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Ecocentrism and Environmental Ethics

Ecocentrism and Environmental Ethics

The biodiversity and earth’s integrity are being lost at a faster pace due to a wide range of human activities. Therefore, the destruction of the ecosystem has given rise to various questions regarding environmental ethics and the roles that humans play in maintaining the earth’s integrity (Taylor et al., 2020). When analyzing the current ethical standards, there are no set rules regarding how a man should relate to the land, animals, and plants growing upon it. Aldo Leopold was the first individual to express the ideas related to environmental ethics in his revolutionary dubbed “the land ethic. Despite the emergence of this concept long ago, we have not yet accomplished the necessary ecological necessities needed to preserve the environment. In today’s world, cases relating to global warming, species pollution, and Wildland destruction are on the rise (Taylor et al., 2020). However, all these problems can be solved depending on how humans perceive their relationship with the land. The present environmental ethics are centered on the idea that morality should be extended to include the relationship between humans and nature. As a result, although there are different ways of understanding the extension of moral consideration to nature, one of the effective ways relates to ecocentrism (Taylor et al., 2020). On most occasions, ecocentrism identifies inherent value in all of nature and has a much wider view of the world than other perspectives. Humans, therefore, have moral obligations to ecosystems and that a particular action is right when it preserves the stability and flourishing of the ecosystem (Taylor et al., 2020). Different philosophers believe that ecocentrism is key to achieving environmental sustainability since it adopts a life centred approach, however, this may not be the case since humans have higher moral obligations that non-human living things. This essay seeks to expound on how ecocentrism emphasizes environmental holism that is life-centered is biased while also incorporating one counterargument.

Main Arguments

Human-centeredness is one of the primary factors that give humans the moral obligation of preserving the environment.  When analyzing human centeredness, it provides more ethical practicability of defining and promoting ethics, thus earning them the top place on the moral ethics of the ecosystem. According to Paul Taylor, he argues that although it is difficult to prove the claim of inherent worth when humans adopt the attitude of respecting nature, they can prove the fact that they have intrinsic worth, an aspect that is borne out of their relationship with the earth’s community, and hence all these aspects underpin the ultimate moral attitude (Plater, 2013). When human beings do not take care of the environment, they pose a threat to themselves and nature in general. Human beings and nature are interdependent; as a result, man is morally aware that he needs to preserve nature and transform it. Since man’s existence in the early, man has often used different methods in retrieving different resources for their benefit (Plater, 2013). This includes cutting of trees, exploiting minerals, polluting the environment, among others. However, the human-centered approach notes that only human beings are morally considerable in their own right. As a result, they have a direct moral obligation to everything that they possess regarding the environment.

When analyzing Western philosophies, most of them have criticized the anthropocentric view of environmental preservation since some believe that this type of ethics should also be extended beyond humanity and be given to other non-human beings in the natural world, which makes ecocentrism the best approach (Plater, 2013). Some Western philosophers note that human-centeredness should also be run to other sentient organisms and related holistic entities such as rivers, species, and ecosystems. Despite such aspects, human-centeredness plays a crucial role in extending moral understanding. This moral extension has not been to the non-human natural world but to human beings who have the moral capacity of reasoning. Therefore, based on such aspects, it is crucial that these moral standing should also be granted to future generations since environmental problems such as climate change will affect the future ones more than the present ones (Plater, 2013). The connectedness that humans have with the environment gives them the ability to understand the consequences associated with their actions. For instance, human beings can judge that it would be unethical to cut down rainforests due to their associated impacts on plants and other animal species (Plater, 2013). Additionally, humans have more civilized practices of judging what is right or wrong than other sentient organisms; hence should adequately take care of the environment.

The moral status between humans and non-human living is different, making it crucial to adopt a more individualistic approach to defining ecocentrism morality. Humans and non-human living animals interact in different ways. For instance, human beings live with animals such as dogs and cats in their homesteads. Additionally, other unwanted animals such as the mice also invade habitats where humans stay and cohabit with them (Verma, 2017). However, when analyzing the moral obligation of humans and non-human living organisms such as animals, the non-human living organisms do not have any moral status. The absence of moral status among non-human animals can be affirmed by exceptionalism which notes that non-human organisms do not satisfy certain necessary conditions of being moral subjects. For instance, according to exceptionalism, moral duties require that the involved parties enter into a social contract. However, since animals cannot enter into contracts, they are often excluded. Additionally, for one to have morally considerable interests, they must have preferences and articulate specific moral claims and have the capacity to reason concerning ethics: an aspect that non-humans do not possess (Verma, 2017). Since humans and non-human living humans have different moral statuses, when a non-human thing believes that something is right, it cannot be wrong for human beings.

Humans also have improved cognitive and social capabilities and cannot occupy the same moral sphere as other living things in the ecosystem. Immanuel Kant, for instance, notes that humans have a higher moral status since they have the moral worth in virtue (Verma, 2017). When analyzing the differences between humans and non-human living organisms, humans are more ethical since their biological and cognitive constitution allows them to anticipate the consequences of their actions and choose the right path to follow (Verma, 2017). Additionally, humans can take part in collective cognition and draw on humanity’s collective knowledge in a way that no other non-human living organisms can do (Verma, 2017). This aspect enables humans to be grouped into structures of society, an aspect that is lacking among animals.


Although ecocentrism adopts a life-centered approach of ecological preservation, human beings and non-human living things are interconnected. As a result, they are interconnected, and this makes them morally equal. When analyzing evolution history, humans share a common ancestry with animals, the chimpanzees (Kopnina et al., 2018). As a result, the common ancestry and evolution path followed by humans and non-humans makes them be interconnected in diverse ways, making them morally equal.

For a stable ecosystem to be maintained, there is an interdependence between humans and non-human living things. Humans and non-humans need to coexist since this lays a foundation for them to effectively thrive (Kopnina et al., 2018). Additionally, humans need essential services from animals and plants in the ecosystem and vice versa. Human beings depend on oxygen for their survival. On most occasions, plants produce oxygen and consume carbon dioxide. The absence of plants leads to the rapid depletion of atmospheric oxygen, giving rise to more atmospheric oxygen (Kopnina et al., 2018). In the long run, both humans and animals would die.


Ecocentrism is one of the environmental positions whose primary focus is to protect holistic natural entities such as species, landscapes, and ecosystems. Ecocentrism recognizes the intrinsic values that exist in all life forms and everything in the ecosystem, including the abiotic components. Despite the advantages associated with ecocentrism, it is biased since it tends to extend most of its views to the point of ecofascism. Most of the ecofascists perspectives reduce the needs of individual organisms below the ecosystem level in general. Although this may sound ethical, it justifies the destruction of specific organisms to serve the needs of the entire ecosystem.


Kopnina, H., Washington, H., Gray, J., & Taylor, B. (2018). The ‘future of conservation ‘debate: Defending ecocentrism and the Nature Needs Half movement. Biological Conservation217, 140-148.

Plater, Z. J. (2013). Human-Centered Environmental Values versus Nature-Centric Environmental Values-Is This the Question. Mich. J. Envtl. & Admin. L.3, 273.

Taylor, B., Chapron, G., Kopnina, H., Orlikowska, E., Gray, J., & Piccolo, J. J. (2020). The need for ecocentrism in biodiversity conservation. Conservation Biology34(5), 1089-1096.

Verma, A. K. (2017). Environmental ethics: Need to rethink. International Journal on Environmental Sciences. 2017e8(1), 7-9.






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By Sandra Arlington

Sandra Arlington is a contributing writer to the Motley Fool. Having written for various online magazines, such as Ehow and LiveStrong, she decided to embark on a travel blog for the past 10 years. She is also a regular contributor to My Essay Writer.

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