The Dynamics of Ecology and Ethics, Towards an Integrated Ethical and Biological Analysis of Ecosystem Services
Van Gool, Vera
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Scientific experts urge us to treat ecosystems and their services with due respect and prudence if we care about human survival. However the way in which to argue for the protection of ecosystem services differs greatly depending on the perspective one takes. Arguing for awarding a certain value to aspects of these services is even less straightforward. The science of ecology can inform us what function which aspect of an ecosystem has and consequently provides us with information on what we should value. Yet a lot is still unknown to us and this means that it becomes difficult to properly evaluate ecosystem services, especially in the economic terms that are so determining for our policies and society. A moral evaluation of ecosystem services together with ecological knowledge on ecosystem services may be able to fill this valuation gap. The relationship between science and ethics has long since been controversial though. I argue that a combination of environmental virtue-ethics and evolutionary biology will give the most encompassing and encouraging view of how humanity should relate to nature and to ecosystem services specifically. These theories merge quite naturally because they both acknowledge that morality (as a product of evolution) encompasses social, rational and emotional human nature that should be weighed in each context to come up with a suitable (moral) adaptation of one’s attitude towards the environment. This can be compared to the way in which other organisms and whole ecosystems adapt through trial and error as a product of evolution. I think the regard for evolutionarily developed, natural traits and functions is necessary if we want humanity to jointly and effectively address the degradation of ecosystem services.