Mapping the ‘Anthropocentric-ecocentric’ Dualism in the History of American Presidency: The Good, the Bad, and the Ambivalent

Mohamed El-Kamel Bakari


This article examines the way the ‘anthropocentric-ecocentric’ dualism has come to bear on the history of the American presidency since the turn of the century, with special focus on three American Presidents, namely Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and Barak Obama. The major argument in this paper is that this duality constitutes not only a philosophical divergence of views, but also a determinant factor that has guided the beliefs, decisions, and policies of American presidents over more than a century. On account of their contradictory environmental records, both Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan are believed to stand for the two extremes of an ‘anthropocentrism-ecocentrism’ spectrum while Barak Obama ambivalently oscillates in the middle. Coming to power with different, sometimes conflicting, agendas, Presidents Roosevelt, Reagan, and Obama used the presidency as a bully pulpit to implement their ideological vision of nature, the environment, and economic growth in line with either ‘ecocentrism’ or ‘anthropocentrism.’ Spotlighting both their rhetoric and policies, this article delineates the three presidents’ differentiation along the ‘anthropocentric-ecocentric’ continuum and discusses the divergence of their respective political and philosophical beliefs as well as their concomitant implementation strategies. Ultimately, mapping the ‘anthropocentric-ecocentric’ dualism in the history of American presidency provides a valuable insight into how this divide has been transferred from the philosophical realm to the political one.

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