Environmental Value Systems

Weighing the trade-offs of harnessing ocean power depends on the environmental value system in play. Each individual and group maintains a particular world view or paradigm through which it perceives and evaluates environmental issues. Cultural, religious, economic, and socio-political factors influence the environmental value system. In a systems framework, an individual or group processes inputs (education, media, religious doctrine, cultural influences) and generates outputs (decisions, policies, courses of action). In practice, an individual makes a series of value judgments about a situation or issue based on a variety of factors from his or her life, and groups form their values based on the interactions of individuals.

Environmental philosophies include ecocentrism (minimum disturbance of natural processes), anthropocentrism (human management of global environmental systems), and technocentrism (technological control of natural processes), with other environmental value systems along a continuum within these broad categories. Evaluating different positions on environmental issues in relation to these broad categories and objectives can be helpful when comparing diverse opinions and in drawing your own conclusions.

Harnessing ocean power is an environmental conundrum. While it is a large-scale source of carbon-free energy, which has benefits, it also has unknown impacts on the marine environment and raises concerns about industrialized beaches and coastal communities.

A Pelamis Wave Energy Converter at the European Marine Energy Test Centre, located on the west side of the Orkney Islands, United Kingdom. The exposed North Sea location subjects the island group to the powerful, dynamic forces of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Image Credits: Netfalls Remy Musser/Shutterstock.com; P123/public domain.

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