Volume 19, 2003
Environmental Philosophy as Social Philosophy
The Idea of an Ecological Orientation
In this paper, I do two things. First, I interpret a cultural shift in our understanding of what it is to be human. I focus on the self-understanding in three international documents: (1) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), (2) The Rio Charter on Sustainable Development (1992), and (3) The Earth Charter (2002). These documents are symptomatic: what it is to be human shifts from not considering environmental issues as central to our humanity to understanding respect for the environment as exemplary of our humanity. Second, I open up a way of justification: I ask that we consider how the shift contributes to the human good, not how it is morally required. In so doing, we provide a richer justification of environmentalism. I conclude with brief remarks on how this method of justification is
important for the future of environmental ethics.