Life’s shared dependence on water

A potential wellspring of ecocentric concern and interspecies kinship

  • Joe Gray
Keywords: Ecocentrism, ecological ethics, intrinsic value, water, world views


The ecocentric world view holds that non-human life has intrinsic value – a worth that is independent of any benefits that may be derived from such lives by humans. Exemplifying this, a salmon matters for reasons that are immeasurably greater than simply representing a target for anglers or a potential flavour on a human tongue. A fundamental tenet of the ecocentric philosophy is that moral standing permeates beyond the merely human world and into wider nature. Furthermore, this world view foregrounds the unfolding mass extinction of life on Earth as the moral and existential arch-crisis of our time. This arch-crisis is being driven, in turn, by an array of interconnected emergencies that include, among others, rapid anthropogenic climate change and diminishing freshwater supplies. In the case of water, shifting rainfall patterns and increasing pressures on abstraction to support a growing human population are causing suffering, and rendering landscapes unliveable, to humans and non-humans alike. For life is united in its dependence on water. This shared elemental need offers a potential touchpoint for citizens, both younger and older, to develop a sense of kinship with non-human others and to become more ecocentric in their value systems. Ultimately, a groundswell of ecocentric concern will help generate policies and foster practices that support broad socio-ecological justice in water usage and in other domains of our interconnected lives as Earth-kin.

Position Paper