The land ethic is a holistic view of ecosystems. It entails an entire view of a biotic community to include all of nature, not the individualistic components which incorporate our environment. Great efforts would be taken by supporters of the land ethic to support an ecosystem that was threatened. The individual components that comprise the ecosystem are not of great concern to supporters of this theory; they would argue that a threat to an individual organism, even protected or endangered, should be evaluated on whether or not the protected or endangered species does endanger the integrity of the whole system. A supporter of the land ethic argument would have consequences to weigh regarding the value of the threatened individual and how it relates to the survival of individuals of the group.
If the group were to suffer a threatening blow that could affect the livelihood or existence of members of the controlling group one would expect that the threatened organism could be evaluated for possible non-protection. In contrast, Taylor would argue that any animal or living organism should be protected because that organism is deserving of its own individual worth; the fact that it is protected or endangered would be of little concern to Taylor s supporters. The simple fact that an individual is threatened is more than sufficient to justify that great efforts be taken to protect that individual entity. Taylor and his supporters would argue that every organism is worthy of protection because of an inherent worth that entitles that entity to protection from destruction. To summarize the various stages of ethical obligation in Callicott s argument of land ethic, his supporters would argue an accretion of his view would be composed of individual beliefs that support the whole rather than the individual. Some examples are given in his work.
He argues that an individual cares about the existence of a grou to which he or she belongs, therefore that particular individual has a self serving need to protect that group. This protection may include having the same morals as others within that group that collectively comprise the groups whole view and aids in the preservation of its existence. Callicott argues under the Humean-Darwinian approach that individual humans as a whole posses biological sympathies which cause emotion responses related to survival. He uses the example of a lost child to illustrate this.
Although, it is not his child who is lost he certainly has some feeling and pity that is awakened within him as a person. In addition he feels sympathy. One could certainly argue that sympathy and pity are emotions that cause an individual to adhere to the norms of group. Adherence to norms inherently causes the self-preservation of the group as a whole. These individual accretions are precursors to a greater accretion and one could argue have greater moral force behind them, because they are precursors for a self-preservation of the individual based upon the survival of a group.
The existence of a whole group, such as a society of humans is based upon the individuals within having similar views of survival. The larger accretion is dependent upon whether the individual has the same views of a what constitutes a survival group and what is important in the preservation of this group. It could be argued by supporters of this theory that the earlier accretions by individuals or small groups of individuals that comprise the whole have greater moral force, because they are the basis for the larger accretion. Without this basis the larger accretion would not exist. In short the large group opinion of whether or not there in an ethical obligation to preserve and individual or group is bases upon the smaller accretions that are the essence and life blood of the whole society. When one breaks down the Land Ethic argument it becomes apparent that there is some inherent vulnerability within the argument that could be similar to the criticism one might offer against Taylor s Respect For Nature Ethic.
The land ethic argument under the Humean-Darwinian approach states that a community relationship has a moral judgment and a member of that community has a duty to cooperate. When broken down from the group, the simple fact the an individual is obligated to cooperate for survival takes away from the underlying argument of preservation on inherent worth. If the view of the community is to decide whether or not an individual, ecosystem, or environment is to be preserved based upon that above stated value to the community then we can attack the individual for following the opinion of what is best for the community or whole rather that what is best for the individual, ecosystem or environment that is in question. If we apply this to answering whether or not the priority principles make this Land Ethic argument to weak of an environmental ethic, one would have to decide whether or not he or she believes that the community has the right to decide what preservation or destruction should be taken regarding our environment, thus allowing to conclude whether or not our individualistic views coincide with that of the majorities, or that of the minorities, or if by chance my view is one of an individual. However, it can be stated that Callicott s Land Ethic, like Taylor s Respect for Nature ethic is vulnerable to criticism based upon its priority principles.