Zen Buddhism and the intrinsic value of nature

Contemporary Buddhism 4 (2):143-157 (2003)
It is a perennial theme in the literature on environmental ethics that the exploitation of the environment is the result of a blindness to (or perhaps a refusal to recognize) the intrinsic value of natural beings. The general story here is that Western traditions of thought have tended to accord natural beings value only to the extent that they prove useful to humans, that they have tended to see nature as only instrumentally valuable. By contrast, it is said that a new, environmentally friendly understanding of the world would value nature 'for its own sake', would conceive natural beings as having intrinsic value. In the light of such an understanding, the oak tree, for instance, would be seen not merely as a source of timber or shade or as a decoration for the front lawn, but as valuable 'in itself', as having an intrinsic value that ought to be respected (see further, O'Neill 1993, chapter 2)
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