An environmental worldview consists of three components: how people think the world works, what they think their role in the world should be, and what they believe is right and wrong environmental behavior. There are three major types of environmental worldviews: anthropocentric (human-centered), biocentric (life-centered), or ecocentric (earth-centered).
Anthropocentric thinkers often believe that it is the role of humans to be masters of nature. To them, humans have intrinsic value; humans are valuable simply because they exist. Nature, on the other hand, has instrumental value; its worth is determined only by its usefulness to humans. A number of different anthropocentric worldviews exist, and each one presents a different approach to dealing with the environment and its resources. The free-market school promotes a free-market global economy, unlimited competition, and minimal government interference. The no-problem school claims that environmental and resource problems are negligible, and that any such problems can be solved easily through better management and technology. The responsible planetary management school combines the ideas of a free-market and improved technology. However, it also recognizes that nature requires protection, and that government interference may at times be necessary in order to provide this protection. The spaceship-earth worldview portrays the planet as a single, complex machine (or “spaceship”) that can be managed and controlled. It resulted from photographs of Earth taken from space in the 1960s and 1970s. Upon seeing these photographs, many people began to see the Earth as a finite entity that required protection and control. The stewardship school is similar to the spaceship-earth school, as it states that humans have an ethical responsibility to be good managers of the environment.
Unlike the anthropocentric worldview, the biocentric worldview does not distinguish between humans and other life on earth. According to biocentric thinkers, all species have intrinsic value; all forms of life have an inherent right to exist. The nonliving environment, on the other hand, has instrumental or utilitarian value. Most people with a biocentric worldview feel that the protection of a species is more important the protection of each individual member of that species. However, others insist that humans have an obligation to protect all living creatures whenever possible.
The ecocentric worldview demands that the environment receive moral consideration of its own, consideration that is not associated with human interests. It recognizes the need to prevent the premature extinction of species, but also emphasizes the importance of protecting the ecosystems in which those species live. Like the two previous worldviews, the ecocentric philosophy contains a set of different approaches. The first is the environmental wisdom school, which recognizes that our resources are limited and that technology and economic growth may either help or harm the environment. Instead of adapting the Earth for our needs, then, we should adapt our needs to the environment in order to secure a sustainable future. The deep ecology school resembles the environmental wisdom school in that it recognizes the intrinsic and instrumental values of species, ecosystems, and the biosphere. However, it goes a step further, claiming that humans have no right to interfere with environmental richness and diversity.
Knowledge of environmental worldviews is very important when studying any environmental issue. Worldviews determine how people manage natural resources, and water is arguably the most valuable natural resource on the planet. Understanding environmental worldviews can help us to understand why people decide to either conserve or exploit vital resources such as water.Thinkquest Team "Fish," March 2005, Disclaimer and copyright information