Volume 39, Issue 1, Spring 2017
From Anthropocentric to the Abiotic
Environmental Ethics and Values in the Antarctic Wilderness
Over the past six decades, Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties have developed legal agreements to protect various aspects of the Antarctic environment. Strong anthropocentrism (e.g., unsustainable harvesting of marine living resources) is generally rejected, and stewardship (e.g., minimizing risks of contamination) is accepted while protection of nonanthropocentric values (e.g., wilderness and intrinsic values) is evoked when it furthers human interests. As one of the world’s remaining large wildernesses, Antarctica is under threat from the continuous expansion of the human footprint and is in need of attention from the wider society, including the environmental ethics community. The interdependence of all life on this planet means that problems in Antarctica are not as far away and trivial as it may seem. Furthermore, Antarctica’s extreme position at the edge of civilization challenges humans as moral agents to think about where our moral duties and rights begin and end on this planet, and elsewhere in the universe. Considerations of wilderness and intrinsic values, equity, and abiotic ethics are some of the issues that environmental ethics can contribute toward the protection of the Antarctic wilderness.