Ecocentrism & Sustainability: You Can't Have One Without The Other

05/01/2017 12:55 pm ET Updated May 08, 2017

Natural scientists have clearly documented that human activities are causing a massive extinction event and some ecosystems are already collapsing. This in turn is contributing to famine, social instability, failed states, and violence.

Social scientists and others have offered diverse hypotheses about the drivers of these trends and how to ameliorate them. Many of these analysts agree that anthropocentric worldviews, which position humans as superior to and of greater moral value than other living things, are central drivers of the decline of Earth's interdependent environmental and social systems.

I am among the growing number who have concluded that the best hope for the construction of sustainable societies is the spread of "ecocentrism," a recently-coined term to express the ethical claim that nature has "intrinsic value" -- in other words -- nature has value apart from its usefulness to humanity.

To more fully explain and promote an ecocentric worldview, I have been working with an international group of like-minded environmental scientists and analysts -- Haydn Washington (Australia), Helen Kopnina (the Netherlands), Paul Cryer (South Africa), and John Piccolo (Sweden) -- and together, we have written a Statement of Commitment to Ecocentrism.

In the approximately three weeks since its release via the website of The Ecological Citizen, the statement has already gathered hundreds of signatories. Early endorsers represent a who’s-who of well-known environmental scientists, economists, historians, anthropologists, attorneys, philosophers, ethicists, religionists, conservationists, including anthropologists Jane Goodall, J. Richard Stepp, and David Casagrande, documentarian David Suzuki, economist Herman Daly, environmental scientists Reed Noss, Ricardo Rozzi, Stephen Mulkey, Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis, environmental philosophers J. Baird Callicott, Kathleen Dean Moore, Michael Nelson, Andrew McLaughlin, Philip Cafaro, Eileen Crist, Patrick Curry, and Ronnie Hawkins, and Earth jurisprudence pioneer Cormac Cullinan.

We invite you to read and join us in endorsing, and sharing, our Statement of Commitment to Ecocentrism. We have also co-authored an article that explains and argues for the idea in more detail. It will be available by July 2017, also via The Ecological Citizen's website. If you follow me here at the Huffington Post, you will also receive an announcement and link to the longer ecocentrism article when it is released.

My own work, including a Religion Dispatches essay about the Ecuadorian and Bolivian Constitutions that have extended rights to nature, and my book, Dark Green Religion: Nature Spiritualty and the Planetary Future, document the diverse ways people around the world are coming to, expressing, and promoting, ecocentric worldviews. This way of viewing the our place in the world and responsibilities to it is gathering strength and adherents around the world.

If you find these trends and possibilities of interest I invite you to follow me via my Twitter account; Helen Kopnina can also be followed via Twitter @hkopnina.

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