Public concern for the environment became widespread during the 1960s, after Rachel Carson wrote "Silent Spring." Since that time, several different schools of thought have emerged with regard to the environment and the role people should play within the natural world. Biocentric and ecocentric philosophies are just two of the many different theories used to discuss nature. Although the philosophies are quite similar, they vary in some significant ways.
The Ecocentric Philosophy
People who ascribe to an ecocentric philosophy believe in the importance of an ecosystem as a whole. They attribute equal importance to living and non-living components of ecosystems when making decisions regarding their treatment of the environment. It is a holistic school of thought that sees little importance in individuals; ecocentrists are concerned only with how individuals influence ecosystems as a whole.
The Biocentric Philosophy
In contrast, a biocentric philosophy places the greatest importance on living individuals or living components of the environment. Biocentric theories do not consider chemical and geological elements of the environment to be as important as living beings in the way that ecocentric theories do. Biocentrists believe that all living things are equally important. For example, a tree's life would be considered just as important as a human's life. This is in contrast to an anthropocentric view in which the lives of humans are given the greatest value.
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The primary difference between ecocentric and biocentric philosophies lies in their treatment of the abiotic environment. Ecocentrism uses the study of ecology to demonstrate the importance of non-living elements of the environment. Biocentrism focuses on living elements of the environment. For example, in the climate change debate, biocentrists would focus on how climate change influences living things by causing migration of species and alterations in wildlife habitats. Ecocentrists might use these factors in a similar argument, but they would also consider changes to the abiotic world while formulating their stance in the debate. Changing sea levels, weather patterns and ocean acidity are abiotic factors that would influence an ecocentrist's opinion on climate change.
Biocentric and ecocentric philosophies have a lot in common. Both are adopted by people who have concern for the environment and its well-being. Both theories place great importance on the lives of all creatures and value the preservation of life over human gains in power and financial wealth. It can be difficult to find common ground during heated environmental debates, but it helps to remember that people with different philosophical beliefs often have similar goals.