You are on page 1of 5

Kimberly Wright Eng 316 December 12, 2012

Environmental Stewardship
Harmony with the land is like harmony with your friend; You cannot cherish his right arm, and chop off his left. -Aldo Leopold A Sand County Almanac The environment has been and continues to be viewed as something to be harvested for humans needs and livelihoods. Through the establishment and continuance of our society, we have created a degradation of the resources that both the society and ecosystems depend on. Human activity is the most prevalent cause of biodiversity loss and extinction of plants and animals in recent generations. Environmental Stewardship, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, is the responsibility for environmental quality shared by all those whose actions affect the environment. First, society must recognize that we rely upon the environment and that, without it, we cannot thrive or even survive. If we do not change our view of the environment from one to be conquered to one that we live in community with, we cannot hope to leave future generations any sort of earth they deserve. Understanding this delicate relationship we have with the environment is the beginning of addressing the destruction we are doing by undermining our interdependence with the environmental community. Instead of arguing over the differences of the many environmental ethics, we ought to address our common ground.

We shall never achieve harmony with the land, anymore then we shall achieve absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations, the important thing is not to achieve but to strive. - Aldo Leopold Understanding this delicate relationship we have with the land is the beginning of addressing the destruction we are causing. Aldo Leopold began his Land Ethic by talking about mans relationship with the land has only been in and of its benefit to him and when that benefit is lost (even if it is he who degrades it), then there is little care for the outcome or restoration of the land (Leopold). In the 60 years since Aldo Leopold penned his land ethic, society has come quite a distance in addressing the issue of the moral value of land. Additionally, society has done much more damage than most could have thought possible 60 years ago. Science has shown the detrimental and potentially irreversible outcomes our actions can in fact have on the environment and the limited resources that we extract from it. Considering this, it is time to re-examine our value system and how we treat the biotic community in which we live. Rather than seeing ourselves as owed things by this environmental community, we need to realize that it is we who have the duty to protect the future of the environment because it will have an impact on our prosperity and the impact we have on the prosperity of the biotic community. Leopold is spot on when he says in our practices of conservation we are only adding water to already thin soup. The perception is that we are creating new and better ways to combat our effect on the degradation of the land. We think that these solutions such as hydropower, wind energy, and hybrid vehicles are new and better ways to preserve land when, instead, they are new ways for us to seek comfort and egocentrism while less overtly depleting the resources. These solutions are giving us the perception that we are solving the problem when we are merely adding to it less. The focus shouldnt be on comfort or egos and we shouldnt be concerned with easing our consciences with perception. Instead, focus

should be on our duty to the future for the land and the community centered solutions. The idea of giving back most or all of what we take out of our environments is what is important. Leopolds idea concerns cogs and wheels, without both the machine cant go, and this is true as well in both human and biotic communities. We need to recognize that these empty solutions make us feel good in the short term and, in many cases, have negligible long-term positive effects. They are often detrimental short-term consequences to the environment we are trying to protect through their use. We need to put our egos aside and agree upon a set of environmental baseline standards both for personal and corporate use that may not be comfortable or easy, but is required if we are to salvage what remains of our biotic community and begin to correct our mistakes. The idea of being a steward to the environment is a concept that has direct ties to Christianity, Islam, Judaism, as well as many Native American tribal beliefs. When looking for a universal baseline of environmental ethic, many have thought the stewardship environmental ethics to be problematic in reaching members of society with more secular, agnostic, or even atheistic views. The idea is that these members would be unable to recognize themselves as stewards to the biotic community in the absence of belief in a creator. Instead, the stewardship ethic comes down to the acknowledgement that the world is our home and we ought to clean up after ourselves. This makes it an ethic that is applicable widely across different societal and cultural backgrounds. The benefits of protecting the environment may not be economical. Without a respect or stewardship for the environment, capitalism risks great losses. However, with a stewardship we have everything to gain. Through living as stewards with the land and replacing those things which we remove, we may find sustainable economic practices that allow

us to create a new path, based not off greed without foresight to the consequences, but instead prosperity with common sense. Throughout time societies evolve and interpretations of religions and texts evolve. Instead of a constant game of placing blame on one another, an attitude change needs to occur forcing the issue to the forefront. Achieving a societal taboo on environmental degradation is a required and natural evolution in order to shift society away from the destructive behavior towards the environment, to one that protects the environment from further damage and tries to restore it for future generations. This will leave future generations with the understanding of the mistakes we have made, to allow them to learn from us and avoid making the same mistakes again. This can be done through a creation of environmental stewardship baseline. Through the implementation of incentives, public programs for good conservation and sustainable practices, and through taxes and penalties on those who break these mutually agreed upon rules of conduct towards our environment, this ideal situation can occur. Like Leopold, I think we shall never achieve harmony with the land, any more than we shall achieve absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations, the important thing is not to achieve, but to strive. A universal environmental baseline ethic needs to overlook the different worldviews and focus on our shared needs as the common species. The solution doesnt need to be perfect or easy, just preferable.

Works Consulted
Berry, R.J. Environmental Stewardship: Critical Perspectives, Past and Present. . London: T&T Clark 2006. Callicott, J. Baird. "The Land Aesthetic." Environmental Review 7, no. 4 (2983): 345-58. URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3984176 Gaston, Kevin J. "Valuing the Common Species." From the Biodiversity and Macroecology Group. University of Sheffield, UK; 2009. Goodpaster, Kenneth E. On being morally considerable The Journal of Philosophy Vol.75 No.6 (June 1978) pages 308-325 http://www.jstor.org/stable/2025709 Hardin, Garrett James. The Tragedy of the Commons, Science. Washington, D.C.: AAAS, 1968. Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac, The Land Ethic pg: 201-226 Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1949. URL: http://db.lib.uidaho.edu/ereserve/courses/n/natres/200_01/docs/art01.pdf Peterson, Anna ""In and of the World? Christian Thelogical Anthropology and Environmental Ethics" " Journal of Agriculture and Environmental Ethics 12, no. 3 (2000): 237-61. URL: http://db.lib.uidaho.edu/ereserve/courses/p/phil/490_00/DOCS/art05.pdf Rolston, Holmes. Environmental Ethics : Duties to and Values in the Natural World, Ethics and Action. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988. Watershed, Roman Catholic Bishops of the Columbia River. "The Columbia River Watershed: Caring for Creation and the Common Good." http://www.thewscc.org/files/pastoralenglish.pdf.