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Biodiversity Loss, the Motivation Problem, and the Future of Conservation Education in the United States

Description: The purpose of this dissertation is to make sense of two sets of reactions. On the one hand, Americans can barely lift a finger to help threatened and endangered species while on the other, they routinely come to the aid of human victims of disaster. I argue that in contrast to cases of human tragedy, for the biodiversity crisis conservationists are faced not only with the familiar yet arduous task of motivating the American public to care for living other-than-humans, but they are also saddled with having to overcome the motivation problem of future ethics. The motivation problem consists in eliminating or bridging a motivational gap that lies between knowledge of the effects of our actions on future generations and action taken based upon such knowledge. The gap exists because motives that typically move people to action are either ineffective or unavailable. What is more, the gap influences not only our ability to care for future humans, but it affects our ability to care for future other-than-humans as well. Biodiversity loss is in fact a subset of the problem of future generations, an identification hitherto little appreciated. I argue that conservationists can overcome the motivational gap not by appealing directly to the value of species or biodiversity, both of which are temporally distant, abstract and general moral patients, but indirectly, by focusing on the concrete and particular lives of extant and near future moral patients. By applying techniques that have been developed to overcome the motivation problem as it pertains to distant future human generations, conservationists have additional resources to draw upon in their efforts to motivate American citizens to preserve biodiversity. This dissertation’s contribution to the fields of environmental philosophy and conservation biology is both theoretical and practical. It is theoretically significant to elucidate the nature of moral failure ...
Date: December 2011
Creator: Grove-Fanning, William
Partner: UNT Libraries

Redacted Dominionism: An Evangelical, Environmentally Sympathetic Reading of the Early Genesis Narrative

Description: Critiques of the environmental ramifications of the early Genesis narrative by environmental thinkers such as Aldo Leopold, Ian McHarg, and Lynn White underscore a longstanding tension between the environmental movement and Western Christianity. The evangelical community (EC) especially, has been at odds with the environmental movement, as the EC grounds its theology regarding human relations to nature on the Genesis narrative—and especially the Genesis 1:26-28 dominion mandate— interpreted with a literal hermeneutic. The EC generally concludes in favor of either a dominionist interpretation, that mankind has dominion over nature, or a stewardship interpretation, that mankind’s dominion is more akin to tending or stewarding than to domination. Both interpretations trend toward the anthropocentrism that Leopold, McHarg, and White criticize. J. Baird Callicott postulates a third, less anthropocentric view: the citizenship interpretation, that humanity is co-citizen with nonhuman beings, rather than a superior. Callicott’s view, while commendable on key points, is incompatible with EC methodology because it is grounded only on Genesis 2 and subsequent passages, rejecting the legitimacy of Genesis 1:26-28 altogether. A fourth interpretation is proposed here, redacted dominionism, derived using EC methodology, and claiming that human relations to nature are based on theocentric themes. Redacted dominionism understands humanity as initially given dominion over nature by virtue of the imago Dei, but human disobedience to God, tarnished that image, and human qualification for dominion was lost. Post-fall, the dominion mandate is never repeated, and seems even to be replaced. In consideration of early Genesis and related passages, understood within EC methodology, redacted dominionism argues for theocentrism, thus grounding a biblical environmental ethic that escapes the indictments of Leopold, McHarg, and White. Such an ethic could be useful within the EC to motivate greater environmental consideration. It could likewise be beneficial to those within and without the EC, as a catalyst ...
Date: August 2011
Creator: Cone, Christopher
Partner: UNT Libraries

Wilderness and Everyday Life.

Description: I challenge the dualistic view of wilderness that has influenced wilderness philosophy, politics and experience in recent years. In its place, I offer an alternative vision that recognizes wilderness areas and working landscapes as complementary elements of a larger, inhabited landscape characterized by a heterogeneous mixture of human-land relational patterns representing various points along an urban-wilderness continuum. In chapters 2 through 4, I explore the philosophical, political and experiential implications of this wilderness-in-context vision. Experienced and understood as part of the landscape we call home, wilderness may engender, renew, and sustain an engaged and integrated wilderness practice involving regular contact with wilderness places, committed activism on behalf of wild lands and their inhabitants, and grounded reflection on the meaning and value of wilderness in our everyday lives.
Date: August 2011
Creator: Friskics, Scott
Partner: UNT Libraries