Title page of Walden; or Life in the Woods, 1854, showing Thoreau's hut at Walden Pond, Massachusetts (Library of Congress)

interdependence among living things, a conservation ethic based in this tradition requires fair consideration of how human actions that directly affect the environment will indirectly affect other human beings. The Judeo-Christian Stewardship Ethic that has emerged confers intrinsic value on all creatures. Because God declared his creation good, human "dominion" over nature makes us responsible for caring for God's creation. Similarly, Islam teaches that human beings have a privileged place in nature, contributing to a tendency to take an instrumental approach to nature because other natural beings are to serve humanity. However, there is a strong emphasis on stewardship, because an ethical relationship among people requires that there be an equitable distribution of resources among those of the present generation as well as among future generations. Other major world religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism, invite humans to identify with other creatures and advocate sameness or oneness rather than separation between humans and others. Such beliefs lend themselves to an interest in environmental stewardship and conservation.

The conservation movement in the United States began as a moral movement, based in part on the biblical view of the natural world. Emerson and Thoreau wrote of the utility of nature as a temple and wilderness for the restoration of the soul. At the turn of the twentieth century, John Muir made this philosophy the basis for Romantic-Transcendentalism: a campaign for appreciation and preservation of wild nature that he believed was morally superior to exploitation of nature for industry or profit.

Gifford Pinchot, a younger contemporary of Muir, formulated a Resource Conservation Ethic with the objective of utilizing natural resources for maximum benefit: "the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest time." The principles of this ethic are equity (fair and just distribution in the present and future generations) and efficiency (natural resources should not be wastefully exploited, thus they should be used in the "best" way possible, ideally serving multiple purposes). This philosophy correlated well with the prevailing scientific worldview, and it gained support because of its relevance to the philosophical and political trends of the time.

Although Muir's and Pinchot's philosophies are both anthropocentric, a schism arose between them based on differences in their

John Muir, c. 1902. Muir and his fellow Romantic-Transcendentalists believed that appreciation and preservation of wild nature were morally superior to its exploitation for profit. (Library of Congress)

views of the benefits that humans may derive from nature. Romantic-Transcendentalists emphasized a transcendental reality beyond the physical world and valued psychospiritual above material uses, thus favoring environmental preservation. Resource conservationists were more materialistic and insisted on the democratic weighing of competing resource uses and the equitable distribution of the benefits of those uses.

Having begun his conservation career trained in Pinchot's utilitarian philosophy, Aldo Leopold came to realize by the 1940s that conservation must do more than maintain the flow of natural goods and services; it must protect the function and integrity of natural systems. Grounded in evolutionary and ecological biology, Leopold's Land Ethic helped to increase consideration for conservation ethics in scientific circles, and it continues to be a guiding ethic in conservation biology. Leopold recognized humans as members of the ecosystem along with other beings in the "landcommunity," thus including land and nonhuman beings in conservation ethics. The ecocentrism of the land ethic is famously encapsulated in Leopold's statement: "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."

Other views go beyond examining how we value nonhumans in nature, requiring that we rethink how we conceive of ourselves and our relationships with nature. Deep ecology and ecofeminism are examples of current philosophical viewpoints as well as political positions that drive some environmental ethics. Deep ecology, a term coined by Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess in 1972, emphasizes a deep level of questioning to examine the underlying values of our economic and political systems. The foundation of the deep ecology worldview is an ecological consciousness derived from a self-realization that expands the "self to include all life. If this level of self-realization is achieved, it eliminates boundaries between the self and the rest of nature, and in effect, places deep ecol-ogists outside of environmental ethics because a moral code is not necessary to show care for ourselves (which in this case includes all life on the planet).

Ecofeminism is the position that there are important connections between the domination of women and of nonhuman nature. Traditional rational approaches of Western patriarchal philosophy are the root of ecological problems and sexism, and have led to a human-nature dualism. Although ecofeminism recognizes the distinctiveness of humans from the rest of nature, it also recognizes the relationship and continuity of humans with it.

—Margret C. Domroese

See also: Organizations in Biodiversity, The Role of; Why Is Biodiversity Important?


Callicott, J. Baird. 1990. "Whither Conservation Ethics?" Conservation Biology 4, no. 1: 15-20; Callicott, J. Baird. 1997. "Conservation Values and Ethics." In Principles of Conservation Biology, 2d ed., edited by Gary K. Meffe and C. Ronald Carroll, pp. 29-55. Sun-derland, MA: Sinauer.; Devall, Bill, and George Sessions. 1985. Deep Ecology: Living as if Nature Mattered. Salt Lake City, UT: G. M. Smith; Goodpaster, Kenneth E. 1978. "On Being Morally Considerable." Journal of Philosophy 75, no. 6: 308-325; Norton, Bryan G. 1991. Toward Unity among Environmentalists. New York: Oxford University Press; Pojman, Louis P. 1998. Environmental Ethics: Readings in Theory and Application, 2d ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth; Regan, Tom. 1983. The Case for Animal Rights. Berke ley: University of California Press; Rolston, Holmes III. 1988. Environmental Ethics: Duties to and Values in the Natural World. Philadelphia: Temple University Press; Singer, Peter. 1975. Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals. New York: New York Review; Taylor, Paul W. 1981. "The Ethics of Respect for Nature." Environmental Ethics 3: 197-218; VanDeVeer, Donald, and Christine Pierce, eds. 1998. The Environmental Ethics and Policy Book: Philosophy, Ecology, Economics, 2d ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

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