What is it about?

Ecocentrism has roots in environmental philosophy, which questions the conceptual dichotomy between humans and the environment, acknowledging nonhuman species' right to flourish independently of human interest (Naess 1973). Generally, ecocentrism refers to a planet- and nature-centred as opposed to the human-centred (anthropocentric) system of values. Inspired by this philosophy, ecocentric education focuses on intrinsic values of the ecosystem, environment, and individual living beings and habitats in environmental education (EE) and education for sustainable development (ESD).

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Why is it important?

Originally, ecocentrism has played a large part in how environmental education was conceived. In part inspired by The Limits to Growth publication (Meadows et al. 1972), EE attempted to develop the necessary skills to address the challenges and foster knowledge, attitudes, motivations, and commitments for the protection of the environment, as expressed in the Belgrade Charter (UNESCO-UNEP 1976). Ecocentrism in this type of environmental education applies to all types of environmental problems, from climate change to biodiversity loss, and is relevant for fields ranging from sociology, political science, and economics (as they explore social, political, and economic causes of climate change, for example) to conservation biology. Ecocentrism dictates that a truly inclusive and lasting rationale for biodiversity conservation ought to maintain the recognition of the intrinsic value of all species (Piccolo et al. 2018), including humans and ecosystems. Indeed, ecocentric thought has inspired many initiatives across the world granting legal status and protection to rivers or mountains, as well as to certain species, based on Earth jurisprudence (Burdon 2014). Earth jurisprudence is a philosophy of law and human governance that is based on the idea that humans are only one part of a wider community of beings and that the welfare of each member of that community is dependent on the welfare of the Earth as a whole.


Ecocentric thought stressed the duty to protect biodiversity for its own sake as well as for ours – we ought to conserve biodiversity not only because it is right for us but simply because it is right (Piccolo et al. 2018). In relation to climate change, ecocentrism is opposed to technocratic, neoliberal, and "ecological modernization" values stressing solutions that address the root causes of climate change (Bailey and Wilson 2009).

Dr Helen Kopnina
Northumbria University

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This page is a summary of: Ecocentric Education, January 2019, Springer Science + Business Media, DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-63951-2_533-1.
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