My senior year of college, in my environmental class about pollinators, our class was having a discussion about whether anthropocentrism or ecocentrism is philosophically better. Of course, most of us thought ecocentrism was a more acceptable form of environmental activism.
I do too, but I raised my hand. I had to interject. My professor called on me, and I shared with my class that I too aligned more with ecocentrism, but we shouldn’t discount the role anthropocentrism plays in motivating people to protect our environment just because we disagree.
Social Indicators Research published “Facilitating Pro-Environmental Behavior: The Role of Pessimism and Anthropocentric Environmental Values.” This research proved that anthropocentrism promotes pro-environmental behaviors just as effectively as ecocentrism.
What’s the Difference?
- Sees human life as a part of nature.
- Values all life on Earth equally, including plants.
- Believes every species plays an important role in the ecosystem.
- Believes all species have the inherent right to live.
- Nature is important in itself, not just for humans.
- Believes it is wrong to anthropomorphize—or ascribe human qualities to—animals, because they are living their own unique experience that we cannot comprehend.
- Encourages environmentalism for the sake of sustaining human life.
- Believes humans are superior to and in charge of the natural world.
- Especially appreciates the aesthetic value and natural resources nature provides.
- Anthropomorphizes animals in order to get the general public to care about nature–usually a large mammal. for example, Ernest Thompson Seton’s Wild Animals I Have Known and The Biography of a Grizzly Bear.
Which Type of Environmentalist Should I be?
I don’t think it has to be clear cut and dry in your mind. You can draw from both philosophical thoughts. The division can be harmful. All environmentalists should be on the same team.
Even if you’re an ecocentric, you could benefit from using anthropocentric environmentalist values in order to get other people to care.
Anthropocentrism Made Trump Care
For example, the National Park Foundation posted an article on LinkedIn: “Pretty Pictures Sold Trump on Outdoors Bill, Backers Say.”
The bill would provide funding for national parks. The article quotes Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, the bill’s sponsor: “This is a historic win for the United States.”
Gardner convinced Trump to support the bill by showing him a photo of the Colorado national park.
The bill would fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund $900 million a year. It would provide $9.5 billion to the Department of the Interior for maintenance of national parks.
The article quotes Will Shafroth, president and CEO of the National Park Foundation: “The Great American Outdoors Act provides much needed funding to repair and enhance national park facilities, roads, water systems, trails, and other resources that are essential to the visitor experience.”
Trump said to Gardner, “If you can get this passed, I look forward to signing it.”
Trump. The president that proposed to cut $587 million from the National Park Service and $2.4 billion from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He also proposed to nearly completely deplete all funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This was in February of 2020.
In July of 2020, Trump has completely changed his mind. Why? Because Gardner showed him a pretty picture.
Gardner analyzed his audience and used anthropocentric environmentalism (aesthetics) to make Trump care about nature.
Pretty genius if you ask me. What do you think?
If you want to read more about ecocentrism and anthropocentrism, check out my publication: “Ecocentrism and Anthropocentrism: Atwood’s Critique of Specialization.”