Environmental Worldview

I am coming close to finishing my degree in Environmental Science and was asked by a professor to write about my environmental worldview. What follows is my response to that assignment.

The world is an old and natural place, built and maintained by physical forces, and occupied by chemical living things that evolve and change over time. I do not believe that life has intrinsic purpose, or that this planet we live on exists for us, any more than it exists for any other species, extant or extinct. I believe that the forces that control Earth and all life on it are natural, understandable, and even predictable with the right knowledge. Since humans have rational brains that are able to learn about our world, we also have a moral obligation to make choices that will keep the world a livable place for our fellow humans and other species.

My sense of justice requires that I try not to make the world harder for others that I share this world with. This means that I want to work for environmental justice, especially focusing on people who have had environmental harms pushed on them by a racist, classist, and ableist culture. This means that I want fight policies that lead to the destruction of the land of indigenous people, or that lead to climate change that disproportionately impacts developing nations. The same groups of people who have been economically and socially marginalized in the United States and around our globalized world also experience environmental injustice and I believe my efforts to improve the world must be focused on these people.
I also believe that humans are not the only species worthy of my efforts, and that humans should not destroy other species for our own ends. I am outraged by the rate of species loss created by environmental harm caused by human activity. I believe that we have a responsibility to preserve the planet not just as a place that humans can live, but as a place where we can coexist with the other life.

I also believe that the best way to make decisions is to ensure that those decisions are informed by accurate facts. I do not want to make my environmental decisions based on what feels good, but on what the best scientific knowledge shows. I believe that while scientific methods do not always come up with the correct answers, they are still the best methods we have to understand the world and predict outcomes. When I work based on scientific consensus, rather than fallacy or propaganda, I believe my work will be most likely to have the outcomes I desire.

I understand that working from a scientific basis means making hard choices. I do not believe that science will bring us a panacea through technology, but that technology may be one part of larger tactics to make the world a better place. Sometimes the facts show us that any decision we make will have consequences that we do not desire. It can frustrating for individuals and for cultures to decide between environmental causes and economic ones, for example. But I believe that in the long run protecting the environment from further harm is usually the best choice for everyone, because we need to think not only of ourselves, but of other people, species, and the future.

{advertisement}
Environmental Worldview

2 thoughts on “Environmental Worldview

  1. 1

    As a chemist working in a public utility environmental lab, I agree wholeheartedly. These should be the guiding principles for environmental policy everywhere, always.

    Very well said!
    -Kim

  2. 2

    (sorry for my English: I’m not a native speaker)

    Hou Benny,
    First of all, thanks for spending time on explicitly stating your position. Now readers can point you where your position might be wrong (as I do below).

    “I am outraged by the rate of species loss created by environmental harm caused by human activity. I believe that we have a responsibility to preserve the planet not just as a place that humans can live, but as a place where we can coexist with the other life.”

    I would say not to “preserve” but to transform. Preserving the Darwinian state of nature is irresponsible and ethically stupid, I would say.

    I wish environmentalists cared more about individuals (who actually has the capacity to suffer) than about insentient, ever-changing environments and species. Since you “do not want to make [your] environmental decisions based on what feels good, but on what the best scientific knowledge shows”, I encourage you to consider the great amount of suffering that is present in “natural” ecosystems. Works of researchers Brian Tomasik (“The Importance of Wild-Animal Suffering” (https://foundational-research.org/the-importance-of-wild-animal-suffering/), “Medicine vs. Deep Ecology”, other essays on reducing-suffering[dot]org) and Oscar Horta (“Zoopolis, interventions and the State of Nature”; “What Is Speciesism?”, etc.) are particularly relevant.

    The topic of wild animal suffering is very unconventional and unintuitive. I hope, your reasonableness and caring capacity are enough to at least consider moving in that direction on the “moral landscape”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *