Environmental Ethics

Volume 45, Issue 1, Spring 2023

Rachel Bryant
Pages 3-21

Tragic Moral Conflict in Endangered Species Recovery

Tragic moral conflicts are situations from within which whatever one does—including abstaining from action—will be seriously wrong; even the overall right decision involves violating a moral responsibility. This article offers an account of recovery predicaments, a particular kind of tragic conflict that characterizes the current extinction crisis. Recovery predicaments occur when the human-caused extinction of a species or population cannot be prevented without breaching moral responsibilities to animals by doing violence to or otherwise severely dominating them. Recognizing the harm of acting from within recovery conflicts adds force to appeals for interrogating and dismantling the systems of thinking, valuing, and acting that bring species to the brink of extinction.