Author: Ishwita Mondal, Presidency University, Bangalore
In the world where technology is advancing so fast, it is very important to know about nature and to protect it. There are some environmental ethics and it is defined as ‘The moral relationship of human beings to, and also the value of moral status of the environment and its non-human contents’. There is also a provision which looked upon the environmental law of India. This can be dealt with two perspectives one is the anthropocentric approach and other is the ecocentric approach.
The anthropocentric approach mainly concerns with human nature and focuses on mankind. This view is called as Anthropocentrism. The eco-centric approach mainly covers the perspective of nature, and all things which are present within nature are also the ambit of this approach. This idea is called Eco-centrism.
THE CONCEPT OF ANTROPOCENTRIC AND ECOCENTRIC APPROACH
The Anthropocentric Approach:-
‘Anthropocentrism is a branch of philosophy and jurisprudence that treats man as the most important being in the world.’It generally keeps the intrinsic value of human beings above than the instrumental value of nature. This says that everything on the earth is to serve mankind and nothing is more important than it and nature also exist to do the same thing.
There are different stories in ancient history which highlights the anthropocentric approach. In Judeo Christian Bible it was mention that god is represented through human beings and they can subdue all the things if that is necessary for them. It only highlights that value of nature is measured by up to what extent it can serve human beings.
The followers of Anthropocentrism are with the view that increasing the human population is not the reason in the depletion of natural resources. So, they feel that any law or legal measure is not required to solve these issues.
The Eco-centric Approach:-
‘Eco-centrism is a term used in ecological political philosophy to denote a nature-centred, as opposed to human-centered’. This idea is totally against anthropocentric approach. ‘Eco-centrism find inherent value in all of nature. It takes a much wider view of the world than does, anthropocentrism, which sees individual human and the human species as more valuable than other organisms’. Eco-centrism also had a larger scope than Biocentrism and Zoocentrism because Biocentrism gives value only to living things and Zoocentrism only gives value to human whereas Eco-centrism gives intrinsic value to nature as a whole.
The root of Ecocentrism is rooted in the Vedas. A most prominent example is Upanishad, it says that the whole earth including both living things and non-living things belongs to God alone. None of the things should be placed before one or after one, harmony should exist between them. So, it can be also said that human beings are not superior rather they are same as every other species or object in the earth.
Based on Eco-centrism many countries have signed treaties among themselves. India also plays an active role in this. Treaties like:- World Charter for Nature in 1982, Earth Charter 2000, Convention for Conservation of Antarctic Living Resources, 1980, The Protocol to Antarctic Treaty on Environmental Protection, 1998 etc.
A SHIFT BY INDIAN JUDICIARY FROM ANTHROPOCENTRISM TO ECOCENTRISM
Initially, the world including Indian judiciary was inclined towards Anthropocentric approach. The treaties like Stockholm Declaration 1972, World Conservation Strategy, 1980, Rio Declaration 1992, and Johannesburg Declaration 2002, was strongly of the anthropocentric approach.
Some instances from Indian Judiciary to support Anthropocentrism:-
M.C Mehta V. Kamal Nath
This case mainly on the basis on the Report made based on Brundtland Commission Report of 1987 and Stockholm Declaration 1972 which mainly give importance for the growth of human civilization and should aim to achieve sustainable development which is strongly anthropocentric in approach.
Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum V. Union of India
In this case, it was observed that ‘ the concept of intergenerational equity, that is environmental exploitation of nature should be equitably divided between the present and future generation.’
The concept of anthropocentrism was also upheld through many case laws. But gradually the idea shift from anthropocentrism to eco-centrism due to different reasons:-
Due to the change in time Eco-centric approach has gained more importance. And flora and fauna are near about to extinct and it is only to preserve those extinct things. So there is a shift from anthropocentrism to eco-centrism. It will be discussed through different case laws.
T.N Godavarman Thirumulpad V. Union of India
In this case, Asiatic buffalo was the point of concern. The court over here explained about the eco-centric approach and its application.
In the Godavarman Thirumulpad case, the preservation of ‘Red sandalwood’ was the main focus, here also courts take its stand in favour of eco-centric approach.
Centre for Environment Law, WWFI V. Union of India
It is a landmark judgement which brought major changes in Environmental jurisprudence. It gives equal importance to every organism. The court gave strong views upon Eco-centric approach. It tried to save and to give protection to endangered species, as their survival is necessary to have a complete eco-cycle. The court also said that separate legislation should be made to protect the animal, as a result, the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 was made. Since then ‘Species Best Standard’ was applied. The Act gave importance to all flora and fauna. It also issued that govt. should be eco-centric in approach rather than to being Anthropocentric.
The changes which were brought is imperative. In the Anthropocentric approach, all things are human-centric, which is not acceptable. Rather all flora and fauna should coexist together to maintain harmony. It should not be done that if human beings want then they can destroy or manipulate all other organisms. As, human beings are the most developed animal on the earth, so human being must protect all other things and maintain a good balance between them. It is also considered as environmental ethics.
Andrew Brennan, Environmental Ethics, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, available at https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-environmental/, last seen on 21/10/2020 Tarannum Vashisht, Anthropocentric V. ecocentric approach to environment, available at https://blog.ipleaders.in/anthropocentric-v-ecocentric-approach-to-the-environment/, last seen 21/10/2020 Ecocentrism, Wikipedia, available at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecocentrism, last seen on 21/10/2020 Cryer, Paul, Kopnina, Helen, Piccolo, John J. , Taylor, Boron, Washington , Haydn, Why ecocentrism is the key pathway to sustainability, MAHB, available at https://mahb.stanford.edu/blog/statement-ecocentrism/, last seen on 21/10/2020 (1997) 1 SCC 388 AIR 1996 SC 2715 T.N Godavarman Thirumulpad V. Union of India, Writ Petition© No. 202 of 1995( Supreme Court, 13/02/2012) (2013) 8 SCC 234