An Ethics of Biodiversity

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240 pp., 5.5 x 8.5
ISBN: 9781589016453 (1589016459)

ISBN: 9781589016644

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April 2010
LC: 2009026933


Table of Contents
Press Release

An Ethics of Biodiversity
Christianity, Ecology, and the Variety of Life
Kevin J. O'Brien

Life on earth is wildly diverse, but the future of that diversity is now in question. Through environmentally destructive farming practices, ever-expanding energy use, and the development and homogenization of land, human beings are responsible for unprecedented reductions in the variety of life forms around us. Estimates suggest that species extinctions caused by humans occur at up to 1,000 times the natural rate, and that one of every twenty species on the planet could be eradicated by 2060.

An Ethics of Biodiversity argues that these facts should inspire careful reflection and action in Christian churches, which must learn from earth's vast diversity in order to help conserve the natural and social diversity of our planet. Bringing scientific data into conversation with theological tradition, the book shows that biodiversity is a point of intersection between faith and ethics, social justice and environmentalism, science and politics, global problems and local solutions. An Ethics of Biodiversity offers a set of tools for students, environmentalists, and people of faith to think critically about how human beings can live with and as part of the variety of life in God's creation.

Kevin J. O'Brien is an assistant professor of Christian ethics at Pacific Lutheran University.
"Makes innovative and needed strides in advancing Christian approaches to environmental ethics in a more problem- and context-oriented direction: it addresses and creatively interprets a critical environmental issue (biodiversity) and meets a pragmatic challenge (addressing problems of scale) with a theological twist."—Journal of Environmental Studies

"An excellent survey of Christian theological arguments for the conservation of biodiversity that also does a good job of introducing scientific and philosophical arguments. It will work very well as a textbook, while it also makes distinctive and original contributions, in particular around the issue of multiscalar approaches to biodiversity and the importance of moral formation in communities of place."—Environmental Values

"A welcome addition to ecological ethics! This lucid and compelling book integrates scientific understanding of biodiversity with concern for conservation, cultural diversity, and social justice to develop a valuable Christian ecological ethic for moral formation, discernment, and action. It is especially useful for thinking about the multiple scale—local, regional, global—of ecological ethical issues."—Pamela Brubaker, professor of religion and ethics, California Lutheran University

"An Ethics of Biodiversity not only lays out the arguments and criticisms around the ecological values in biodiversity, but also lays out theological arguments for biodiversity as having sacramental value. The concept of biodiversity as revealing God to us is powerful, even as O'Brien validates the many questions about the goodness of biodiversity, given its dependence upon conflict and suffering. The book is accessible to undergraduates, compelling in its arguments, and recommends itself as carefully balanced in a field replete with opposing claims."—Christine Gudorf, professor and chair, Department of Religious Studies, Florida International University

"An excellent book that makes a distinctive contribution to a critically important and timely issue, and advances the task and agenda of Christian environmental ethics in several important ways. O'Brien explains clearly the central concepts and debates in ecology and conservation biology around conservation of biodiversity, and shows how and why they are central to a Christian ethics of biodiversity. The scientific scholarship and ethical analysis are both first-rate. This is a terrific book!"—Dan Spencer, associate professor of environmental studies, University of Montana

Table of Contents

Introduction: Christian Ecological Ethics and Biodiversity

Part I: Defining Biodiversity

1. The Variety of Life

Part II: Why Biodiversity Matters

2. Valuing Life & Ecosystems

3. The Sacramental Value of the Variety of Life

Part III: The Levels of Biodiversity

4. Scaling Conservation

5. Multiscalar Christian Ecological Ethics

Part IV: Political and Morally Formative Conservation

6. Regulating Biodiversity: The Endangered Species Act and Political Conservation

7. Christian Care for Biodiversity: Moral Formation as Conservation

Part V: Social Justice and the Conservation of Biodiversity

8. Biological and Cultural Diversity

9. Diversities and Justice

Conclusion: The Work of Conserving Biodiversity