Environmentalism and Moral Concern for Animals

Environmentalism and Moral Concern for Animals

Many believe that we are in serious trouble today as human beings plunging headlong into a major climate crisis on planet earth.

Our course eText on Environmental Ethics states the following:

There is no denying that the global climate is changing, as the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased during the past century. … Coastlines are crumbling as the climate changes and sea levels rise… storms are increasing in severity … the Arctic ice cap is melting… (MacKinnon, 427).

But what’s causing these troubling changes? We are. MacKinnon again:

Some skeptics dispute whether the changes are entirely man-made, but the vast majority of experts believe one of the major causes of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels … (MacKinnon, 428).

And the human disregard for nature also means disregard for all species of animals that depend on livable natural habitats. Entire species today are threatened with immanent extinction. Writing in 2016, MacKinnon says “687 animal species are listed as either endangered or threatened.” That number has risen drastically since 2016, leading some scientists to conclude that we are in the midst of a global mass extinction of animal species.

The following video link and quoted material provide: 1) a summary of a U.N. Climate Change Report from 2019 (the video), and 2) an explanation of the meaning of speciesism as Dr. Richard Ryder first used it (the quotation ). After reviewing these, please respond to the discussion questions listed below.

U.N. Climate Change Report: LINK (Links to an external site.)

On Dr. Richard Ryder’s use of the term speciesism (which term the moral philosopher Peter Singer later made more popular):

“The view that only humans are morally considered is sometimes referred to as ‘speciesism’. In the 1970s, Richard Ryder coined this term while campaigning in Oxford to denote a ubiquitous type of human centered prejudice, which he thought was similar to racism. He objected to favoring one’s own species, while exploiting or harming members of other species” (Gruen, Lori, “The Moral Status of Animals”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Fall 2017 Edition, Edward N. Zalta, ed., URL = LINK (Links to an external site.)).

Discussion Questions (please address both 1 and 2).

[1] How does the hearing of this U.N. report on the climate crisis affect you, your values, your sense of the world and its future? What human beliefs or values today will more likely prevent needed changes in our way of life, methods of production, or government policies? And what beliefs or values will more likely lead to the kind of changes needed to address the climate crisis?

[2] Do you think humans are biased against animals, as moral philosophers like Peter Singer express with the term speciesism, and do you think this speciesism is comparable to other human biases such as racism, as Richard Ryder claimed in the 1970s? Why or why not?

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