Implications of the Biocultural Ethic for Earth Stewardship

  • Ricardo RozziEmail author
Part of the Ecology and Ethics book series (ECET, volume 2)


The biocultural ethic affirms the vital value of the links that have coevolved between specific life habits, habitats, and communities of co-in-habitants (“3Hs”). The conservation of habitats and access to them by communities of co-inhabitants is the condition of possibility for the continuity of their life; it becomes an ethical imperative that should be incorporated into development policies as a matter of eco-social justice. The conceptual framework of the biocultural ethic recognizes that there are numerous communities (inhabiting cities, rural, or remote areas) with cultural traditions that have ethical values centered in life, sustainable practices, and low environmental impact. It also recognizes agents that have values centered on short-term profit, non-sustainable practices, and disproportionately high environmental impact. Therefore, it would be technically and ethically right to define and enforce differential responsibilities among social groups, corporations, and nations that are contributing to the negative socio-environmental impacts that we face today. We have now reached a state of “plutonomy” that is dividing the world into two blocs: the wealthy 1 % of the world’s population that owns 50 % of the world’s wealth, and “the rest.” To achieve Earth stewardship, this trend needs to be overcome by (i) changing the current regime of plutocracy towards one of more participatory democracy that ceases to be indifferent to the well-being of the majority of human and other-than-human living beings, (ii) reorienting the current habits of plutonomy, and its associated consumerism and land-grabbing practices, towards habits of stewardship, and (iii) broadening the prevailing perspective of ecosystem services toward an ethical concept of sustainable co-inhabitation. By more precisely identifying the diversity of Earth stewards, their languages, values, cultures, and practices in heterogeneous habitats of the planet, as well as the specific agents that are mostly responsible for current socio-environmental problems, the biocultural ethic can significantly contribute to orient clearer collaborative and supportive ways for a responsible and inter-cultural Earth stewardship.


Ecosystem services Environmental justice Global environmental change Plutocracy Sustainability 



This chapter benefited from discussions at the Departamento Ecumenénico de Investigaciones (San José, Costa Rica), especially with Roy H. May Jr., and Francisca Massardo. I thank Irene Klaver, Kelli P. Moses, Eugene C. Hargrove, and Shaun Russell for their constructive comments on the manuscript, and Paula Viano and Paola Vezzani for their artistic help in the preparation of Fig. 9.1. The National Science Foundation (Project SES-10581630), and the grants PO5-002 ICM and PFB-23 CONICYT awarded to the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity, Chile, provided valuable support.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Religion StudiesUniversity of North TexasDentonUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Ecology and BiodiversitySantiagoChile
  3. 3.Universidad de MagallanesPunta ArenasChile

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