Human values and responsibilities

Human values and responsibilities in a changing world

Associate Professor Jennifer Carter University of the Sunshine Coast – view profile

The rate at which humans are impacting wildlife and the natural environment is so rapid that the current geological epoch has been termed ‘The Anthropocene’. This epoch of human domination over the rest of nature obliges humans to take greater responsibility to protect wildlife because the impacts of decisions are increasingly noticeable at individual, community and international scales.

Human decisions are driven by different value positions, which are themselves complex, contradictory and contested within individuals as much as between them. This paper presents ethical challenges in three case studies about the use of market-based incentives for conservation, bird habitat restoration by landowners, and dolphins used for human therapy.

The cases show that human values of themselves do not represent an absolute, innocent or beneficent position. As such, this paper argues that living in the Anthropocene necessitates an obligation to be more aware of the impacts of those values and decisions/non-decisions to be better able to publicly argue our consequent responsibilities.