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

Author: Dr. Mohamed El-Kamel Bakari

Keywords: Ecological sustainability, Environmentalism, Sustainable development, Environmental policy, Environmental regulation, Presidency, Green economics, Sustainable economic development, Environmental politics


Abstract This article examines the way that ‘anthropocentric-ecocentric’ dualism has affected the history of the American presidency since the turn of the century, with special focus on three presidents: Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama. With their contradictory environmental records, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan are believed to stand for the two extremes on an ‘anthropocentrism-ecocentrism’ spectrum, while Barack Obama ambivalently oscillates between them. Coming to power with different agendas, Presidents Roosevelt, Reagan, and Obama each used the presidency as a bully pulpit to implement their ideological visions of nature, the environment, and economic growth in line with either ‘ecocentrism’ or ‘anthropocentrism.’ Focusing on their rhetoric and policies, this article highlights the three presidencies’ differences along the ‘anthropocentric-ecocentric’ continuum and discusses the divergence of their respective political and philosophical beliefs as well as 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.