Environmental ethics depends on value. There is a value to unbroken forests, a value to rivers silvered by salmon, a value to trees that exist in intergenerational time.  Yet value is an impossible concept.

What is the value of a 1000-year-old cedar tree?

Philosophers could divide “value” into a thousand subcategories: economic value, cultural value, aesthetic value, carbon sink value, bear habitat value, tree climbing value, etc. Each subcategory could be quantified into hundreds of measurements: market price for lumber, tourism revenues, jobs added by forestry industry, etc. Each measurement could be wrestled into a complicated formula that attempts to accumulate an overall value for the existence of a tree. But this would all be meaningless.

Any attempt to articulate the value of a 1000-year-old cedar is to put its existence in relation to us. Value is intensely subjective and intensely anthropocentric.

 Value objectifies reality.

  1. circusphilosophy posted this