Of course because we are focused on bettering nature conservation and animal welfare practice ethics, then it is expected that we explain our own ethics.
For a start, ethics is not easy to define, follow, and –even less– promote. The issue with the word ‘ethics’ is that it is an obscure term charged with dozens of branches and countless facets that developed for centuries as variations in the field of philosophical ethics.
The term ‘ethics’ is generally overused, often misused as it has become a vernacular term for both ‘principles’ and for “something that is ‘morally’ good”. It almost always is perceived as an opinion, when it should be seen as a knowledge-based process. All of that is kind of confusing we know, however it’s still the best suited term for describing our/EwA principles and inquiry process.
About Earthwise Aware Ethics Specifically
For us, in its simplest form Ethics is actually an inquiry, an investigation methodology. It’s not really a result. The results of ethics can be policies, regulations, moral codes, business practices, guidelines and etiquettes in our case. But these are only the outcomes of an ethical discourse. In other words, the word ethics is often used interchangeably for the process (what it is) and its results. It’s a bit like confusing a pregnancy (the process) with the baby (one outcome). We prefer to see it as an informed journey.
Now if we need to label the type of EwA ‘ethics’, then we belong to the branch called applied ethics. Specifically, our field of application is environmental & conservation ethics.
We particularly favor the Conservation Ethics Groups‘ description of conservation ethics, wherein applied conservation ethics is essentially the application of argument analysis to better understand particular problems in environmental ethics. The argument analysis in this case involves asking 3 questions about an argument:
- Are all the premises that would be necessary to arrive at the conclusion present in the argument?
- Are all the premises true or appropriate? –That’s where evidence comes into play (i.e., scientific evidence for us at EwA)
- Does the argument actually address the concern or question that originally gave rise to the argument development?
Our guiding principles in our application (and promotion) of ethics are:
- Scientific evidence based knowledge (data & facts…)
- Humility and Empathy (key ingredients in the ethical discourse)
In our context, systematically seeking scientific evidence is natural for us, as a few of us are scientists by training and trade. Arguments not backed up with facts and data are just an opinion. And opinions even if ‘right’ (whatever right means) are just inefficient and poor tools to ‘demonstrate’ something…
Exhibiting humility is critical and pairs with evidence (and knowledge). It is about intellectual honesty. Lack of humility is an obstacle to ethics. The lack of humility commonly prevents a person from recognizing the limits of their knowledge. And if you do not have the knowledge and expertise you are probably not as qualified to pass a judgement on the premise of an argument. Fortunately bringing scientific evidence in a discourse with a non humble ethicist should help clear that out, although when arrogance –an extreme form of lack of humility– is in the picture, it surely makes the whole process much more painful…
As for empathy, it is another critical ingredient in any valuable ethical discourse. Somehow it’s a tough goal these days. Our societies on average are not empathic as illustrated by the political climate and bipartisanship in many countries, and the harsh treatment that we inflict on wildlife everywhere in the world. But this quality is necessary to develop for allowing arguments that are robust to perspectives. In environmental ethics, empathy is also about empathy towards the environment, habitats and species other than our own (species).
Our principles happen to also be our values, because they act simultaneously as individual motivators that we all share (values), as well as they compel us to follow a particular course of action.
And how all of this come together? The EwA content (its guides, etiquettes, articles) is about evidence-based knowledge brought to the forefront for promoting a responsible and relevant nature conservation experience. Fortunately our mission and vision are stated much more simply, while still reflecting our principles and ethics-based inquiry process.