I just came across a blog called Civil Religion in the St. Louis Post Dispatch that eloquently applied the “duties” side of human exceptionalism with regard to the BP catastrophe. From “BP Oil Disaster & Human Responsibility: We Did This,” by Sharon Autenrieth:
I believe in human exceptionalism, but it is a weight and a responsibility as much as it is a privilege. In the context of this disaster, that means that pointing to the destruction inherent in nature is not an adequate response. When grasshoppers destroy crops they are not committing a moral act, they are simply being grasshoppers. We don’t ask predators or parasites to consider the impact of their actions on their fellow creatures. Only humans are capable of that, and only humans have the knowledge and the freedom to make decisions based on such consideration. Only humans can consciously pursue values such as stewardship and sustainability. We are the cultivators and caretakers of the earth, and far too often we fail to live up to our calling. When we fail whether through human error, ignorance, or deliberate exploitation I believe we should all grieve.
Preach it, sister! I couldn’t have said it better myself.