Significance of biocentric jurisprudence for nature – Explained, pointwise

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In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court of India has sought to move away from an anthropocentric basis of law and stressed the importance of biocentrism. The anthropocentric perception is widespread and is considered to be responsible for severe environmental crises ranging from global warming, ozone depletion, and water scarcity to the loss of biological diversity. But now is the time for resorting back to Biocentrism or ecocentrism.

Biocentrism vs anthropocentrism

Biocentrism and anthropocentrism are recognized as common ecological moral dilemmas.

Biocentrism: The philosophy of biocentrism or ecocentrism holds that the natural environment has its own set of rights, which is independent of its ability to be exploited by or to be useful to humans.

Anthropocentrism: This argues that of all the species on earth, humans are the most significant and that all other resources on earth may be justifiably exploited for the benefit of human beings.

About the Supreme Court judgment

In the M.K. Ranjitsinh & Others vs Union of India & Others case, the supreme court issued an important judgment towards the protection of Great Indian Bustard. The Great Indian Bustard is a gravely endangered species, with hardly about 200 alive in India today.

The court held that overhead power lines have become a threat to the life of these species, as these birds frequently tend to collide with these power lines and get killed.

The Bench opined, the State, as well as the Central Government, have a duty to preserve the endangered species. The court issued the following directives.

  • The government should take steps to install diverters for the overhead cables.
  • In all such cases where it is found feasible to convert the overhead cables
    into underground powerlines.
  • Irrespective of the cost factor the priority shall be taken to save the near-extinct.
Why power lines are a threat to Great Indian Bustard?

The Ministry of Power, in an affidavit, has said: “The Great Indian Bustard (“GIB”) lacks frontal vision. Due to this, they cannot detect powerlines ahead of them, from far. As they are heavy birds, they are unable to manoeuvre across power lines within close distances. Thus, they are vulnerable to collision with power lines.”

So to protect the birds, the Court has affirmed and emphasised the biocentric values of eco-preservation.

Read More: ‘Firefly bird diverters’ to save the Great Indian Bustard
How is anthropocentrism causing damage to the environment?

Humans share the world with countless other species, many of which are nearing extinction on account of man’s imprudent insensitivity. For instance,

  • About 50 years ago, there were 4,50,000 lions in Africa. Today, there are hardly 20,000 now.
  • Indiscriminate monoculture farming in the forests of Borneo and Sumatra is leading to the extinction of orangutans.
  • Rhinos are hunted for the so-called medicinal value of their horns and are slowly becoming extinct.
  • From the time humans populated Madagascar about 2,000 years ago, about 15 to 20 species of Lemurs, which are primates, have become extinct.
  • Above all, the compilation prepared by the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists about 37,400 species that are gravely endangered; and the list is ever-growing.
How countries resorting to Biocentrism?

Pieces of legislation are slowly evolving that fall in the category of the “Right of Nature laws”. These seek to travel away from an anthropocentric basis of law. These laws also empower people in a community to “step into the shoes” of a mountain, stream, or forest ecosystem and advocate for the right of those local communities. For instance,

  • In 2008, Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognise “Rights of Nature” in its Constitution. Soon after, Bolivia has also joined that list.
  • In 2010, the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania became the first major municipality in the United States to recognise the Rights of Nature.
  • In India also, the Supreme Court’s judgment in M.K. Ranjithsinh upholding the biocentric principles of coexistence is a shot in the arm for nature conservation.
India and Biocentrism
  • Isa Upanishad elaborates on the ancient Indian roots of ecocentrism. It clearly says that all the living and non-living organisms in this universe belong to God alone.
  • The Constitution of India declares that it is applicable to the territory of India. While making such a declaration, it very obviously refers to humans within that territory and its predominant aim was to give them rights, impose obligations and regulate human affairs.
    • But, the Constitution is significantly silent on any explicitly stated, binding legal obligations we owe to our fellow species and to the environment that sustains us.
  • The Indian judiciary earlier was inclined towards anthropocentrism. But gradually, it has shifted more towards ecocentrism. For example,
    • T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad case, 2012: In this case, the court explained the ecocentric approach and elaborated on the necessary application of the same.
    • Centre for Environment Law, WWFI v. Union of India case, 2013: The court threw light on the intrinsic value of all living beings, irrespective of the fact that they were instrumental for human survival or not.
Suggestions in embracing Biocentrism
  • The conversion to ecocentrism overnight is impossible, especially in the developed societies because of their heavy reliance on resources and generation of waste.
  • So, abandoning anthropocentrism is impossible instantly; however, we can distinguish our nature-consumption outcomes and intervene when the need is vital to our survival, and not because it is a desire or interest. For example,
    • Interfering with the environment to build a golf course is unethical because they are hardly essential for survival

In conclusion, if humanity is born with greediness, it is intelligent enough to see that it is only facing a dark future by the following anthropocentrism. Granting a tree, a mountain and a bird intrinsic value (Right of Nature laws) is the first step towards a biocentric world and a better planet.

SourceThe Hindu

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