Ethics & International Affairs Volume 12 (1998): Articles: The Land Ethic: A New Philosophy for International Relations [Abstract]

Dec 4, 1998

The land ethic, articulated by Aldo Leopold, is a biocentric, holistic approach to environmental ethics that values ecosystems in their own right. The 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment placed environmental problems on the international agenda, but since that time the international community has had limited success in dealing with environmental challenges. Many of the shortcomings of global approaches to the environment can be linked to the weak ethical underpinnings of environmental law and policy, stemming from the fact that international law fails to take into account the intrinsic value of nature. Integrating environmental policy formulation with the land ethic would remedy the inadequacies of current international law and policy, which are based on the Westphalian state system.

This essay examines the land ethic in the contexts of just war theory, economic liberalism, and international environmental law, offering a new outlook for the behavior of states in matters affecting ecosystems.

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