Since the 1960s, questions concerning environmental ethics have loomed large in the public awareness. At the heart of all of these questions is one single issue that has caused confusion among many people involved in this controversy. There has been much debate on this issue, but little has been fruitful, and this can in part be blamed on the fact that the debate is of a particularly low quality. Much of it has been of the name-calling, conclusion-with-no-justification-spewing variety. The central problem with the environmental debate is that the debaters engaged in attempting to provide solutions to these issues do not agree on the humanity's place in the natural order. Rather than dealing with this core issue, however, the debaters debate only on incidental issues which proceed directly from the central problem.
This central question is "How shall we relate to, or deal with, the environment?" Environmentalists frequently answer that we should, in some sense, live in harmony with nature, or respect the rights of natural beings, such as trees, birds, mountains, and rivers. In this essay, I present an opposing viewpoint: I propose that there are no moral obligations which direct how "humans" should deal with the environment, because the concept "human" is an arbitrary class with no real meaning.
The problem with this environmentalist viewpoint is that the presupposition that there is some radical difference between humans and other animals is inherent in the position. Environmentalists suppose that there is something that puts us in a privileged position compared to the rest of nature. In fact, there is not. Humans have the same drives as other animals. In this respect, a...
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...definition of "humanity" have to do with how "humanity" should relate to the environment?
The answer is that there is no particular set of rules that "humanity" should follow in relating to the environment. Certainly, there are some things that would be "good" for "humanity," and other things that would be "bad," depending upon how you define these concepts of "good," "bad," and "humanity." And certainly, some things would be better for the ecosystem than others, depending upon how you define the "good of the ecosystem." But it is impossible to argue that "humanity" should be responsible for shepherding the ecosystem, or for staying in a certain place in the ecosystem, because there is no natural and proper place for "humanity" -- "humanity" is an illusion, an arbitrary group of "animals." There are no moral considerations that apply to "humanity" as a whole.
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