1.1 Environmental value systems

Significant ideas:

  • Historical events, among other influences, affect the development of environmental value systems (EVSs) and environmental movements.
  • There is a wide spectrum of EVSs, each with its own premises and implications.

Knowledge and understanding:

  1. Significant historical influences on the development of the environmental movement have come from literature, the media, major environmental disasters, international agreements and technological developments.
  2. An EVS is a worldview or paradigm that shapes the way an individual, or group of people, perceives and evaluates environmental issues, influenced by cultural, religious, economic and socio-political contexts.
  3. An EVS might be considered as a system in the sense that it may be influenced by education, experience, culture and media (inputs), and involves a set of interrelated premises, values and arguments that can generate consistent decisions and evaluations (outputs).
  4. There is a spectrum of EVSs, from ecocentric through anthropocentric to technocentric value systems.
  5. An ecocentric viewpoint integrates social, spiritual and environmental dimensions into a holistic ideal. It puts ecology and nature as central to humanity and emphasizes a less materialistic approach to life with greater self-sufficiency of societies. An ecocentric viewpoint prioritizes biorights, emphasizes the importance of education and encourages self-restraint in human behaviour.
  6. An anthropocentric viewpoint argues that humans must sustainably manage the global system. This might be through the use of taxes, environmental regulation and legislation. Debate would be encouraged to reach a consensual, pragmatic approach to solving environmental problems.
  7. A technocentric viewpoint argues that technological developments can provide solutions to environmental problems. This is a consequence of a largely optimistic view of the role humans can play in improving the lot of humanity. Scientific research is encouraged in order to form policies and to understand how systems can be controlled, manipulated or changed to solve resource depletion. A pro-growth agenda is deemed necessary for society’s improvement.
  8. There are extremes at either end of this spectrum (for example, deep ecologists– ecocentric to cornucopian–technocentric), but in practice, EVSs vary greatly depending on cultures and time periods, and they rarely fit simply or perfectly into any classification.
  9. Different EVSs ascribe different intrinsic value to components of the biosphere.

Applications and skills:

  1. Discuss the view that the environment can have its own intrinsic value.
  2. Evaluate the implications of two contrasting EVSs in the context of given environmental issues.
  3. Justify, using examples and evidence, how historical influences have shaped the development of the modern environmental movement.

International-mindedness:

  • Ecosystems may often cross national boundaries and conflict may arise from the clash of different value systems about exploitation of resources (for example, migration of wildlife across borders in southern Africa).
  • Differences in cultures and societies may influence the development of environmental value systems.

Theory of knowledge:

  • EVSs shape the way we perceive the environment—which other value systems shape the way we view the world?

Connections:

  • conservation of biodiversity (3.4)
  • soil degradation and conservation (5.3)
  • photochemical smog (6.3)
  • acid deposition (6.4)
  • climate change—causes and impacts (7.2)
  • resource use in society (8.2)