Ethics answers the question “how should one live?” It involves both exhortations to right action (i.e., normative ethics) and reasoning about the status and nature of ethical claims (i.e., meta-ethics). “Environmental ethics” refers both to how humans should interact with the environment and to the theoretical justifications of these directives. As a branch of philosophy (Zimmerman 1993; Jamieson 2001), environmental ethics consists of the “greening” of ethics by extending the scope of moral considerability to nonhuman nature (Sylvan and Bennett 1994). For example, Tom Regan (1982) argued that intrinsic worth inheres in nonhuman individuals that possess self-awareness as “subjects-of-a-life” toward which human moral agents have duties. Alternatively, Peter Singer (1990) located intrinsic worth in the capacity of animals to suffer: humans have an obligation to serve the interests of, or at least to protect, the lives of all animals who suffer or are killed, whether on the farm or in the wild. While these philosophers held that standard moral philosophy is sufficient to ground environmental ethics, most environmental ethicists sought a new, nonindividualistic, holistic, biocentric, and egalitarian paradigm. In general, environmental ethics is a critique of anthropocentrism, the belief that only humans are valuable in and of themselves and that...

This essay may be found on page 106 of the printed volume.

Works Cited
Permanent Link to this Essay