Ecological Ethics A&A—From Awareness To Action

My friend and I engaged in a profound discussion about ethics. Our conversation delved into the inherent fascination of our species with a limitless growth model, evident in various facets such as our aspirations for biological immortality and the dynamics of modern economies and business practices. As I reflected on the complexities of defining and applying ethics in such contexts, my friend countered my perspective with an intriguing assertion. To my friend, we are fundamentally ‘ethical beings’.

My spontaneous response was that we might not fully embody ethical beings; rather, we’re akin to aspirants in our current state. I emphasized the imperative to strive for improvement in this aspect, expressing my belief in our capacity to achieve it with the right mindset and disciplined approach.

This, of course, oversimplifies the essence of our comprehensive and nuanced discussion. Nonetheless, it serves as a fitting introduction to a subject that lies at the heart of my work: examining and enhancing our relationship with the environment. Following that conversation, I found myself pondering over my remarks in greater depth. When the opportunity arose to deliver a talk on environmental ethics, I recognized it as the perfect moment to present a more elaborate and structured elucidation. Allow me to share it with you now.

Outline ▸ Are We Ethical Beings?  Two Major Environmental Crisis  Redefining Our Relationship with Nature & Ethics   Earthwise Aware’s Ethics: An Ecosophy of Life  References

Are We Ethical Beings?

John Muir (Nature preservationist) with US President Theodore Roosevelt (on the left) on Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park


The question of whether we are inherently ethical beings is certainly weighty. My succinct response: We fall short in many regards. However, let me clarify: It’s undeniable that we recognize the paramount importance of ethics and regulations. In terms of regulations, our societies are structured around a plethora of imagined constructs—laws, regulations, norms, protocols, and principles—crafted to facilitate collaboration on an immense scale. It’s truly remarkable that within a global population of 7.5 billion individuals, interactions across vast geographical, cultural, or religious divides can occur without defaulting to threats or violence. The existence of these regulations is crucial in preventing chaos, and it’s a testament to humanity’s remarkable capacity for cooperation.

Yes, we comprehend the concept of rules. Since the dawn of our cognitive evolution some 70,000 years ago, we’ve been shaping, defending, resisting, violating, and evolving them. Yet, when it comes to embodying ethical behavior persistently, we often resemble aspirants more than exemplars. This truth is particularly evident when examining environmental worldviews and ethics. Despite the wealth of scientific evidence guiding us, we struggle immensely to reach a consensus on what these ethical guidelines should entail.

From my perspective, our struggles stem from the inherent contradictions within our species. We possess unparalleled cleverness and ingenuity, yet we often falter in our ability to comprehend and acknowledge the profound impact we exert on our environment, its biodiversity, and our fellow humans. Perhaps this is because we struggle to grasp the full extent of consequences once they extend beyond our immediate perception. Moreover, our emotions and primal fears frequently obstruct our path, complicating the acceptance of these truths and thereby impeding our efforts to find viable solutions.

“The real problem of humanity is the following: we have Paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology.” — E.O.Wilson

Undoubtedly, the human condition presents profound challenges. Equally, it’s a struggle for other species and ecosystems to endure the consequences of our existence.

So, are we inherently ethical beings when it comes to the environment? Generally and consistently, the answer is no. At best, we exhibit sporadic bursts of ethical behavior. This isn’t an accusation; it’s an acknowledgment of reality. No one ever claimed that this task would be effortless, and the humbling truth is that we’re bumping up against the limits of our cognitive capacities. We still have a considerable distance to traverse before we can rightfully lay claim to any ethical accolades. Time is of the essence, and we must accelerate our progress—perhaps even sprint. That being said, we’re also a rapidly evolving species capable of remarkable cultural leaps. So, who knows what the future holds?

Two Major Environmental Crisis

We find ourselves amidst two significant global crises that underscore the challenges of our ethical existence while also emphasizing the urgent need for our species to cultivate environmental wisdom.

The Climate Change Non-controversy

If a majority acknowledges that climate change is occurring in some form, it’s still troubling that nearly 49% of Americans alone believe it’s unrelated to human activity. This viewpoint poses a significant problem because if climate change is perceived as a predetermined fate rather than a consequence of our actions, then there’s a dangerous complacency. If it’s deemed fate, then activities such as the extraction and use of fossil fuels are seemingly acceptable—leading to continued exploitation of Earth’s resources and support for industries reliant on them. This explains the fervent denial of scientific evidence by certain politicians and interest groups keen to perpetuate this narrative.

To be fair, understanding and addressing climate change is a complex endeavor. It challenges our cognitive abilities to their limits. Simply put, climate change results from a multitude of significant, often imperceptible changes occurring over centuries or those not readily observable in our immediate surroundings. Acting on something we can’t see or feel directly is inherently difficult. Additionally, measuring indirect and long-term consequences, as well as accurately forecasting outcomes, presents considerable challenges.

To make things worse, we also suffer from what’s known as the Shifting Baseline Syndrome, which is a kind of ecological obliviousness. The term was coined by Daniel Pauly in a paper in 1995. He explains it as follows in a great 2010 TED talk:

“We adjust our baseline to the new level, and we don’t recall what was there. If you generalize this, something like this happens. You have on the y-axis some good things: biodiversity, numbers of orca, the greenness of your country, the water supply. And over time it changes — it changes because people do things, or naturally. Every generation will use the images that they got at the beginning of their conscious lives as a standard and will extrapolate forward. And the difference then, they perceive as a loss. But they don’t perceive what happened before as a loss. You can have a succession of changes. At the end you want to sustain miserable leftovers. And that, to a large extent, is what we want to do now. We want to sustain things that are gone or things that are not the way they were.” — Daniel Pauly

This means that each generation sets what it remembers as a reference state. But that state is already an altered and possibly a degraded picture of what the reality was for the generation before. And so it goes: each generation’s “new normal” is inferior to the precedent. At what point do we stop re-adjusting downward? That time should probably be now.

Today, a monumental battle rages on the frontlines of climate change awareness and the quest for sustainable solutions. Encouragingly, climate change movements are gaining traction, alongside significant strides in the Renewable Energy industry. Leading the charge are nations like Germany, which shattered records in May 2017 by sourcing an impressive 85% of its electricity from renewable sources. It’s a beacon of hope amidst the turmoil—a sign that progress is indeed within reach. (to be continued…)

The Biodiversity Crisis

When the term “climate change” is mentioned, it typically evokes a range of reactions: fear, sighs, disagreement, and discussions about potential solutions. However, when it comes to the biodiversity crisis, it’s remarkable to observe that the vast majority of people, including elites and academics, are largely unaware of its gravity. While some may have heard of isolated instances of extinction, these are often perceived as localized events occurring in distant lands. Few grasp the full extent of the crisis and its profound implications for our own species.

So, what exactly is the biodiversity crisis? Simply put, biodiversity encompasses the variety and variability of life on Earth. Biologists commonly define it as the “totality of genes, species, and ecosystems within a given region.”

There’s a big issue with our global (or Earth) biodiversity: we’re losing it at an unprecedented rate (100-1000 more than what’s known as the background rate). For years the Living Planet Index work group has been measuring biodiversity worldwide. Evidence is accumulating that previously revealed loss trends were under-estimations and are actually accelerating. The last 2016 report revealed that global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles declined by 58 per cent in the past 40 years. It warned that we could witness a two-thirds decline in the half-century from 1970 to 2020 if no action is taken. It is important to note that the report not only shows good science (on this account I am commenting as a statistician), it also outlines solutions. Sadly and maybe as expected, the focus of the media was largely on the dramatic numbers which were often shoved in our face without any context. Quite a few in the press also omitted to raise attention to the solutions. Consequently, this scared out the public, more than it fostered a sense of responsibility to act, and the hope that we can do something. It’s quite pointless to overreact, acting now instead would do. Read the current report: the scale of the challenge is big for sure but there are solutions. We just have to want to implement them.

Cumulative vertebrate species recorded as extinct or extinct in the wild by the IUCN (2012). Dashed line represents background rate. This is the ‘highly conservative estimate’. Ref: Ceballos et al

The Biodiversity loss is so ‘massive’, that it is referred to as the 6th mass extinction. It’s not an exaggeration: this extinction is definitely of the scale of one of the big events such as the famous Cretacious-Tertiary mass extinction that saw the end of the dinosaurs who spark the imagination of our little ones. There is a difference though: While the other extinctions were due to external events, this one is anthropocentric in nature. To make it unambiguous, science circles themselves call this ongoing mass extinction the Anthropocene extinction event. What does it mean? It means that our species, although very young in evolutionary terms, has become a global geological force. We are responsible for a biodiversity loss that is the consequence of the incredible pressure that we subject a vast variety of habitats and species to.

Explicitly the recognized threats to biodiversity are:

✗  Human population growth and its impact

✗  Habitat destruction of tropical forests, temperate grassland, wetlands, marine coastal waters, desertification

✗  Habitat fragmentation with an increase of the edge effects

✗  Environmental degradation and pollution — pesticides, water pollution, air pollution

✗  Global climate change (of course)

✗  Overexploitation — resource use in traditional cultures, international wildlife trade, commercial harvesting and trophy hunting

✗  Invasive species

✗  Diseases

There are actually 2 ‘subcrisis’ behind to the overall biodiversity crisis. An extinction crisis and the lesser known defaunation crisis.

The extinction crisis might be the more mediatic one of the two, although its details are generally not understood by the public. Again it is not a blame: who has the time to get to the details of the categories and criteria of the IUCN Red List really? (the IUCN is the best known worldwide conservation status listing and ranking system).

The big word Extinction surfaces once in awhile with the announcement of the extinction of a particular charismatic species. Species are more ‘visible’ and graspable than ecosystems. The consequence of an extinction of a species is that a species suddenly is no more –out–gone–kaput. The most famous extinction may be the ones of the dodo or the passenger pigeons. And these past decades saw the rapid extinction of the western black rhino, the Baiji dolphin, the Javan tiger, and so many more.

For most species, extinction does not happen suddenly but gradually. However, the pace of extinction is fastening. And the reality is that many species are threatened at various degrees with a lot on the verge of extinction. It is established that currently 41% of amphibians, 33% of reef building corals, 25% of mammals, 13% of birds, and 30% of conifers are threatened.

Securing the web of life

“Sustainability is a matter of life and death for people on the planet,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General, IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). “A sustainable future cannot be achieved without conserving biological diversity – animal and plant species, their habitats and their genes – not only for nature itself, but also for all 7 billion people who depend on it.”

The other lesser known crisis is defaunation. It also affects the total collection of animals —both in terms of species diversity and abundance— in a given area. Defaunation, much like deforestation, means the loss of animals in all its myriad forms, including extinction, extirpation, or population declines. In a sense Defaunation subsumes Extinction. The causes behind defaunation are clear and have been for decades: habitat loss including deforestation; overexploitation of species for bushmeat, medicine, or trophies; and invasive species rank as the ‘big three’. And its impact, such as the spreading of animal diseases and zoonotic infections (animals to humans) is already felt in many regions of the world.

Defaunation is more subdued than extinction and a problem to attend to now rather than waiting that all that fauna makes it the IUCN red list one species at a times before taking action.

Here is a great popular article on the topic from Mongabay. And for those who want to go ‘all science’ on that, then you can start with the science paper Defaunation in the Anthropocene by Rodolfo Dirzo & al (2014)

It’s not just extinction: meet defaunation

Get ready to learn a new word: defaunation. Fauna is the total collection of animals-both in terms of species diversity and abundance-in a given area. So, defaunation, much like deforestation, means the loss of animals in all its myriad forms, including extinction, extirpation, or population declines.

There’s much to do on the biodiversity crisis front. Starting with raising awareness about it. Exposing what the crisis and its consequences are is very important, because once again: if the problem is not stated in all its reality, then the problem does not exists. And if there is no problem, then there is no need for action…

“Biodiversity is really necessary for the full enjoyment of rights to food, water, health — the right to live a full and happy life. (…) Without the services that healthy ecosystems provide across the board, we really can’t enjoy a whole range of human rights. And healthy ecosystems really depend on biodiversity.” — John Knox, 2017

Thankfully we are ‘crawling’ in the right direction. As of March 2017, and for the first time, a United Nations report has recognized biodiversity and healthy ecosystems as essential to human rights. The report, authored by U.N. Special Rapporteur John Knox, a human rights expert and professor of international law at Wake Forest University, recognizes that “in order to protect human rights, states have a general obligation to protect ecosystems and biodiversity.” The Human Rights Council is considering whether to adopt a resolution recognizing the relationship of biodiversity and human rights. This is a progress!

These 2 crises call out loudly for a redefinition of our relationship with Nature.

Redefining Our Relationship with Nature

Repairing our relationship with Nature starts with defining and implementing strong Environmental ethics based & focused on ecology & conservation.

Environmental Ethics — Definition

Before ‘walking’ the ecological walk, first, we need to make sure that we understand what environmental ethics is about. Wiki does a good job defining the term at a high level:

Environmental ethics is the part of environmental philosophy which considers extending the traditional boundaries of ethics from solely including humans to including the non-human world.

It has influence on a large range of disciplines including environmental law, environmental sociology, ecotheology, ecological economics, ecology and environmental geography. (…)

Some example of ethical inquiries that humans make with respect to the environment are:

  • Should humans continue to clear cut forests for the sake of human consumption?
  • Why should humans continue to propagate its species, and life itself?
  • Is it right for humans to knowingly cause the extinction of a species for the convenience of humanity?

These aren’t easy questions. Fortunately, science can help with providing us with an informed and sometimes clear picture of the direct effects and long term consequences of some potential decisions. We also have to take into account our incredible tendency to generally underestimate and to go with lower bound estimations, which favor short time human biased decisions with higher environmental human cost in the long term.

The academic field of environmental ethics grew up in response to the work of scientists such as Rachel Carson and events such as the first Earth Day in 1970 when environmentalists started urging philosophers to consider the philosophical aspects of environmental problems. Some papers published in Science were instrumental such as:

Also influential was an essay by Aldo Leopold in his A Sand County Almanac, called “The Land Ethic“, in which Leopold explicitly claimed that the roots of the ecological crisis were philosophical (1949).

“All things share the same breath – the beast, the tree, the man. The air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.” ― Chief Seattle

That said, environmental ethics did not start in the mid-20th century. One way or the other, environmental ethics have permeated throughout our entire human history, for instance through our pagan or religious beliefs.

Modern Environmental Ethics

The important thing to know is that they are many recent variations on the theme of ‘environmental’ ethics. Someone once asked me to list and explain them. I simply can’t and it’s beside the point. It’s also questionable that anyone (unless a scholar) can really fathom all the ramifications and subtleties of environmental ethics as there are simply tons of them, and each of them splitting in tons more!

A few examples include:

  • Paul Taylor’s Biocentrism, that is basically an ethical point of view that extends inherent value to all living things. It is an understanding of how the Earth works, particularly as it relates to biodiversity. And the related Ecocentrism extends inherent value to the whole of nature.

  • James Lovelock‘s Gaia hypothesis, which theorizes that the planet earth alters its geophysiological structure over time in order to ensure the continuation of an equilibrium of evolving organic and inorganic matter. The planet is characterized as a unified, holistic entity with ethical worth of which the human race is of no particular significance in the long run.

  • Peter Singer‘s work, which urges us to expand the circle of moral worth, and includes the rights of non-human animals, so as to not be guilty of what’s known as speciesism (a prejudice similar to racism or sexism according to animal rights advocates).

  • And that we like it or not, Anthropocentrism is also part environmental ethics as it defines a kind of relationship with Nature, which positions humans as the most important or critical elements in any given situation; and that the human race must always be its own primary concern.

At a high level, environmental worldviews and ethics fall into three broad categories: egocentric (human-centered ethics, biocentric (life or species-centered ethics) and ecocentric (ecosystem and/or biosphere centered ethics).

In short: my environmental ethics can be radically different than your environmental ethics both in meaning and in practice. Consequently, we have to be cautious and explicit when we say that “we advocate for good environmental ethics” as it is at best vague or ambiguous at so many levels.

Earthwise Aware’s Ethics: An Ecosophy of Life

Our ethics at Earthwise Aware (EwA) are biosphere/ecosystem centered —ecocentric. More precisely our principles are in line with Arne Naess’ original Ecosophy.

Arne Næss was an important and respected Norwegian philosopher and mountaineer, who in the 70s came up with the concept of Ecosophy —a philosophy that provides a flexible framework for refining EwA’s own environmental ethics, and that of its community members.

The etymology of the word Ecosophy is as clear as can be. It is made 2 words:

  • Ecology, that is a branch of science dealing with the relationship of living things to their environments, and
  • Sofia, a word of Greek origin meaning ‘wisdom’.

The concept of ecosophy then can refer simply to a philosophy based on the wisdom of ecological harmony. And that is actually what the inventor of Ecosophy meant. He created the concept to describe an evolving but consistent philosophy of being, thinking, and acting in the world, that embodies ecological wisdom and harmony.

Næss defined ecosophy in the following way:

“By an ecosophy I mean a philosophy of ecological harmony or equilibrium. A philosophy as a kind of sofia (or) wisdom, is openly normative, it contains both norms, rules, postulates, value priority announcements and hypotheses concerning the state of affairs in our universe. Wisdom is policy wisdom, prescription, not only scientific description and prediction. The details of an ecosophy will show many variations due to significant differences concerning not only the ‘facts’ of pollution, resources, population, etc. but also value priorities.” — A. Drengson and Y. Inoue, 1995

At the risk of oversimplifying Næss’ Ecosophy, one fundamental idea is that nothing exists “separately”. A thing only exists as the result of the relationships that “this thing” maintains with the environment in which it lives. A single World exists, without any division, any particular distinction, a web of a sort, in which all its constituents are primordial and necessary for the whole to hold together. In other words, it places emphasis not on human rights but on the recognition of the fundamental interdependence of all biological (and some abiological) entities and their essential diversity.

The Ecosophical core rests on the following guiding principles:
Excerpts from The Ecology of Wisdom: Writings by Arne Naess (2010)

1. All living Beings have intrinsic values

▷ The flourishing of human and nonhuman life on earth has inherent value. The value of nonhuman life-forms is independent of the usefulness of the nonhuman world for human purposes.

2. The richness and diversity of life has intrinsic value

▷ Richness and diversity of life-forms are also values in themselves and contribute to the flourishing of human and nonhuman life on earth.

3. Except to satisfy vital needs, humans do not have the right to reduce the richness and diversity of life

▷ Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.

“Considering the mass of proclamations about what humans have the right to, it may be sobering to announce a norm about what they have no right to. That is, we must take into account situations in which we humans cannot evoke and appeal to a right. The formulation is not intended to automatically condemn as wrong all the actions to which we cannot invoke a right.”

“The term vital need is left deliberately vague to allow for considerable latitude in judgment. Differences in climate and related factors, together with differences in the structures of societies as they now exist, need to be considered. Also, the difference between a means to the satisfaction of the need and the need itself must be considered. If a whaler quits whaling, he may risk unemployment under the present economic conditions. Whaling is for him an important means. But he and his boat are urgently needed in the control of overfishing and the use of barbarous methods. And the whaling nations are rich enough to finance such inspection, especially along the coasts of developing countries. So there is not a question of vital need to kill whales.”

4. The flourishing of both humans and non-humans life and cultures requires a substantial decrease in the human population.

▷ The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with and requires a substantial decrease in the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease.

5. Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.

▷ People in the materially richest countries cannot be expected to reduce their excessive interference with the nonhuman world to a moderate level overnight. Less interference does not imply that humans should not modify some ecosystems as do other species. Humans have modified the earth and will probably continue to do so. At issue are the nature and extent of such interference.

The fight to preserve and extend areas of wilderness or near wilderness should continue and should focus on the general ecological functions of these areas. Very large wilderness areas are required in the biosphere for the continued evolutionary speciation of animals and plants. Present designated wilderness areas are too small and too few.

6. Decisive improvement requires considerable changes: social, economic, technological and ideological.

▷ In view of the foregoing points, policies must be changed. The changes in policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present and make possible a more joyful experience of the connectedness of all things.

Think globally, act locally.

7. An ideological change would essentially entail seeking a better quality of life rather than a raised standard of living.

▷ The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality (dwelling in situations of inherent value) rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.

8. Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to participate in the attempt to implement the necessary changes.

▷ These principles are more than words, it means that if we hold them as our values, then we must contribute and act. And do it now!

These principles make the fabric of our own environmental ethics that we focus on Nature & wildlife conservation –where Conservation is itself is defined as an ethic of resource use, protection, and allocation. Its primary focus and ours is to maintain the health of the natural world– its habitats and biological diversity.

An Ecological Mindset

“Altogether Ecologically and Ethically Engaged Everywhere–All the Time…”

To put it all together:  Conservation and ecological factors guide us in developing ecosophical ethical inquiries.

These inquiries help in recentering us (humans) for becoming ecological individuals in our activities as nature enthusiasts, wildlife visitors, eco tourists or travelers, field researchers, scientists or volunteers, etc.. This also helps organizations (e.g., conservation or academic institutions, eco-tourism groups, wildlife exhibitors), to operate as ecological entities.

In EwA’s context: our work includes establishing both an environmental ethics framework, and developing tools for the engagement of the public and professionals with nature habitats and wildlife.

With these tools, we aim at redirecting our human acts towards preserving or restoring a healthy ecological world, while fostering an enduring attitude of ecological respect and belonging.

‘Being’ Ecological: EwA in Practice

We wrap our methodology into what we call affectionately the EwA Caring Framework.

It’s an Ethics system made of 2 main blocks: An attitude and a process (with its set of tools including guides and etiquettes), which output is a more ethical ecological way of thinking & living.

An Attitude

“Badly informed people may cause small ecological disasters, making false judgments of a factual character. Today more than ever, it is one of our duties to keep informed; the better informed we are, the better our basis for predicting consequences.” — Arne Naess

Being ecological is not something one does when s/he has time. It’s not circumstantial. It’s a mindset. Being ecological comes with an ‘attitude’ and the discipline that goes with it.

For us, this attitude is based upon:

Empathy + Humility + Knowledge

where knowledge favors an evidence-based type of knowledge in the domains of science in general including, ecology, sociology, ethology and conservation science in general.

One might think that this is unimportant, thinking that as humans, we have all 3 traits already. Maybe this person would simply lack humility. Thinking of the opposite traits: arrogance, selfishness, and ignorance might shift our view a little and make us realize how prevalent or present the negatives are in our society and also characterize us. Maybe even the scale shifted recently towards the latter as illustrated in the wave of populism and extremism in our modern World.

A healthy attitude is naturally dynamic because as fallible humans we can forget humility when we are threatened, and we can dismiss empathy when we fear. Knowledge itself is dynamic. We only know what we know, and we should keep in mind that what was acceptable today might not be tomorrow. This means that this attitude requires ‘discipline’ –the will to remain as open, humble and emphatic as we can, never taking anything for granted, seeking new knowledge, making sure our old knowledge has still value and correct when necessary or when we’re mistaken.

Great examples of how dynamic our human world is (and our ethics by extension) are the fairly recent abolition of slavery, the emancipation of women in the modern world. Slaves and women with no rights were morally right and vehemently defended. Another great change that is ongoing is the new understanding and acceptance of animal sentience, which leads for instance into public outcries and the shaming of some less than ethical practices (e.g., cetaceans captivity and entertainment industry, questioning captivity breeding and the keeping of large mammals in zoos, etc.). Having gained a more flexible viewpoint does not mean that the progression is linear and will never regress. An example of regression is the threat to the more recent progress made with racial, sexual (and even gender) discrimination in countries that were seen previously as defenders of more humane societies.

Yes, the 3 traits of Empathy, Humility, and Knowledge lack individually and in combination, but there are within us, or we would have never abolished slaveries or gave voting rights to women. So it is easy for us to believe that we can bring these qualities to the forefront of our lives in a more persisting manner.

A Process

Explore Prepare Engage

If each time that we go in a park, a sanctuary, a forest, we practice the 3 activities of exploring (researching), preparing for the experience, and engaging when in the moment and even after coming back, then that attitude will solidify into an enduring one that can be shared as well and spread even further.

At a high level, these 3 activities are:

▷ Exploring is making sure we are making ethical choices when deciding the type of recreation, vacation, volunteering, or action we plan to have, so as to not endorse without knowing bad institutions, bad practices (our own included), etc. For instance, relying on non-experts rating about institutions of animals in captivity is what drove Trip Advisor to finally (and thankfully) correct its course. It halted ticket sales to certain cruel wildlife attractions that are unfortunately still very much appreciated by the average ignorant travelers who end up endorsing criminal institutions.

▷ Preparing is ensuring that you will be behaving in ways that minimize negative impacts. We believe in living by example, and this comes with knowledge and understanding.

▷ Engaging is respecting and putting into practice what we’ve learned when preparing. It’s connecting with the people on-site, being flexible and learning from those people as well as remaining ‘alert’ for spotting poor rules of conduct and challenge those.


Having an attitude, a process, and the tools to realize the process (guides and etiquettes); and then cycling through the attitude and the process repeatedly is what makes a difference at the end. It does for us: it makes us much more alert, mindful, honest and engaged. It gives us back the assurance that together we can have a positive meaningful impact to the world.

It is said that one just needs 21 days to change or get rid of bad habits. Maybe becoming ecologically minded and living it follows the same 21 cycles rule ⥁…

References & Extended Bibliography

Accelerated Modern Human–Induced Species Losses: Entering the Sixth Mass Extinction by Ceballos, G. & al. in Science Advances  19 Jun 2015: Vol. 1, no. 5, e1400253 <DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400253>

It’s Not Just Extinction: Meet Defaunation by Hance, J. (2014)

Defaunation in the Anthropocene by Dirzo, R. & al. in Science  25 Jul 2014: Vol. 345, Issue 6195, pp. 401-406

U.N. Expert: Biodiversity Is Essential To Human Rights (March 2017)

Are we in Anthropodenial? by de Waal, F. B. M. Discover 18 (7): 50-53 (1997)

The Historical Roots of our Ecologic Crisis by White, L. (1967)

The Tragedy of the Commons by Hardin, G. (1968)

A Sand County Almanac  by Leopold, A. (1949)

Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics by Taylor, P. (1986)

The Ecology of Wisdom: Writings by Arne Naess by Naess, A. & al. {editors} (2010)

Human Natures, Nature Conservation, and Environmental Ethics by Ehrlich, P.R. (2002) in Bioscience. Vol. 52, no. 1, pp. 31-43.

Ecocide: A Short History of the Mass Extinction of Species by Broswimmer, F. (2002)

Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life by Wilson, E.O. (2016)

The Ocean Shifting Baseline by Pauly, D. (2010 TED talk)

IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria

Living Planet Report 2016

ClaireJune 5th 2017 | by Claire O’Neill 

The photos in this article are either published under a creative commons license, labeled for non-commercial reuse (with or without modification) or are directly linked to their source.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email