1. Science, Ethics, and the Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis
Was White Right?
- Thomas J. Sauer2,
- John M. Norman3 and
- Mannava V. K. Sivakumar4
Published Online: 7 JUN 2011
Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Sustaining Soil Productivity in Response to Global Climate Change: Science, Policy, and Ethics
How to Cite
Sauer, T. J. and Nelson, M. P. (2011) Science, Ethics, and the Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis, in Sustaining Soil Productivity in Response to Global Climate Change: Science, Policy, and Ethics (eds T. J. Sauer, J. M. Norman and M. V. K. Sivakumar), Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9780470960257.ch1
US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, Ames, Iowa, USA
Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA
Climate Prediction and Adaptation Branch, World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
- Published Online: 7 JUN 2011
- Published Print: 15 JUL 2011
Print ISBN: 9780470958575
Online ISBN: 9780470960257
- Lynn White Jr.;
- environmental ethics;
- climate change;
- food security;
- soil organic matter;
In 1967 historian Lynn White Jr. suggested that values developed and perpetuated by Christian theology permeate Western science and technology and are responsible for human's seemingly continuous abuse of the environment. Our failure to solve environmental problems is due to a belief that humans are ordained to control and dominate, not care for and protect, nature. Several prominent scientists, including Aldo Leopold, have shared White's call for recognizing the ethical perspectives of natural resource management. This call has been largely unheeded although there are examples when changes in human values occurred to support environmental issues. Global climate change coupled with the need to produce food for an ever-increasing human population on finite land resources is not only a daunting scientific challenge but a potential ethical dilemma. Careful integration of scientific and ethical perspectives is essential for developing successful climate change mitigation strategies. Was White right? If a broader interpretation is taken that our environmental crisis is fundamentally a moral or ethical crisis, and that remediation will only come in the form of values alteration brought forth through ethical discourse, then we suggest that he was indeed right. Science and technology alone will not lead to a solution to environmental problems like sustaining soil productivity under the influence of global climate change without the recognition and incorporation of ethical principles in the development of effective and fair policy.