Marine Environmental Ethics
An Ecocentric Renaissance?
Any reasoning about water and waterworlds ultimately rests on some ethical presumptions. These presumptions, however, are oftentimes are left implicit. The field of environmental ethics analyzes the normative grounding of such reasoning and unearths the underlying value attributions. Central to this analysis is a distinction between individualistic and holistic value approaches: while the former take monadic entities – individual humans, or possibly animals, plants, etc. – to be the relevant unit of moral concern, the latter focuses on ecosystems in their entirety.
In the literature, the latter approach has come to be known problematic, leading to repugnant conclusions such as 'eco-fascism'. The goal of this work is to re-assess the arguments against ecocentrism in general for the particular case of marine ecosystems. I argue that some aspects of marine environmental ethics can only be fully captured by taking a holistic perspective. This applies, for example, to an understanding of 'the Area' – waters and seabed beyond national jurisdiction – as "common heritage of mankind" (UNCLOS). Other lines of criticism against ecocentrism, however, do apply in the context of marine waterworlds.
The contribution of the work thus is two-fold. First, it highlights the necessity to shed more light on the implicit value attributions of waterworlding research. Second, by vindicating holistic approaches, it shows that those works which rest on ecocentrism are not problematic per se.