Department or Program

Environmental Studies


In a world rapidly changing due to anthropocentric environmental destruction, science-based, often Euro-American, environmental conservation has taken on initiatives to slow degradation. Though commonly, when these initiatives are put into action, such initiatives receive pushback from other cultures of differing environmental beliefs. Thus conflict often ensues over which culture has the right to govern natural environments based on their environmental relationships, values, and beliefs. Because of the commonality of such instances, I suggest a lens through which we can view these conflicts. By understanding the convergence of conservation and cultural relativism theories, we can deploy a lens to understand each culture better and work towards more productive outcomes. In applying this lens, I analyze a case study in which such conflict occurs. The Right Whale Coexistence Act of 2022 has recently passed in the United States Congress as of this year and is predicted to be soon enacted into law by the federal government. Such laws work to conserve Atlantic Right Whale populations. However, doing so puts restrictions on Maine’s lobster fishing communities, which will cause economic depletion in Maine’s lobster industry and a loss of one of Maine’s most iconic cultures. In analyzing this case study through the model, I suggest I will answer questions such as “Which culture is more valuable?”, “How do we decide which culture is of more value?”, “How does fact and cultural beliefs legitimize the two cultures?”, “Do we have to choose one culture over another?” and finally, “Who makes the decision?” This study is based on a theoretical commitment to understanding how conservation issues and different cultures have different views on how we should treat the environment. When it comes to working together on conservation efforts, conflict occurs due to these relationships and matters of scientific fact often conflict with the cultural values of different groups. I source outside scholarship from philosophical writers on the issues of the natural environment and cultural relativism, as well as draw information from many environmental conservationists and social scientists who study human and environmental ethics. The information for my case study is sourced from official governmental documentation and public national news sources.

Level of Access

Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access

First Advisor

Tyler Harper

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file


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