Nuclear weapons and the ultimate environmental crisis

Environmental Ethics 9 (2):159-179 (1987)
Current philosophical debate on the anns race and on the use of nuclear weapons tends to focus on the rationality and morality of deterrence. I argue, however, that in view of recent scientific findings concerning the possibility of nuclear winter following upon nuclear war, or of some lesser but still massive consequences for nature, the perspective of environmental ethics is one from which nuclear war and preparations for it ought to be examined and condemned. Adopting a “weak anthropocentric” position of the sort advocated by Bryan Norton and others, I argue that it is the extinction or decimation of the human species that should be our central concern, but that even without ascribing intrinsic value to nature, natural objects and nonhuman organisms, the destruction or decimation of the environment provides additional grounds for judging nuclear war to be immoral and unthinkable
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