Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Anthropocentricity Of Environmental Conservatism

Many, not by any means limited to those strictly labeled environmentalists, believe it to be a sacredly humane cause to protect dwindling species. But which species are deemed worthy of protection seems so anthropocentric it renders its purported “virtuousness” very suspicious. We readily deem it morally upstanding to protect turtles, birds and many other cute as well as not so cute things, but what about viruses and bacteria which pose problems for “our” longevity?

Many might claim viruses and bacteria are qualitatively different because they are not on the same level as other organisms. And still others will point out the destruction they cause “us”. But ultimately this line of demarcation between what is or is not “worthy” of protection is completely stacked in “our” favor.

Furthermore, there is a stark difference between failing to protect certain species versus taking deliberate actions to eradicate others. Why the animosity toward most viruses and bacteria? And what about “pesky” mosquitoes, which among other things are carriers of malaria? Well, obviously we mean to eradicate them because they pose a threat to “our” survival and well-being and, dare I say, they pose “inconveniences” to our quality of life.

But there are many insects and animals, poisonous snakes for example, that pose problems for “our” longevity but I don't see a global campaign to rid the world of black mambas. Many might naively claim these organisms have just as much “right” to partake in the game we call life as any other organism. In which case viruses and bacteria should also have a “right” to live in order for this argument to remain consistent. Some would go slightly further by arguing that we must “respect” dangerous as well as non-dangerous species because they are part of the balance of “our” ecosystem.

Well, if this is true, why not “respect” the viruses that cause AIDS and malaria? Might it be possible they provide some life-sustaining balance for “our” survival and perhaps other creatures as well? The fact that many people die from these 2 viruses reinforces the utilitarian manner in which nature functions. A relatively small few are routinely sacrificed for the betterment of the whole.

My point is that there seems nothing genuinely “virtuous” about protecting species arbitrarily because it best serves only humanity's needs and desires. Isn't selflessness considered a virtue? Then perhaps we should think less selfishly and think beyond only our needs and desires?

Will someone please stand up for AIDS and malaria! They just want to exist like we do!

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