Ethics & the Environment, Volume 6, Number 1, Spring 2001
For a Grounded Conception of Wilderness and More Wilderness on the Ground
Recently a number of influential academic environmentalists have spoken out against
wilderness, most prominently William Cronon and J. Baird Callicott. This is odd, given
that these writers seem to support two cornerstone positions of environmentalism as it
has developed over the past twenty years: first, the view articulated within
environmental ethics that wild, nonhuman nature, or at least some parts of it, has
intrinsic or inherent value; second, the understanding developed within conservation
biology that we have entered a period of massive anthropogenic biodiversity loss and
that landscape-level habitat preservation is essential for combating this. I argue
here that Cronon and Callicott are wrong. In fact, an ethics of respect for nonhuman
nature and an informed, scientific understanding of what is necessary to preserve it
do strongly support increased wilderness preservation.
The Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movement: 1960-2000--A Review
Aarne Naess, in a seminal paper on environmental philosophy, distinguished between two
streams of environmental philosophy and activism--shallow and deep. The deep, long-range
ecology movement has developed over the past four decades on a variety of fronts.
However, in the context of global conferences on development, population, and environment
held during the 1990s, even shallow environmentalism seems to have less priority than
demands for worldwide economic growth based on trade liberalization and a free market
While some perceptive writers predicted that the 1990s would be a "turnaround decade"
and that society is moving into an "ecological paradigm," the evidence, at this time,
for such a major shift in society is ambiguous at best.
Environmental Ethics, Animal Welfarism, and the Problem of Predation: A Bambi Lover's Respect for Nature
Many environmentalists criticize as unecological the emphasis that animal liberationists
and animal rights theorists place on preventing animal suffering. The strong form of their
objection holds that both theories absurdly entail a duty to intervene in wild predation.
The weak form holds that animal welfarists must at least regard predation as bad, and that
this stance reflects an arrogance toward nature that true environmentalists should reject.
This paper disputes both versions of the predation critique. Animal welfarists are not
committed to protecting the rabbit from the fox, nor do their principles implicitly
Beyond Uncertainties: Some Open Questions about Chaos and Ethics
Lately, a new language for the understanding of the complexity of life
(organism, ecosystem, and social system) has been developed. Chaos, fractals,
dissipative structures, self-organization, and complex adaptive systems are some
of its key concepts. On this view, reality is not the deterministic structure
that Newton visaged, but rather, a partially unknown or at least unpredictable
world of multiple possibilities. As the horizon of our knowledge of natural
realities expands the emergent comprehensive perspective requires a radical
reconstruction of both the concrete structure upon which human life is materially
built and the symbolic structure that reason has schemed.