UZH: ” Rethinking our relationship with nature”

The University of Zurich has published an article profiling NOMIS researcher Anna Deplazes Zemp’s new project, People’s Place in Nature. The project addresses the question, “Should we protect nature because it provides us with resources, or do so simply for its own sake?”

Traditionally, the political and societal discussion has focused on two positions for protecting nature — the first being for its natural resources and the services it provides humans, the second being that animals, creatures, ecosystems and nature as a whole have intrinsic value and are therefore worthy of protection.

Deplazes plans to analyze these positions in the conservation debate from an environmental ethics perspective. Coupled with a sociological study, she wants to explore people’s actual attitudes toward nature with the goal of developing her own environmental ethics argumentation that will include and scrutinize everyday reasoning.

“My approach is based on an understanding of nature that views humankind as a part of nature rather than its polar opposite,” says Deplazes.

The environmental ethicist wants to resolve the dichotomy between benefit and intrinsic value, or humankind and nature.