Critical Reflections on Human Rights and the Environment series
Chapter 9: Why do we want to preserve the natural world?
I now come to the final, and more properly philosophical question in my reflections on ownership. It is easy to see why we want to conserve or protect that which we own; but why do we want to do the same for anything that is not ours, including the planet on which, through no choice of our own, we happen to live? Of course we may hope that it will last our time. But why would it seem wrong to say ‘Après moi, le déluge’, and give the matter no further thought? Is it out of sympathy with those comparatively few people who we know will survive us, such as younger friends and members of our own close family? But then everyone’s motive would be different, their interest in the matter differently limited; and some would have no motive at all. Is it, then, out of a sense of moral obligation? And if so, to whom? I have, I think, implicitly given, or at least suggested, my answer to this question in the course of my arguments above; but it deserves a somewhat more thorough account before the investigation is closed. First, it will doubtless have been observed that in considering things that I do not own, I have sometimes been concerned with landscape and habitat, both wild and cultivated, which, as it were domestically, we wish to preserve through such organisations as the National Trust.
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