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Dialogue and Universalism

Volume 20, Issue 11/12, 2010

Environmental Ethics: Questions for the Future

Ricardo Rozzi
Pages 85-109

Field Environmental Philosophy
Regaining an Understanding of the Inextricable Links between the Regional Habitats, the Inhabitants and their Habits

During our current free market era, a prevailing utilitarian ethics centered on monetary cost benefit analyses continues overriding incessantly a plethora of diverse forms of ecological knowledge and ethics present in the communities of South America, and other regions of the world. For the first time in human history, more than 50% of the world’s population lives in cities, and speaks only one of eleven dominant languages, loosing contact with the vast biodiversity and the 7,000 languages that are still spoken around the planet. This global urban enclosure and biocultural homogenization generates physical barriers and conceptual barriers that hinder the understanding of the inextricable links between the habitats of a region, the inhabitants and their habits. However, these vital links are acutely recognized in at least three families of worldviews: contemporary ecological sciences, ancestral Amerindian ecological knowledge, and Western pre-Socratic philosophical roots expressed in the archaic meaning of ethos, and ethics. South American post-Columbian history shows that large-scale exploitation, as well as monocultures that replace native habitats, have been repeatedly associated with ephemeral economic booms that left behind degraded social and ecological environments. A historical analysis of post-Columbian Chile illustrates how a unique mosaic of ecosystems and biological species, cultures, and languages have been progressively replaced by a few biological species and a uniform language and culture. These biocultural homogenization processes are the outcome of a violent conquest, overpowering the resistance of local inhabitants, and today’s scale of violent suppression of biological and cultural diversity is greater than ever. Instead of a post-colonial period we are living in the middle of an ultra-colonial era. To counterbalance these trends, at the southern end of the Americas, through inter-institutional and international collaborations led by the Chilean University of Magallanes and the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity and the University of North Texas in the US, we developed a methodological approach that we call “field environmental philosophy."

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