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Towards a New Ethics in Relationship to Nature: The Work of Warwick Fox

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A Theory of General Ethics
(Image by Warwick Fox)
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A Theory of General Ethics by Warwick Fox


Author and independent scholar, Warwick Fox, is passionate about communicating his ideas to the general public. He hopes to spark change in our understanding that ethical decisions must include all beings on earth, not just human-to-human relationships. In a radio discussion with this author and his wife, he states that his books are oftentimes more academic than for the general reader, so he is grateful for opportunity we afforded him to translate his ethical theories into common parlance with practical examples.

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His work and his words are important. I hope this article will excite those reading to evaluate his theory and and move toward establishing an Earth-friendly ethic that values the more-than-human context for our lives. Here is a non-verbal (but for the birds singing) presentation from his website of what he is calling us to incorporate into our ethical considerations:

The Truly Green Kayak

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Increasing deforestation and fossil fuel intensive manufacturing of products are decreasing levels of oxygen and raising the level of CO2. We truly are in a place where we all--academic or not--have to revise our values. If our ethical decisions and actions do not become inclusive of all the interactions within the ecosphere, lifeforms on our planet will be drastically different and not at all conducive to human life as we know it.

Do we continue living the perverse ethos inherent in "shop-til-you-drop," "growth-at-all-costs," and "profit-is-the-bottom-line"? Do we allow a greedy few among us to continue to prevail, shape our ethics, and dominate our economy? Do we allow our lifestyles to support slave and child labor in other countries? Do we continue to chain our own labor to low-wage dependence on the same few corporations who then charge us our income for the products they turn around and sell us? Do we continue to source our energy from increasingly expensive and habitat destroying fossil fuels?

You and I--all of us in Western Culture--are participants in an economy and ethic that is unsustainable. Are you still under the illusion that slavery will not soon be coming to your sons and daughters? Do we make the moral choice to continue supporting the prevalent system that is turning our sons and daughters into Barbie Dolls and Kens that just love living according to the newest corporate fad, the mall, or nowadays the big-box-store? "Just go shopping" George Bush stated when he pronounced the country was being attacked by terrorists.

Hey, what do plastic goods and plastic people care about the environment anyway? We are safely warehoused away from the natural, untamed ecosphere in air-conditioned, climate-controlled comfort whatever befalls nature out there in the wilderness. Or are we?

"Just go shopping!" And thousands of people are going to be killed while many others are going to have their lives turned upside down? "Just go shopping?!" And what does this lifestyle cost the planet? What does it cost us in our humanity towards our fellow creatures? And our children? We say we love our children? Really? Don't worry, "just go shopping!"

Here is what we allow to be hidden from our view--and our shopping choices regarding food:

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Watch those animals in horror while you watch your kids being lined up like standardized cattle in schools, corporate industries, and the lines to the check out register. Do you think your children are any more important to the profiteers than those sheep in their pens? Don't we value our children, grandchildren, and descendents more highly than a cozy job that affords us toys to play with and then throw "away." Where do we think "away" is anyways? Like it or not, the whole Earth has become our own backyard. Just as children depend upon the well-being of their mother, so we all depend upon the well-being of Mother Earth.

Within our current cultural construct, the administrator and the teacher, as well as the students, are under the gun.

It is unfortunate that oftentimes while people on the academic level get the opportunity to put forth ideas that are positive for people and the planet; they also oftentimes are funded by sources and a government that aren't so much beholden to Truth as they are to funding sources. In addition, they are often caught up in philosophical orientations more beholden to the overall paradigm of the dominant culture. Perhaps this is why Warwick Fox had to become an "independent scholar," unaffiliated with the prevalent University system, before he was free to propose an alternative, more inclusive ethic that would work cooperatively to the benefit of all participants.

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Burl is an avid writer and publishes to OpEd News. He is author of "Sophia's Web: A Passionate Call to Heal Our Wounded Nature." As of this writing, Burl is planning to self-publish the book. Alongside his wife, Burl co-hosts an on line radio (more...)

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