Ecological Intuition Pump.

Although there has been life on Earth for some 3.5 billion years, this is, as far as we know, still the only place in the observable universe that has produced living things. Since there are roughly 35 trillion billion planets in the observable universe …, this fact alone suggests that there is something quite special about what has unfolded here. Is the extreme rarity of life in the observable universe a reason to find it beautiful and to respect it? We do often value things for just this reason. Think of how we prize fine jewels or Mount Everest or a newly discovered sketch by Picasso. Such things seem to have a good of their own that we want to protect from the various forces of destruction that they face. If you are inclined to think this way about objects — to believe that their value goes beyond the many ways in which they can simply be used — shouldn’t the same considerations also apply to all living things? Life, after all, is much more rare than shiny rocks, tall mountains, and pretty drawings. Should it not therefore be protected wherever it is threatened? If you think so, what is the best — that is, the most principled — way to deal with the conflicts that will inevitably arise when the interests of two or more living things collide?

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