Human beings think they are hot shit, we all know its true, why else would we drill, frack, and farm, the way we do. Environmentalists are still in the minority, and this is because we still think of ourselves as separate or above pretty much everything else on the planet, including the planet itself.
If you are not familiar with the concept of anthropocentrism, it is the idea that human beings are the most significant organism on the planet. We see the results of this perspective in every culture in the world. No matter how respectfully, man always puts the resources of plants and animals to use for his gain whether or not he replenishes these resources.
It contributes to a moral bias that is seldom over turned to the advantage of the sustainment of human life. Throughout history we find that that there have been those pragmatists whom have decided to forego this bias and history has not been kind to their legacy. In short, no matter what harm we do to the planet or its non-human inhabitants as a species, we seek refrain from executing punishment humankind in relation to equal infractions done against our fellow man. Human on human crime is seen as a graver injustice than human on non-human crime as exemplified by our legal system and sentencing. It is seen as a lesser crime to unjustly slaughter an animal than a human being. (See killing/maiming of animals sentencing.) Perhaps this is because we see animals as as food source whose killing is morally right in accordance with our place the food chain of which there is much contention, nonetheless there is a disparity in the value of a human life compared to an animals.
Were we to hold human life par with the health of the planet, and our treatment of the animals we may find that would treat the two of them differently and set a higher price of punishment for committing harmful acts against them. The strides we make towards this are slower than the damage we are causing but it is not just an environmental problem. Socially we have issues as well. Our treatment of each other hasn’t been particularly great though out history, apart from the slavery, genocide, oppression, and war we are a pretty cool bunch to be around. The social issues we face pertaining to race, and gender equality also have to do with hyper-individualistic views of value. Anthropocentrism is just another manifestation of “WE are superior to THEM.” Where the WE in this case is humanity and the THEM is all non-human life.
We can not adequately see to the policing of ourselves. In the wild humanity fell under a natural order. In society humanity is governed by the laws that humanity itself has decided on. Animals do things that seem strange to us because we are outside of their framework. So when we see a mother wolf kill one of her weakling children we see it as lacking compassion, quite literally “inhumane”. Our bias towards life means that we go to great lengths to safe our sick children wether it means they will have a difficult life or not, euthanasia is one of the most divisive ethical questions we have, right along with the divisions we find all along our “management” of human life ie, abortion, death penalty.
We believe that human life in any case of life is worth a shot, so we invest in healthcare advancements that make longer lives possible. After doing great detriment to this planet, we have now begun to explore and search for new homes to sustain that life without fully acknowledging our part in harming the home we already have. Human life always comes first.
Looking at the phenomena objectively we also see that we do not follow it absolutely. We still participate in war, and in many places we have the death penalty for the gravest of crimes, so we are not always on the side of life but in those cases it is held that we are ending the life of one person for the safety of others.
This presents one of the greatest contradictions in our behavior as a species. On one hand we go to great lengths to preserve and extend human life at nearly all costs, and yet we find many reasons to take it. It would seem that we have a sliding scale on our philosophy that is not entirely consistent. Though we have some regularity throughout our laws and systems in how we deal with the case of life vs. morality, animal life, and the planet we still have a lot of work to do before we reach order.
Until we decide our stance on these issues we are destined to be a species that yields no power to a higher force, be it nature or otherwise. We continue to waver back and forth with out reference for moral right and foundation for common ethics and the resulting conflicts will continue to leave us with the feeling of separation. The longer we see ourselves as separate from the our planet, our earthly neighbors, and other members of our species we will continue to face these imbalances in power and inability to realize justice.