“Value Ethics behind Biodiversity Conservation Law” (UCL)

Value Ethics behind
Conservation Law
Fulya BATUR, LL.M.
Unité BIOGOV - Centre de Philosophie du Droit
Institut pour la recherche interdisciplinaire en sciences juridiques
Faculté de Droit
1. Introducing Ethics
2. Valuing biological diversity (Ask why do we conserve before
establishing how to do it?)
3. Enacting regulatory tools for conservation (Define
normative prescriptions)
4. Adjusting polarized value systems (Humanist approach to
economic valuation?)
1. Introducing Ethics and
Legal Theory
- What are norms?
- Where do they find their legitimacy? Their validity (or existence)?
- To what extent do moral judgments impact regulatory decisionmaking and the creation of norms?
- To what extent do moral judgments impact the content of norms?
From Descriptive Judgment to Normative Discourse
FACTS (observed / verified through experience) : « This IS… »
Genetic diversity is lost because of the uniformisation of modern seed varieties
« This OUGHT TO BE… »
Genetic diversity should be restored
(as insurance against future diseases)
At least 10 per cent of modern seeds’
revenue should be redistributed to
gene bank preservation programmes
Defining « OUGHT TO BE »
• Ethics: attempts to define what « ought to be »
• Environmental Ethics; Aldo LEOPOLD (“land ethics”)
• "An ethic, philosophically, is a differentiation of social from anti-social
• An ethic, ecologically, is a limitation on freedom of action in the
struggle for existence.”
• Objective? Articulate moral grounds for the protection or restoration
of human environment
• Means? Establish the foundation for the moral consideration of nonhuman natural or animal entities
• Do we feel obliged to conserve biological diversity? Why?
2. Valuing Biodiversity in
Environmental Ethics
Reasons why you think biodiversity should be conserved?
• We need it today / might need it in the future
• Use values (associated with resource exploitation)
• Food, fiber, fuel…
• Production of scientific knowledge
• We appreciate it
• Aesthetic value (Pleasure/appreciation)
• We think we should conserve it
• Moral value
Non-Use Values
Value Systems: Polarized Ethics
• Strong vs. Weak Sustainability
• Strong Sustainability (H.E. DALY)
• Maintenance human and natural capital intact (highest level)
• Weak Sustainability (J. STIGLITZ, R. SOLOW)
• Conservation natural capital unnecessary in view of growth
• Optimal use of reproducible assets improves life standards (since
capital substitutable)
• Ethical transcription
• John PASSMORE (1974), Man’s Responsibility for Nature
• Ethical dichotomy between:
• Cooperative stewardship
• Despotic dominion
Value Systems: Polarized Ethics
Instrumental / Utilitarian Value
Intrinsic / Holistic Value
Morally right if (now and in the future)
promotes well-being, integrity and beauty
of human community
Morally right if promotes well-being,
integrity and beauty of the biotic
Good if provides the means for the
acquisition of something valuable
OR produces greatest good for the greatest
number (« Bentham »)
Good in and of itself (not a means for
acquiring satisfaction)
Values derived from benefits brought to
humans (desires, needs, purposes and the
satisfaction of those)
Values exist independently from humans,
on their own
Environmentalism is struggle for welfare
and survival of humankind
Environmentalism is enlightened selfinterest
Anthropocentric vs. Ecocentric :
The Shallow and the Deep?
Anthropocentrism: Human-centred Ethics
• Why?
• Human dominion over nature
• Nature is instrumental to our well-being
• Value system?
• Utilitarian theory: moral worth of actions determined through
contribution to utility, be it happiness, pleasure or satisfaction
• Nature valuable in proportion to the benefits brought to society
• Cultural, educationnal, aesthetic considerations, financial gains
• How?
• Hierarchical value scale with humankind on top : all other values
subordinated to our priorities
• Rio Declaration’92: « Human beings are at the center of sustainable
development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in
harmony with nature »
Anthropocentrism: Shortcomings
• Disregard for Evolutionary nature of valued object
• Anthropocentric approach only cares for the « being » rather than the « becoming »
(Ilya PRIGOGINE and Isabelle STENGERS, 1984)
• Biodiversity is not static
• Processes inherent to nature may be more ‘useful’ than entities in themselves (plant
breeding, development of insect resistance…)
• Human welfare does not always need environmental preservation
• All instrumental values can be fulfilled through other outlets (our need for beauty and
calm can be found in fine arts)
• Exception for those functions ensuring the continuity of life (food, air and water), we
need nature but maybe not in the future? Technological change
• Failure to achieve environmental policy or conservation objectives
• Conqueror image prevents preservation environment and will lead to its complete
• Not environmental ethic but human ethic!
• « Arrogance of Humanism » (David EHRENFELD, 1981)
• Failure to recognize the gravity of environmental degradation and humankind’s
• More value to nature than merely its capacity to satisfy us?
Ecocentrism: Life-centred Ethics
• Why?
• All life forms are interdependent
• Wilderness has intrinsic value and is non-renewable, thereby requires
new ethics system
• Solely referring to human-centered values is « shallowly arrogant »
• Rejects central tenet of anthropocentrism (no exclusive or arbitrarily
preferential consideration for human interests)
• Value System?
• Ecocentric / holistic theory where nature is valuable in itself
• Need to describe non-human natural world in non-anthropocentric terms
• Recognition of intrinsic value to nature best way to describe such premise
• Certain « weak ecocentric » authors recognize the need for certain
utilitarian values that go beyond mere resource value
Ecocentrism : Conceptualisation
• Mysticist approach: Deep Ecology (Arne NAESS, 1973)
• Holistic conceptualisation of nature as a self-regulating,
interdependent whole: « Nature is more than the sum of its parts »
• Rejects conception of « man-in-environment » : always in relation with
• Modern ecological version of traditional mysticism: if no « greater
whole », then no reason to value nature for itself?
• Promise of self-realization through communion with Nature (Cosmos,
• Secular approaches: Obligation-based pragmatists?
• Human scale of values is disturbed by nature independently of
spirituality, welfare or contentment (David WIGGINS)
• Not moral standing as such but rather Legal considerability of nature,
as a subject of legal rights (Should trees have standing? Christopher
STONE): « weak ecocentrism »
Ecocentrism: Shortcomings
• Is Deep Ecology going too far?
• Eco-fascism: need population decrease to save environment
• Distinction between misanthropic (hate humanity - get rid of all human beings) and
anti-anthropocentric (humans aren't most important species)
• Is nurturing nature always good, since nature is inherently destructive?
• HIV, malaria, cancer are all part of nature, which has an inherent destructive and
selective instinct
• Why should nature be completely inviolable?
• Can Ecocentrism ever be non-anthropocentric?
• Can intrinsic value exist objectively? Always subjective!!
• How can intrinsic value be granted to beings without any sense of justice as we
understand it?
• Can the subject of valuation (nature) be separated from the author of moral
valuation (human being)?
• Lack of implementing force to constrain public policy
• Globalised non-interventionist culture and economic libertarianism
• If no economic incentive or proof of financial interest, no legislative change?
Economics in Environmental Ethics?
Rejecting Monetary valuation?
• Many ethical and social commitments constitute a refusal of monetary
valuation (RAZ, 1986)
• Criticism towards « orthodox cost-benefit analysis » based on
assumption that monetary value can be fixed
• How much are we prepared to pay to preserve natural ecosystem, species, or
• How much are we prepared to accept as compensation for its loss?
• How much benefits do we think are going to arise from its destruction?
• Is it really a « value-neutral scientific basis to environmental policy? »
• Surveys on the rejection of monetary valuation
• Monetary values will never be able to capture what nature is to humanity
(e.g. Bonaiuto et al. 2002)
• Valuation is a not only a purely economic affair. Biodiversity is not simply a
resource, but the object of ethical and social values which cannot be captured
in monetary valuations (O’NEILL, 2007)
Economics of Environmental Ethics?
Example of Invasive Species
• Ecocentric approach
• Need to be protected since have intrinsic value on their own
• No monetary valuation should normally take place as they are part of
a greater whole
• There is never any benefit to the destruction of nature « except to satisfy
basic needs » (what are those basic needs?)
• Anthropocentric approach
• Need to be protected so far as they contribute to welfare: species’
contribution needs to be determined
• Cost-benefit analysis
• Can you make fuel with the species? Does it protect another species?
• What is the damage done to agricultural biodiversity and production?
The pressure put upon local diversity?
Conundrums in « Visions of Nature »?
Common limitations and recurring interrogations in Environmental
VIS-A-VIS THE OBJECT (Biodiversity)
• Environmental Holism (more in Ecocentrism)
• Defining the scope of the valued object
• Do we value and should we thus conserve species as a whole?
Ecosystems? Individual organisms?
• Especially in ecocentric approaches, how to define values if no fixed
degree of preference exist between different components?
• Territoriality
• Defining the borders of valuation
• Nationally trivial maize species might be crucial for local population
Conundrums in « Visions of Nature »?
VIS-A-VIS THE SUBJECT (Human valuator)
• Whose vision?
• Policy-makers? Scientists? Economists? Practicing lawyers? All
citizens (national, regional, local levels)?
• Based on?
• Constructivism: Social constructs, tied to social interactions and
underlying cultural values
• Realism: Reality on the field, geographical and biological thruth:
nature exists and needs to be conserved
• Intergenerational considerations
• Defining time-frames and regard for future generations: externality
from our ‘successive dictatorships’
• Should we taken into account the needs and benefits of future
generations? As future / option values? Through other construct?
Inter- and Intra- generational Equity :
New value system?
• Why?
• Feeling obliged to leave fair legacy in natural environment to future
• Feeling obliged not to destroy livelihoods and natural environment of
other humanbeings living on this planet
• Inherent instinct for equity? Common ideal of social and environmental
• Value System?
• Inter-generational equity: fair heritage for future generations
• Intra-generational equity: fair use for current generations
• How?
• Safe minimum standards of biodiversity existence: no trespassing line
• Benefit sharing obligations: compensation of biodiversity-rich by
Inter- and Intra- generational Equity :
New value system?
• Should Intergenerational equity viewed as inherently
• Is it just Anthropocentric ethics viewed in framework of distributive
• Does it reinforce the fact the environment is simply a human
1. Introducing Ethics
2. Valuing biological diversity
3. Enacting regulatory tools for conservation
4. Adjusting polarized value systems
3. Enacting Regulatory
• Difficulty to see practical implications of environmental ethics?
• Moral valuation exists, yet biodiversity is still lost? Do people lie, why
aren’t they motivated?
• Response could maybe found
• Studying the effect of polarized ethics on objectives enshrined in
conservation law
• Studying successful biodiversity governance schemes and
identifying common grounds: BIOMOT project
From Descriptive Judgment to Normative Discourse
- Biological diversity is lost
- Genetic uniformity is extending
Biodiversity has value as long
as it contributes to human
Biodiversity has intrinsic value
- Public Policy Choices
Polarized Normative Discourse
Instrumental / Utilitarian Value
Intrinsic / Holistic Value
Public interest in conservation IF
serves human welfare
Global / Universal public interest
in conservation
Assessment of value for each
biodiversity component (concrete
measurement tools)
Comprehensive / Inclusive
policies with egalitarian view on
value of biodiversity
Property viewed as essential
means to avoid « tragedy of the
commons »
No cohesive ecocentric property
Anthropocentrism and Normative Discourse
• Principle?
• Environmental and nature protection issues should be simply reduced to
questions of science, technology and rents in economic terms
• Normative prescriptions should maximize the well-being of all
humankind: focus on those issues valuable to human beings
• General policy goals?
• Public interest in conservation insofar as it serves human welfare (no
universal interest)
• Assessment of all specific values found within each component of
biodiversity; through concrete tools:
• Economic valuation of biodiversity, coupled with
• Ecological valuation of biodiversity (emphasis on regulative functions…)
• Private property viewed as essential means to avoid « tragedy of the
commons »
Anthropocentrism and Normative Discourse
• Examples?
• List of endangered species that are the most important resources for
humankind (whether on the basis of financial or sentimental values),
• WWF list of species including dolphins and not sharks?
• Environmental impact assessment obligations
• Cost-benefit analysis
• Creation of artifical habitats:
• Either for the sole purpose of human enjoyment: small recreational parks that
are counted as « green areas » in urban landscapes
• Or for the protection of wilderness: still affirmation of human mastery over
• Grant of agricultural subsidies
• Promotion of organic/biodynamic farming for food quality or landscape
preservation purposes
Ecocentrism and Normative Discourse
• Principle?
• Nature is used as an external normative framework, independent from human
• Nature becomes a subject of rights since all sensible and insensible beings
have inherent values: recognition of biotic rights (to nature and animals)
• Translation in general policy goals? MORE RARELY DONE IN LITERATURE
• Global / Universal public interest in conservation
• Prohibit the reduction of natural richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs
• Duty to restore comes directly and uniquely from the damage caused
• Comprehensive / Inclusive policies with egalitarian view on value of
biodiversity (no component of higher value from the other)
• Development of policies for « bioregions »
• Emphasis on cross-species identification
• No cohesive ecocentric property theory but rejects bilateralism since universal
interest and general reduction policy (population and pressure)
Ecocentrism and Normative Discourse
• Examples?
• List of endangered species based simply on their numbers (IUCN Red List)
• CBD article « common concern of mankind » / « common heritage » doctrine
• CGIAR centers : Obligation to hold genetic material « in trust » for humanity
• Neither an instrument nor a commodity?
• Adoption, implementation and enforcement of strict precautionary principlebased environmental measures
• Promotion of organic/biodynamic farming due to stewardship ideas within
Normative Actions: Anthropo- or Eco-?
UNESCO Biosphere reserves?
National parks ?
Zoos ?
Ex situ gene collections ?
Support Plant breeding programmes?
Competing Values?
What determines the content of normative prescriptions?
• Relativism: no absolute truth transcending other existing value
systems (numerous and valid)
• Internal coherence (John Rawls : reflexive balance)?
Ethical stance if competing values?
• Anthropocentric : trade-off (economic)
• Ecocentric : sacrifice Nature for
1. Introducing Ethics
2. Valuing biological diversity
3. Enacting regulatory tools for conservation
4. Adjusting polarized value systems
4. Adjusting polarized value
• A pragmatiscally humanist approach to biodiversity
valuation: Moving beyond polarized value ethics systems
• Middle way between anthropocentric welfarism and
ecocentric mysticism?
The Need for a Hybrid value system?
Anthropocentrism is a key concept to motivate the general public and
policy makers to act for biodiversity
• Anthropocentric values are best-suited to push for sound regulatory
decisions, as they allow for
• concrete evaluation of biodiversity benefits and budgeting of
conservation costs
• Internalization of externalities in public policy decisions
• Nature conservation NGOs focus on the economic benefits of nature in
their mission statements (Campagna and Fernández 2007; Butler and
Acott 2007)
The Need for a Hybrid system?
Ecocentrism is here to stay!
• Biodiversity values are “incommensurable”, (priceless) not ordinary
commodities sold on marketplace
• Value claims so diverse that there can be no fixed degree of preference
between them (protection of an in situ agrobiodiversity hot spot against
invasive species)
• Research results of people’s ‘visions of nature’ in Europe (DE GROOT et al.
2009); surveys conducted in France, the Netherlands and Germany in the
framework of the EU (Interreg) project ‘Freude am Fluss’,
• the old image of human Mastery over nature is massively rejected,
• the far majority of the respondents strongly adhere to notions of Stewardship or
even more ecocentric images of the human/nature relationship (value of nature is
infinite, because without nature, we would not exist at all)
The Need for a Hybrid value system?
• Holmes ROLSTON (1994)
• « Values are intrinsic, instrumental and systemic and all three are
intertwoven, no one with priority over the others in significance »
• Millenium Ecosystems Assessment, Biodiversity Synthesis (2001)
• “Human well-being is the central focus for the MA, but biodiversity and
ecosystems also have intrinsic value.
• A full assessment of the interactions between people and biodiversity
requires a multiscale approach, as this better reflects the multiscale nature of
• The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, TEEB (2010)
• « In addition to economic valuation, other ways to analyze the importance of
ecosystem services include livelihoods assessments, capabilities,
opportunities and vulnerability assessments ;
• Necessary for integrating dimensions of human well-being that cannot (or
should not) be measured in terms of money, such as freedom of choice,
human rights and intrinsic values ».
Food For Thought :
Moving Beyond Polarized Ethics?
Instrumental / Utilitarian Value
Intrinsic Value
Values depend on human beings
Values exist independently
• Pragmatism in Philosophy? C.I. LEWIS, Holmes ROLSTON
• Valuing is merely an activity without fixed ends/objectives that guide
all our actions: inter-related nature of all human values
• Not understood in philosophy as in common language: not
necessarily short-sighted or inherently anthropocentric since
• Values can transcend human concerns (subjectivism not necessarily
• Eco-Pragmatism in Environmental Ethics? Andrew LIGHT (1992),
Daniel FARBER (1999)
• Need to be free from bipolar extremism of environmental policy
• « Walk away from both tree huggers and bean counters »
Total Economic Value
• Ecosystem services (ES) have rapidly become the mainstream concept to express the
benefits of nature (ecosystems, biodiversity) to society.
• The concept is now used for many purposes, among which:
• a basis to calculate the ‘Total Economic Value’ (TEV) of ecosystems in smaller or
wider regions
• End the « economic invisibility of nature »
• How can TEV be seen as a hybrid?
• Broader mindset than pure market valuation of goods (even though based on
anthropocentric cost-benefit approach)
Encompasses different sets of values:
• Ecological benefits
• Based on related value paradigm: importance attached by people to the
environment; both as instrumental and intrinsic
• Socio-cultural benefits
• Economic benefits
Room for
Considerations ?
• Use (direct or indirect)
• Non-use values: Option (protection for future use) or Existence (ethical reasons,
TEV: Shortcomings?
• Ecosystem services are more based on bio-mass and bio-productivity than biodiversity (not enough ecocentric considerations?)
• Methodological problems: system boundaries, double-counting and omissions
(Turner et al., 2010)
• Difficulties of ‘value transfer’, when local assessments are scaled up to higher
levels or to different places (territorial conundrum)
• Limitations of ‘willingness to pay’ and likewise statements in contingent
valuation methods, hypothetical compensation projects, defensive expenditures
and other methods of monetarisation (Bockstael et al., 2000).
• Against this background, economists have been developing less abstract, e.g.
more qualitative, discourse based and ‘embedded’ methods of economic
valuation of biodiversity (e.g. Chee, 2004; Kumar and Kumar, 2008; Spash 2008;
see also the VALVE project of the EU).
• Much of this state of the art is at present embedded in the European TEEB
project (‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity’)
What next? BIOMOT Project FP7
“MOTivational strength of ecosystem services and alternative ways to
express the value of BIOdiversity”
1. Starting point: Interrogation of economic valuation methods
• Is the economic value of nature not much more than the value of a
collection of services?
• Do people value nature in quite different realms than current economic
approaches elicit?
• Could more embedded and contextual methods of economic valuation
perform better in motivating people to act for nature?
2. Assessment of Biodiversity value in successful governance for
• Survey of successful governance actions (policies, directives,
agreements, programmes, projects) across Europe
• in order to analyse which (economic and non-economic) ways to express
the value of biodiversity have been at work
Concluding Words: Aichi Biodiversity Targets
(CBD Strategic Plan 2011-2020)
Which Ethical choices do these targets reflect in your opinion?
• Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity
loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society
• Target 1 : By 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of
biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably.
• Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and
promote sustainable use
• Target 5 : By 2020, the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, is
at least halved and where feasible brought close to zero, and degradation
and fragmentation is significantly reduced.
• Target 7 : By 2020 areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry are
managed sustainably, ensuring conservation of biodiversity.
Concluding Words: Aichi Biodiversity
Targets (CBD Strategic Plan 2011-2020)
• Strategic Goal C: To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding
ecosystems, species and genetic diversity
• Target 11: By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10
per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular
importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through
effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well
connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based
conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and
• Strategic Goal D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and
ecosystem services
• Target 16: By 2015, the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and
the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization is in
force and operational, consistent with national legislation
• Strategic Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory
planning, knowledge management and capacity building
Hoping that the presentation has given you food for
thought as to the moral considerations lying behind our
desire and willingness to protect biodiversity, and its
translation into normative discourse
Thank you for attention

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