In Merchant’s book she describes four ethical paradigms, these are the process that individuals view the environment from their viewpoints. Egocentric, Homocentric, Ecocentric, and Multicultural and Partnership Ethics are 4 different ways to look at the environment and how to use it. Each person takes their own ethical idea for their life in order to justify and improve their position in life. There are several qualities about each ethical system, and as with any idealology there are good and bad ideas. Understanding each one of these positions more in depth will help us better understand each other, and work towards compromises and a common goal, a better life for everyone.
The first paradigm is Egocentric Ethic; this is the thought, or view, that you are focused on yourself. You, the individual, are what matters, and what is good for you will be good for the rest of the group or society. This is not a selfish ideology, it is rather a philosophy that treats individuals separate but equal. This was a very prominent viewpoint in western culture during the 17th century; it was the driving force behind early Americans and their corporations. The main goal was to maximize profit from the development of natural resources. This permits an individual to use any natural resource that they wish; so long that it does not negatively affect their neighbors. An example of this would be a dam. A man cannot dam up a river, because this is limiting the use of the river to other people. However, an entrepreneur could build a dam because, “the public whose advantage is always to be regarded, would be deprived of the benefit which always attends competition and rivalry.” This ethic is a mirror of the Protestant ethic, that any person is responsible for his salvation through good actions.
The second paradigm is Homocentric Ethics. This paradigm is based on the good of society. In the 18th and 19th century, Jeremy Bentham and John Stewart Mill created the concept of Utilitarianism, which is “to ensure the greatest good for the greatest number of people.” They also believed that social good should be maximized and social evil should be minimized. For this reason the Homocentric ethics was born from Utilitarianism. As with Egocentric ethics, Homocentric ethics has religious beginnings. These were founded in Genesis 1 and 2. That God “placed man in the Garden of Eden, not as a master but rather, in a spirit of stewardship. An example of homocentric ethics would be the building of dams for water and hydraulic power for cities and states. One such controversy for this was whether or not they should dam the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite Park as a source of power for the city of San Francisco. The main problem of both Egocentric and Homocentric Ethics is there failure to determine what is the greatest good for people.
One other ethical system is Ecocentric Ethics. This is based on the idea that all things matter, inanimate objects and livings things, are all giving a value, whatever that may be. This ethical system is partially drawn from ecology, saying that science can no longer be value free; everything must be taken into account. Ecocentric ethics looks to ecology and their beliefs, to resolve ethical dilemmas. The harmony and unity of an ecosystem are the main ideals of this viewpoint; they want everything to be in perfect accord, whatever the costs. All things, including inanimate objects, have a moral considerability (there is a consequence for destroying any item). Modern Ecocentric ethics were first created in the 30’s and 40’s by Leopold, he changed the role of man to be a plane member of the community, not a conqueror or destroyer but to respect the earth. The roots of these ethics are mostly in holistic (all things are connected) compared to mechanistic and metaphysical ideals. An example of this idealology being used is to restrict the tearing down of forests in order to build a casino, a casino would be most likely appreciated by members of the community, but that does not take in the value of the trees, plants, animals, and other items that would have to be destroyed in order to create the casino. A major reason this is not accepted is because in Western culture we do not place a value on objects that are non-human, but we place a value on them being resources that we can utilize, for the betterment of our society. Deciding when to destroy a resource and when to save one is a major problem for this ideal is a large disagreement in highly developed countries, such as America, because we care more about us and our society, rather then the earth and its value.
The fourth and final ethical system is the combination of Multicultural and Partnership Ethics. Multicultural environmental ethics build on the relationship between biological and cultural diversity, humans are not just a species, we have many sub-species as well. The main idea of multicultural ethics is that we all live in one planet and “that we are many and also one.” They believe that the greater good includes the interest of all living beings. Multicultural ethics are rooted in partnership, which leads to the second half, Partnership ethics. Partnership ethics is the idea of relation, “equity between the human and non-human communities, moral consideration for both human and other species, respect for both cultural diversity and bio diversity, inclusion of women, minorities and non-human nature in the code of ethical accountability, an ecologically sound management that is consistent with the continued health of both the human and non-human communities.” This is an ethic in which humans fulfill their needs and natures needs based on moral consideration for all things. “A partnership ethic is grounded in the concept of relation rather than in the ego society or the cosmos.”
The BP oil spill of 2010 has been recorded as one of the most catastrophic disasters ever. With over 180 million gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, the stakes were high to get it taken care of immediately.
In the case of egocentric ethics, it would seem as though there would be virtually no concern for the animals affected. And although there are hundreds of birds and marine life dying and fighting to survive, people would only be concerned with what was directly affecting them. For example, most homeowners that live near the ocean front of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, or Florida, or any place of tourist attraction is going to be greatly affected in profits by this extravagant disaster. But as far as having any concern with the wildlife being affected, they couldn’t care less.
Homocentric ethics, on the other hand, are concerned with the overall good of the people, rather than the individual. However, there still seems to be little if not any regard for the wildlife and nature that is being affected by the oil spill. A homocentric view would simply look at the amount of jobs ruined, the food and natural resources that were destroyed, peoples way of life as far as where they got that food and how they spent time on the coast for various reasons, and the millions upon millions of dollars that it cost to remove the oil from the Gulf.
Ecocentric ethics is a different story altogether. This ethic is concerned with everything on earth, whether it is biotic or abiotic. They would have been devastated at the thought of those thousands of miles of beach and ocean was now toxic with oil. Every rock, blade of grass, animal, and person affected by this tragedy would haunt them. These are the people that would make any effort to rid the gulf of the oil choking our life on earth. They would be concerned with the livelihood of the people who work and live on the gulf. The risen cost of fish and seafood and the availability of the resources needed to those who live there.
The last viewpoint is Multicultural and Partnership ethics. They to have this idea that all life matters whether its biotic or abiotic, human or non-human, the only difference is that they believe that we are all different but still one species and should not discriminate against one another just because we are black or white, male or female, human or non-human.
Another environmental crisis is happening in China. China currently has the largest population in the world. In the past decade, it has surpassed the United States in the amount of greenhouse gas that is emitted into the air. This problem could continue to get worse as the population grows, more people drive cars than ride bikes, and the Chinese continue to use coal burning power plants. China already has some of the worst air quality and most polluted water systems, this growing greenhouse effect is only worsening they quality of life for China.
The egocentric ethic would be much more concerned with this. As far as the health of each individual goes, there is major risk. The individual would try to sustain life any way they could and do what it took to convince others that they are right. The problem would arise, however, that they would not be able to convince enough people to better their life.
Homocentric ethics would say that there are major things that need to be done to better the society. Since they are concerned with the population, they would work to make dramatic changes in order to better the health and welfare of the society and themselves.
For the ecocentric, they would be greatly concerned, not only for the people, but also for the wildlife and non-living things of the world that could potentially be harmed. The trees and animals that require oxygen are also having to inhale this polluted air, the water that is polluted with garbage, the resources used for the manufacturing of goods, and all other things affected.
As for the multicultural and partnership ethics, they again would be equally concerned with all life being affected by the abundance of greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere. However, I think that they are more concerned with the equality of life, meaning that all humans and non humans, men or woman, black or white should be treated the same. With respect and moral concern.
I think each paradigm has an intriguing idea behind reasoning, however I would say that Multicultural and Partnership ethics is the best one of the four. Despite the elaborate viewpoint of the ecocentric ethics that everything must be thought of, and is concerned with all things, I feel that the multicultural sense is much more down to earth per say. Although the multicultural ethic is concerned more with equality, they are still part of this idea that all earth is important and holds meaning in the world. I totally believe in equality and the idea that we are all different and yet of the same species and should therefore respect one another as so without the discrimination of another due to the difference in skin color or gender. Each different paradigm indeed has significance and could hold success to some degree, however, I feel that multicultural and partnership ethic would have the best interest and most effect idea of life and how it should be looked at.
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