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Protection of the Environment, the Biosphere and Biodiversity

  • Johan Hattingh
Reference work entry

Abstract

What exactly does the environment, the biosphere, and biodiversity entail? To what extent are they in crisis currently, what are the drivers behind this crisis, and why is it important that one should do something about this crisis? What exactly should one focus on when protecting the environment, the biosphere, and biodiversity, and why should one do so? In this chapter, an overview is given of the conceptual, philosophical, and ethical challenges related to finding answers to these questions. The crux of this discussion is devoted to different kinds of values that can be used to justify protection. The most commonly used arguments for the protection of the environment, the biosphere, and biodiversity appeal to their instrumental value. In this context, distinctions are made between the direct use value, indirect use value, amenity value, option value, and existence value that humans can derive from protection of the environment, the biosphere, and biodiversity. While these values can be emphasized in isolation from one another, causing either a destructive overemphasis of use value or a romantic overemphasis of the nonconsumptive (use) value of the environment, the biosphere, and biodiversity, the notion of ecosystem services is discussed as a framework within which these instrumental values can be combined serving as they do as the basis of human well-being. On the other hand, intrinsic value arguments are often emphasized in environmental ethics to counter the reduction of the environment, the biosphere, and biodiversity to mere commodities, or to objects of management at arm’s length from humans and thus at their disposal to use at will. Under the best interpretations of these intrinsic value arguments, the focus falls on a respectful reverence for the environment, the biosphere, and biodiversity, the components that make them up, as well as the ecosystemic and evolutionary processes they entail – conceptualized not as commodities but as prerequisites for the existence, continued evolution, and flourishing of all life on earth. Under this interpretation of intrinsic value, the use of the environment, the biosphere, and biodiversity is not precluded but strongly qualified in that any such use should be careful, considerate, and equitable to enhance and not undermine the conditions under which life (including both human and nonhuman life) can continue to evolve and flourish on earth. In the introductory parts of this chapter, discussion is devoted to issues around definitions of, and conceptual overlaps and differences between environment, the biosphere, and biodiversity, as well as conceptual difficulties that are caused by the vagueness of these terms, efforts to define them objectively, and approaches to them that only emphasize their constituent elements, neglecting a holistic vision that also emphasize the ecosystemic processes they entail and their evolution over time. This chapter concludes with an outlook on the future of the environment, the biosphere, and biodiversity.

Keywords

Ecosystem Service Earth System United Nations Environmental Programme Biodiversity Loss Environmental Ethic 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyStellenbosch UniversityStellenboschSouth Africa

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