ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS PDF
PDF | Environmental ethicsc - the study of ethical questions raised by human relations with the nonhuman environment - emerged as an. PDF | Environmental ethics is the study of normative issues and principles relating to human interactions with the natural environment. It comprises an. The field of environmental ethics concerns human beings' ethical relationship with the natural environment. While numerous philosophers have written on this.
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This essay provides an overview of the field of environmental ethics. I sketch the humans in the natural world, environmental ethics as a subfield of philosophy. Environmental ethics is the part of environmental philosophy which considers extending the .. "Life-centered ethics, and the human future in space" (PDF). Factors that necessitate environmental ethics. International Environmental Movement. Environmental Concerns in India. Ecology and the.
However, for Regan there are moral limits to what one can do to an entity with inherent value, irrespective of these overall consequences.
But what does all this have to do with environmental ethics? However, extending moral standing to animals also leads to the formulation of particular types of environmental obligations.
For example, even if clearing an area of forest were proven to be of benefit to humans both in the short and long-term, that would not be the end of the matter as far as animal ethics are concerned. The welfare of the animals residing within and around the forest must also be considered. However, many environmental philosophers have been dissatisfied with these kinds of animal-centered environmental ethics. Indeed, some have claimed that animal liberation cannot even be considered a legitimate environmental ethic Callicott, , Sagoff, For these thinkers, all animal-centered ethics suffer from two fundamental and devastating problems: first of all, they are too narrowly individualistic; and secondly, the logic of animal ethics implies unjustifiable interference with natural processes.
As for the first point, it is pointed out that our concerns for the environment extend beyond merely worrying about individual creatures. Indeed, the over-abundance of individuals of a particular species of animal can pose a serious threat to the normal functioning of an ecosystem. For example, many of us will be familiar with the problems rabbits have caused to ecosystems in Australia.
Thus, for many environmentalists, we have an obligation to kill these damaging animals. Clearly, this stands opposed to the conclusions of an ethic that gives such weight to the interests and rights of individual animals.
The individualistic nature of an animal-centered ethic also means that it faces difficulty in explaining our concern for the plight of endangered species. After all, if individual conscious entities are all that matter morally, then the last surviving panda must be owed just the same as my pet cat.
For many environmental philosophers this is simply wrong, and priority must be given to the endangered species Rolston III, Animal-centered ethics also face attack for some of the implications of their arguments.
For example, if we have obligations to alleviate the suffering of animals, as these authors suggest, does that mean we must stop predator animals from killing their prey, or partition off prey animals so that they are protected from such attacks Sagoff, ? Such conclusions not only seem absurd, but also inimical to the environmentalist goal of preserving natural habitats and processes. Having said all of this, I should not over-emphasize the opposition between animal ethics and environmental ethics.
Just because animal ethicists grant moral standing only to conscious individuals, that does not mean that they hold everything else in contempt Jamieson, Holistic entities may not have independent moral standing, according to these thinkers, but that does not equate to ignoring them. Moreover, the idea that animal ethics imply large-scale interferences in the environment can be questioned when one considers how much harm this would inflict upon predator and scavenger animals. Nevertheless, clashes of interest between individual animals and other natural entities are inevitable, and when push comes to shove animal ethicists will invariably grant priority to individual conscious animals.
Many environmental ethicists disagree, and are convinced that the boundaries of our ethical concern need to be pushed back further. Individual Living Organisms As noted above, numerous philosophers have questioned the notion that only conscious beings have moral standing. The thought experiment asks us to consider a situation, such as the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust, where the only surviving human being is faced with the only surviving tree of its species.
If the individual chops down the tree, no human would be harmed by its destruction. For our purposes we should alter the example and say that all animals have also perished in the holocaust. Would this individual be wrong to destroy the tree? According to a human or animal-centered ethic, it is hard to see why such destruction would be wrong. And yet, many of us have the strong intuition that the individual would act wrongly by chopping down the tree.
For some environmental philosophers, this intuition suggests that moral standing should be extended beyond conscious life to include individual living organisms, such as trees. Of course, and as I have mentioned before, we cannot rely only on intuitions to decide who or what has moral standing. For this reason, a number of philosophers have come up with arguments to justify assigning moral standing to individual living organisms.
One of the earliest philosophers to put forward such an argument was Albert Schweitzer. This, after all, would require some kind of conscious experience, which many living things lack. However, perhaps what Schweitzer was getting at was something like Paul W. For Taylor, this means that living things have a good of their own that they strive towards, even if they lack awareness of this fact.
It is this value that grants individual living organisms moral status, and means that we must take the interests and needs of such entities into account when formulating our moral obligations. But if we recognize moral standing in every living thing, how are we then to formulate any meaningful moral obligations?
For example we need to walk, eat, shelter and clothe ourselves, all of which will usually involve harming living things. Of course, this simply begs the question: when is absolutely necessary? Taylor attempts to answer this question by advocating a position of general equality between the interests of living things, together with a series of principles in the event of clashes of interest.
First, the principles state that humans are allowed to act in self-defense to prevent harm being inflicted by other living organisms. Second, the basic interests of nonhuman living entities should take priority over the nonbasic or trivial interests of humans. Third, when basic interests clash, humans are not required to sacrifice themselves for the sake of others Taylor, , pp. As several philosophers have pointed out, however, this ethic is still incredibly demanding.
For some, this makes the ethic unreasonably burdensome. No doubt because of these worries, other philosophers who accord moral standing to all living organisms have taken a rather different stance. Instead of adopting an egalitarian position on the interests of living things, they propose a hierarchical framework Attfield, and Varner, Such thinkers point out that moral standing is not the same as moral significance.
So while we could acknowledge that plants have moral standing, we might nevertheless accord them a much lower significance than human beings, thus making it easier to justify our use and destruction of them.
Nevertheless, several philosophers remain uneasy about the construction of such hierarchies and wonder whether it negates the acknowledgement of moral standing in the first place. After all, if we accept such a hierarchy, just how low is the moral significance of plants? If it is low enough so that I can eat them, weed them and walk on them, what is the point of granting them any moral standing at all? There remain two crucial challenges facing philosophers who attribute moral standing to individual living organisms that have not yet been addressed.
One challenge comes from the anthropocentric thinkers and animal liberationists. For example, while plants may have a biological good, is it really good of their own? Indeed, there seems to be no sense in which something can be said to be good or bad from the point of view of the plant itself. In response to this challenge, environmental ethicists have pointed out that conscious volition of an object or state is not necessary for that object or state to be a good.
For example, consider a cat that needs worming. It is very unlikely that the cat has any understanding of what worming is, or that he needs worming in order to remain healthy and fit. Similarly, plants and tress may not consciously desire sunlight, water or nutrition, but each, according to some ethicists, can be said to be good for them in that they contribute to their biological flourishing. The second challenge comes from philosophers who question the individualistic nature of these particular ethics.
As mentioned above, these critics do not believe that an environmental ethic should place such a high premium on individuals.
For many, this individualistic stance negates important ecological commitments to the interdependence of living things, and the harmony to be found in natural processes. Moreover, it is alleged that these individualistic ethics suffer from the same faults as anthropocentric and animal-centered ethics: they simply cannot account for our real and demanding obligations to holistic entities such as species and ecosystems. Once again, however, a word of caution is warranted here. Often the equilibrium of these entities is taken extremely seriously See Taylor, , p.
However, it must be remembered that such concern is extended only insofar as such equilibrium is necessary in order for individual living organisms to flourish; the wholes themselves have no independent moral standing. For Leopold, land is not merely soil. Instead, land is a fountain of energy, flowing through a circuit of soils, plants and animals. While food chains conduct the energy upwards from the soil, death and decay returns the energy back to the soil.
Thus, the flow of energy relies on a complex structure of relations between living things. For one thing, it seems that Leopold jumps too quickly from a descriptive account of how the land is, to a prescriptive account of what we ought to do. What precisely is it about the biotic community that makes it deserving of moral standing? Unfortunately, Leopold seems to offer no answers to these important questions, and thus no reason to build our environmental obligations around his land ethic.
However, J. Baird Callicott has argued that such criticisms of Leopold are unfair and misplaced.
According to Callicott, Leopold lies outside of mainstream moral theory. Thus, the question is not, what quality does the land possess that makes it worthy of moral standing? But rather, how do we feel about the land Callicott, ? In this light, the land ethic can be seen as an injunction to broaden our moral sentiments beyond self-interest, and beyond humanity to include the whole biotic community.
Of course, some have questioned whether sentiment and feelings are suitable foundations for an environmental ethic. After all, there seem to be plenty of people out there who have no affection for the biotic community whatsoever. In the search for more concrete foundations, Lawrence E. Johnson has built an alternative case for according moral standing to holistic entities Johnson, Johnson claims that once we recognize that interests are not always tied to conscious experience, the door is opened to the possibility of nonconscious entities having interests and thus moral standing.
So, just as breathing oxygen is in the interests of a child, even though the child has neither a conscious desire for oxygen, nor any understanding of what oxygen is, so do species have an interest in fulfilling their nature. This is because both have a good of their own, based on the integrated functioning of their life processes ibid. Children can flourish as living things, and so too can species and ecosystems; so, according to Johnson, both have interests that must be taken into account in our ethical deliberations.
But even if we accept that moral standing should be extended to holistic entities on this basis, we still need to consider how we are then to flesh out our moral obligations concerning the environment. For some, this is where holistic ethics fail to convince.
In particular, it has been claimed that holistic ethics condone sacrificing individuals for the sake of the whole. Now while many holistic philosophers do explicitly condone sacrificing individuals in some situations, for example by shooting rabbits to preserve plant species, they are reluctant to sacrifice human interests in similar situations. In response, proponents of such ethics have claimed that acknowledging moral standing in holistic entities does not mean that one must deny the interests and rights of human beings.
While this is obviously true, that still leaves the question of what to do when the interests of wholes clash with the interests of individuals. If humans cannot be sacrificed for the good of the whole, why can rabbits?
The answer that has been put forward by Callicott claims that while the biotic community matters morally, it is not the only community that matters. Thus, our obligations to the biotic community may require the culling of rabbits, but may not require the culling of humans. This is because we are part of a tight-knit human community, but only a very loose human-rabbit community. In this way, we can adjudicate clashes of interest, based on our community commitments.
This communitarian proposal certainly seems a way out of the dilemma. Unfortunately, it faces two key problems: first, just who decides the content and strength of our various community commitments; and second, if human relationships are the closest, does all this lead back to anthropocentrism?
As for the first point, if deciding on our community attachments is left up to individuals themselves, this will lead to quite diverse and even repugnant moral obligations. For example, if an individual believes that he has a much stronger attachment to white males than to black women, does this mean that he can legitimately favor the interests of the former over the latter?
If not, and an objective standard is to be imposed, we are left with the enormous problem of discovering this standard and reaching consensus on it.
Without doubt, extending moral standing to the degree of holistic ethics requires some extremely careful argumentation when it comes to working out the precise content of our environmental obligations. The arguments and examples are helpful both for those readers interested in the theoretical background as well as for those more interested in the applied aspects.
The examples are well chosen and well presented. In short, the book is a pleasure to read Written at a level that any intelligent layperson will appreciate and enjoy. It is an ideal basic introductory to environmental ethics The book is essential reading.
This work is not only an utterly accessible introduction to the field, but a magisterial assessment of the inescapable alternatives it confronts us with. The result is a feast for inquiring minds, an inspiration and aspiration for active ones; specifically, it helps us understand how an environmental ethic can become a lived ethic.
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From Theory to Practice
Shrader-Frechette, K. D Reidel ———, Durbin ed. D Reidel, pp. Environmental Justice:Plumwood, V. None of these is sentient, a subject-of-a-life, or a teleological-center-of-life, but the preservation of these collective entities is a major concern for many environmentalists. State University of New York Press. Thus, the question is not, what quality does the land possess that makes it worthy of moral standing?
Likewise, instead of trying to eliminate feral or exotic plants and animals, and restore environments to some imagined pristine state, ways should be found—wherever possible—to promote synergies between the newcomers and the older native populations in ways that maintain ecological flows and promote the further unfolding and developing of ecological processes Mathews Such a transformation can affect their other preferences and desires too, in both direct and indirect ways see Sarkar , ch.
Environmentalism, on his view, is a social movement, and the problems it confronts are social problems. A recent view relates anthropocentrism to the future of life.
The connection between morality and psychology is another core subject of investigation for virtue ethics. American Environmentalism:
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