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Anthropocentrism and Ecocentrism

Christina Fredengren explains the meanings of Anthropocentrism and Ecocentrism.
One image shows the human at the top of a pyramid of species. The other image shows the human is part of a circle of species.

How we navigate between anthropocentrism and ecocentrism affects how we can argue for climate justice, social justice and for environmental conservation.

The term anthropocentrism derives from anthropos as in human being and kentro which means center. Anthropocentrism creates a binary opposition between human and nature, as if the two were separated. It is a worldview that places humans above all other animals. The human is the crown of creation. In anthropocentrism, the most important goal is to improve human well-being and the reason we care for nature is because it satisfies human needs. Speciesism and human chauvinism are related terms where the purpose of the world is to provide for humans. However, human “self-love” can also be a motivation for taking on the climate crisis.

Ecocentrism is another worldview. It places ecosystems in the center and humans are seen as interconnected with the environment. Ecocentrism recognizes that species develop together over time. Hence actions that encourage species to live in harmony with one another are worth pursuing.

In environmental philosophy there are different ways of approaching questions about ethics and nature. The standpoint one takes can affect both ideas and practices. It also affects why and how one takes on the climate crisis.

This text draws from the following works:

Hayward, T. 1997. Anthropocentrism: A misunderstood problem. Environmental Values, 6(1), 49–63.

Katz, E. 2011. “Envisioning a De-anthropocentrised World: Critical Comments on Anthony Weston’s ‘The Incomplete Eco-Philosopher.’” Ethics, Policy & Environment 14 (1): 97–101.

Kopnina, H., Washington, H., Taylor, B., Piccolo, J. 2018. Anthropocentrism: More than Just a Misunderstood Problem. J Agric Environ Ethics (2018) 31:109–127

Kortenkamp, K, V. & Moore, C., F., 2001. Ecocentrism and Anthropocentrism: Moral reasoning about Ecological Commons dilemmas. Journal of Environmental Psychology. Volume 21, Issue 3: 261-272.

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