Anthro VS Eco: The Battle of the Prefixes

Last week, I elected to talk about Environmental Ideology, specifically targeting the ways they are formed, and how they influence the decisions we make every day. Ideologies, like so many other socially constructed realities, exist on a spectrum, and it’s that spectrum that we’ll be exploring today.

If you recall from last week’s entry, an Environmental Ideology consists of “a way of thinking about the natural world that a person uses to justify actions towards it” (Corbett, 13). These ideologies all lay upon a spectrum, representing “the range of human relationships with and beliefs about the natural world” (Corbett, 26), progressing from least environmentally conscious to most. These two ends of the spectrum are referred to as anthropocentric and ecocentric ideologies.

Anthropocentric ideologies are, by definition, human-centered. These ideologies build off the idea that “humans are superior to and dominate the rest of creation” with the natural world being “ranked hierarchically with humans at the top” (Corbett, 27). Unsurprisingly, American environmental ideologies tend to fall nearer this side of the spectrum.

Ecocentric ideologies are just the opposite, characterised as “a non hierarchical mix of interdependent relationships or a web of all life” (Corbett, 27). According to this philosophy, humans are “an interdependent, integral part of the biological world, but no more or less important than other portions of it” (Corbett, 27). More extreme denotations of environmentalism fall towards this end of the spectrum.

Now that we’ve established the two extremes, it’s time to make our way towards the middle. From anthropocentric down to ecocentric, here are five generalized ideologies that lay between the two ends of the spectrum:

  • Unrestrained Instrumentalism: Those belonging to this ideological sect believe that the natural world, and all of its resources, exist solely for the purpose of human use. When making decisions involving resource management, only immediate human desires and wants are kept in mind.
  • Conservationism: Conservationists believe in the wise allocation and use of resources for the benefit of the greatest number of people. Nonhuman entities such as flora and fauna are seen as having only utilitarian value. A sustainable development firm would fall under this category
  • Preservationism: Similar to conservationists, preservationists believe in conserving resources for humans to use and enjoy for reasons beyond instrumental use, such as aesthetic pleasure or scientific value.
  • Ethics and values-driven ideologies: This ideology establishes that all nonhuman entities possess an intrinsic worth, and that human beings have a moral and ethical duty to protect these beings, as they have a right to exist.

Watch this video:

In his talk, Van Jones describes a world where human beings learn from the example of nature through a process known as biomimicry, which “opens the door to zero waste production; zero pollution production; [a future where] we could actually enjoy a high quality of life, a high standard of living, without trashing the planet” (Jones, 07:58). This concept falls under the conservationist branch of environmental ideology, as does my own. I believe that, at its core, there is nothing wrong with the concept of development. So long as human development is done responsibly and sustainably, with the future of both humankind and nature in mind, a balance can be struck where a high standard of living is achieved through a green society.

(word count: 539) Books used: Communicating Nature by Julia B. Corbett

Like what you read? Give Ryan Binkley a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.