist power

There are many social constructs that make up our society, some exist for reasons of practicality such as wearing clothes in public, but some are oppressive such as the gender roles imposed on men and women today. Ecological feminism is a movement that provides a distinctive framework both for reconceiving feminism and for developing an environmental ethic which takes seriously connections between the domination of women and the domination of nature.

Environmental and Feminist Activism go hand in hand

Environmental and Feminist Activism go hand in hand

According to Karen Warren, a philosopher and scholar of feminist theory, any environmental ethic that fails to take seriously the twin and interconnected domination of women and nature is at best incomplete and at worst simply inadequate. She advocates for Eco-Feminism because it encompasses these two values. As a stakeholder of an academic philosopher and feminist, she wants to maintain that natural relationships must occur but there must be an atmosphere of respect between humans and nature, as there should be between men and women. Eco-feminists extend this feminist philosophical concern to nature and argue that some of the most important connections between the domination of women and the domination of nature are conceptual.

Karen Warren has hosted talks in places ranging from town halls to colleges on the relationship between men and women

Karen Warren has hosted talks in places ranging from town halls to colleges on the relationship between men and women

Warren discusses the idea that Eco-Feminism should allow for difference in its expression, seeing eco-feminism as a flexible, evolving “quilt” being woven with “narratives,” “stakeholders,” and other voices. She is clear about the rule that there should be no sexism, anthropocentrism, etc in the “quilt,” and that eco-feminist ethics themselves are contextualist, thus relying upon their cultural background to be defined.

According to Warren worldview that is eco-feminist must also declare the difference between men and women and all human beings and a difference between human beings and the rest of nature as well, but principles of the movement must contain the loving, caring respect of differences between the humans and non-humans. It also directly opposes traditional patriarchal domination logic and values the tolerance of difference where a sharing, nurturing community, and a personal narrative even. Rules that including the respect of differences between human beings and between humans and non-humans and policies that reflect the above principles and values.

Ecofeminism is supported by organizations like the World Wildlife Foundation who empower women in their communities around the world to change their environment for the better

Ecofeminism is supported by organizations like the World Wildlife Foundation who empower women in their communities around the world to change their environment for the better

Eco-feminism also discusses problems such as the Western world’s subjugation over third world countries and how the “maldevelopment,” as Vandana Shiva calls it, results in real poverty and oppression while the believed poverty suffered by subsistence economies is not truly poverty. The West’s attitude of domination of market economies over subsistence economies is antithetical to the Eco-feminist idea of mutual respect and sharing and non-domination. It is in this same vein that women are often described with negative connotations being called wild and unreasonable, much like nature. According to Eco-feminism en are never typically put in this light. The domination of subsistence economies such as those in the Amazon also cause strife for the ecosystems involved. Thus a Western, patriarchal mindset applied to terms of nature domination are akin to the gender domination that women are put under in this patriarchal society.

Subsistence economies oftentimes lack the traditional idea of wealth, but that does not mean the people who live in them are poverty-stricken.

Subsistence economies oftentimes lack the traditional idea of wealth, but that does not mean the people who live in them are poverty-stricken.

Feminism needs to be involved with the environmental movement. There are so many examples of environmental crises that put women in poverty or subjugate them and then also wreak havoc on the ecosystems that they live in. Warren has it right when she says that both environmental ethics and feminism are incomplete without the other supporting ideology. If feminist ideals were included in environmental discussion then there would certainly be more nuanced and complex ethical arguments about women in patriarchal societies. How can we declare that animals and ecosystems have rights without further affirming the rights and equality of women? Logically, the movements will not work apart from one another.

I do not consider myself a feminist explicitly, but I understand the vital importance of feminism and the principles that it stands for. Rarely if ever do I see environmental issues discussed alongside feminist conversation or vice versa and I think that there is something to be acknowledged about that loss. Academic conversation and even everyday conversation must include this new dimension in order for it to cover all sides of the story. A Land ethic of some sort accompanied with Eco-feminism may help cover the bases in terms of rights. In the end, Ecological feminism is about equal rights regardless of gender, but also the rights of all organisms and ecosystems on Earth to not be subjugated. I think we need to remember the importance and equality of all creatures and environments in order for us to succeed as a society.

Deep and Shallow Ecology

Shallow Ecology and Deep Ecology represented in two different diagrams that explain the differences in the way that they value organisms

Shallow Ecology and Deep Ecology represented in two different diagrams that explain the differences in the way that they value organisms

Two positions that underlie many philosophical positions that we have examined are Deep and Shallow Ecology. The depth of both positions indicates the depth of spirituality that both have, or have a lack thereof. Deep Ecology, advocated by thinkers such as Arne Næss, is a secular position that claims to be supported by both science and philosophy. It has a strong spiritual orientation and draws on an array of world religions. In contrast with this position is so-called Shallow Ecology, supported by the philosopher Anthony Weston, among others. This non-secular, pragmatic position has a focus on pure policy and technology as well as the actions taken by humanity in order to become less anthropocentric. They both have recognize and examine the anthropogenic problems with the environment, albeit in different ways.

Arne Naess advocates for Deep Ecology and believes that there can be no other option for a basis of environmental ethic

Arne Naess advocates for Deep Ecology and believes that there can be no other option for a basis of environmental ethic.

Arne Næss, a Norwegian philosopher, coined the term deep ecology and collected several different schools of thought in order to solidify its points. Some influences of Deep Ecology are the work “Silent Spring,” by Rachel Carson and also Gandhi’s ideas about nonviolence. For Næss, policy and public awareness of environmental problems are not as important as instilling a different attitude than the one that modern Western developed societies had adopted up until that time. Abolitionism, therefore, is not what he advocates for but instead a sense of strong reformism. There is also a sense of mistrust of anthropocentrism within Deep Ecology, since it is a worldview that has caused the many problems that plague the earth.

Also explored in Deep Ecology is what Næss calls self-realization and self-love in the Greater Self of Nature. Borrowing heavily from the atman principles of the self, he maintains that humans need to craft their selves as inside a greater Self, or else there simply exists no will to actually solve the environmental problems that legal policies set out to rectify. If humans can recognize that their moral community is not just themselves but also all biotic and abiotic members of the Earth’s ecosystem, then there that will to right wrongs eventually is going to be found.

An excerpt of the Rig Veda: the text that introduces the idea of the self, or the atman

An excerpt of the Rig Veda: the text that introduces the idea of the self, or the atman

Næss also does not think highly of the Shallow Ecology movement, believing it to be, evidently, shallow in its pursuits. He outlines seven principles for Deep Ecology and one for Shallow Ecology and highlights the idea that Deep Ecology is, in fact, an ecosophy (a combination of ecology and philosophy) while Shallow Ecology is most certainly not.

Shallow Ecology, as supported by Anthony Weston, an American philosopher and scholar of the work of Aldo Leopold, is far more pragmatic but also less spiritual than the Deep Ecology advocated by Næss. Weston, in his explanation of the so-called Shallow Ecology in “Enabling Environmental Practice,” disagrees that rights need to be given to trees and other organisms in order to treat them right, or that there must exist an environmental ethic at all for the preservation of the planet. He argues for a pragmatic approach for the improvement of the environment for future generations.

Anthony Weston  is one philosopher who

Anthony Weston is one philosopher who advocates for Shallow Ecology, and thinks that Deep Ecology is excessive and not ready to be revealed to the public

Weston compares the attempt to form an environmental ethic to past ventures to create moral standing for certain demographics of humans such as people of different ethnicities, or women. In this comparison he mentions that the formation of an ethic simply cannot be visualized yet because we have not physically prepared society for a modern life with the interaction of nature and humans. For Weston, the priority for the coming decades is to create that interactive sphere of places where, perhaps planes are prohibited from flying overhead or communities are more adapted to the climes that they inhabit. Only after we have established these mechanisms of interaction can we then begin to think of forming an environmental ethic.

Designing a green neighborhood is one way in which humans can create an ethic through practice

Designing a green neighborhood is one way in which humans can create an ethic through practice

I think that the Shallow Ecology means of thinking is far more reasonable than Deep Ecology. Weston, who does not discount humans in his non-anthropocentric point of view, is pragmatic in his approach to ethics, which is something that I admire. Although Deep Ecology does seem to have deep-seated spirituality involved in its implementation, the idea of a non-secular ecological movement never quite appealed to me. It is important to take a stance on the ethics that people are now creating, which are based on nothing more than fundamentalists teachings, something that Shallow Ecology does not choose to confront, but in the long term I feel that practice will make the ethic rather than vice versa.

The struggle for an environmental ethic is real in this day and age, but perhaps viable solutions are what is needed for future generations to look back and acknowledge our forward thinking, rather than trying to create theoretical moral policies that may not hold up to the passage of time. It is in human nature to create a reasoning behind why societies have certain practices, so perhaps a hidden truth will become self-evident in the construction of sustainable homes or while composting table scraps. Only time will tell.

Perhaps the work put into at-home composting will one day reveal an environmental ethic to those who practice it

Perhaps the work put into at-home composting will one day reveal an environmental ethic to those who practice it

A New Creation Story

The conventional, scientific view of the Big Bang may not be enough to garner human sympathy for environmentalism

The conventional, scientific view of the Big Bang may not be enough to garner human sympathy for environmentalism

One important discussion of Eco-theology is the idea of the creation of the Universe. As discussed in Journey of the Universe there are many people who, although accepting of scientific explanations of the story of the beginning of the Universe, also find it is important to instill uniqueness in the story.

Journey of the Universe narrates the 14 billion year story of the universe’s development, from the big bang at the universe’s inception to the emergence of simple molecules and atoms to the evolution of galaxies, stars, solar systems, and planetary life of greater complexity and consciousness. The wonder that surrounds the creation story combats the realization of the lonely place that humans on Earth have. If the Earth is envisioned in this way then it is also easier for people to understand the importance of preserving this “creative force” of life and other forces of the Universe. This view is the view of the spirituality of the Universe that still allows for scientific processes but maintains that the mechanical processes were directed by something at one point.

Journey of the Universe is a movie co-written by Thomas Berry about the creation of the Universe perceived in a more spiritual way

Journey of the Universe is a movie co-written by Thomas Berry about the creation of the Universe perceived in a more spiritual way

One proponent of this view is Thomas Berry who believes that there is a creative force behind the universe. According to Berry there must have been some kind of unique feature of the Universe that allowed it to have been organized. He does not see the universe as reductionistic scientism, a method of thinking in which everything can be reduced to mechanical processes. Berry further elaborates that Earth itself is interested in having organisms living on it and the living beings themselves are linked together by food sources and mating processes.

There is a romantic vision of the world represented and its creation in “The Great Flaring Forth” (otherwise known as the Big Bang) in The Journey of the Universe and that is important to note. This vision of Earth as a spiritual wonderment is not pragmatic either, in fact it is a more pragmatic way of thinking for the majority of humanity. What ordinarily is a topic of somewhat elitist, scientific reasoning, environmentalism becomes a morally higher pursuit. Berry creates an extensionist view of Earth as a sacred community which is more biocentric than typical religious thought. Unfortunately it is not a method of reasoning accepted by the scientific community.

Fundamentalist religions can often get in the way of environmental progress

Fundamentalist religious sects can often get in the way of environmental progress

In “The Dream of the Earth,” by Thomas Berry, he maintains that the reason why environmentalism as a movement has had trouble being communicated to the general populace is that is does not have a good story. Berry does recognize that the traditional creation story sustained us for some time but with the advent of more scientific advancements it is important for a new story to be created. For Berry, a new creation story must provide a context in which life could function in a meaningful manner. He also dismisses various New Age orientations which have been ineffective in dealing with our present life situation. Berry maintains that the lack of this cohesive story has also pushed people into returning to religious fundamentalism which is counterproductive to the purpose of the environmentalism movement.

Although I am not religious, I see the benefits in the use of a unique creation story in order to instill an environmental ethic in people. I think that it will help people understand the importance of caring for the Earth and its inhabitants and will also move people away from an anthropocentric, consumer-based ethic. Like Berry argues, people need some guidance despite grounded, scientific theories developed that explain the various processes that guide our world and the harm that we are doing to them.

Consumer culture is a sin in the eyes of Berry and other spiritual leaders who support environmentalism

Consumer culture is a sin in the eyes of Berry and other spiritual leaders who support environmentalism

As we will see later, this particular examination of the universe can be seen as environmental pragmatism but also as Deep Ecology, although the two range widely in their philosophy. For us to fully appreciate and create a better world it is important to have this dynamic, new story of creation. No longer should fundamentalism reign in the religions of our time but instead a new discussion of the creation of the Universe should be formed that holds sway among scientists and theologians alike. I do not personally appeal to Berry’s creation story because I understand and appreciate the scientific principles that dictate our world and I think that the randomness of the universe is enough of an explanation for the beauty and wonder of the universe to be appreciated.

The beauty of the universe can be found in the randomness of its beginnings

The beauty of the universe can be found in the randomness of its beginnings

Ecotheology

The very nature of the practices of Buddhism lends itself to being at one with nature

The very nature of the practices of Buddhism lends itself to being at one with nature.

People of faith oftentimes ignore secular and scientific intellectual movements in the science-driven field of ecology. But despite popular belief, not all of them are against the multiple conclusions of scientific inquiry that we are harming our planet. Ecotheology provides an extension of traditional Christian religion and the philosophy of God in the field of environmental ethics. Someone who adheres to an ecotheological viewpoint believes that all Nature is the manifestation of the divine. They do not need secular proof that the Earth is unique and irreplaceable because they have God’s word for that. When comparing religions ecotheologians tend towards Eastern faiths, such as Buddhism, for sacred proof that the Earth is a place meant to be preserved and cherished. Many also believe that the Western faiths of Judaism and Christianity had and still have the potential for the appreciation of Earth and its natural beauty, though many may interpret them differently.

There are a few key thinkers who espouse the beliefs of Eco-theology. Thomas Berry, a theologian turned monk was one thinker who believed that there are principles that humans must follow in order to be in touch with the universe. He proposed that a deep understanding of the history and functioning of the evolving universe is a necessary inspiration to solve environmental problems and to function as a species. Two key principles of Berry’s are: one, the universe is the only thing that can be seen without context and everything is seen in context to the universe and two, that everything tells the story of the universe and it has its imprint everywhere.

Thomas Berry espoused beliefs about a different interpretation of the Bible being centered around preserving the Earth and its inhabitants

Thomas Berry espoused beliefs about a different interpretation of the Bible being centered around preserving the Earth and its inhabitants

Prominent eco-theologian Mary Evelyn Tucker, a professor at the Yale school of Forestry where Aldo Leopold began developing his Land Ethic, discusses the importance of Christian involvement in the ecological movement. Especially noteworthy is her faith in the coming generations that need to unite in order to stop the coming tide of destruction.

Mary Evelyn Tucker warns of the fundamentalist sects of religions that threaten to harm the practice of Ecotheology

Mary Evelyn Tucker warns of the fundamentalist sects of religions that threaten to harm the practice of Ecotheology

When looking at the role of consumer versus a spiritual person, Tucker notes that maintaining your spiritual depth is important. She agrees that becoming more in touch with religious spiritually will help those of faith become more environmentally minded. Her expression of dismay at the media’s “mindset of looking only at monotheistic, fundamental religious beliefs that are incorrectly interpreted,” is also important to note. She leans towards Asian religions such as Buddhism that look at humans as being a part of something much greater, a thought catalog more conducive to environmental awareness. Looking to give future generations a sensibility without reductionism in politics, law, economics but with theology is her challenge to society.

“Awe, wonder, emotion will drive us, [which is] difficult for scientists … How do we awaken our own passion for the future of the planet and share it? We … create a spiritual community that is more aware of the importance of the truth of climate change, other environmental problems.” -Mary Evelyn Tucker

Andrew Linzey implores Christians to become vegetarians to honor their spiritual peers in animals

Andrew Linzey implores Christians to become vegetarians to honor their spiritual peers in animals

Andrew Lindzey, another theologian and a prominent member of the Christian Vegetarian Movement, sees animal rights as undoubtedly found in the teachings of the Bible. As an adherent to animal abolitionism, and using scripture to back up his remarks, Lindzey remarks that animals are inherently equal to humans spiritually. He maintains that there is no Spiritual hierarchy. Despite Regan and Singer’s calls for animal ethics based in ethics, Lindzey (perhaps even more effectively) drums up awareness based in the holy writings that millions of people follow today.

“Animals are God’s creatures, not human property, nor utilities, nor resources, nor commodities, but precious beings in God’s sight. … Christians whose eyes are fixed on the awfulness of crucifixion are in a special position to understand the awfulness of innocent suffering. The Cross of Christ is God’s absolute identification with the weak, the powerless, and the vulnerable, but most of all with unprotected, undefended, innocent suffering.” -Andrew Lindzey

The group National Religious Partnership for the Environment is an association of independent faith groups across a broad spectrum. Each member draws on tradition to undertake scholarship, leadership training, agency initiatives and public policy education in service to environmental sustainability and justice. Clearly, despite the opinions of contemporary religious groups there still exist people who are firm in their beliefs of environmental sustainability and justice, without getting caught up in the rhetoric that other fundamentalist sects are involved in. This group is anthropocentric and lean less towards Berry’s and Lindzey’s beliefs, yet still deliver the important message of sustainability and taking care of your planet.

There are other thinkers such as Thinkers such as Lynn White believe quite the opposite of the previous thinkers: he feels that there are definite roots of Christian influence in the ecological crisis of today and thus religion will find it hard to be extricated from destruction. His two basic points are that “the Bible asserts man’s dominion over nature and establishes a trend of anthropocentrism,” and “Christianity makes a distinction between man (formed in God’s image) and the rest of creation, which has no “soul” or “reason” and is thus inferior.” Extrapolating from his opinion, then, Christians cannot also become ecologically aware due to the way that they interpret the scriptures.

Lynn Townsend White Jr. is skeptical of the role that religion can play in helping mitigate environmental destruction since religion helped create these problems to begin with

Lynn Townsend White Jr. is skeptical of the role that religion can play in helping mitigate environmental destruction since religion helped create these problems to begin with

In White’s opinion, Eastern religions are more accepting to the cause of eco-theology. However he maintains that most of the time religion must be abandoned altogether in order to found a more equal world.

Clearly, as past patterns have suggested, there will be wide variations in the interpretations of the words of scriptures, but perhaps eco-theology will set a precedence in the call to action for the environment as well. Perhaps going back to the religious roots of ethics and morality will convince the millions of people on Earth today who adhere to any number of mono or poly-theistic faiths to save the Earth. Perhaps the spiritual members of humanity can one day adopt the practices of the Catholic St. Francis, or Buddha in their thoughts towards the environment. They would neither betray their faith to the “cold, calculating, science-driven studies,” but be nurturing the Earth for spiritual reasons. One can only have faith in the future.

The Ethics of Mass Extinction

Past mass extinctions were caused by disastrous but natural events. The most recent mass extinction is human-caused

Past mass extinctions were caused by disastrous but natural events. The most recent mass extinction is human-caused.

Throughout Earth’s history there have been several mass extinctions. In the past these extinction events were a result of natural, albeit extremely lethal, events. Today we are in the midst of another extinction event that is, unlike the other ones, human-caused and not natural. Biologists such as Edward O. Wilson implore that the general public become more aware of the issues surrounding a mass extinction by understanding that this is not a natural phenomena we may be able to bounce back from and that there are clear paths we must take to rectify our mistakes. In the film “Call to Life,” which discusses the species extinction in progress, it is revealed that many views of the mass extinction and why we should prevent are anthropocentric, revolving around different reasons why preserving species and their environments is important.

Edward O Wilson, a prominent biologist, is a strong proponent of preventing mass extinction that is unnatural

Edward O Wilson, a prominent biologist, is a strong proponent of preventing mass extinction that is unnatural

The current anthropogenic mass extinction rate is happening at least 10 times faster than the natural background extinction rate that the Earth continually goes through. Much of what we know about the natural world, according to “Call to Life,” is not even a fraction of what is out in the wild-we do not know if certain species are interconnected or what will happen if particular species go extinct. Thus, we simply cannot take the chance of letting the extinction event occur.

There are several reasons why the extinction event is happening: global warming, pollution, overpopulation by humans, and over-consumption by humans all contribute to the extinction event. These direct links to species depletion are also, unfortunately, products of modern society. In order to rectify these problems then a total overhaul of our perspective on the planet must occur. Scientists have proven time and time again that the mass extinction event is happening but many people from politicians to the general populace do not know what that implies and the effects of the extinction event must also be determined and spelled out. An ethic must be established to understand why humans must put attention into other species for the good of all living organisms.

Human overpopulation is one factor leading to the mass extinction event. There are simply too many people taking up too much space on Earth

Human overpopulation is one factor leading to the mass extinction event. There are simply too many people taking up too much space on Earth

Many people have trouble accepting that this mass extinction event is any more volatile and terrible than previous events that have taken place millions of years ago, but there is evidence in the numbers. Current wildlife preserves cover only around 10% of the planet and protect around 5% of plants and animals today. These numbers are simply not feasible to  stable portions of the vast space needed to  biodiversity on Earth today.

When we look at wilderness, or an area of the earth substantially untrammeled or unmodified by human beings then we realize that there is virtually no place on Earth aside from parts of Antarctica that qualify as it anymore. To break this picture down imagine that a place that is not considered wilderness can range in use from a suburban complex to a major city, or farmland. These places do not welcome, nor are they conducive for animals to live in, so where can animals go? The answer is, nowhere since they have lost their natural habitat. The mass extinction event is, thus, a reality.

Manhattan Island and the five boroughs were once the home to a diverse number of animals, as modeled by this image, but in the present day this land barely exists

Manhattan Island and the five boroughs were once the home to a diverse number of animals, as modeled by this image, but in the present day this land barely exists

In addition there are skeptics who question why we must provide help for other organisms that are simply going through “a natural part of evolution,” as is often put. Despite the fact that supporters have the interests of preserving the lives of animals in their foremost thoughts, it is more telling that the reasons for saving other species is due to their usefulness in several important parts of human existence. For one, plant and animal organisms provide ecosystem services that humans may not even comprehend in the present day. Without organisms here in a certain aspect, or if organisms are disappearing fairly quickly then it is clear that the ecosystem service such as the purification of water will not occur. In addition many often cite the possibilities of animals and plants providing ingredients in the next big cure of a disease. To many supporters of species preservation these reasons are at the top of the list.

The Madagascar rainforest is protected and preserved by the WCS in order to maintain biodiversity

The Madagascar rainforest is protected and preserved by the WCS in order to maintain biodiversity

It is evident that the addressal of this mass species extinction is imperative, but is it a problem that the ethics involved in this situation are clearly anthropocentric? Is this a problem for the movement to protect animal species? According to Edward O. Wilson, no. As long as we are still saving the species, the reasons for saving them are irrelevant because the end goal of maintaining biodiversity is still achieved. To Wilson, the ecosystem services and medicines are priceless. If we were to put a price on their aid to human welfare it could risk them being devalued, sold or simply discarded to the highest bidder. Notable scientists and ethicists in “Call of Life,” also agree but state the importance of returning to the roots of our respect for natural places, as indigenous peoples remain committed to. Their vision of the future is not one where nature is manipulated by the will of humanity but where humans find their place in nature once more and become associated with the natural world.

Indigenous people look to become one with nature rather than mold it to their own uses

Indigenous people look to become one with nature rather than mold it to their own uses

In my opinion all of these reasons are great reasons to save the bountiful biodiversity of Earth, as long as we acknowledge that this biodiversity is threatened and that we need to stop it. We must all reexamine our lifestyle choices and perhaps become more in tune with Earth. As stated in the film, humans nowadays seem to have more interaction with machines and enclosed spaces than the natural world, and thus it is hard to garner empathy for it. Maybe a return to open, natural spaces will help people understand the value of our vast Earth and the choices we must make in order to preserve it.

Bringing wildlife to urban neighborhoods or schoolyards is one step in the right direction of building an ethic for empathy to the environment

Bringing wildlife to urban neighborhoods or schoolyards is one step in the right direction of building an ethic for empathy to the environment

Moving away from Anthropocentrism

The Hudson school of art was a Nineteenth century movement away from painting pastoral scenes and captivating the imagination of thousands with wild nature

The Hudson school of art was a Nineteenth century movement away from painting pastoral scenes and captivating the imagination of thousands with wild nature

Humans, although we see ourselves as pioneers and brilliant explorers and imaginative geniuses are still quite new to the world. Despite our journey into the far reaches of technological advances and new frontiers we still have not recognized the beauty and ingenuity of the parts of the smaller parts of our world, the ones we rely on most, ecosystems. The idea of an ethic to preserve natural beauty and utility is not new, people like John Muir have looked upon the natural world as a kingdom of heaven and a whole new world of opportunities waiting to be explored. Yet the ethics that they held were all anthropocentric, or entirely involving the overall benefits that these areas would have to humans.

John Muir, an advocate for National Parks, believed in conservationism

John Muir, an advocate for National Parks, believed in conservationism

In contrast, thinkers such as Paul Taylor consider the value of plants and animals and all organisms that make up the ecosystem. Talyor enumerates four different components of the biocentric outlook on nature. One, humans are thought of as members of the Earth’s community of life, holding that membership on the same terms as apply to all the nonhuman members. Two, the Earth’s natural ecosystems are seen as a complex web of interconnected elements, with the sound biological functioning of the others. Three, each individual organism is conceived of as a teleological center of life pursuing good in its own way. Four, humans are not by their nature superior to other species and the idea must be wholly rejected in light of the previous statements.

In Taylor’s ethics, parts of nature have legal rights. He certainly does not claim that they have moral rights of any kind and he feels that these moral rights should be applied to nonhuman living things. In his thoughts though he does admit that we must have an entire moral reorientation in order to accommodate this way of thinking. He dictates some principles that humans should follow in order to become more oriented to the biocentric ethic.

Orangutans like this one have been fought over in a court of law to be freed from zoos

Orangutans like this one have been fought over in courts of law to be freed from zoos

Taylor says the principle of self-defense is one permissible action for moral agents to take part in: for example if a human is attacked by a bear or is in fear of the West Nile virus, then they are allowed to protect themselves even killing the organism. Another principle of his dictates that you must not treat animals as a means only and instead have an attitude that respects nature.

The principle of minimum wrong is discussed wherein it is ethically permissible to override basic nonhuman interests for human interests at times. The principle of Distributive Justice dictates that in conflicts between human and nonhuman interests the solution is to have a fair distribution of environmental goods for humans and non-humans. Finally there is the principle which states that we should bring reparations to environmentally blighted areas

Living simply with a small carbon footprint is one way that humans can do minimum harm to the environment

Living simply with a small carbon footprint is one way that humans can do minimum harm to the environment

Recent research has opened up the field of ideas to the possibility that there are more than just sensitive and pain-feeling creatures in animals and humans. Plants, as researched by plant “neurobiologists” have been shown to have genuine reactions to pain and can even sense certain smells and react to probings. This does not necessarily give them the same inherent intelligence as humans but it certainly makes us reconsider them as moral agents. They feel pain, which is one requisite of Regan’s animal rights ethic, however he rejects the idea that plants are on par with animals and humans in that sense and also elucidates the impracticality of giving plants that same status.

These plant pinnae react to the stimulation of any touch to the leaf, a sign of their being aware of their environment

These plant pinnae react to the stimulation of any touch to the leaf, a sign of their being aware of their environment

Clearly plants do not have the same intellectual or cognitive abilities of humans or nonhuman animals but they are not the living automatons that we once thought them to be. Conservative thinkers decry biocentrism as folly and just another opportunity for intellectual elites to hoist rights onto another group of beings, but perhaps there is something to be said for a gentler humanity, one with respect for the not-so-obvious beauty and natural creativity that surrounds us.

I think that there is little to no chance that individual plants and other beings will be treated as legal beings in my lifetime. Realistically there are far too many divided on the idea that they alone have use value. What is for sure is that ecosystems have a definite use value, and we cannot possibly live without it. If we were to extend rights to any non-humans I predict that it would be to entire ecosystems that need to be preserved and allowed to flourish without human interference. It is obvious that, although financially a strip mall would be much more valuable, there is unseen value in an open meadow or an un-dammed stream. I think that our human ingenuity will one day allow us to live side by side with nature without thrusting us back into the dark ages. The true movement must come from humanity first.

Will wetlands like this one be given legal rights for its ecosystem use value over the right to develop that land? Only time will tell

Will wetlands like this one be given legal rights for their ecosystem use value over the right to develop that land? Only time will tell

Animal Rights and the Land Ethic

This ecosystem diagram shows that without certain organisms in the diagram the whole ecosystem may fall apart

This ecosystem diagram shows that without certain organisms in the diagram the whole ecosystem may fall apart

Another strong Animal Rights reformist is J. Baird Callicott, who is a scholar of Aldo Leopold’s Land ethic and uses it in constructing his own environmental ethic.  For Calicott, coming to terms with creating an ethic for the environment is difficult because he feels that at a certain point giving rights to entities such as plants and streams is simply too absurd. Active in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s,  he brought experience from that activist period of time. Calicott developed his Ecological-Hierarchical Land Ethic during that time and came to realize that the most important principle for an environmental ethic is respect for the community and the health of the entire ecosystem.  His view is often called “eco-fascism” by Tom Regan due to its inclination towards humans as opposed to other species.

J Baird Callicott's Ecological-Hierarchical Land Ethic takes a pragmatic approach to an Animal Rights Ethic

J Baird Callicott’s Ecological-Hierarchical Land Ethic takes a pragmatic approach to an Animal Rights Ethic

Calicott breaks down the responses that critics have to Leopold’s Land Ethic in his quest for an ethic. He finds that those who believe in Ethical Humanism will not agree with the Land Ethic because in their view humans should be accorded the higher honor due to their rationality or capability of interests. To Calicott, the Ethical Humanists have an orthodox response to the Land Ethic and thus could not accept any ethic prescribing them to think outward.

The American Humanist Association is one of many Ethical Humanist associations that looks to better the world without God, and putting humanity front and center

The American Humanist Association is one of many Ethical Humanist associations that looks to better the world without God, and putting humanity front and center

He also looks at Humane Moralists of the animal liberation movement, who overall accept Leopold’s Land Ethic, as another kind of speciesists.  They regard humans who do not have the full capability of human behavior such as babies to be less than animals. He thinks that their qualification of sentience is simply another way to make a cut-off for the species of organisms that humans should respect.He maintains that if they even try to create animal rights based on an ignorance of sentience, using mentally debilitated humans as an example, they are committing a grave error. This part of the animal rights movement includes people such as Regan and Singer.

For Calicott, the Land Ethic implies that the biotic community is what must be saved and thus killing individual organisms for the betterment of the community is vital. Basically in Calicott’s view some organisms are more important than others. He would agree that factory farmed animals, removed from their ecosystem, are of little concern and keystone species in the wild are more important to worry about.  If domesticated animals were released and given rights, would the planet be better off? The betterment of the planet is what Calicott sees as the main concern for environmental ethics, not the suffering of animals.

“There is something profoundly incoherent (and insensitive as well) in the complaint of some animal liberationists that the “natural behavior” of chickens and bobby calves is curelly frustrated on factory farms. It would make almost as much sense to speak of the natural behavior of tables and chairs.”

Regan critiques Callicott, bringing up the fact that he is looking at issues from a perspective of human interest and thus all utility of animals is based in our use of them. To Regan, sacrificing human or nonhuman animals to the “state” is akin to fascism. Callicott maintains that “there can be no value apart from an evaluator, that all value is in the eye of the beholder,” so the fact that we put this value on organisms at all is only because of a subjective perspective and thus it is necessary to take this “fascist” view of the environment.  In his eyes the Land Ethic never meant to hold species equal, it simply is focused on maintaining the collective entity known as land.

Keystone species like the Gray Wolf are considered more valuable to Callicott's Land Ethic than domestic animals, due to their place in the ecosystem

Keystone species like the Gray Wolf are considered more valuable to Callicott’s Land Ethic than domestic animals, due to their place in the ecosystem

In the end, Calicott advocates for keeping animals domesticated and in enclosures despite their perceived comfort, continuing our omnivorous diet, as well as not banning hunting and fishing as long as it does no harm to the ecosystem.  One policy he introduces is the idea that it is okay to sacrifice the lives of human beings, in the form of birth control, for the sake of the health of the community.

Luc Ferry, a critic of “Deep Ecology,” also believes that the environmental movement is becoming something of a fascist movement in which rights are given to entities such as animals, trees and rocks as opposed to humanity.  To him,  deep ecologists draw parallels far too close in comparison to the Nazi party of Germany. Nazi Germany held animals and the environment prime in their consideration, and certain humans, such as Jews, less valuable than these entities.  He feels that the Deep Ecology movement also casts aside all thoughts of human autonomy and cautions that, if pushed to its extremes, deep ecology could threaten democracy itself.

Luc Ferry, a French philosopher, has written scathing critiques of the Deep Ecology movement

Luc Ferry, a French philosopher, has written scathing critiques of the Deep Ecology movement

Clearly Luc Ferry is opposed to both the Animal Liberation movement and the Land Ethic but does lend valid criticism to both. It does lend us to the question of how pragmatic are those who examine the Land ethic if it involves the possibility of limiting human life, and how democratic is the animal liberation movement if it is deciding the fates of animals over humans? I think that both Calicott and Ferry do not quite interpret the movements in the way that was intended by those who adhere to the philosophies but this is important because it opens up the movements to criticism.

I think that the suffering of animals, especially ones so close to us ancestrally like chimpanzees, is unjust because they are not simply objects but our biological family of a kind. Suffering should be included in the equation of whether employing certain practices is proper in this day and age.  I personally support animal rights reform despite the questioning of its practicality.  Calicott does raise important questions though: How would domesticated animals truly be freed if we let all of them free? Is the environment not as important as the individual rights of the animals involved in it? I cannot answer these questions, but perhaps one day they will be examined more thoroughly to avoid the impossibilities of animal liberation.

Climate Change and coming ecological disasters are human caused but they will affect all walks of life.  We must take this into consideration when we create an environmental ethic

Climate Change and coming ecological disasters are human caused but they will affect all walks of life. We must take this into consideration when we create an environmental ethic

The Hierarchy of Animal Rights

This tree of animal kingdoms helps further classify animals, but can also determine which get rights and which do not according to Van de Veer

This tree of animal kingdoms helps further classify animals, but can also determine which get rights and which do not according to Van de Veer

Animal rights issues, as previously discussed, tend to ignite arguments about the types of animals that should or should not receive rights. Donald VanDeVeer takes offense with the opinions of animal rights advocates Paul Singer and Tom Regan. He feels that Singer and Regan are incorrect about their reasoning for animal rights and that they go too far in acknowledging the moral standing of nonhuman animals. For him, it is not practical to decide ethical conflicts and choose between human and nonhuman interests. Van de Veer does concede that speciesism exists but breaks it down into several varying levels of beliefs and applications.

Van de Veer takes offense to the ideas that Singer espouses such as the mere willingness to discuss serious moral questionings of the differences between animals and humans. The argument that he makes is that Singer’s strong admonitions of animal cruelty such as being a vegetarian as opposed to eating meat or avoiding other practices that would kill animals is not practical. Van de Veer argues that there are still questions to be answered despite these conclusions such as the conflicts in interest that one would have with killing an animals in order to feed humans or vice versa. Basically, where does one draw the line? He feels that devising an adequate theoretical basis for the legitimate treatment of animals is no easy task and cannot be done simply by extending existing principles.

Would babies and dogs have the same rights in Singer's mind? Van de Veer finds that possibility irreconcilable

Would babies and dogs have the same rights in Singer’s mind? Van de Veer finds that possibility irreconcilable

In the case of animal suffering, Van de Veer relates the idea that animals do clearly have an interest in not suffering and do feel pain, but it is simply too difficult to determine if it is in the best interest or not that an animal suffers, for example, to have a painful infection cauterized, or other procedures done. He feels that we must advance the current reconsideration of our treatment of animals by identifying and assessing principles that provide a basis to weigh interests. In addition, he recognizes Singer’s definition of speciesism but also acknowledges that the definition is much more complex than simply weighing human interests over that of animals.

To Van de Veer there are three forms of speciesism and two non-speciesist views that make up the belief systems. One speciesist view is Radical Speciesism, or the view that it is morally permissible to treat animals in any fashion one chooses. Gruesomely, he describes an example of a radical speciesist as someone who takes no offense at baking live puppies in an oven for the perverse pleasure of it. Those who adhere to Radical Speciesism also adhere to the fact that animals cannot suffer, for if they did than radical speciesism would be mistaken. Van de Veer outright rejects this view and so do various Animal Cruelty laws across the world.  Additional fines are brought on a person if the animal was an endangered species.

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Extreme Speciesism, or the view that when there is a conflict of interests between an animal and a human being it is morally permissible to subordinate the animal for the sake of promoting even a peripheral interest of a human being. Someone who adhered to this thought process would deny people the right to bake puppies unless it gave some benefit to human interest. The idea that animals suffer is acknowledged in this case but Van de Veer also rejects this view because the moral permissibility of recreational acts such as animal-trained circus acts is questionable at best.

Elephants trained by circuses are often abused, but an Extreme Speciesist would allow such treatment since it brings entertainment to humans.

Elephants trained by circuses are often abused, but an Extreme Speciesist would allow such treatment since it brings entertainment to humans.

Interest Speciesism is the view that when there is a conflict of interests between an animal and a human being it is morally permissible that an animal interest is subordinated in order to promote a like interest of a human being but one may not subordinate a basic interest of an animal for the sake of promoting a peripheral human interest. In the case of discussing what is or is not right for humans to do, puppy baking is simply out of the question and causing animals to suffer in general is rarely justified. The big question that arises out of this speciesism is, do we explicitly differentiate between the varying levels of species such as the differences between oysters and chimpanzees? There is something to be said for basing rights on something other than if an animal has an observed interest.

Animals used for medical testing are still used as means to an end, but this is permissible in Interest Speciesism

Animals used for medical testing are still used as means to an end, but this is permissible in Interest Speciesism

Then there is Two-Factor Egalitarianism which holds that when there is an interspecies conflict of interests between two beings, A and B, it is morally permissible to 1. sacrifice the interest of A to promote a like interest of B, 2. to sacrifice a basic interest of A to promote a serious interest of B is A substantially lacks significant psychological capacities and 3. to sacrifice the peripheral interest to promote the more basic interest if the beings are similar with respect to psychological capacity. One example of the moral weight of this is to look at two different scenarios of killing either seals in an arctic wasteland or killing veal calves in an affluent region-in this case the veal calves should not be killed because the overall utility is far less since there are other food options. On the same token scientific research is justified as done to animals. On the whole this way of thinking reveals that generalizations are unreasonable when considering the morality of causing pain to animals.

An aboriginal person hunting for survival would be allowed to continue hunting for food in Two-Factor Egalitarianism

An aboriginal person hunting for survival would be allowed to continue hunting for food in Two-Factor Egalitarianism

There is also Species Egalitarianism which, in contrast to the other views is explicitly anti-speciesist. Those who hold this belief think that when there is a conflict of interests between an animal and a human being it is morally permissible to subordinate the more peripheral to the more basic interest and not otherwise. In this view human interests are denied the outweighing of animal interests simply because they are held by humans-it is not where you are evolutionarily but fundamentally where your interest is.

Equal rights for animals are pursued by those who believe in Egalitarianism

Equal rights for animals are pursued by those who believe in Egalitarianism

Van de Veer also disagrees with Tom Regan’s point of view although it tends to be more egalitarian, and maintains that the trait of sentience that is possessed by all humans but not all animals should be a trait that will give humans more moral relevancy over animals. The view of Two Factor Egalitarianism is one such view that Van de Veer prefers, which assumes that the level of importance to each being and the psychological capacities of the parties involved are relevant. He argues that the loss of life of a human, to a human, is much more costly due to the intricate psychological complexities of the being as opposed to animals. He argues that Singer’s view on speciesism is wrong because it is based on the ideas of species membership is inherently incorrect. The capacity to live a satisfying life is, for beings such as humans, much more culpable than animals have.

Overall, I see that Van de Veer is trying to correct the basic problems with Singer and Regan’s views, but I see less of his own view in Two Factor Egalitarianism and more of a rejection of their views. Van de Veer admittedly has a more rounded and practical version of animal rights but he still remains somewhat contradictory in his reasoning. For one, he claims that all humans are sentient when that simply is not true as proven by cases such as mentally retarded persons or comatose patients. This lack of mental acuity is never addressed by Van de Veer. I would say that, in comparison to Regan’s view, Van de Veer’s view is much more tame and less problematic in its implementation but it certainly leaves something to be desired.

A vision of a future city that integrates Van de Veer's ethics would have green architecture and an environment that respects the needs of animals

A vision of a future city that integrates Van de Veer’s ethics would have green architecture and an environment that respects the needs of animals