Response to Prompt 1 Norton’s Intrinsic Value

Standard

I believe intrinsic value is critical to the continued preservation of nature by humans. For if every individual in society views natural resources from an anthropocentric point of view and only considers “what’s in it for me?”, then the rate of exploitation of those resources would rise exponentially.  This hypothetical increased rate of exploitation could be easily explained by Garret Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons proposition.  The Tragedy of the Commons explains that given a common pool resource, a resource that is not excludable but IS highly divisible, a society is more likely to use up that resource to the point where that resource is no longer viable. For example, deforestation has been a major sustainability and ecological issue ever since the 1900’s. The exponential rise of global deforestation as it relates to an exponential increase in human population over time can be seen in the time graph here: http://mongabay-images.s3.amazonaws.com/12/1203all-time-deforestation1.jpg . From this graph, it is obvious that as the human population increases, so does deforestation rates. However, what is not obvious from looking at the graph is the human motivation behind excessive deforestation. With an increased human population is an increased demand to chop down trees to make paper, firewood, home furnishing, and more. This consumption mindset of society “allows no room” for an intrinsic value of nature and thus, over consuming humans have no qualms about exploiting the earth’s finite resources. Technology, in a sense, contributes to this exploitation and pushes human society away from nature because more often than not, technology has been developed to create machinery that extract, pollute, and diminish natural resources solely for the benefit of humans. When humans exploit natural resources, they simply don’t see nature as “worthy” enough to be respected and thus deny its flora and fauna the chance to live. If humans were to continue down this path of “mental separation” of nature vs humanity, then the potential long-term effects of this extreme separation would be the exhaustion of natural resources (wood, petroleum, fresh water, clean air, etc.). Furthermore, the only way to diminish the rate of exploitation of nature is for society as a whole to start viewing nature as having an intrinsic value as opposed to being a mere resource for their own benefit. Nature, with its flora and fauna need to be viewed with respect simply because nature is a living, breathing being even without the influence of humans.

 -Stephanie Petrakos

 

Additional Sources:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/162/3859/1243.full

http://www.ejolt.org/2013/02/common-pool-resources/

http://rainforests.mongabay.com/general_tables.htm

http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/intrinsic-value-ecology-and-conservation-25815400

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