On diversity of human-nature relationships in environmental sciences and its implications for the management of ecological crisis
Decision makers addressing the ecological crisis face the challenge of considering complex ecosystems in their socioeconomic decisions. Complementary to ecological sciences, other scientifc frameworks, grouped under the umbrella term environmental sciences, ofer decision makers the opportunity to pursue sustainable paths. Because the environmental sciences are drawn from diferent branches of science, environmental ethics must go beyond the legacy of ecology and the life sciences to describe the contribution of scientifc knowledge to addressing the ecological crisis. In this regard, I analyze and compare three environmental sciences based on their seminal articles: Conservation Biology, Sustainability Science, and Sustainability Economics. My analysis shows that conservation biology and sustainability economics share strong similarities despite their diferent disciplinary backgrounds (life versus social sciences). Both seek to contrast a biocentric and an anthropocentric perspective. The goal of sustainability is therefore understood as a balance that must be found between these two perspectives. If the issue of balancing human and non-human interests is still relevant to sustainable science, it is more likely to take place in an ecocentric perspective based on alternative ontological and normative prescriptions. Based on this analysis, I distinguish between ‘proscriptive valuebased’ scientifc work that cannot be used for policy advice but is fexible to diferent value systems, and ‘prescriptive value-based’ scientifc work that can be used for policy advice but is fxed within a given value system. Conficting recommendations from environmental scientists therefore result from the coexistence of multiple ‘prescriptive value-based’ scientifc approaches based on diferent conceptions of the relationship between humans and nature.
Citation: Mouysset L. (2023) On diversity of human-nature relationships in environmental sciences and its implications for the management of ecological crisis, History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences volume 45, Article number: 20