Conservation Biology: Consequences of marginalizing ecocentrism
By Victor Vosen @ 22nd of April 2006
Last revised@5.22.2006

We, the republic, face extinction unless the problem of the commons is resolved through outside regulation when dealing with issues such as freshwater, global warming, and fishery management. The commons being any shared resource without ownership. The United States today manages quite a bit of territory in the oceanic province. As good as we think we are in conservation practices, pollution and overexploitation still occur in many places. This is due largely to near-sightedness because of agendas of economics and homocentrism. This indicates an imbalance which can be restored by an ecocentric party empowered in the legislature, in the process tempering policy with wisdom because we would be operating within a realistic paradigm of progress. There is no excuse for sewage being dumped untreated into our water ways, just as there is no reason why we have to put up with reactive policies regarding the environment. With foresight, much of the impact humans have on the environment can be mitigated before it ever costs us a dime, a job, or wildlife. “However, due to the confrontation of uncertainty found in populations, the natural variation inhibits any exact predictions so... we need to favor management policies that are strong in the face of uncertainty yet reversible if found harmful”(Ludwig). The stakes are high, and though natural resources seem infinite, they too can be taxed beyond repair which gives rise to “The Tragedy of the Commons.” No ownership breeds no responsibility.

Ecocentrism is relatively new on the radar of modern philosophy. We participate in a natural world(ecocentrism), we buy in a free market(economics), and we go to worship with other humans(homocentrism); and yes, spending a fair amount of time on these three things will make you green, too. Why ecocentrism wasn't invented earlier than the 60's pesticide catastrophe has something to do with the parties in power. In other words, they have their own agenda, not in redistributing the power. By means of minimizing environmental impact, we can conserve what we have and pass on what we hope to gain, which we aren't doing. The U.S is ignoring liability/responsibility in managing natural resources. This is due to reactive policy formation arising in time-lags of response in a time-sensitive environment. It is also due to over-taxing of the ocean's resources in it's ability to sustain life on several levels. Furthermore, lack of impetus in application of new technologies is occurring. Ecocentrism, the ecological perspective (or the view that we are part of a larger world), is the answer and needs a voice, but we are currently marginalizing it as is witnessed, case in point.. the systematic and sometimes, thoughtless, destruction of the oceans resources.

Ecocentrism is mutually exclusive with homocentric (perspective of human experience, ie. humanity) and economic perspectives, meaning it's give-and-take as altering one ideology cannot be made without affecting another's manifestation of policy; it is this reliance upon only two perspectives that is driving our near-sightedness in policy decisions by marginalizing an important dialog, ecocentrism, within the highest echelons of the legislature. Without society, the world will go on. Without economics, humanity will still thrive. Without ecocentrism, free-markets will still look appealing. However, we rely upon all three in day-to-day living to enrich our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Irresponsibility in managing such will only degrade our wealth that we have invested in all three. This may have an important economic impact, or maybe threaten the very capacity for the Earth to support life; just as the dam projects of the rivers in the pacific-northwest wiped out the salmon populations spawning in the rivers; because they didn't take into account the ecological impact, or partake of the ecocentric dialog which helps define the paradigm of progress. It is there for us all to enjoy, including future generations.

Typically in the legislature we have two bastions of ideology, the Republicans and the Democrats. Ecocentrism isn't really represented by these two parties. With their agendas they aren't minimizing the human impact we have ecologically upon the environment, but are only thinking in terms of maximizing economic and humanitarian gain due to sociological, psychological, and political factors resulting due to pandering to environmental issues while allowing environmental damage continue unabated. This is reflected in the 194 years it took from our inception as a republic to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic & Air Administration(EPA, NOAA). The cost has been great in ignoring ecocentric values until the 1960's movement towards green peace. In 1997 the hazardous 'superfund' sites list numbered around 40,000(Campbell). Their near-sightedness has distanced scientists that can give insight into issues, arising in time-lags. Time-lags are common in response to the environmental issues we are trying to minimize, the policies and agencies being reactive, thus a day late and a dollar short in a lot of instances(Betts). We don't need to wait until scientific consensus is achieved to enact policies(Ludwig). So you can see that we aren't fostering the values needed for a balanced legislature as is reflected in our reactive policy formation when dealing with the environment rather than progressive policies like those seen when dealing with economics and humanity.

Currently, gross mismanagement of the ocean's resources is occurring due to both effluent and direct impact. The U.S claims that we've figured out how to harvest fisheries sustainably. Be slow to believe such claims(Ludwig). Modern longline fishing practices in fisheries detrimentally disturb ecosystems(Whitty) It is estimated that a quarter of all catch from this technique is thrown back dead, or dying(Whitty). Furthermore, trawling practices of the ocean sea floor indiscriminately harvest benthic ecosystems(Whitty). In effect, this is 'clear cutting' the zone concentrated upon of all life. This is a practice largely abandoned by the lumber industry 50 years ago because of its high impact upon the ecosystems of the boreal forests(Vosen). Noteworthy are drift nets, too, some 150 miles long, that when set in the ocean are frequently lost during storms which go on to kill marine life(Whitty). In all, 28 percent of US fisheries are over fished, and another 19 percent are borderline(Robbins). As can be seen, all indications point towards mismanagement of the ocean's ability to sustain life due to negligence, ecological optimism, and economic and social pressures(Krebs).

We aren't harnessing our full potential of conservationary practices. To begin with we can cut down the time-lags. Closer ties of scientists with policy makers would reduce time lags in response to environmental issues and possibly circumvent some, if and when anticipatory, avoiding costly catastrophe(ENS). However, we can't rely upon scientists to remedy the problems; there are sociological, psychological, and political aspects to consider, but only to recognize problems(Ludwig). Furthermore, embracing Organic farming techniques which can produce competitive yields compared to main-stream farming practices would decrease the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides(Lang). Newer research indicates that less water is used in irrigation and less erosion in some instances such as no-till methods. Also green zones along rivers would uptake excess nitrogen runoff from agriculture, but is anyone planting the trees? We need to act before scientific consensus is achieved(Ludwig). Taking solar power to another level is fusion power. In the news, China is nearing completion of a fusion reactor that purportedly works(PDO). The U.S.A on the other hand is still dickering with collaborators over where to build their new full-scale test reactor. Besides harnessing the physical is harnessing the power of the mind. We're all familiar with the metaphor for humanity being 'Jesus' and 'God' for our Hebrew brothers; and the metaphor for economics... the free-market; but most Americans haven't reflected 5 minutes in the last two years with the metaphor of ecocentrism. James Lovelocks' metaphor for the Earth, Gaia, could create a much needed collective consciousness aimed at ecological justice in the process fostering an understanding of the interactions of Earth's processes(Lovelock). Furthermore, ecology is taught in nearly every university but access is limited. We could mandate it for high school just as social studies and math are. We need to include humans as part of the system(Ludwig). There is a lot of promise out there that isn't being fully harnessed, why? The Man isn't set up to encourage it even though it would behoove us to do so; in some cases it is even discouraged as in organic farming, having to do with loss of subsidies when they change their crops into a rotational cycle(WBGH). And yet, these are all great technologies which are ecologically conscientious while solving specific problems and allowing for growth, the mainstay of ecocentrism, but failure to do so is seen.

The environment is playing a much larger role in our existence than we are giving it credit for.

We live in a closed system, the Earth(Hickman,Ritter). The natural ecosystems of the Earth are what created conditions conducive for life(Abedon). Without oceans and their endemic food-webs, we wouldn't have fresh water, seafood, or fishing. So you can see that we rely upon the environment, and the populations that constitute it, not only for resources to exploit, but they also provide stability to the environment in which to thrive, biodiversity(or species richness) being the key. The environment plays a significant role in our welfare so it behooves us to account for this interplay between economics, homocentrism, and ecocentrism in our policies which should be based upon a realistic paradigm when considering how to maximize short-term gain, all the while minimizing impact upon the environment by humans. This would temper policies needing to foster long-term gain and sustainability into realization by grounding it in a realistic paradigm of progress. We've explored that the U.S is mismanaging the natural resources. It isn't only by specific methods of exploitation, but also by accepting reactive policies that lag considerably in response as the status quo when we could be proactive, or progressive if you will, which is much more effective in the long-run as issues are time-dependent often with very short time-spans. Furthermore, sapped impetus in applying green technologies allows environmental damage to continue unabated. Above all looms the silenced voice of ecocentrism in the legislature which dictates policy to the environmental agencies. By marginalizing the dialog of ecocentrism and conservation of the environment to suit one's own agenda and politicking, you are in effect stealing from future generations their quality of life, subsequently stealing

from them in part their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness; consequently, failing to live up to expectations of liability/responsibility.

Go Green

or slam prayer #4222007

Precipitous congelation
pearls ride sewage to the ocean
conjugatory revelation
as rivers drop their heavy load
of herbicides and fertilizers
into growing trees of deltas as seen
from battery powered satellites
pinging earthlings with raw data
that the oceans as we know them
are imperiled from the pelagic
spread of earth men tech.
We farm the natural world
with banners all unfurled.
Global domination is at hand
with the motherly invention, man,
whom suit their needs and means
like near-sighted fiends
they relax and max their accounts
of dollar bills and humanitae
maxing and relaxing in short-term gain
While conservationists scrabble with the rabble
for nature preserves bordered by skyscrapers
And the USA takes a 194 years
to form the EPA to clout environmental fears.
Isn't it about time
to celebrate Earth day right
the whole year round, though,
with a Victorian party?
-Victor Vosen

Works Cited

Abedon, Stephen T. “History Of Earth” Home page 31 March 1997. 31 March 2006. <http://www.mansfield.ohio-state.edu/~sabedon/biol1010.htm>

Betts, Kellyn. “PBDEs and the Environmental Intervention Time Lag” ES&T Online 15 Sept. 2004.

31 March 2006. <http://pubs.acs.org/subscribe/journals/esthag- w/2004/sep/science/kb_timelag.html>

Campbell, Jonathon “The EPA Superfund List” Home page 2005. 31 March 2006. <http://www.cqs.com/esuper.htm>

ENS “Forging Closer Links Between Science and Policy” Environmental News Service 10 May 2001. 31 March 2006. <http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/may2001/2001-05-10-03.asp>

EPA “About EPA” EPA 30 March 2006. 31 March 2006.


Krebs, Charles J. Krebs. Ecology 5th ed. San Francisco: Benjamin Cummings, 2001

Lovelock, James. Gaia: A new Look at Life on Earth New York: Oxford UP, 1995.

Ludwig, D.; R. Hilborn; C. Walters “Uncertainty, resource exploitation, and conservation: Lessons from history” Science 1993: 260; 17-36

NOAA “NOAA History” NOAA 23 Feb. 2005. 31 March 2006. <http://www.history.noaa.gov/>

NRDC “Sewage Pollution Threatens Public Health” National Resource Defense Council 9 Dec. 2004. 31 March 2006. <http://www.nrdc.org/water/pollution/sewage.asp>

Raloff, Janet. “Dead Waters” Science News Online165. 5 Jun. 2004. 6 Mar. 2006


Ritter, Michael E. The Physical Environment: an Introduction to Physical Geography. 2006. 31 March 2006. <http://www.uwsp.edu/geo/faculty/ritter/geog101/textbook/title_page.html >

Robbins, Michael. “The Catch” Mother Jones March/April 2006: 49-51;86-88

WBGH, Science Unit. “Save the Earth, Feed the World; Program 7” Race to Save the Planet

Santa Barbara, Intellimation 1989

Whitty, Julia “The Fate of the Oceans” Mother Jones March/April 2006: 32-48