That last problem also hints at a solution. Van Houtan  describes an approach to ethics deriving from the work of the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, an approach known as virtue ethics. MacIntyre argues that it's a mistake to argue abstractly about moral or ethical rules with the expectation that those rules can then be applied in particular contexts. He would argue, for example, that it makes no sense to ask in the abstract whether reducing the number of deer on a Nature Conservancy preserve by hunting is ``right'' or ``justified.'' He would argue that it makes sense to ask that question only in the context of a particular shared tradition.
Van Houtan argues that argues that the history of the civil rights movoement in the United States illustrates that MacIntyre was right. Leaders of the movement drew explicitly on the biblical tradition to argue for an end to racial discrimination.
Enthusiasm and solidarity did not come from a theoretical or academic ``common sense'' but were legitimized through the language and practices of Christianity.He argues that we should describe conservation as a virtue, like honesty or generosity.
To succeed as a social cause, conservation needs a hope that academic science itself cannot provide. Conservation needs a cultural legitimacy that inspires enthusiasm, allegiance, and personal sacrifice-in other words, actual changes in human behavior. Such a vision does not provide a straight path to easy answers; rather, it offers a description of ethics currently estranged from conservation science.What do you think? Is Van Houtan's proposal an answer? Is an envinromental or conservation ethic necessary?