Māori, the Indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand, have an intrinsically environmental approach to economics. This approach—informed by the Māori worldview—was refined over the first millennium of inhabitation, before colonization brought the intrusion of Western institutions and the consequent involution of Māori institutions. Māori view humans as embedded within a wider nonhuman community of nature that is simultaneously spiritual and material. Māori understand “nature” as a unified spiritual-socioecology. Economics is just one facet of this whole, a facet fundamentally entwined with the whole such that all economic relationships have inherently social, spiritual, and ecological elements. At the core of Māori relationships with nature is the ethic of kaitiakitanga, or the act of guardianship over the spiritual-socioecology. Māori have a responsibility to actively care for their human and nonhuman community, to act with mana (authority and dignity), to respect nature’s tapu (sacredness), and to maintain nature’s mauri (life force). The Māori economy is underpinned by an integrated, nuanced, and adaptive framework of beliefs and institutions that constrains decision-making, ensuring the consideration of the human, nonhuman, and spiritual domains across time while simultaneously being calibrated toward delivering mutually beneficial outcomes within kin-group networks. This ensures that economic success does not come at the expense of other people, nature, or future generations. An economy based on a Māori worldview is, fundamentally, an environmental economy. Following colonization, Māori suffered a loss of mana. Land was sold below market rate or stolen, and after massive deforestation and significant loss of native flora and fauna, Aotearoa New Zealand’s tapu was desecrated and its mauri reduced. In the mid- to late-20th century, Māori political activism and a resultant tribunal examining actions and omissions by the state during land acquisition resulted in Māori regaining mana. Consequently, Māori have overcome the drastic change in rights to their remaining land to act as kaitiaki (guardians) of this remaining land in ways both congruent with traditional practices (te ao tūroa) and adapted to changed context (te ao hurihuri). Māori have realigned the imposed governance structures of their organizations to reinstate their original focus on the intergenerational well-being of human and nonhuman communities, reinvigorating the influence of mana in business, and its capacity to create a virtuous circle. Māori have managed to thrive in the settler and global economy not despite their environmentally grounded economic approach, but because of it.
Matthew Rout, Shaun Awatere, Jason Paul Mika, John Reid, and Matthew Roskruge
The relationship between environmental ethics and the application of economic values to the environment has followed two main paths: (1) blocking attempts to value the environment economically by extending the concept of moral standing to elements of the natural world, and (2) attempting a pragmatic reconciliation that harnesses the efficacy of economic motivation while avoiding the excesses of an exclusively economic perspective. The pragmatic reconciliation must still come to grips with several ethical issues that confront environmental valuation. The fact that economics is grounded in a utilitarian consequentialism renders it susceptible to some long-standing deontological challenges having to do with rights and justice. Other challenges include a reluctance to embrace value pluralism, overly ambitious attempts at pricing, failure to incorporate deeper value commitments that do not take the form of preferences, and the inadequacies of a preference-satisfaction account of well-being.
Ecotechnology is both broad and widespread, yet it has never been given a universally shared definition; this remains the case even in the early 21st century. Given that it is used in the natural, engineering, and social sciences, as well as in design studies, in the philosophy and history of technology and in science policy, perhaps this is not surprising. Indeed, it is virtually impossible to come up with an unambiguous definition for ecotechnology: It should be understood rather as an umbrella term that facilitates connections among different scientific fields and science policy and, in so doing, offers a robust trading zone of ideas and concepts. The term is part of a cultural and sociopolitical framework and, as such, wields explanatory power. Ecotechnology approaches argue for the design of ensembles that embed human action within an ecologically functional environment and mediating this relationship by technological means. Related terms, such as ecotechnics, ecotechniques, ecotechnologies, and eco-technology, are used similarly. In the 1970s, “ecotechnology,” along with other terms, gave a voice to an unease and a concern with sociotechnical transformations. This eventually gave rise to the first global environmental movement expressing a comprehensive eco-cultural critique of society-environment relations. Ecotechnology was part of the language used by activists, as well as by social theorists and natural scientists working in the transdisciplinary field of applied ecology. The concept of ecotechnology helped to both establish and “smooth over” environmental matters of concern in the worlds of economics, science, and policymaking. The process of deliberation about a green modernity is still ongoing and characterizes the search for a constructive intermediation between artificial and natural systems following environmentally benign design principles. During the 1980s, disciplinary endeavors flourished in the global academic world, lending ecotechnology more and more visibility. Some of these endeavors, such as restoration ecology and ecological engineering, were rooted in the engineering sciences, but mobilized quite different traditions, namely population biology and systems biology. To date, ecotechnology has been replaced by and large by other terms in applied ecology. Another strand of work resulted in the discipline of social ecology, which developed different focal points, most notably critical political economy and a concern with nature-culture issues in the context of cultural ecology. Finally, more recently, ecotechnology has been discussed in several branches of philosophy that offer different narratives about the epistemic and ontological transformations triggered by an “ecologization” of societies and a theoretical turn toward relationality.
The animal world is under increasing pressure, given the magnitude of anthropogenic environmental stress, especially from human-caused rapid climate change together with habitat conversion, fragmentation, and destruction. There is a global wave of species extinctions and decline in local species abundance. To stop or even reverse this so-called defaunation process, in situ conservation (in the wild) is no longer effective without ex situ conservation (in captivity). Consequently, zoos could play an ever-greater role in the conservation of endangered species and wildlife—hence the slogan Captivity for Conservation. However, the integration of zoo-based tools and techniques in species conservation has led to many conflicts between wildlife conservationists and animal protectionists. Many wildlife conservationists agree with Michael Soulé, the widely acclaimed doyen of the relatively new discipline of conservation biology, that conservation and animal welfare are conceptually distinct, and that they should remain politically separate. Animal protectionists, on the other hand, draw support from existing leading accounts of animal ethics that oppose the idea of captivity for conservation, either because infringing an individual’s right to freedom for the preservation of the species is considered as morally wrong, or because the benefits of species conservation are not seen as significant enough to overcome the presumption against depriving an animal of its liberty. Both sides view animals through different lenses and address different concerns. Whereas animal ethicists focus on individual organisms, and are concerned about the welfare and liberty of animals, wildlife conservationists perceive animals as parts of greater wholes such as species or ecosystems, and consider biodiversity and ecological integrity as key topics. This seemingly intractable controversy can be overcome by transcending both perspectives, and developing a bifocal view in which zoo animals are perceived as individuals in need of specific care and, at the same time, as members of a species in need of protection. Based on such a bifocal approach that has lately been adopted by a growing international movement of “Compassionate Conservation,” the modern zoo can only achieve its conservation mission if it finds a morally acceptable balance between animal welfare concerns and species conservation commitments. The prospects for the zoo to achieve such a balance are promising. Over the past decade or so, zoos have made serious and sustained efforts to ensure and enhance animal welfare. At the same time, the zoo’s contribution to species conservation has also improved considerably.