Here we are in 2015, at least in the UK. In Ethiopia it is 2007 and the Islamic calendar has assigned the current year to be 1436AH. As an introduction to the New Year I have a couple of interesting updates to note on Successful partnerships and Environmental Ethics.
A focus of my festive period was to deliver a small session on Environmental Ethics. This came about purely through discussions with a few others about how conservation work is, or is not, informed by an underpinning ethical code or framework. I spent a number of weeks doing some ad hoc reading and research and delivered a session in January that gave an overview of traditional ethical schools of thought, and some of the current forms of environmental ethics that are debated today.
The session was thought provoking and got us all talking, a lot. One of the interesting outcomes seems to be that people are really willing to discuss the ethics of conservation and community work, but in the reality of the workplace it may not be openly discussed too much. Rather, there may be a normalisation of what we ‘ought to do’ in a given situation, just because that is what is normally done, or because it seems to fit into a broad ethos of ‘it is good for the ecosystem/environment’.
A notable learning point was the question of whether we give overriding importance to the individual or the whole. For example, do we assign more importance to the value of the whole ecosystem at the expense of individuals in that ecosystem? This approach would justify, for example, species culls to protect the health of the ecosystem but has shortcomings in its extreme form of creating a kind of ‘ecofacism’, sacrificing any individual rights for the good of the whole. It is extremely important to note at this point that knowing what is right for the ‘health of the ecosystem’ is very hotly disputed.
Or, do we value the importance/rights/freedoms of individual lives over the probable interests of the ecosystem? Such an approach might justify, for example, the management of a site for a specific endangered species. This is appealing in some ways, but denies the intrinsic value that a ecosystem or group of creatures have as a whole, that they are ‘more than the sum of their parts’.
An important quetion arises about where we get our information from that we base these decisions on, and how much value do we place on this sort of information? Is it absolute truth, or partial truth? As yet there are no clearcut answers to any of these sorts of questions.
Needless to say, there is a lifetime of reading and writing that can be done on these topics and our session gave rise to great discussion and confusion as we mused on fascinating theories such as Utilitarianism, Environmental Virtue Ethics, Deep Ecology and New Animism, and thought about how our experiences might be applied to them.
I hope those involved got new ideas and new perspectives on their work, and that it might help to guide how we make decisions about what we do in the future. If you’d like to know more please do get in touch.
Over the past couple of months I helped facilitate a really positive relationship between Green Routes and TCV. Through my work with Green Routes it became apparent that TCV could help their site accessiblity by building foot paths. I chatted with TCV’s Tim Lewis and we organised some free work days for the volunteers to go down and build the paths that Green Routes have struggled to find the time and people power to create themselves. So, in December, TCV went down and helped move and lay several tons of type 1 aggregate, this made the Green Routes vegetable beds far more accessible to the students and volunteers with limited mobility who use them year round.
The partnership has been a great success for Green Routes and TCV, improving people’s accessibility to green spaces, and generating a genuinely beneficial working relationship.