one of King Ashoka's pillars

The Special Role of Humans in Biodiversity and the Interdependence of Life

COMEST’s resolution to the dilemma between anthropocentrism and biocentrism:

In the document Ethical Principles for Climate Change: Adaptation and Mitigation, COMEST proposed that:

“the responsibility for the sustenance of the Earth, as a living system, nevertheless, cannot be left to anyone else since it is a responsibility that resides among human beings themselves. The unique situation and obligation of the human species lies in the fact that only humans are able to argue in this direction of articulating an ethics of climate change and are able to undertake the obligations to act accordingly”.3

The content of this resolution favors Biocentrism. But only humans can make the claim and deliberately act in favor of Biocentrism. Being at the apex of the chain of consumption does not mean that humans will not choose to care for the lower levels of being that support his own existence. Such a choice is evident in the following quotation from COMEST:

“The scope of climate change implicates not only the past and future generations of humans but also the life-support systems that make human life possible. Life forms allowed for the emergence of humans who can care for the environment not only for the sake of human survival but for the benefit of other species as well.”4

Caring for the human beings’ life support systems is also etched in the rocks and pillar edicts erected by the Buddhist King, Ashoka, the third ruler of the Maurya dynasty (around 324-187 BCE). Inscribed on these edifies are precepts about love and compassion toward other forms of life. Aside from the protection of animals, the edicts prescribe the cultivation and importation of plants and herbs. Edict number two states:

“Everywhere within Beloved of the Gods, King Piyadasi’s domain, and among the people beyond the borders, King Piyadasi made provision for two types of medical treatment: medical treatment for humans and medical treatment for animals. Wherever medical herbs suitable for humans or animals are not available, I have had them imported and grown. Along roads I have had wells dug and trees planted for the benefit of humans and animals.”5


Question for Discussion:

  • Do you agree with COMEST’s way of resolving these dichotomies?

COMEST concluded that “The unique situation and obligation of the human species lies in the fact that only humans are able to argue in this direction of articulating an ethics of climate change and are able to undertake the obligations to act accordingly.”

Please leave you answers in the comments and share your reasons.


References:

1 “Convention on Biological Diversity” (United Nations, 1992), Article 2, p. 3.

2 “Convention on Biological Diversity” (United Nations, 1992), Preamble, p. 1.

3 “Ethical Principles for Climate Change: Adaptation and Mitigation” (Paris: UNESCO, 2015), III.3 no. 18, p. 8.

4 “Ethical Principles for Climate Change: Adaptation and Mitigation” (Paris: UNESCO, 2015), III.3 no. 19, p. 8.

5 “Philosophy Manual: A South-South Perspective” (Paris: UNESCO, 2015), p. 164-165.

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This article is from the free online course:

Climate Justice: Lessons from the Global South

UNESCO