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Valuing nature : ethical considerations of biodiversity in sustainability science

Bartling, Jonathan LU (2016) In Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science MESM02 20161
LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)
Abstract (Swedish)
Species extinction rates have during the last centuries reached levels leading scholars to proclaim a sixth mass extinction, even referred to as defining element of the Anthropocene. How humanity relates to nature and biodiversity has thus become part of how we delineate and describe the geological epoch we live in.
Sustainability science has since its origins built on a research agenda calling for an investigation of incentives for sustainable levels of interaction between society and nature. Biodiversity, as a conceptualisation that operates at the intersection of society and the environment, is in this regard an important concept. Biodiversity loss has also been identified as one of the four long-term challenges to achieve... (More)
Species extinction rates have during the last centuries reached levels leading scholars to proclaim a sixth mass extinction, even referred to as defining element of the Anthropocene. How humanity relates to nature and biodiversity has thus become part of how we delineate and describe the geological epoch we live in.
Sustainability science has since its origins built on a research agenda calling for an investigation of incentives for sustainable levels of interaction between society and nature. Biodiversity, as a conceptualisation that operates at the intersection of society and the environment, is in this regard an important concept. Biodiversity loss has also been identified as one of the four long-term challenges to achieve sustainability. However, debating conservation of biodiversity also means to discuss why its protection is of value.
Inspired by critical theory and the articulated need to remain sceptical of long-held beliefs, the study inquires how sustainability science conceptualises and values biodiversity in the sustainability discourse. Through conducting a qualitative content analysis of the three major journals of sustainability science, special attention is given to the issue of valuation as a motivating factor in policy recommendations.
The results summarise how sustainability science conventionally engages with biodiversity, how the field of study relates biodiversity conservation to development, and how biodiversity is predominantly valued in an anthropocentric utilitarian fashion, favouring ecosystem services as a conservation approach contributing towards human well-being.
The discussion part introduces biological integrity and bioabundance as alternatives to the conceptualisation of conservation according to diversity. Further, the results are critically discussed based anthropocentrism and ecocentrism as moral philosophy perspectives on granting moral relevance to entities. Here, materialistic and non-materialistic anthropocentrism is dismissed in favour of ecocentric environmental ethics built on deontology and virtue ethics. As normative ethical perspectives, deontology and virtue ethics enrich the debate concerning valuation and consequently provide new impetus for conservation and the relation of humanity with the environment in a climate changing world. Sustainability science needs to develop an environmental ethic that balances nature’s “purpose-for-us” with its “purpose-for-itself” as underlying mechanism of environmental degradation. Rather than following and promoting an ethic of “use of the environment” the field of studies should return to its search for incentives for achieving sustainable levels of nature-society interaction and reinvigorate the debate of how humans relate to nature. (Less)
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author
Bartling, Jonathan LU
supervisor
organization
course
MESM02 20161
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
biodiversity, sustainability science, ecosystem services, valuation, anthropocentrism
publication/series
Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science
report number
2016:028
language
English
id
8880059
date added to LUP
2016-06-20 10:38:41
date last changed
2016-06-20 10:38:41
@misc{8880059,
  abstract     = {Species extinction rates have during the last centuries reached levels leading scholars to proclaim a sixth mass extinction, even referred to as defining element of the Anthropocene. How humanity relates to nature and biodiversity has thus become part of how we delineate and describe the geological epoch we live in.
Sustainability science has since its origins built on a research agenda calling for an investigation of incentives for sustainable levels of interaction between society and nature. Biodiversity, as a conceptualisation that operates at the intersection of society and the environment, is in this regard an important concept. Biodiversity loss has also been identified as one of the four long-term challenges to achieve sustainability. However, debating conservation of biodiversity also means to discuss why its protection is of value.
Inspired by critical theory and the articulated need to remain sceptical of long-held beliefs, the study inquires how sustainability science conceptualises and values biodiversity in the sustainability discourse. Through conducting a qualitative content analysis of the three major journals of sustainability science, special attention is given to the issue of valuation as a motivating factor in policy recommendations.
The results summarise how sustainability science conventionally engages with biodiversity, how the field of study relates biodiversity conservation to development, and how biodiversity is predominantly valued in an anthropocentric utilitarian fashion, favouring ecosystem services as a conservation approach contributing towards human well-being.
The discussion part introduces biological integrity and bioabundance as alternatives to the conceptualisation of conservation according to diversity. Further, the results are critically discussed based anthropocentrism and ecocentrism as moral philosophy perspectives on granting moral relevance to entities. Here, materialistic and non-materialistic anthropocentrism is dismissed in favour of ecocentric environmental ethics built on deontology and virtue ethics. As normative ethical perspectives, deontology and virtue ethics enrich the debate concerning valuation and consequently provide new impetus for conservation and the relation of humanity with the environment in a climate changing world. Sustainability science needs to develop an environmental ethic that balances nature’s “purpose-for-us” with its “purpose-for-itself” as underlying mechanism of environmental degradation. Rather than following and promoting an ethic of “use of the environment” the field of studies should return to its search for incentives for achieving sustainable levels of nature-society interaction and reinvigorate the debate of how humans relate to nature.},
  author       = {Bartling, Jonathan},
  keyword      = {biodiversity,sustainability science,ecosystem services,valuation,anthropocentrism},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science},
  title        = {Valuing nature : ethical considerations of biodiversity in sustainability science},
  year         = {2016},
}