Ground Rules for Ethical Ecology

Publications Type: 
Magazine Article
Publication Number: 

Nelson, Michael Paul. 2021. Ground Rules for Ethical Ecology. American Scientist. 109(4): 246-249.


Nelson argues that the current intertwined environmental crises--not just climate change, but also zoonotic disease pandemics, pollution, food insecurity, and biodiversity loss--are scientific problems; they are also economic and technological problems. But most notably, they are ethical problems that demand an ethical response. These environmental crises have grown out of ethical assumptions that Western nations have made over centuries about our proper role in the natural world. Recognizing and challenging these assumptions could transform our relationship with the Earth and shift public attitudes, allowing new approaches to policy decisions and motivating scientists to incorporate ethics into how they think about, talk about, and conduct their research. Continuing to separate ethics from science, on the other hand, will likely result in more incomplete, and ultimately ineffective, responses to each crisis.