Environmental Ethics Essay

The anthropocentric approach is criticized for “limiting values to the human realm,” for being biased toward the nonhuman world, and for its failure “to provide a satisfactory basis for a moral philosophy of ecological obligation” because it is concerned with human self-interest (Lecture) - Environmental Ethics Essay introduction. These are the claims of supporters of the deep ecology perspective, who believe that intrinsic value should be extended to all of nature. In this essay, I argue that the claims of the deep ecology approach are wrong and I will put forth a defense for anthropocentrism.

Before anything else, I will give the definitions of intrinsic and instrumental values and nature. An intrinsic value is “the worth a thing has in an end of itself.” These values are good for their own sake. Examples of these values would be love and beauty. An instrumental value is the “worth a thing has an instrument to achieve a goal or end.” (Lecture) Money would be an example of an instrumental value. Having money will allow a person the achieve the goal of a life of leisure. Lastly, nature means everything in our environment the soil, the climate, and all living things.

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Anthropocentrism maintains that only human beings have intrinsic value and that nonhuman animals and the rest of nature only have instrumental value (Lecture). On the other hand, deep ecology argues that we should see the whole ecosystem as having intrinsic value. However, this claim of deep ecology is groundless because there is no useful purpose in attributing intrinsic value to non sentient beings (Lecture). Furthermore, Aldo Leopold, a proponent of deep ecology, writes in his Land Ethic, ”… a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.” (Text, p. #478) In essence, he suggests that humans are equal to everything in nature.

However, we are not equal to everything in nature. I will support this statement with several reasons. First, human beings can be, and are, educated about nature (Text, p. #490). For example, we can predict the weather in order to know how we will be affected by it. In turn, nature does not understand us. Also, humans know how to use natural resources (Text, p. #490). An illustration of this is that we get paper and wood for construction purposes from trees. On the contrary, nature does not use us.

An opposition to these two justifications would be that human education and knowledge does not necessarily mean that humans are above nature. I do not agree with this. It is common sense that education and knowledge are power. More power equals to higher status. Therefore, humans are above nature. Finally, humans are capable of moral responsibilities. What we do in life matters it determines our success or failure. For example, we have a moral responsibility not to pollute (Text, p. #476). Plants and nonhuman animals do not have such a moral duty. Because we have moral responsibilities, we are more valuable than anything else in nature.

It can be argued by the deep ecology view that such an outlook is speciesism and that it is wrong for human beings to dominate all of nature. What I have to say to this is that it is human nature, our way of life, to trample with nature. Just as Leopold stated, we are members of our land-community (Text, p. #478). It follows that human beings have lived and evolved with nature. Human life is natural life and our activities are as natural as anything else. A great deal of the diverse things that human beings do can be perfectly natural, even if it can be destructive or lead to some transformation of nature. Our cultivation of the land or damming of the rivers is as natural as bees making honey or as birds creating their nests.

In addition to that, we live in a world where the strong survive it is the “survival of the fittest.” Naturally, and like other animals, we utilize the environment to live. As anthropocentrism contends, our moral obligation to protect the environment is based on human interests (Lecture). We have to safeguard what we need in order to live well.

The deep ecology perspective states that this moral obligation should not be based on factors having to do with human benefits (Lecture). What, then, should this moral obligation be based on? It is only practical that human obligations are based on human interests! Humans do not need to be obligated to things that do not concern them. Consequently, in spite of the criticism from deep ecology, the anthropocentric view is an acceptable and justified basis for providing a moral philosophy of ecological obligation.

Another claim of the deep ecology view, given by Aaron Naess, is that the self is all, reality is one, and if we damage the environment, we damage ourselves (Lecture). It is true that human beings have the ability, and can choose, to subvert nature. Still, it is only natural of us to do so. A great many people commute in cars and in other transportation vehicles that can cause air pollution. Plows are used to destroy the soil that is used to grow food for us. We add waste to the garbage dumps every day. This is where the anthropocentric argument of “optimal pollution” comes in.

Optimal pollution is “pollution whose harms are outweighed by various human interests, including economic and aesthetic ones.” (Text, p. # 477) Although humans may be hurting nature in such instances as mentioned above, the benefits outweigh the costs. Moreover, instead of just sitting by, we take measures to maintain the environment. For example, we recycle so that we can reuse certain things that have been produced with material coming from the environment. We also plant trees and ride bikes to help reduce air pollution. So, while the human way of living may be destructive to the environment, we still strive to make up for it.

I will conclude with stating that the rational thing for us to do is to make the best use of nature for our success in living our lives. And, the anthropocentric view, with its grounds in human self-interest, supports this better than the deep ecology view.

Environmental Ethics Essay

The study of ethics is a very old process - Environmental Ethics Essay introduction. It is a topic scholars have been studying and theorizing on for centuries. This is not the case when we talk about environmental ethics. The study of environmental ethics has only really been studied for the past forty years or so. Ethics is defined as the study of right and wrong conduct. (Ruggiero, (2008), pg. 5) This translates to the environment by how we as humans do right or wrong to the environment. For many years people have gone about their every day business not giving much thought to the consequences of their actions.

It was taken for granted that the environment and its resources would always be there. We now know that is not the case. The Study of Ecology has shown us this fact. Through this paper I will discuss the past, present, and future of environmental ethics as well as give my position on the topic. To begin I will start with the history of environmental ethics. In the early 1970’s the idea of studying our impact on the environment had really just begun. In the beginning half of the 20th century people focused on progress.

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They focused on building and making and ultimately taking from the environment. “Modern production paid little or no attention to the fundamental mechanisms of the Earth. In the latter half of the twentieth century people began to realize that development was no longer sustainable without consideration for these functions of the Earth. ” (“Environmental Ethics”, 2009) There were many papers written and events held in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s that contributed to the rise in environmental ethics as a popular topic.

The publication of two papers in Science: Lynn White’s “The Historical Roots of our Ecologic Crisis” (March 1967) and Garett Hardin’s “The Tragedy of the Commons” (December 1968). Most influential with regard to this kind of thinking, however, was an essay in Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, “The Land Ethic,” in which Leopold explicitly claimed that the roots of the ecological crisis were philosophical. (Although originally published in 1949, Sand County Almanac became widely available in 1970 in a special Sierra Club/Ballantine edition, which included essays from a second book, Round River (CEP, 2002).

In 1975 environmental ethics came to the attention of mainstream philosophy with the publication of Holmes Rolston, III’s paper, “Is There an Ecological Ethic? ” in Ethics. In 1973, Arne Naess, a Norwegian philosopher and the founding editor of the journal Inquiry authored and published a paper in Inquiry “The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movement”, which was the beginning of the deep ecology movement. In the 1990’s the establishment of International Society for Environmental Ethics, brought this study to the forefront of society.

The society now has members throughout the world (CEP, 2002). Events such as the first Earth Day in 1970, when environmentalists started urging philosophers to consider the philosophical aspects of environmental problems also contributed significantly to the rise in intrest in environmental ethics. (“Environmental Ethics”, 2009) Once it became apparent that environmental ethics was going to need extensive study and evaluation several different scholars attempted to adapt previous ethical theroies and apply them to environmental issues.

The New World Encyclopedia describes one aspect of environmental ethics as “Exploitation and abuse of the natural world is just as problematic as exploitation and abuse of other human beings; that human happiness cannot be realized without proper care of the natural environment. ” (“Environmental Ethics”, 2009) Today environmental ethics are something most of us have heard of in one way or another. We all know the importance of reducing the amount of pollution in the air, of keeping the rain forests intact, and of preserving animal species.

We know all of these things because ecologists have shown us the relationship between how humans effect the environment and how the environment in turn affects humans. These are all examples of the “shallow ecology movement” (Brennan, 2002) The shallow ecology movement is as it sounds something that we do because we can see the clear and direct benefits to ourselves. There is also something called the “deep ecology movement” and the focus of this movement is to regard all aspects nature with as much respect as another human being. Brennan, 2002) This includes holding the opinion that all aspects of nature have significance and importance outside of being usefull to humans. Both aspects of environmental ethis are important for their own reasons. Obviously we need to continue to do damage control for the aspects of the enviornment we have destroyed and continue to destroy. It is also important to regard nature with more respect than we have in past genereations. That respect for nature will prevent us from harming our enviornment more than we already do.

With all the strides the topic of ethics has taken over the years it has been studied I can only guess at the leaps and bounds the environmental ethics will take as we continue to study and evaluate it. There are already so many organizations put together to help make us aware of our environmental impacts. This awareness will only continue to grow. The downside to this level of awareness is that it can make people feel overwhelmed and like the problems are too big for any one person to make a difference. There will also always be individuals who say the enviornment is not their problem and will choose to continue to cause harm to it.

As we can see today, we are already feeling the repercussions of our past mistakes in ignoring the environment’s needs. It is our problem and it is our responsibility to do something about it. There are many ways to think about and study environmental ethics and opinions very widly on which method is correct or which aspects are more important than others. As with all ethical studies no single theory or method will every be perfect or complete. As the earth and humans grow and change so will the need for the study of environmental ethics.

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