Environmental Ethics

August 30, 2010








Environmental ethics is the discipline in philosophy that studies the moral relationship of human beings to and also the value and moral status of, the environment, and its nonhuman contents. Environmental ethics believes in the ethical association between human beings and the natural environment. Human beings are a part of the society and so are the other living beings. When humans speak of the theoretical standard that directs our existence, we often discount that even plants and animals are a part of our lives. Plants and animals are an important part of the environment and for this reason have a right to be considered a part of the human life. On these lines, it is clear that they should also be associated with our guiding principles as well as our moral and ethical values (Oak, 2010).
Environmental Ethics:
As humans, we are disturbed about the environment and startled by the damage it is causing our children and ourselves. We are reshaping the world we live in, in dangerous, and possibly irreversible ways. In the past two hundred years, the human population has grown from one to more than billion and is calculated to be over eight billion within the next thirty years. Because of the results of the industrial revolution and the growth of global capitalism the earth?s resources have been consumed in mass amounts. There?s a burden on our environment?s ability to maintain and repair itself because of the combination of our population and consumption. Without any change, in the near future, we as humans and inhabitants of this earth are in danger of conquering our world.
Aldo Leopold, known as a pioneering environmental ethicist with advanced training in ecology, and this profoundly influenced his moral vision of the natural world. Leopold was an ecologist, farmer, forester and conservationist who wrote explicitly about human moral duties to nature (Leopold, 1949). He was the first to articulate a land ethic, or to describe moral responsibilities for land. His most important book was "A Sand County Almanac" (Leopold, 1949). ?In his chapter on a land ethic, he claimed: a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." This appears to be the first explicit ethical statement about the importance of an ecosystem (Leopold, 1949).
Leopold stretched the limitations of what was ethically considerable from human society to include biological communities. Leopold saw this concept as an extension of many human ethical codes; it embodies ideas of community and interdependence, but broadens these to include the land and its living elements (Warner, DeCosse, 2009). Leopold (1949) maintained that the conservation movement must be based upon more than just economic necessity. Species with no discernible economic value to humans may be an integral part of a functioning ecosystem. The land ethic respects all parts of the natural world regardless of their utility, and decisions based upon that ethic result in more stable biological communities.
Nevertheless, the examination of sustainable ethic within an organization is an environmental ethic by which people behave toward the earth as if its supplies are restricted. This ethic assumes that the earth?s resources are not unrestricted and that human beings must use and preserve resources in a way that permits their continul use in the future. A sustainable ethic also assumes that humans are a part of the natural environment and that we suffer when the health of a natural ecosystem is impaired. Sustainable ethics will allow employees to move from vague, fragmentary notions of sustainability to a far more holistic understanding. This "big picture" thinking will widen their perspectives and engender appreciation for the way even the smallest decisions ripple out into the world to create much bigger collisions and greater contributions to the bottom line (Hollander, 2010).
Ethical/Social Obligations:
We cannot overlook the harm we are doing to our environment. Many environmental ethicists claim that protection of the environment of threatened species or habitats, of old growth forest or even systematic processes such as the oxygen, carbon, carbon dioxide cycle are valuable in a moral sense for more than the instrumental goods that they provide for humans (Rolston, Light, 2003) . The daily papers and our nightly news broadcast show us that the increasing harm is growing closer to home. Because of burning fossil fuels and release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, the earth