Question Petra Social Sciences

Environmental ethics: light green and deep green

What is the difference between ‘light green’ and ‘deep green’ environmental ethics?

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Answer Internal Staff

Approaches to environmental ethics are often broadly categorised into two different camps: ‘light green’ and ‘deep green’ approaches. Generally speaking, these two approaches are distinguished by the extent to which they put human interests first, and the nature of the value that they ascribe to the non-human environment.

Light green theorists are primarily concerned with the instrumental value of the environment for the human race. Superficially, this concerns issues such as preventing the depletion of natural resources for future generations and preventing pollution so as to maintain an environment that is hospitable to humans. However, this approach can also result in the consideration of less critical instrumental goods, such as the wish to have an environment that is attractive to look at.

In contrast, deep green approaches treat the environment as intrinsically valuable, regardless of whether humans can make use of it or not. In this way, the interests of other forms of life are considered to be equally worthy of consideration as those of humans. In other words, deep green theorists are not anthropocentric in their ethical approach.