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Earth's Insights

Earth's Insights: A Multicultural Survey of Ecological Ethics from the Mediterranean Basin to the Australian Outback

Foreword by Tom Hayden
Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 292
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  • Book Info
    Earth's Insights
    Book Description:

    The environmental crisis is global in scope, yet contemporary environmental ethics is centered predominantly in Western philosophy and religion.Earth's Insightswidens the scope of environmental ethics to include the ecological teachings embedded in non-Western worldviews. J. Baird Callicott ranges broadly, exploring the sacred texts of Islam, Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Zen Buddhism, as well as the oral traditions of Polynesia, North and South America, and Australia. He also documents the attempts of various peoples to put their environmental ethics into practice. Finally, he wrestles with a question of vital importance to all people sharing the fate of this small planet: How can the world's many and diverse environmental philosophies be brought together in a complementary and consistent whole?

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91482-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xvii-xxiv)
    Tom Hayden

    As the environmental movement has arisen these past two decades, the environmental crisis itself has deepened. Paradoxically, a majority of Americans describe themselves as strongly committed to the environment, yet our soils, water, air, and countless species of plants and animals degrade and disappear at catastrophic rates. Globally, population has doubled and natural resources have been cut in half in only fifty years.

    The crisis cannot be resolved simply by making present arrangements more efficient, although that would help. Our political and economic systems are based on obsolete notions that the environment is an infinite storehouse of raw materials for...

  5. 1 Introduction: The Notion of and Need for Environmental Ethics
    (pp. 1-13)

    Since the 1960s, those Western scholars who responded professionally to industrial civilization’s environmental crisis have argued that an implicit environmental ethic has existed in many indigenous and traditional cultures.¹ And in the body of this study I shall sketch a variety of representative indigenous and traditional examples. Nevertheless, the term “environmental ethics” is a relatively new addition to our vocabulary, and the concept it denotes is not familiar. Here at the outset, an informal comparison of environmental ethics with the more commonplace social sort of ethics—and with the more pedestrian concept of environmental law—may help locate the coming...

  6. 2 The Historical Roots of Western European Environmental Attitudes and Values
    (pp. 14-43)

    During the past two decades of heightened environmental awareness, intense controversy was swirled around the environmental attitudes and values of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Throughout the discussion of this controversy, the word “man” will be used deliberately, with apologies, to refer generically to the sexually dimorphous speciesHomo sapiens. Using a gender-neutral term would sacrifice the rich historical connotations of “man”—among them its decidedly sexist connotation. The Judeo-Christian tradition has, after all, been a bastion of the Western patriarchy—a fact that cannot be obscured by a verbal smoke screen. With similar intent and deliberation, the masculine personal pronouns “He,”...

  7. 3 Environmental Attitudes and Values in South Asian Intellectual Traditions
    (pp. 44-66)

    Elinor Gadon undertook her monumental study of “the female image—what it means in traditional cultures and in the work of contemporary women artists” after a visit to India. There “the feminine was celebrated everywhere in sensuous images of great power.” Nevertheless, Gadon sadly reports, while “the worship of the Goddess never died out among the common people and was reabsorbed into evolving Hinduism in the first millennium, the culture [of India] continues to be patriarchal and the status of women inferior to that of men.”¹

    In sharp contrast to Islam—which is of relatively recent origin, as global religions...

  8. 4 Traditional East Asian Deep Ecology
    (pp. 67-86)

    Contemporary Western environmental ethicists scouring Eastern traditions of thought for ecologically resonant ideas and environmentally oriented philosophies of living have been drawn chiefly to Taoism.¹ Deep Ecology’s spokesperson, George Sessions, has labeled John Muir—a spiritual progenitor of the American environmental movement—“the Taoist of the West”; and a major new biography of Muir, titledThe Pathless Way, further evokes the associations between Taoism and Muir.²

    Environmentalists urge us to cultivate a closer “harmony with nature,” and to “follow nature” in pursuing our own ends. Taoism, similarly, draws its inspiration from nature untransformed and untrammeled by the works of man.³...

  9. 5 Ecological Insights in East Asian Buddhism
    (pp. 87-108)

    Mahayana Buddhism gradually developed in northwest India over a period of several centuries. In Mahayana, the atheism, humanism, and philosophical austerity of the founder was replaced by more conventional religious trappings. The Buddha was elevated to a quasi-divine and even messianic status. A Buddha-nature awaiting self-realization was posited in a variety of living things, and Bodhisattvas, or Buddhas-to-be, abounded. The Bodhisattvas, poised to enter Nirvana, delayed their passage in order to aid the faithful in their own spiritual pilgrimage. A rich and luxuriant cultus evolved. Mahayana offered something like a gospel—the good news that a savior, the Buddha, and...

  10. 6 Far Western Environmental Ethics
    (pp. 109-132)

    This sampler of environmental attitudes and values embedded in the world’s major intellectual traditions and selected local indigenous worldviews began at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea and at the dawn of recorded history. It has moved steadily eastward until reaching the western Pacific rim. Before crossing the Pacific to consider traditional American Indian environmental attitudes and values, it rests in flight briefly to consider the environmental attitudes of the Polynesians—principally represented by the Hawaiians, for whom the best documentary records and the most focused discussion exists.

    The Polynesian islands dot a great expanse of the Pacific Ocean...

  11. 7 South American Eco-eroticism
    (pp. 133-155)

    Comparative philosophy is a relatively new discipline, which was initially limited to a comparison of the rich intellectual traditions of the East and West.¹ Many pitfalls, however, lay in the way of even such an apparently straightforward dialogue. The most salient follow.

    The Western intellectual tradition’s distinct tributaries and various backwaters notwithstanding, its ideas historically flowed together to form a main channel of thought. In the East, on the other hand, while several intellectual currents are connected by canals, as it were, and thus intermingle the sources are many and arise in distinct lands, cultures, and peoples. Thus it soon...

  12. 8 African Biocommunitarianism and Australian Dreamtime
    (pp. 156-184)

    While less rich in sheer numbers of living species than tropical South America, tropical Africa is the richest place on earth for what conservation biologists call “charismatic megafauna.”¹ Indeed, the mere mention of Africa conjures images in the mind’s eye of wildebeests, springboks, hippopotami, rhinoceroses, zebras, giraffes, elephants, ostriches, flamingos, crocodiles, lions, leopards, cheetahs, monkeys, baboons, gorillas, chimpanzees, and many many other kinds of animals. On the other hand, mention of African culture evokes no thoughts of indigenous African environmental ethics. Nor have contemporary scholars looked to African intellectual traditions, as they have to Zen Buddhism, Taoism, and American Indian...

  13. 9 A Postmodern Evolutionary-Ecological Environmental Ethic
    (pp. 185-210)

    Postmodernism is modish (no conundrum intended). It is also ambiguous.

    On the one hand,deconstructivepostmodernism claims that all religious and philosophical worldviews are fabricated to justify the power of a dominant élite. None is true. And a person’s preference for and loyalty to this one or that depends on how well it serves his or her interests. Deconstructive postmodernism is both nihilistic and cynical.

    On the other hand,reconstructivepostmodernism is creative and optimistic. It aims to clear away the rubble and rubbish of the dilapidated modern worldview founded on now-defunct modern classical science, and, in its stead, to...

  14. 10 Traditional Environmental Ethics in Action
    (pp. 211-234)

    As Aristotle first observed, ethics is the most directly practical branch of philosophy. And it was concern about the dire environmental crisis that motivated the systematic study and development of ecological ethics which began around the middle of the twentieth century. Environmental philosophers cannot rest content with the charming intellectual exercise of theory-building. Theories of environmental ethics must prove themselves to be applicable and efficacious in the context of current environmental concerns. The Aldo Leopold land ethic has become the secular bible of the contemporary North American conservation movement.¹ So at least one environmental ethic has proved applicable and efficacious....

  15. Notes
    (pp. 235-262)
  16. Index
    (pp. 263-286)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 287-287)