There are many different philosophies when it comes to how we should protect the environment. Is it acceptable for humans to use natural resources to meet their own needs? Should we take the needs of other animals into account, and if so, when?
Biocentric preservation is one philosophy that tries to answer the question of how we can most ethically protect the environment. In this article, we’ll explore the definition of biocentric preservation and how it compares to another environmental protection philosophy, utilitarian conservation.
Background Information: What Is the Difference Between Conservation, Preservation and Restoration?
Breaking It Down
Biocentrism is an environmental philosophy that believes all life deserves equal moral consideration. Under biocentrism, not just humans, but all living beings are considered to have intrinsic value. If something is living, then it should be morally valued simply for existing, rather than because of its use for humans.
Biocentrism argues that all life should be valued intrinsically, as every living thing has its own purpose and is working towards its own goals. Because every living being has moral value under biocentrism, it is morally wrong to harm another living being or stop it from pursuing its own goals, even if it is for a human’s benefit.
Preservation is the protection of nature from any use or human interference. Preservationists push to protect areas of land from any alteration. This contrasts with conservation, which argues for the protection of nature through proper use. Conservationists believe that natural resources, including animals, can be used, but they must be used in a way that is sustainable and responsible so that we can continue to use those resources.
Biocentric preservation is the idea that we should protect the environment not because it offers us resources, but because living things have an inherent value that must be preserved. In other words, while conservation focuses on protecting the environment so we can continue to use it, biocentric preservation argues for protecting the environment simply because it has intrinsic value. We must allow nature to continue to flourish and pursue their own self-interests (sometimes referred to as “pursuing their own good.”)
Biocentric Preservation vs. Utilitarian Conservation
In environmentalism, there are two major schools of thought when it comes to why we should protect the environment: biocentric preservation and utilitarian conservation.
Biocentric preservation directly contrasts with utilitarian conservation. Utilitarian conservation is the idea that we must protect nature through proper use of resources so that we can continue using those resources to fulfill human needs in the future. It is a “utilitarian” philosophy because it focuses on the utility, or usefulness, of nature to humans. Classical utilitarianism argues that resources should be used to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Therefore, nature can be conserved for utilitarian purposes.
Biocentric preservation, on the other hand, is the idea that we must protect nature from any human use, and rather, should protect nature because every organism has a right to exist and flourish.
For example, utilitarian conservation would argue for protecting a game animal population, like deer, so that we can continue to hunt deer for food and other resources. This hunting would help meet human needs. On the other hand, biocentric preservation would argue that the deer have an inherent value that we cannot harm, and that it is morally right to allow the deer to continue pursuing its own self-interests. Harming the deer even to meet human needs is not morally acceptable under biocentric preservation.
- What Is Utilitarianism in Environmental Ethics? – Learn how the philosophy of utilitarianism relates to environmental ethics, and how the philosophy can be applied to conservation.
- What Is Biocentrism? – Learn what the philosophy of biocentrism is and what it says about how we should treat the environment.
- Aldo Leopold & Environmental Ethics – Learn more about the “founding father” of wildlife conservation and his environmental ethical philosophies.