Environmental Ethics

Environmental Ethics

I may not think precisely like this view of environment, but I find it tickles my brain more than the others. Ethics seems to bring up more questions than can answered or even rightly known. It may be more relevant to focus on population, which is a major factor in how we perceive and impact the environment. Or we should heed the warnings of natural disasters that we should clean up our act. This section, however, brings about the idea that we must look inwardly at ourselves if we are to make choices about how we view environment. How we view the world is entirely created in our minds, so it is only natural to look there for clues about connection between the environment and society.

Breeding sows was made “economically efficient”. It seems wrong to me that natural process such a birth has been turned into a commodity. But who decides if it is right or wrong for a sow to not be able to turn around in its cage or have time between pregnancies? This is something that each individual and society must decide.

Who decides if this is right or wrong?

Similarly, what is deemed right and what is wrong for the environment?

Environmental Ethics is fairly recent for Western Society compared to it practice among other cultures for thousands of years.

Historically there are two methods of ethics. One says that humans are separate and superior to nature. The other is the idea of placing value on the environment based on how useful it is to humans; essentially commodifying nature.

From a divine standpoint, the bible teaches that stewardship should be practiced; humans are morally responsible for caring and protecting the natural world. It can also be claimed that destroying the world is the “right” thing to do since humans are using it for themselves.

Locke believed that a person’s body and labor are their own property; therefore cutting down a tree or planting a crop is a person’s own property. This may be a rational thought for the 18th century, but with technology, labor has changed dramatically. Humans effect the environment in enormous ways with the sheer volume of resources that can be tapped and stripped from the Earth. The labor of one person in the 1700’s is surely not equal to that of a person today, our footprints are much larger.

Conservation is the idea of sustaining productivity for use by humans whereas preservation is the protecting of nature for its own sake, not for the value of it. This highlights the schools of thought of Gifford Pinchot and John Muir. Pinchot, for example, believed that damming part of Yosemite would serve greater benefit to people that leaving it alone. Muir thought that the place was a national treasure and should be enjoyed for its natural grandeur instead of it potential value to humans.


Aldo Leopold pointed out that our society developed ethics for people, and for our society, but not for the environment. He also points out that humans are dependent on the land, animals, and plants. View Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic.

Peter Singer suggested that animals are not equal to humans, but deserve equal consideration and harm should be lessened for animals. Should this be true of the environment?

Is protecting the environment right? Is overexploiting it wrong? We live in a anthropocentric world. Does this mean however that we must be anti-ecological? Or can there be some balance, or concession/sacrifice by people?

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