system, rather than diversity which is of intrinsic value and which we =
^ should want to protect. Diversity only has extrinsic value and we would
¡2 not want to respect it where it fails to fulfil its systemic functions. It o x is not diversity itself which is of intrinsic value. The argument made "o for it here is better covered under the valuing of systems which I will discuss below. We should not extend rights on the basis of a respect a for diversity if it is the system which is of value and not diversity, which "5 could potentially be of disservice.
On the other hand, if it is a concern for the individuals in the system which makes the functions of diversity for the system valuable then the .1 environmental ethic is concerned about individuals rather than diversity. £ The value of individuals is covered by the discussions above on sentience and flourishing or by properties of value such as consciousness, intelligence, control or autonomy which individuals have.
Functions apart, one of the things which makes diversity of value is the fulfilment that living in a diverse world brings to beings with the sensory capacities to experience it. It is that diversity has such consequences rather than just the existence of diversity in abstraction that is behind our convictions when we say the world is better for being pluralistic. It is not diversity which is of value but the benefits it brings. What is of value is the experience facilitated by it. Gaining this experience is based on having a capacity for sensory experience: sentience. In itself it is difficult to see why diversity - just having lots of kinds of things - is good on its own. What is good about diversity is in its connection with the experience it contributes to and it is of value where it does so positively but may be a principle which we do not wish to respect or value where it does so negatively.
4 Species and systems. In much environmental thinking value is put on the preservation of collective entities like species or ecosystems. These are said to have an intrinsic value in themselves. The death of the last member of a species is worse than the death of a member of a not endangered species. A species is seen to have a value in itself over and above the value of its individual members.7
One of the arguments on species comes from the case for diversity just discussed. We should preserve species because if one is lost there is a loss of a type of thing and a loss, therefore, to the diversity of things in the world. However, I have already explained why I think arguments on diversity are weak in abstraction from arguments for individual wellbeing. They are strengthened by being linked to wellbeing but then become based on the value of wellbeing rather than diversity.
In my view, it is difficult to see how arguments on species can work independently and without resort to other arguments on which they ultimately rest. They do not stand on the intrinsic value of having species alone but come down to arguments on the sentient wellbeing of members of the species or of other individuals who suffer as a result of the loss of a species. Loss of a species can be a loss because it involves losing its individual members. It is a loss of individuals rather than the collective entity they make up. Or it is a loss because a particular type of thing is no longer around. This does not make sense as a loss unless it is linked to a lessening of wellbeing of members of the world as a result. In abstraction from a diminution of wellbeing the loss of diversity of species remains statistical. It is difficult to see why there should be just more and more categories of things except if linked to the life of members of the species or the wellbeing of individuals from other species who benefit from the richness of life in a world of natural diversity or from the special value of a species.
The loss of species is bad. But it is so because of the loss of individual members or a diminution of the wellbeing of members of other species, rather than just the loss of a category itself in abstraction from such other considerations. Species have a value but it is not intrinsic. It is a value for members of the species or other beings in the world who benefit from its existence. Individuals of a species or the individuals of others may have a case on which to call for moral consideration from us. But abstract categories of species cannot make good claims for rights or value in themselves.
Another argument in which value is put on collective entities in the environment is on preserving ecosystems.8 Leopold (1968: 224) argues that 'a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community'. This suggests that value resides in the biotic community and that actions should be judged according to their contribution to the good of the community. The whole itself has an intrinsic value and characteristics worthy of respect and accommodation.
According to this view, our respecting and valuing of nature should be for it as a whole entity rather than, or as well as, for its parts because nature has an identity and functions as a whole. This can go further to a strong fetishizing naturalism. Nature knows best and we should not interfere with it as a system because this goes against what is natural and best for the survival of life. Nature is a whole, we should respect the _ 'natural' and we should practise non-interference with regard to it.9
In my view, there are a number of problems in the arguments tangled 5 up in this 'holist' perspective. First, there is a question mark hanging over t the scientific validity of what is claimed. Brennan (1988), by no means =
^ an opponent of a more relational and environmental ethics, argues that
¡2 there is not a factual or scientific basis for the holism that greens aspire o x to. Greens tend to argue that we should respect ecosystems because we "o are bound up in them and because it is according to holist systemic principles that nature works. However, on Brennan's analysis it is not a clear that ecosystems do actually function according to principles of "5 holism and interdependence. The fact of holism should be analysed ■g rather than assumed ...
Second, there is a problem with the view that we should respect the .¡i 'natural'.10 It is not clear what it is about being natural that means we £ should respect it. To say we should respect something because it is natural is not enough. This fetishizes 'nature'. It needs to be said what it is about being natural that makes it worthy of respect.
Third, the very dichotomy between the natural and social needs to be challenged. What is it about humans that makes our behaviour not natural and in need of being accommodated to what is? It could be said that humans are just as natural as anything else. We have natural capacities and live within and in relation to nature. What reason is there to define our actions and capacities, development of social organization and technology and our purposive transformation of our surroundings as not natural or not taking place as part of nature? If humans are natural then accommodating to nature does not involve changing our patterns of behaviour to fit in with other principles. (On such issues see Dickens 1992.)
Fourth, what nature is is open to question. What goes on in nature is contradictory and often downright undesirable. Nature exhibits both toleration and killing, diversity and extinction, equality and exploitation. There is no apparent general design, guide, intention or rationale in this to show what is the preferred way of nature. It is not clear that there is something which is nature - distinctive or coherent characteristics which are identifiable and can be followed and given respect and value.
There is a fifth problem on interference and non-interference.11 To defer to nature, not interfere with it and act in accordance with its principles can be a recipe for not doing what seems the best thing in the light of ethical consideration and the perceived best consequences. Further, it can inhibit actions which might seem to be the best for nature itself. Human interference may have played a large part in contributing to environmental problems but it is part of the solution as well. Yet interference in nature to protect it - building dams to protect natural habitats or killing members of species (e.g. locusts or strangling plants) to protect others, for example - is ruled out by deference to nature.
We may need greater restraint but on the basis that it is good for the environment rather than because it is 'natural' and not to the exclusion of intervention in 'natural' processes to protect the environment.
Sixth and last, there is a problem with value residing in systems. To say that a system has intrinsic value means that the value is in the system rather than the individuals who make it up. I would argue that there cannot be intrinsic value in an ecosystem. A system's value and claim to respect rest in the value it has for its individual members. This is not to say that value is purely a perception of individuals and not in the objective properties of the system itself. The value may be a result of properties of the system irrespective of whether individuals recognize it or not. My point is that it is a value for individuals who make up the system and not of the system itself. The system has no value in itself divorced from the wellbeing of the individuals it contributes to.
Giving value to systems has dangerous implications. It means we can value systems over individuals and individuals can be sacrificed for the sake of an impersonal structure. Making the ecosystem of intrinsic value creates a conflict between its interests and the interests of the individuals who make it up. Yet it is the latter who matter and the former which should serve them. If the system gains value in itself over and above individuals this can be very dangerous for them.
It ought to be mentioned that I am not arguing for epistemological, ontological or methodological individualisms. It is not my claim that individuals are the source of knowledge or value, or the basic building blocks in natural or social life or the unit on which explanatory analysis should focus. On epistemology, for example, my argument is that value is in objective properties of the environment and not just in the eye of the beholder. But it is a value for individuals if not one just dreamt up by them. I am arguing for an ethical individualism and within this for a particular variant of it. My argument in ethical individualism is not for individual liberty (although autonomy is an important part of the good of individuals) or for atomistic or egoistic individualism. A scheme within which the wellbeing of individuals is the end may be collectivist or one in which rules restrict the uninhibited pursuit of self-interests. The wellbeing of individuals is the end with which my ethical individualism here is concerned.
5 Community. Value, rights or obligations may be extended to non- _ human entities on the basis that they are part of the same community k as humans. This is connected to the argument on systems and holism ^
because it suggests that as members of the same whole different entities t
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