A moral compass for navigating planetary boundaries?
The planetary boundaries (PBs) concept is instrumental in quantifying anthropogenic drivers of biosphere degradation, defining a “safe operating space for humanity”(Steffan et al. 2015). Among 9 key PBs, biodiversity, and PBs that affect it (e.g., biogeochemical flows, land system change) are conspicuous for their high risk of exceeding safe operating spaces. Yet it is circular to include biodiversity as just one PB; biodiversity that has, over more than 3,5 billion years of life on Earth, played a great role in creating the biosphere that we know. Steffan et al. state that PBs can help “…decision-makers in charting desirable courses for societal development”, but that they “…do not dictate how societies should develop. We argue that the PB framework is inherently (and rightfully) value-laden and that humans are duty-bound to protect the biosphere because of its’ intrinsic value. We describe an ecocentric Earth ethic that recognizes the intrinsic values of individual organisms and dynamic life processes (species and ecosystems). Recognizing intrinsic value encumbers upon humans the duty to protect biodiversity for its’ own good, not just for the services they provide humans; this duty can play an important role in guiding human behaviour. There are many worldviews that recognize ecocentric value; we propose an eco-evolutionary ethic that aligns with a western science perspective. This builds upon Leopold’s (1949) land ethic which has become the moral cornerstone of conservation biology. The current global environmental crisis demands that the land ethic become an Earth ethic, but we still have a long way to go in formulating our moral obligations to the biosphere. We strive to achieve consensus that ecocentric value must play a prominent role in guiding humanity to stay within our planetary boundaries.
Contributed session oral presentation
Room 21 (30)
Tuesday, 22 August
13:30 - 15:00
13:30 - 15:00