Environmental Ethics in Theory and PracticePatti H. Clayton, photographs by Charles Mason
On Friday, October 7, 1988, Roy Ahmaogak of Barrow, Alaska, discovered three young gray whales trapped in ice off the Arctic coast. The three-week rescue operation that followed cost more than a million dollars and grew to include the White House, the Soviet Union, the environmental community, Eskimo whalers, Alaskan oil companies, school children and journalists from around the world, the Alaska National Guard, and a host of other corporate, governmental, scientific, and individual participants. Some called it a non-event, a fiasco, an absurd waste of money, while others considered it the most extraordinary animal rescue effort ever undertaken. In any case, it is a story not likely to be forgotten.
Both complex and moving, this story grounds Patti Clayton's overview of environmental ethics theory. Using the story as a touchstone for critical comparison, Clayton explores three major traditions of environmental philosophy: extensionism, ecofeminism's 'care' ethic, and Heideggerian Phenomenology. In doing so, she guides readers through the evolution and central concepts of each tradition, moving intriguingly between theory and the well-known rescue story as an apt illustration of the complexities of ethical deliberation.
Clayton's critical thinking leads to a deeper appreciation of the ways in which different sets of assumptions yield unique interpretations of such issues. Readers have the opportunity to consider the implications of this environmental ethics issue as a microcosm of human-nonhuman interaction. The unifying narrative of the whale story, which is based on the commentary of participants and observers, provides both an engaging vehicle for the study of environmental ethics and a "real world" testament to the multifaceted nature of human-nonhuman relationships, encouraging readers to reflect on the connection of such incidents in their own lives.