Is it Possible to Care for Ecosystems? Policy Paralysis and Ecosystem Management

Ethics, Policy and Environment 19 (2):170-182 (2016)
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Conservationists have two types of arguments for why we should conserve ecosystems: instrumental and intrinsic value arguments. Instrumental arguments contend that we ought to conserve ecosystems because of the benefits that humans, or other morally relevant individuals, derive from ecosystems. Conservationists are often loath to rely too heavily on the instrumental argument because it could potentially force them to admit that some ecosystems are not at all useful to humans, or that if they are, they are not more useful than alternative configurations of those ecosystems. Consequently, conservationists often resort to an intrinsic value argument, contending that ecosystems are objectively valuable as ends in themselves, rather than merely as means to an end. If ecosystems have intrinsic value, then they have moral standing, which means that we must consider their needs and interests in any decisions we make about them. This paper concerns the significance of this move for...
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