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Ethics and the Human Enterprise in the Anthropocene Age

April 2020

Citation: ELR 10290

Author: William Eichbaum

In the first decades of the 21st century, those working to assure that earth continues to be a viable home for humanity as well as for all other life have been in a crisis regarding their purpose and direction. This is a departure from the past century and a half, when the giants of conservation and environmental protection—personalities such as John Muir, Rachel Carson, and David Brower— were certain of their cause and the actions needed to sustain it. The realization is emerging that while a few battles have been won, particularly for nature protection, overall, the fight to safeguard the vital fabric of the earth is being lost. This Comment argues that the nature of the environmental crisis facing humanity is significantly more fundamental than was appreciated in the latter half of the past century. In order for society to successfully address that challenge, sweeping changes will be needed in our systems for managing the conduct of science, global governance, and the allocation of financial resources. Ultimately, it suggests success in this daunting challenge will come about only through a revolutionary expansion of the sense of those alive today about to whom their highest ethical obligations are owed—namely future generations.

William Eichbaum is an environmental lawyer who has served in a variety of state and federal positions as well as with the World Wildlife Fund. The views expressed in this Comment are his own.

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