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.
O'Sullivan , who coined the term Manifest destiny , and other influential people like him used Abrahamic ideologies to encourage action. These religious scholars, columnists and politicians historically have used these ideas and continue to do so to justify the consumptive tendencies of a young America around the time of the Industrial Revolution. In order to solidify the understanding that God had intended for humankind to use earths natural resources, environmental writers and religious scholars alike proclaimed that humans are separate from nature, on a higher order.
The first system of understanding holds religion as the basis of environmental stewardship. The second sees the use of theology as a means to rationalize the unmanaged consumptions of natural resources. Lynn White and Calvin DeWitt represent each side of this dichotomy. John Muir personified nature as an inviting place away from the loudness of urban centers.
God can be found wherever you are, especially outside. Family worship was not just relegated to Sunday in a chapel. Placing intrinsic value upon nature through theology is a fundamental idea of Deep ecology.
Main article: Anthropocentrism Anthropocentrism is the position that humans are the most important or critical element in any given situation; that the human race must always be its own primary concern. Detractors of anthropocentrism argue that the Western tradition biases homo sapiens when considering the environmental ethics of a situation and that humans evaluate their environment or other organisms in terms of the utility for them see speciesism. Many argue that all environmental studies should include an assessment of the intrinsic value of non-human beings.
Baruch Spinoza reasoned that if humans were to look at things objectively, they would discover that everything in the universe has a unique value. Peter Vardy distinguished between two types of anthropocentrism. Weak anthropocentrism, however, argues that reality can only be interpreted from a human point of view, thus humans have to be at the centre of reality as they see it.
Another point of view has been developed by Bryan Norton, who has become one of the essential actors of environmental ethics by launching environmental pragmatism, now one of its leading trends.
Hourdequin, who has a special interest in environmental ethics, divides the volume into two roughly equal parts-one on theory, one on practice … One of the book's many strengths is the organic integration of Chinese philosophical views on self, relationships, and value; the author makes a good case for the need for a multicriterial ethical perspective on environmentalism … Hourdequin writes with clarity, depth, and passion, so the book is suitable for nonspecialists.
Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; general readers. Her account of ecofeminism, for example, is among the clearest and most informative that I have read Houdequin's book serves as a solid and broad introductory textbook to environmental ethics at an intermediate or senior undergraduate level.
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.
Moving to this wider Self involves recognizing that as human beings we are not removed from nature, but are interconnected with it. Recognizing our wider Self thus involves identifying ourselves with all other life forms on the planet. For Fox, as with Naess, this consciousness involves our widest possible identification with the non-human world. The usual ethical concern of formulating principles and obligations thus becomes unnecessary, according to Fox, for once the appropriate consciousness is established, one will naturally protect the environment and allow it to flourish, for that will be part and parcel of the protection and flourishing of oneself Fox, Critics of deep ecology argue that it is just too vague to address real environmental concerns.
For one thing, in its refusal to reject so many worldviews and philosophical perspectives, many have claimed that it is difficult to uncover just what deep ecology advocates. For example, on the one hand, Naess offers us eight principles that deep ecologists should accept, and on the other he claims that deep ecology is not about drawing up codes of conduct, but adopting a global comprehensive attitude.
In particular, just how are we to deal with clashes of interests? According to the third principle, for example, humans have no right to reduce the richness and diversity of the natural world unless to meet vital needs.
But does that mean we are under an obligation to protect the richness and diversity of the natural world? If so, perhaps we could cull non-native species such as rabbits when they damage ecosystems.
But then, the first principle states that non-human beings such as rabbits have inherent value, and the fifth principle states that human interference in nature is already excessive. So just what should we do? Clearly, the principles as stated by Naess and Sessions are too vague to offer any real guide for action. However, perhaps principles are not important, as both Naess and Fox have claimed. Instead, they claim that we must rely on the fostering of the appropriate states of consciousness.
Unfortunately, two problems remain. First of all, it is not at all clear that all conflicts of interest will be resolved by the adoption of the appropriate state of consciousness.
For even if I identify myself with all living things, some of those things, such as bacteria and viruses, may still threaten me as a discrete living organism. At this point deep ecologists would object that such criticisms remain rooted in the ideology that has caused so much of the crisis we now face.
For example, take the point about persuading others. Deep ecologists claim that argument and debate are not the only means we must use to help people realize their ecological consciousness; we must also use such things as poetry, music and art. This relates back to the point I made at the beginning of the section: deep ecologists do not call for supplementary moral principles concerning the environment, but an entirely new worldview.
Whether such a radical shift in the way we think about ourselves and the environment is possible, remains to be seen.
Social Ecology Social ecology shares with deep ecology the view that the foundations of the environmental crisis lie in the dominant ideology of modern western societies. Thus, just as with deep ecology, social ecology claims that in order to resolve the crisis, a radical overhaul of this ideology is necessary. Indeed, domination is the key theme in the writings of Murray Bookchin, the most prominent social ecologist.
For Bookchin, environmental problems are directly related to social problems. In particular, Bookchin claims that the hierarchies of power prevalent within modern societies have fostered a hierarchical relationship between humans and the natural world Bookchin, Indeed, it is the ideology of the free market that has facilitated such hierarchies, reducing both human beings and the natural world to mere commodities. Bookchin argues that the liberation of both humans and nature are actually dependent on one another.
For Bookchin and other social ecologists, this Marxist thinking involves the same fragmentation of humans from nature that is prevalent in capitalist ideology. Instead, it is argued that humans must recognize that they are part of nature, not distinct or separate from it.
In turn then, human societies and human relations with nature can be informed by the non-hierarchical relations found within the natural world. For example, Bookchin points out that within an ecosystem, there is no species more important than another, instead relationships are mutualistic and interrelated. This interdependence and lack of hierarchy in nature, it is claimed, provides a blueprint for a non-hierarchical human society Bookchin, Without doubt, the transformation that Bookchin calls for is radical.
But just what will this new non-hierarchical, interrelated and mutualistic human society look like? For Bookchin, an all powerful centralized state is just another agent for domination.
Thus in order to truly be rid of hierarchy, the transformation must take place within smaller local communities. Such communities will be based on sustainable agriculture, participation through democracy, and of course freedom through non-domination.
Not only then does nature help cement richer and more equal human communities, but transformed societies also foster a more benign relationship with nature.
After all, Bookchin does not think that we should condemn all of humanity for causing the ecological crisis, for instead it is the relationships within societies that are to blame Bookchin, Because of this, Bookchin is extremely critical of the anti-humanism and misanthropy he perceives to be prevalent in much deep ecology. Bookchin argues that the interdependence and lack of hierarchy within nature provides a grounding for non-hierarchical human societies.
However, as we saw when discussing Aldo Leopold, it is one thing to say how nature is, but quite another to say how society ought to be. Even if we accept that there are no natural hierarchies within nature which for many is dubious , there are plenty of other aspects of it that most of us would not want to foster in our human society. For example, weak individuals and weak species are often killed, eaten and out-competed in an ecosystem.
However, should this ground human societies in which the weak are killed, eaten and out-competed? Most of us find such a suggestion repugnant. Following this type of reasoning, many thinkers have warned of the dangers of drawing inferences about how society should be organized from certain facts about how nature is Dobson, , p.
For many, his social ecology is anthropocentric, thus failing to grant the environment the standing it deserves. Critics cite evidence of anthropocentrism in the way Bookchin accounts for the liberation of both humans and nature.
This unfolding process will not just occur of its own accord, according to Bookchin, rather, human beings must facilitate it. However, some environmental philosophers are more wary of the prominent place that Bookchin gives to human beings in facilitating this unfolding. After all, if humans cannot ameliorate the environmental problems we face, is there much point doing environmental ethics in the first place?
Indeed, Bookchin himself has been rather nonplussed by this charge, and explicitly denies that humans are just another community in nature.
But he also denies that nature exists solely for the purposes of humans. However, the critics remain unconvinced, and believe it to be extremely arrogant to think that humans know what the unfolding of nature will look like, let alone to think that they can bring it about Eckersley, , pp.
Ecofeminism Like social ecology, ecofeminism also points to a link between social domination and the domination of the natural world. And like both deep ecology and social ecology, ecofeminism calls for a radical overhaul of the prevailing philosophical perspective and ideology of western society. However, ecofeminism is a broad church, and there are actually a number of different positions that feminist writers on the environment have taken. In this section I will review three of the most prominent.
Val Plumwood offers a critique of the rationalism inherent in traditional ethics and blames this rationalism for the oppression of both women and nature. The fundamental problem with rationalism, so Plumwood claims, is its fostering of dualisms. For example, reason itself is usually presented in stark opposition to emotion.
Traditional ethics, Plumwood argues, promote reason as capable of providing a stable foundation for moral argument, because of its impartiality and universalizability. Emotion, on the other hand, lacks these characteristics, and because it is based on sentiment and affection makes for shaky ethical frameworks. In each case, the former is held to be superior to the latter Plumwood, So, for Plumwood, the inferiority of both women and nature have a common source: namely, rationalism.
Once this is recognized, so the argument goes, it becomes clear that simple ethical extensionism as outlined above is insufficient to resolve the domination of women and nature. After all, such extensionism is stuck in the same mainstream rationalist thought that is the very source of the problem. What is needed instead, according to Plumwood, is a challenge to rationalism itself, and thus a challenge to the dualisms it perpetuates. After all, does rationalism necessarily promote dualisms that are responsible for the subjugation of women and nature?
Such a claim would seem odd given the many rationalist arguments that have been put forward to promote the rights and interests of both women and the natural world.
In addition, many thinkers would argue that rationalist thought is not the enemy, but instead the best hope for securing proper concern for the environment and for women. For as we have seen above, such thinkers believe that relying on the sentiments and feelings of individuals is too unstable a foundation upon which to ground a meaningful ethical framework.
Karen J. Warren has argued that the dualisms of rationalist thought, as outlined by Plumwood, are not in themselves problematic. Thus, a list of the differences between humans and nature, and between men and women, is not in itself harmful. But once assumptions are added, such as these differences leading to the moral superiority of humans and of men, then we move closer to the claim that we are justified in subordinating women and nature on the basis of their inferiority.
According to Warren, just such a logic of domination has been prevalent within western society. For Warren then, feminists and environmentalists share the same goal: namely, to abolish this oppressive conceptual framework Warren, Other ecofeminists take a quite different approach to Plumwood and Warren.
Rather than outlining the connections between the domination of women and of nature, they instead emphasize those things that link women and the natural world. Women, so the argument goes, stand in a much closer relationship to the natural world due to their capacity for child-bearing.
For some ecofeminists, this gives women a unique perspective on how to build harmonious relationships with the natural world. Placing women as closer to nature, according to Plumwood, simply places them closer to oppression. Other critics argue that the adoption of a spiritualist approach leads feminists to turn their attention inwards to themselves and their souls, and away from those individuals and entities they should be trying to liberate.
However, in response, these ecofeminists may make the same point as the deep ecologists: to resolve the environmental problems we face, and the systems of domination in place, it is the consciousness and philosophical outlook of individuals that must change. The Future of Environmental Ethics Given the increasing concern for the environment and the impact that our actions have upon it, it is clear that the field of environmental ethics is here to stay.
However, it is less clear in what way the discipline will move forward. Having said that, there is evidence for at least three future developments. First of all, environmental ethics needs to be and will be informed by changes in the political efforts to ameliorate environmental problems. Environmental ethics concerns formulating our moral obligations regarding the environment. While this enterprise can be, and often is, quite abstract, it is also meant to engage with the real world. After all, ethicists are making claims about how they think the world ought to be.
For example, the Kyoto Protocol might be regarded as the first real global attempt to deal with the problem of climate change. However, without the participation of so many large polluters, with the agreed reductions in greenhouse gas emissions so small, and with many countries looking like they may well miss their targets, many commentators already regard it as a failure.
Ethicists need to respond not just by castigating those they blame for the failure. Rather they must propose alternative and better means of resolving the problems we face.
For example, is it more important to outline a scheme of obligations for individuals rather than states, and go for a bottom-up solution to these problems?
Alternatively, perhaps businesses should take the lead in tackling these problems. Indeed, it may even be in the interests of big business to be active in this way, given the power of consumers. It is quite possible then, that we will see business ethics address many of the same issues that environmental ethics has been tackling.
However, the effects of environmental ethics will not be limited to influencing and informing business ethics alone, but will undoubtedly feed into and merge with more mainstream ethical thinking. After all, the environment is not something one can remove oneself from. In light of this, once it is recognized that we have environmental obligations, all areas of ethics are affected, including just war theory, domestic distributive justice , global distributive justice, human rights theory and many others.
Part of the job of the environmental ethicist will thus be to give such disciplines the benefit of his or her expertise.