I believe that both Aristotle and Saint Thomas Aquinas’ views on environmental stewardship are quite extreme and ultimately irresponsible. While I agree regarding their stance that nature serves to be of service to humans, I think there is a fine line between utilizing nature for survival and sustenance and blatantly over-exploiting it. I concur with Kant that one should treat the environment and nature with care in order to maintain a disposition of respect for things overall. For instance, treating nature disrespectfully and exploitatively may cause one to develop a habit of treating all things, including humans, in such a way. While I am not necessarily on the other side of the spectrum from Aristotle and Aquinas (a’ la Francis of Assisi) wherein recognition of intrinsic value in nature is necessary to treat it with care, I think we should position ourselves in a middle ground that advocates stewardship of the environment.
For me, lack of rationality of animals and other life forms is irrelevant; like mentally handicapped individuals and infants, animals are still living things and deserve to be respected and maintained for what they are and the purpose they serve, despite their lack of rationality. However, as long as one practices some degree of environmental stewardship, whether one views nature as having purely instrumental or purely intrinsic value is unimportant. It is our physical interaction with the environment that matters, not necessarily the values behind such an interaction. For example, I do believe animals and the environment have a high degree of instrumental value, but for me, that does not warrant me to simply overexploit it. My weakly anthropocentric viewpoint inclines me to want to act as an environmental steward in order that future human generations can sustainably enjoy what the environment has to offer. Thus, overall, I believe that both Aristotle and Aquinas and Francis of Assisi (on the other side of the spectrum) are too extreme of views; both are unrealistic and ultimately inapplicable in today’s society teeming with concerns of population growth and resource depletion. A middle ground wherein nature’s instrumental value and one’s duty as an environmental steward are united seems ideal.