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Abstract

Throughout most of this century, we have worried that we would destroy ourselves in interhuman conflict. Fortunately, that fear has subsided. Unfortunately, it is rapidly being replaced by a new one. In the upcoming century, we will worry that we may destroy our planet and ourselves with it. We are approaching a new millennium. The challenge of the current millennium has been to pass from the medieval to the modern world, building modern cultures and nations in an explosion of technological development. The challenge of the next millennium will be to contain those cultures within the carrying capacity of the larger community of life on our home planet. For many millennia, diverse combinations of nature and culture worked well enough but no longer. In the last century, our modern cultures began to threaten the stability, beauty, and integrity of Earth, thereby threatening the cultures superimposed on the Earth. On our present course, much of the integrity of the natural world will be destroyed within the next century. To continue the developmental pace of the last century for another millennium will produce sure disaster. If humans are to be true to our species' epithet, "the wise species" must behave with appropriate respect for life. Such behavior necessarily will involve an interhuman ethics. Will it also involve an interspecies ethics, in which the only moral species discovers that all the others, though not moral agents, deserve moral consideration? Will it involve an Earth ethics that discovers a global sense of human obligation to this inhabited planet, the only such planet we know?

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