Environmental Ethics (2022)

Environmental ethics is the discipline in philosophy that studies themoral relationship of human beings to, and also the value and moralstatus of, the environment and its non-human contents. This entrycovers: (1) the challenge of environmental ethics to theanthropocentrism (i.e., human-centeredness) embedded in traditionalwestern ethical thinking; (2) the development of the discipline fromthe 1960s and 1970s; (3) the connection of deep ecology, feministenvironmental ethics, animism and social ecology to politics; (4) theattempt to apply traditional ethical theories, includingconsequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics, to supportcontemporary environmental concerns; (5) the broader concerns of somethinkers with wilderness, the built environment and the politics ofpoverty; and (6) the ethics of sustainability and climate change.

1. Introduction: The Challenge of Environmental Ethics

Suppose putting out natural fires, culling feral animals or removingsome individual members of overpopulated species is necessary for theprotection of the integrity of a certain ecosystem. Will these actionsbe morally permissible or even required? Is it morally acceptable forfarmers in non-industrial countries to practise slash and burntechniques to clear areas for agriculture? Consider a mining companywhich has performed open pit mining in some previously unspoiled area.Does the company have a moral obligation to restore the landform andsurface ecology? And what is the value of a humanly restoredenvironment compared with the originally natural environment? Manypeople think that it is morally wrong for human beings to pollute anddestroy parts of the natural environment and to consume a hugeproportion of the planet’s natural resources. If that is wrong,is it simply because a sustainable environment is essential to humanexistence and well-being? Or is such behaviour also wrong because thenatural environment and/or its various contents have certain values intheir own right so that these values ought to be respected andprotected in any case? These are among the questions investigated byenvironmental ethics. Some of them are specific questions faced byindividuals in particular circumstances, while others are more globalquestions faced by groups and communities. Yet others are moreabstract questions concerning the value and moral standing of thenatural environment and its non-human components.

In the literature on environmental ethics the distinction betweeninstrumental value and intrinsic value (in the sense of “non-instrumental value”) is ofconsiderable importance. The former is the value of things asmeans to further some other ends, whereas the latter is thevalue of things as ends in themselves regardless of whetherthey are also useful as means to other ends. For instance, certainfruits have instrumental value for bats who feed on them, sincefeeding on the fruits is a means to survival for the bats. However, itis not widely agreed that fruits have value as ends in themselves. Wecan likewise think of a person who teaches others as havinginstrumental value for those who want to acquire knowledge. Yet, inaddition to any such value, it is normally said that a person, as aperson, has intrinsic value, i.e., value in their own rightindependently of their prospects for serving the ends of others. Foranother example, a certain wild plant may have instrumental valuebecause it provides the ingredients for some medicine or as anaesthetic object for human observers. But if the plant also has somevalue in itself independently of its prospects for furthering someother ends such as human health, or the pleasure from aestheticexperience, then the plant also has intrinsic value. Because theintrinsically valuable is that which is good as an end in itself, itis commonly agreed that something’s possession of intrinsicvalue generates a prima facie direct moral duty on the part of moralagents to protect it or at least refrain from damaging it (seeO’Neil 1992 and Jamieson 2002 for detailed accounts of intrinsicvalue).

Many traditional western ethical perspectives, however, areanthropocentric or human-centered in that either they assignintrinsic value to human beings alone (i.e., what we might callanthropocentric in a strong sense) or they assign asignificantly greater amount of intrinsic value to human beings thanto any non-human things such that the protection or promotion of humaninterests or well-being at the expense of non-human things turns outto be nearly always justified (i.e., what we might callanthropocentric in a weak sense). For example, Aristotle(Politics, Bk. 1, Ch. 8) apparently maintains that“nature has made all things specifically for the sake ofman”. Such purposive or teleological thinking may encourage thebelief that the value of non-human things in nature is merelyinstrumental. It is difficult for anthropocentric positions toarticulate what is wrong with the cruel treatment of non-humananimals, except to the extent that such treatment may lead to badconsequences for human beings. Immanuel Kant (“Duties to Animalsand Spirits”, in Lectures on Ethics), for instance,suggests that cruelty towards a dog might encourage a person todevelop a character which would be desensitized to cruelty towardshumans. From this standpoint, cruelty towards non-human animals wouldbe instrumentally, rather than intrinsically, wrong. Likewise,anthropocentrism often recognizes some non-intrinsic wrongness ofanthropogenic (i.e. human-caused) environmental devastation. Suchdestruction might damage the well-being of human beings now and in thefuture, since our very existence and well-being is essentiallydependent on a sustainable environment. This argument was made in theprevious century (see Passmore 1974; Bookchin 1990; Norton etal. (eds.) 1995), and seems subsequently to have garnered widepublic support (see the results of surveys in Pew 2018).

When environmental ethics emerged as a new sub-discipline ofphilosophy in the early 1970s, it did so by posing a challenge totraditional anthropocentrism. In the first place, it questioned theassumed moral superiority of human beings to members of other specieson earth. In the second place, it investigated the possibility ofrational arguments for assigning intrinsic value to the naturalenvironment and its non-human contents. It should be noted, however,that some theorists working in the field see no need to develop new,non-anthropocentric theories. Instead, they advocate what may becalled enlightened anthropocentrism (or, perhaps moreappropriately called, prudential anthropocentrism). Briefly,this is the view that all the moral duties we have towards theenvironment are derived from our direct duties to its humaninhabitants. The practical purpose of environmental ethics, theymaintain, is to provide moral grounds for social policies aimed atprotecting the earth’s environment and remedying environmentaldegradation. Enlightened anthropocentrism, they argue, is sufficientfor that practical purpose, and perhaps even more effective indelivering pragmatic outcomes, in terms of policy-making, thannon-anthropocentric theories given the theoretical burden on thelatter to provide sound arguments for its more radical view that thenon-human environment has intrinsic value (cf. Norton 1991, de Shalit1994, Light and Katz 1996). Furthermore, some prudentialanthropocentrists may hold what might be called cynicalanthropocentrism, which says that we have a higher-levelanthropocentric reason to be non-anthropocentric in our day-to-daythinking. Suppose that a day-to-day non-anthropocentrist tends to actmore benignly towards the non-human environment on which humanwell-being depends. This would provide reason for encouragingnon-anthropocentric thinking, even to those who find the idea ofnon-anthropocentric intrinsic value hard to swallow. In order for sucha strategy to be effective one may need to hide one’s cynicalanthropocentrism from others and even from oneself. The position canbe structurally compared to some indirect form of consequentialism and may attract parallel critiques (see Henry Sidgwick on utilitarianism and esoteric morality, and Bernard Williams on indirect utilitarianism).

2. The Development of Environmental Ethics

Although nature was the focus of much nineteenth and twentieth centuryphilosophy, contemporary environmental ethics only emerged as anacademic discipline in the 1970s. The questioning and rethinking ofthe relationship of human beings with the natural environment over thelast thirty years reflected an already widespread perception in the1960s that the late twentieth century faced a human populationexplosion as part of a serious environmental crisis. Among theaccessible work that drew attention to a sense of crisis was RachelCarson’s Silent Spring (1963), which consisted of anumber of essays earlier published in the New Yorker magazinedetailing how pesticides such as DDT, aldrin and dieldrin concentratedthrough the food web. Commercial farming practices using thesechemicals to maximize crop yields and profits, Carson speculates, arecapable of impacting simultaneously on environmental and publichealth. Their use, she claims, can have the side effects of killingother living things (besides the targeted insects) and causing humandisease. While Carson correctly fears that over-use of pesticides maylead to increases in some resistant insect species, theintensification of agriculture, land-clearing and massive use ofneonicotonoid pesticides has subsequently contributed to a situationin which, according to some reviews, nearly half of insect species arethreatened with extinction (Sánchez-Bayo and Wickhuys 2019, andcompare van der Sluijs and Vaage 2016, Komonen, Halme and Kotiaho2019). Declines in insect populations not only threaten pollination ofplant species, but may also be responsible for huge declines in somebird populations (Goulson 2021) and appear to go hand in hand withcascading extinctions across ecosystems worldwide (Kehoe, Frago andSanders 2021).

In a much cited essay (White 1967) on the historical roots of theenvironmental crisis, historian Lynn White argued that the mainstrands of Judeo-Christian thinking had encouraged theoverexploitation of nature by maintaining the superiority of humansover all other forms of life on earth, and by depicting all of natureas created for the use of humans. White’s thesis was widelydiscussed in theology, history, and has been subject to somesociological testing as well as being regularly discussed byphilosophers (see Whitney 1993, Attfield 2001). Central to therationale for his thesis were the works of the Church Fathers and TheBible itself, supporting the anthropocentric perspective that humansare the only things on Earth that matter in themselves. Consequently,they may utilize and consume everything else to their advantagewithout any injustice. For example, Genesis 1: 27–8states: “God created man in his own image, in the image of Godcreated he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them,and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish theearth, and subdue it: and have dominion over fish of the sea, and overfowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon theearth.” Likewise, Thomas Aquinas (Summa ContraGentiles, Bk. 3, Pt 2, Ch 112) argued that non-human animals are“ordered to man’s use”. According to White, theJudeo-Christian idea that humans are created in the image of thetranscendent supernatural God, who is radically separate from nature,also by extension radically separates humans themselves from nature.This ideology further opened the way for untrammeled exploitation ofnature. Modern Western science itself, White argued, was “castin the matrix of Christian theology” so that it too inheritedthe “orthodox Christian arrogance toward nature” (White1967: 1207). Clearly, without technology and science, theenvironmental extremes to which we are now exposed would probably notbe realized. The point of White’s thesis, however, is that giventhe modern form of science and technology, Judeo-Christianity itselfprovides the original deep-seated drive to unlimited exploitation ofnature. Nevertheless, White argued that some minority traditionswithin Christianity (e.g., the views of St. Francis) might provide anantidote to the “arrogance” of a mainstream traditionsteeped in anthropocentrism. This sentiment is echoed in laterChristian writings on attitudes to nature (see for example Berry 2018,chs 10, 11, and compare Zaheva and Szasz 2015).

Around the same time, the Stanford ecologists Paul and Anne Ehrlichwarned in The Population Bomb (Ehrlich 1968) that the growthof human population threatened the viability of planetary life-supportsystems. The sense of environmental crisis stimulated by those andother popular works was intensified by NASA’s production andwide dissemination of a particularly potent image of Earth from spacetaken at Christmas 1968 and featured in the ScientificAmerican in September 1970. Here, plain to see, was a living,shining planet voyaging through space and shared by all of humanity, aprecious vessel vulnerable to pollution and to the overuse of itslimited capacities. In 1972 a team of researchers at MIT led by DonellaMeadows published the Limits to Growth study, a work thatsummed up in many ways the emerging concerns of the previous decadeand the sense of vulnerability triggered by the view of the earth fromspace. In the commentary to the study, the researchers wrote:

We affirm finally that any deliberate attempt to reach a rational andenduring state of equilibrium by planned measures, rather than bychance or catastrophe, must ultimately be founded on a basic change ofvalues and goals at individual, national and world levels. (Meadows etal. 1972: 195)

The call for a “basic change of values” in connection tothe environment (a call that could be interpreted in terms of eitherinstrumental or intrinsic values) reflected a need for the developmentof environmental ethics as a new sub-discipline of philosophy. The aimof facing up to the challenge of limited resources was fosteredsubsequently by studies of the growing human “ecologicalfootprint” on the earth (Rees 1992, Wackernagel et al.2018) and by the exploration of “planetary boundaries” andthe concept of a “safe operating space for humanity”(Rokström et al. 2009, Biermann and Kim 2020).

The new field emerged almost simultaneously in threecountries—the United States, Australia, and Norway. In the firsttwo of these countries, direction and inspiration largely came fromthe earlier twentieth century American literature of the environment.For instance, the Scottish emigrant John Muir (founder of the SierraClub and “father of American conservation”) andsubsequently the forester Aldo Leopold had advocated an appreciationand conservation of things “natural, wild and free”. Theirconcerns were motivated by a combination of ethical and aestheticresponses to nature as well as a rejection of crudely economicapproaches to the value of natural objects (a historical survey of theconfrontation between Muir’s reverentialism and thehuman-centred conservationism of Gifford Pinchot (one of the majorinfluences on the development of the US Forest Service) is provided inNorton 1991; also see Cohen 1984 and Nash (ed) 1990). Leopold’sA Sand County Almanac (1949), in particular, advocated theadoption of a “land ethic”:

That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but thatland is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics. (Leopold1949: vii–ix)

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability,and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tendsotherwise. (Leopold 1949: 224–5)

However, Leopold himself provided no systematic ethical theory orframework to support these ethical ideas concerning the environment.His views therefore presented a challenge and opportunity for moraltheorists: could some ethical theory be devised to justify theinjunction to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of thebiosphere?

The land ethic sketched by Leopold, attempting to extend our moralconcern to cover the natural environment and its non-human contents,was drawn on explicitly by the Australian philosopher Richard Routley(later Sylvan). According to Routley (1973 (cf. Routley and Routley1980)), the anthropocentrism imbedded in what he called the“dominant western view”, or “the westernsuperethic”, is in effect “human chauvinism”. Thisview, he argued, is just another form of class chauvinism, which issimply based on blind class “loyalty” or prejudice, andunjustifiably discriminates against those outside the privilegedclass. Echoing the plot of a popular movie some three years earlier(see Lo and Brennan 2013), Routley speculates in his “lastman” (and “last people”) arguments about ahypothetical situation in which the last person, surviving a worldcatastrophe, acts to ensure the elimination of all other living thingsand the last people set about destroying forests and ecosystems aftertheir demise. From the human-chauvinistic (or absolutelyanthropocentric) perspective, the last person would do nothing morallywrong, since his or her destructive act in question would not causeany damage to the interests and well-being of humans, who would bythen have disappeared. Nevertheless, Routley points out that there isa moral intuition that the imagined last acts would be morally wrong.An explanation for this judgment, he argues, is that those non-humanobjects in the environment, whose destruction is ensured by the lastperson or last people, have intrinsic value, a kind of valueindependent of their usefulness for humans. From his critique, Routleyconcluded that the main approaches in traditional western moralthinking were unable to allow the recognition that natural things haveintrinsic value, and that the tradition required overhaul of asignificant kind.

Leopold’s idea that the “land” as a whole is anobject of our moral concern also stimulated writers to argue forcertain moral obligations toward ecological wholes, such as species,communities, and ecosystems, not just their individual constituents.The U.S.-based theologian and environmental philosopher Holmes RolstonIII, for instance, argued that species protection was a moral duty(Rolston 1975). It would be wrong, he maintained, to eliminate a rarebutterfly species simply to increase the monetary value of specimensalready held by collectors. Like Routley’s “lastman” arguments, Rolston’s example is meant to drawattention to a kind of action that seems morally dubious and yet isnot clearly ruled out or condemned by traditional anthropocentricethical views. Species, Rolston went on to argue, are intrinsicallyvaluable and are usually more valuable than individual specimens,since the loss of a species is a loss of genetic possibilities and thedeliberate destruction of a species would show disrespect for the verybiological processes which make possible the emergence of individualliving things (also see Rolston 1989, Ch 10). Natural processesdeserve respect, according to Rolston’s quasi-religiousperspective, because they constitute a nature (or God) which is itselfintrinsically valuable (or sacred).

Meanwhile, the work of Christopher Stone (a professor of law at theUniversity of Southern California) had become widely discussed. Stone(1972) proposes that trees and other natural objects should have atleast the same standing in law as corporations. This suggestion wasinspired by a particular case in which the Sierra Club had mounted achallenge against the permit granted by the U.S. Forest Service toWalt Disney Enterprises for surveys preparatory to the development ofthe Mineral King Valley, which was at the time a relatively remotegame refuge, but not designated as a national park or protectedwilderness area. The Disney proposal was to develop a major resortcomplex serving 14000 visitors daily to be accessed by a purpose-builthighway through Sequoia National Park. The Sierra Club, as a body witha general concern for wilderness conservation, challenged thedevelopment on the grounds that the valley should be kept in itsoriginal state for its own sake.

Stone reasoned that if trees, forests and mountains could be givenstanding in law then they could be represented in their own right inthe courts by groups such as the Sierra Club. Moreover, like any otherlegal person, these natural things could become beneficiariesof compensation if it could be shown that they had sufferedcompensatable injury through human activity. When the case went to theU.S. Supreme Court, it was determined by a narrow majority that theSierra Club did not meet the condition for bringing a case to court,for the Club was unable and unwilling to prove the likelihood ofinjury to the interest of the Club or its members. In dissentingminority judgments, however, justices Douglas, Blackmun and Brennanmentioned Stone’s argument: his proposal to give legal standingto natural things, they said, would allow conservation interests,community needs and business interests to be represented, debated andsettled in court. Stone’s work was later cited in the successfularguments to grant personhood to rivers and other natural features invarious parts of the world. In some of these cases, Stone’sarguments—along with those of Arne Næss (seebelow)—have been said to provide analogues to indigenousunderstandings of the intrinsic value of the land and theinterconnections of such understandings with human actions andancestral spirituality (Morris and Ruru 2010, Kramm 2020). Similarsuggestions have also been made about Leopold’s work, but suchclaims need to be interpreted with caution (White 2015).

(Video) Environmental Ethics

Reacting to Stone’s proposal, Joel Feinberg (1974) raised aserious problem. Only items that have interests, Feinberg argued, canbe regarded as having legal standing and, likewise, moral standing.For it is interests which are capable of being represented in legalproceedings and moral debates. This same point would also seem toapply to political debates. For instance, the movement for“animal liberation”, which also emerged strongly in the1970s, can be thought of as a political movement aimed at representingthe previously neglected interests of some animals (see Regan andSinger (eds.) 1976, Clark 1977, and also the entry on the moral status of animals). Granted that some animals have interests that can be represented inthis way, would it also make sense to speak of trees, forests, rivers,barnacles, or termites as having interests of a morally relevant kind?This issue was hotly contested in the years that followed. Meanwhile,John Passmore (1974) argued, like White, that the Judeo-Christiantradition of thought about nature, despite being predominantly“despotic”, contained resources for regarding humans as“stewards” or “perfectors” of God’screation. Skeptical of the prospects for any radically new ethic,Passmore cautioned that traditions of thought could not be abruptlyoverhauled. Any change in attitudes to our natural surroundings whichstood the chance of widespread acceptance, he argued, would have toresonate and have some continuities with the very tradition which hadlegitimized our destructive practices.

In sum, then, Leopold’s land ethic, the historical analyses ofWhite and Passmore, the pioneering work of Routley, Stone and Rolston,and the warnings of scientists, had by the late 1970s focused theattention of philosophers and political theorists firmly on theenvironment. The confluence of ethical, political and legal debatesabout the environment, the emergence of philosophies to underpinanimal rights activism and the puzzles over whether an environmentalethic would be something new rather than a modification or extensionof existing ethical theories were reflected in wider social andpolitical movements. The rise of environmental or “green”parties in Europe in the 1980s was accompanied by almost immediateschisms between groups known as “realists” versus“fundamentalists” (see Dobson 1990). The“realists” stood for reform environmentalism, working withbusiness and government to soften the impact of pollution and resourcedepletion especially on fragile ecosystems or endangered species. The“fundies” argued for radical change, the setting ofstringent new priorities, and even the overthrow of capitalism andliberal individualism, which were taken as the major ideologicalcauses of anthropogenic environmental devastation. It is not clear,however, that collectivist or communist countries do particularly wellin terms of their environmental record (see Dominick 1998). At thesame time, the rise of “environmental authoritarianism” insome non-democratic countries appears to show that liberal democraciesmay not have a monopoly on effective action to support sustainabilityand biodiversity (Beeson 2010, Shahar 2015).

Underlying these political disagreements was the distinction between“shallow” and “deep” environmental movements,a distinction introduced in the early 1970s by another major influenceon contemporary environmental ethics, the Norwegian philosopher andclimber Arne Næss. Since the work of Næss has beensignificant in environmental politics, the discussion of his positionis given in a separate section below.

3. Environmental Ethics and Politics

3.1 Deep Ecology

“Deep ecology” was born in Scandinavia, the result ofdiscussions between Næss and his colleagues SigmundKvaløy and Nils Faarlund (see Næss 1973 and 1989; alsosee Witoszek and Brennan (eds.) 1999 for a historical survey andcommentary on the development of deep ecology). All three shared apassion for the great mountains. On a visit to the Himalayas, theybecame impressed with aspects of “Sherpa culture”particularly when they found that their Sherpa guides regarded certainmountains as sacred and accordingly would not venture onto them.Subsequently, Næss formulated a position which extended thereverence the three Norwegians and the Sherpas felt for mountains toother natural things in general.

The “shallow ecology movement”, as Næss (1973) callsit, is the “fight against pollution and resourcedepletion”, the central objective of which is “the healthand affluence of people in the developed countries.” The“deep ecology movement”, in contrast, endorses“biospheric egalitarianism”, the view that all livingthings are alike in having value in their own right, independent oftheir usefulness to others. The deep ecologist respects this intrinsicvalue, taking care, for example, when walking on the mountainside notto cause unnecessary damage to the plants.

Inspired by Spinoza’s metaphysics, another key feature ofNæss’s deep ecology is the rejection of atomisticindividualism. The idea that a human being is such an individualpossessing a separate essence, Næss argues, radically separatesthe human self from the rest of the world. To make such a separationnot only leads to selfishness towards other people, but also induceshuman selfishness towards nature. As a counter to egoism at both theindividual and species level, Næss proposes an alternativerelational “total-field image” of the world.According to this relationalism, organisms (human or otherwise) arebest understood as “knots” in the biospherical net. Theidentity of a living thing is essentially constituted by its relationsto other things in the world, especially its ecological relations toother living things. If people conceptualise themselves and the worldin relational terms, the deep ecologists argue, then people will takebetter care of nature and the world in general.

As developed by Næss and others, the position also came to focuson the possibility of the identification of the human egowith nature. The idea is, briefly, that by identifying with nature Ican enlarge the boundaries of the self beyond my skin. Mylarger—ecological—Self (the capital “S”emphasizes that I am something larger than my body and consciousness),deserves respect as well. To respect and to care for my Self is alsoto respect and to care for the natural environment, which is actuallypart of me and with which I should identify. Næss quotes theexample of Saami people and their identification with the rivers onwhich they depend for sustenance. Recognition of such identificationhas underpinned the establishment in New Zealand of legal personhoodfor some rivers and other natural areas (Kramm 2020).“Self-realization” is thus the realization of a widerecological Self. Næss maintains that the deep satisfaction thatwe receive from identification with nature and close partnership withother forms of life in nature contributes significantly to our lifequality. (One historical antecedent to this kind of naturespiritualism is the romanticism of Jean-Jacques Rousseau as expressedin his last work, the Reveries of the Solitary Walker)

When Næss’s view crossed the Atlantic, it was sometimesmerged with ideas emerging from Leopold’s land ethic (see Devalland Sessions 1985; also see Sessions (ed) 1995). ButNæss—wary of the supposed totalitarian politicalimplications of Leopold’s position that individual interests andwell-being should be subordinated to the holistic good of theearth’s biotic community (see section 4 below)—took careto distance himself from advocating any sort of “landethic”. (See Anker 1999 for cautions on interpretingNæss’s relationalism as an endorsement of the kind ofholism displayed in the land ethic; cf. Grey 1993, Taylor andZimmerman 2005). Some critics have argued that Næss’s deepecology is no more than an extended social-democratic version ofutilitarianism, which counts human interests in the same calculationalongside the interests of all natural things (e.g., trees, wolves,bears, rivers, forests and mountains) in the natural environment (seeWitoszek 1997). However, Næss failed to explain in any detailhow to make sense of the idea that oysters or barnacles, termites orbacteria could have interests of any morally relevant sort at all.Without an account of this, Næss’s early “biosphericegalitarianism”—that all living things whatsoever had asimilar right to live and flourish—was an indeterminateprinciple in practical terms. It also remains unclear in what senserivers, mountains and forests can be regarded as possessors of anykind of interests. This is an issue on which Næss alwaysremained elusive.

Biospheric egalitarianism was modified in the 1980s to the weakerclaim that the flourishing of both human and non-human life has valuein itself, without any commitment to these values being equal. At thesame time, Næss declared that his own favoured ecologicalphilosophy—“Ecosophy T”, as he called it after hisTvergastein mountain cabin—was only one of several possiblefoundations for an environmental ethic. Deep ecology ceased to be aspecific doctrine, but instead became a “platform” ofeight simple points on which Næss hoped all deep green thinkerscould agree. The platform was conceived as establishing a middleground, between underlying orientations, whether indigenous,Christian, Buddhist, Daoist, process philosophy, or whatever, and thepractical principles for action in specific situations, principlesgenerated from the underlying philosophies. Thus the deep ecologicalmovement became explicitly pluralist both morally andepistemologically (see Brennan 1999; c.f. Light 1996, Akamani2020).

While Næss’s Ecosophy T sees human Self-realization as asolution to the environmental crises resulting from human selfishnessand exploitation of nature, some of the followers of the deep ecologyplatform in the United States and Australia further argue that theexpansion of the human self to include non-human nature is supportedby the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory, which is said tohave dissolved the boundaries between the observer and the observed(see Fox 1984, 1990, and Devall and Sessions 1985; cf. Callicott1985). These “relationalist” developments of deep ecologyare, however, criticized by some feminist theorists. The idea ofnature as part of oneself, they argue, could justify the continuedexploitation of nature instead. For one is presumably more entitled totreat oneself in whatever ways one likes than to treat anotherindependent agent in whatever ways one likes. According to thesefeminist critics, the deep ecological theory of the “expandedself” is in effect a disguised form of human colonialism, unableto give nature its due as a genuine “other” independent ofhuman interest and purposes (see Plumwood 1993, Ch. 7, 1999, andWarren 1999).

Meanwhile, other critics accuse deep ecology of being elitist in itsattempts to preserve wilderness experiences for only a select group ofeconomically and socio-politically well-off people. Ramachandra Guha(1989, 1999) for instance, depicts the activities of manywestern-based conservation groups as a new form of culturalimperialism, aimed at securing converts to conservationism (cf.Bookchin 1987 and Brennan 1998a). “Green missionaries”, asGuha calls them, represent a movement aimed at further dispossessingthe world’s poor and indigenous people. “Putting deepecology in its place,” he writes, “is to recognize thatthe trends it derides as “shallow” ecology might in factbe varieties of environmentalism that are more apposite, morerepresentative and more popular in the countries of the South.”Although Næss himself repudiates suggestions that deep ecologyis committed to any form of imperialism (see Witoszek and Brennan(eds.) 1999, Ch. 36–7 and 41), Guha’s criticism raisesimportant questions about the application of deep ecologicalprinciples in different social, economic and cultural contexts.Finally, in other critiques, deep ecology is portrayed as having aninconsistent utopian vision (see Anker and Witoszek 1998).

3.2 Feminism and the Environment

Broadly speaking, a feminist issue is any that contributes in some wayto understanding the oppression of women. Feminist theories attempt toanalyze women’s oppression, its causes and consequences, andsuggest strategies and directions for women’s liberation. By themid 1970s, feminist writers had raised the issue of whetherpatriarchal modes of thinking encouraged not only widespreadinferiorizing and colonizing of women, but also of people of colour,animals and nature. Sheila Collins (1974), for instance, argued thatmale-dominated culture or patriarchy is supported by four interlockingpillars: sexism, racism, class exploitation, and ecologicaldestruction.

Emphasizing the importance of feminism to the environmental movementand various other liberation movements, some writers, such as YnestraKing (1989a and 1989b), argue that the domination of women by men ishistorically the original form of domination in human society, fromwhich all other hierarchies—of rank, class, and politicalpower—flow. For instance, human exploitation of nature may beseen as a manifestation and extension of the oppression of women, inthat it is the result of associating nature with the female, which hadbeen already inferiorized and oppressed by the male-dominatingculture. But within the plurality of feminist positions, otherwriters, such as Val Plumwood (1993), understand the oppression ofwomen as only one of the many parallel forms of oppression sharing andsupported by a common ideological structure, in which one party (thecolonizer, whether male, white or human) uses a number of conceptualand rhetorical devices to privilege its interests over that of theother party (the colonized: whether female, people of colour, oranimals). Facilitated by a common structure, seemingly diverse formsof oppression can mutually reinforce each other (Warren 1987, 1990,1994, Cheney 1989, and Plumwood 1993).

Not all feminist theorists would call that common underlyingoppressive structure “androcentric” or“patriarchal”. But it is generally agreed that corefeatures of the structure include dichotomies, hierarchical thinking,and a “logic of domination”, which are typical of, if notessential to, male-chauvinism. These patterns of thinking andconceptualizing the world, many feminist theorists argue, also nourishand sustain other forms of chauvinism including human-chauvinism(i.e., anthropocentrism), which is responsible for much humanexploitation of, and destructiveness towards, nature. Writers commenton dichotomous forms of thinking which depict the world in polaropposite terms, such as male/female, masculinity/femininity,reason/emotion, freedom/necessity, active/passive, mind/body,pure/soiled, white/coloured, civilized/primitive,transcendent/immanent, human/animal, culture/nature. When thesedichotomies involve hierarchy and domination they are often labelled"dualisms". Under the influence of such dualisms all the first itemsin these contrasting pairs are assimilated with each other, and allthe second items are likewise linked with each other. For example, themale is seen to be associated with the rational, active, creative,Cartesian human mind, and civilized, orderly, transcendent culture;whereas the female is regarded as tied to the emotional, passive,determined animal body, and primitive, disorderly, immanent nature.These interlocking dualisms are not just descriptive dichotomies,according to the feminists, but involve a prescriptive privileging ofone side of the opposed items over the other. Dualism conferssuperiority to everything on the male side, but inferiority toeverything on the female side. The “logic of domination”then dictates that those on the superior side (e.g., men, rationalbeings, humans) are morally entitled to dominate and utilize those onthe inferior side (e.g., women, beings lacking in rationality,non-humans) as mere means.

The problem with dualistic modes of thinking, however, is not justthat they are epistemically unreliable. It is not just that thedominating party often falsely sees the dominated party as lacking (orpossessing) the allegedly superior (or inferior) qualities, or thatthe dominated party often internalizes false stereotypes of itselfgiven by its oppressors, or that stereotypical thinking oftenoverlooks salient and important differences among individuals. Moreimportant, according to feminist analyses, the very premise ofprescriptive dualism—the valuing of attributes of one polarizedside and the devaluing of those of the other, the idea that dominationand oppression can be justified by appealing to attributes likemasculinity, rationality, being civilized or developed, etc.—isitself problematic.

Feminism represents a radical challenge for environmental thinking,politics, and traditional social ethical perspectives. It promises tolink environmental questions with wider social problems concerningvarious kinds of discrimination and exploitation, and fundamentalinvestigations of human psychology. However, whether there areconceptual, causal or merely contingent connections among thedifferent forms of oppression and liberation remains a contested issue(see Green 1994). The term “ecofeminism” (first coined byFrançoise d’Eaubonne in 1974) or “ecologicalfeminism” was for a time generally applied to any view thatcombines environmental advocacy with feminist analysis. However,because of the varieties of, and disagreements among, feministtheories, the label may be too wide to be informative (see the entryon feminist environmental philosophy).

(Video) What is Environmental Ethics? Philosophy of Ethics

3.3 Disenchantment and the New Animism

An often overlooked source of ecological ideas is the work of theneo-Marxist Frankfurt School of critical theory founded by MaxHorkheimer and Theodore Adorno (Horkheimer and Adorno 1969). Whileclassical Marxists regard nature as a resource to be transformed byhuman labour and utilized for human purposes, Horkheimer and Adornosaw Marx himself as representative of the problem of “humanalienation”. At the root of this alienation, they argue, is anarrow positivist conception of rationality—which seesrationality as an instrument for pursuing progress, power andtechnological control, and takes observation, measurement and theapplication of purely quantitative methods to be capable of solvingall problems. Such a positivistic view of science combines determinismwith optimism. Natural processes as well as human activities are seento be predictable and manipulable. Nature (and, likewise, humannature) is no longer mysterious, uncontrollable, or fearsome. Instead,it is reduced to an object strictly governed by natural laws, whichtherefore can be studied, known, and employed to our benefit. Bypromising limitless knowledge and power, the positivism of science andtechnology not only removes our fear of nature, the critical theoristsargue, but also destroys our sense of awe and wonder towards it. Thatis to say, positivism “disenchants” nature—alongwith everything that can be studied by the sciences, whether natural,social or human.

The progress in knowledge and material well-being may not be a badthing in itself, where the consumption and control of nature is anecessary part of human life. However, the critical theorists arguethat the positivistic disenchantment of natural things (and, likewise,of human beings—because they too can be studied and manipulatedby science) disrupts our relationship with them, encouraging theundesirable attitude that they are nothing more than things to beprobed, consumed and dominated. According to the critical theorists,the oppression of “outer nature” (i.e., the naturalenvironment) through science and technology is bought at a very highprice: the project of domination requires the suppression of our own“inner nature” (i.e., human nature)—e.g., humancreativity, autonomy, and the manifold needs, vulnerabilities andlongings at the centre of human life. To remedy such an alienation,the project of Horkheimer and Adorno is to replace the narrowpositivistic and instrumentalist model of rationality with a morehumanistic one, in which the values of the aesthetic, moral, sensuousand expressive aspects of human life play a central part. Thus, theiraim is not to give up our rational faculties or powers of analysis andlogic. Rather, the ambition is to arrive at a dialectical synthesisbetween Romanticism and Enlightenment, to return to anti-deterministicvalues of freedom, spontaneity and creativity.

In his later work, Adorno advocates a re-enchanting aesthetic attitudeof “sensuous immediacy” towards nature. Not only do westop seeing nature as primarily, or simply, an object of consumption,we are also able to be directly and spontaneously acquainted withnature without interventions from our rational faculties. According toAdorno, works of art, like natural things, always involve an“excess”, something more than their mere materiality andexchange value (see Vogel 1996, ch. 4.4 for a detailed discussion ofAdorno’s views on art, labour and domination). There-enchantment of the world through aesthetic experience, he argues,is also at the same time a re-enchantment of human lives and purposes.Adorno’s work remains largely unexplored in mainstreamenvironmental philosophy, although the idea of applying criticaltheory (embracing techniques of deconstruction, psychoanalysis andradical social criticism) to both environmental issues and thewritings of various ethical and political theorists has spawned thefield of “écocritique” or“ecocriticism” (Vogel 1996, Luke 1997, van Wyk 1997,Dryzek 1997, Garrard 2014).

Some students of Adorno’s work have argued that his account ofthe role of “sensuous immediacy” can be understood as anattempt to defend a “legitimate anthropomorphism” thatcomes close to a weak form of animism (Bernstein 2001, 196). Others,more radical, have claimed to take inspiration from his notion of“non-identity”, which, they argue, can be used as thebasis for a deconstruction of the notion of nature and perhaps evenits elimination from ecocritical writing. For example, Timothy Mortonargues that “putting something called Nature on a pedestal andadmiring it from afar does for the environment what patriarchy doesfor the figure of Woman. It is a paradoxical act of sadisticadmiration” (Morton 2007, 5), and that “in the name of allthat we value in the idea of ‘nature’, [ecocritique]thoroughly examines how nature is set up as a transcendental, unified,independent category. Ecocritique does not think that it isparadoxical to say, in the name of ecology itself: ‘down withnature!’” (ibid., 13). In this vein, some thinkers haveinsisted that environmental ethics makes a mistake in drawing asignificant distinction between the natural and the artificial (Vogel2015). Such an idea, however, has drawn fierce criticism from someMarxist theorists who argue that the “end of nature”thesis is deeply confused (for example Malm 2018). It remains to beseen, however, whether the radical attempt to purge the concept ofnature from ecocritical work meets with success. Likewise, it isunclear whether the dialectic project on which Horkheimer and Adornoembarked is coherent, and whether Adorno, in particular, has aconsistent understanding of “nature” and“rationality” (see Eckersley 1992 and Vogel 1996, for areview of the Frankfurt School’s thinking about nature, and onrationality see also the entry on critical theory).

On the other hand, the new animists have been much inspiredby the serious way in which some indigenous peoples placate andinteract with animals, plants and inanimate things through ritual,ceremony and other practices (for examples see Kimmerer 2020).According to the new animists, the replacement of traditional animism(the view that personalized souls are found in animals, plants, andother material objects) by a form of disenchanting positivism directlyleads to an anthropocentric perspective, which is accountable for muchhuman destructiveness towards nature. In a disenchanted world, thereis no meaningful order of things or events outside the human domain,and there is no source of sacredness or dread of the sort felt bythose who regard the natural world as peopled by divinities or demons(Stone 2006). When a forest is no longer sacred, there are no spiritsto be placated and no mysterious risks associated with clear-fellingit. A disenchanted nature is no longer alive. It commands no respect,reverence or love. It is nothing but a giant machine, to be masteredto serve human purposes. The new animists argue for reconceptualizingthe boundary between persons and non-persons. For them, “livingnature” comprises not only humans, animals and plants, but alsomountains, forests, rivers, deserts, and even planets.

Whether the notion that a mountain or a tree is to be regarded as aperson is taken literally or not, the attempt to engage with thesurrounding world as if it consists of other persons might possiblyprovide the basis for a respectful attitude to nature (see Harvey 2005for a popular account of the new animism). If disenchantment is asource of environmental problems and destruction, then the new animismcan be regarded as attempting to re-enchant, and help to save, nature.More poetically, David Abram has argued that a phenomenologicalapproach of the kind taken by Merleau-Ponty can reveal to us that weare part of the “common flesh” of the world, that we arein a sense the world thinking itself (Abram 1995).

In her work, Freya Mathews has tried to articulate a version ofanimism or panpsychism that captures ways in which the world (not justnature) contains many kinds of consciousness and sentience. For her,there is an underlying unity of mind and matter in that the world is a“self-realizing” system containing a multiplicity of othersuch systems (cf. Næss). According to Mathews, we are meshed incommunication, and potential communication, with the “One”(the greater cosmic self) and its many lesser selves (Mathews 2003,45–60). Materialism (the monistic theory that the world consistspurely of matter), she argues, is self-defeating by encouraging a formof “collective solipsism” that treats the world either asunknowable or as a social-construction (Mathews 2005, 12). Mathewsalso takes inspiration from her interpretation of the core Daoist ideaof wuwei as “letting be” and bringing aboutchange through “effortless action”. The focus inenvironmental management, development and commerce should be on“synergy” with what is already in place rather than ondemolition, replacement and disruption. Instead of bulldozing away oldsuburbs and derelict factories, the synergistic panpsychist sees theseartefacts as themselves part of the living cosmos, hence part of whatis to be respected. Likewise, instead of trying to eliminate feral orexotic plants and animals, and restore environments to some imaginedpristine state, ways should be found—wherever possible—topromote synergies between the newcomers and the older nativepopulations in ways that maintain ecological flows and promote thefurther unfolding and developing of ecological processes (Mathews2004). Panpsychism, Mathews argues, frees us from the“ideological grid of capitalism”, can reduce our desirefor consumer novelties, and can allow us and the world to grow oldtogether with grace and dignity. Again, some of Mathews work echoesindigenous understandings of an enlarged subjectivity. As Deborah Roseputs it: “subjectivity in the form of sentience and agency isnot solely a human prerogative but is located throughout other speciesand perhaps throughout country itself” (Rose 2005, 302).

In summary, if disenchantment is a source of environmentallydestructive or uncaring attitudes, then both the aesthetic and theanimist/panpsychist re-enchantment of the world are intended to offeran antidote to such attitudes, and perhaps also inspirations for newforms of managing and designing for sustainability. The generalproject of re-enchanting the world has surprising resonances with theviews of others who draw more explicitly on scientific understandingsof life on earth. Earth systems science, for example, draws on theGaia hypothesis proposed by James Lovelock (Lovelock 1972,1979) suggesting that living things acting together regulatesignificant aspects of the global environment (Lovelock and Margulis1974). Later writers describe the Gaia hypothesis as conjecturing thatsomething overlooked by previous scientific thinking was of vitalimportance to understanding the one thing that supports all life onearth, namely a great stabilizing feedback system which regulatesitself in a way that maintains the habitability of the planet (Lentonet al. 2020). This feedback system is itself under threatfrom a changing climate, human overpopulation and reductions inbiodiversity (see further section 6 below and also Latour 2017). Inplace of a vision of a grand cosmic self, champions of Gaia theoryargue for recognizing the value of Life itself, where the capital "L"draws attention to the great feedback system—a single entitycomprising all the living things descended from the last universalcommon ancestor (Mariscal and Dolittle 2008).

3.4 Social Ecology and Bioregionalism

Apart from feminist-environmentalist theories and Næss’sdeep ecology, Murray Bookchin’s “social ecology” hasalso claimed to be radical, subversive, or countercultural (seeBookchin 1980, 1987, 1990). Bookchin’s version of criticaltheory takes the “outer” physical world as constitutingwhat he calls “first nature”, from which culture or“second nature” has evolved. Environmentalism, in hisview, is a social movement, and the problems it confronts are socialproblems. While Bookchin is prepared, like Horkheimer and Adorno, toregard (first) nature as an aesthetic and sensuous marvel, he regardsour intervention in it as necessary. He suggests that we can choose toput ourselves at the service of natural evolution, to help maintaincomplexity and diversity, diminish suffering and reduce pollution.Bookchin’s social ecology recommends that we use our gifts ofsociability, communication and intelligence as if we were“nature rendered conscious”, instead of turning themagainst the very source and origin from which such gifts derive.Exploitation of nature should be replaced by a richer form of lifedevoted to nature’s preservation.

John Clark has argued that social ecology is heir to a historical,communitarian tradition of thought that includes not only theanarchist Peter Kropotkin, but also the nineteenth century socialistgeographer Elisée Reclus, the eccentric Scottish thinkerPatrick Geddes and the latter’s disciple, Lewis Mumford (Clark1998). Ramachandra Guha has described Mumford as “the pioneerAmerican social ecologist” (Guha 1996, 210). Mumford adopted aregionalist perspective, arguing that strong regional centres ofculture are the basis of “active and securely grounded locallife” (Mumford 1944, 403). Like the pessimists in criticaltheory, Mumford was worried about the emergence under industrialisedcapitalism of a “megamachine”, one that would oppress anddominate human creativity and freedom, and one that—despitebeing a human product—operates in a way that is out of ourcontrol. While Bookchin is more of a technological optimist thanMumford, both writers have inspired a regional turn in environmentalthinking. Bioregionalism gives regionalism an environmental twist.This is the view that natural features should provide the definingconditions for places of community, and that secure and satisfyinglocal lives are led by those who know a place, have learned its loreand who adapt their lifestyle to its affordances by developing itspotential within ecological limits. Such a life, the bioregionalistsargue, will enable people to enjoy the fruits of self-liberation andself-development (see the essays in List 1993, and the book-lengthtreatment in Thayer 2003, for an introduction to bioregionalthought).

However, critics have asked why natural features should be significantin defining the places in which communities are to be built, and havepuzzled over exactly which natural features these shouldbe—geological, ecological, climatic, hydrological, and so on(see Brennan 1998b). If relatively small, bioregional communities areto be home to flourishing human societies, then a question also arisesover the nature of the laws and punishments that will prevail in them,and also of their integration into larger regional and global legal,political and economic groupings. For anarchists and other critics ofthe predominant social order, a return to self-governing andself-sufficient regional communities is often depicted as liberatingand refreshing. But for the skeptics, the worry remains that thebioregional vision is politically over-optimistic and is open to theestablishment of illiberal, stifling and undemocratic communities.Further, given its emphasis on local self-sufficiency and the virtueof life in small communities, a question arises over whetherbioregionalism is workable in an overcrowded planet. Later bioregionalproposals have identified ways of connecting with nature by showingstewardship for green infrastructure within cities (Andersson et al.2014).

Deep ecology, feminism, and social ecology had a considerable impacton the development of political positions in regard to theenvironment. Feminist analyses have often been welcomed for thepsychological insight they bring to several social, moral andpolitical problems. There is, however, considerable unease about theimplications of critical theory, social ecology and some varieties ofdeep ecology and animism. Some writers have argued, for example, thatcritical theory is bound to be ethically anthropocentric, with natureas no more than a “social construction” whose valueultimately depends on human determinations (see Vogel 1996). Othershave argued that the demands of “deep” green theorists andactivists cannot be accommodated within contemporary theories ofliberal politics and social justice (see Ferry 1998). A furthersuggestion is that there is a need to reassess traditional theoriessuch as virtue ethics, which has its origins in ancient Greekphilosophy (see the following section) within the context of a form ofstewardship similar to that earlier endorsed by Passmore (see Barry1999). If this last claim is correct, then the radical activist neednot, after all, look for philosophical support in radical, orcountercultural, theories of the sort deep ecology, feminism,bioregionalism and social ecology claim to be (but see Zimmerman1994).

4. Traditional Ethical Theories and Contemporary Environment Ethics

Although environmental ethicists often try to distance themselves fromthe anthropocentrism embedded in traditional ethical views (Passmore1974, Norton 1991 are exceptions), they also quite often draw theirtheoretical resources from traditional ethical systems and theories.Consider the following two basic moral questions: (1) What kinds ofthing are intrinsically valuable, good or bad? (2) What makes anaction right or wrong?

Consequentialist ethical theories consider intrinsic“value” / “disvalue” or “goodness”/ “badness” to be more fundamental moral notions than“rightness” / “wrongness”, and maintain thatwhether an action is right/wrong is determined by whether itsconsequences are good/bad. From this perspective, answers to question(2) are informed by answers to question (1). For instance,utilitarianism, a paradigm case of consequentialism, regards pleasure(or, more broadly construed, the satisfaction of interest, desire,and/or preference) as the only intrinsic value in the world, whereaspain (or the frustration of desire, interest, and/or preference) isthe only intrinsic disvalue, and maintains that right actions arethose that would produce the greatest balance of pleasure over pain(see the entry on consequentialism).

As the utilitarian focus is the balance of pleasure and pain as such,the question of to whom a pleasure or pain belongs is irrelevant tothe calculation and assessment of the rightness or wrongness ofactions. Hence, the eighteenth century utilitarian Jeremy Bentham(1789), and later Peter Singer (1993), have argued that the interestsof all the sentient beings (i.e., beings who are capable ofexperiencing pleasure or pain)—including non-humanones—affected by an action should be taken equally intoconsideration in assessing the action. Furthermore, rather likeRoutley (see section 2 above), Singer argues that the anthropocentricprivileging of members of the species Homo sapiens is arbitrary, andthat it is a kind of “speciesism” as unjustifiable assexism and racism. Singer regards the animal liberation movement ascomparable to the liberation movements of women and people of colour.Unlike the environmental philosophers who attribute intrinsic value tothe natural environment and its inhabitants, Singer and utilitariansin general attribute intrinsic value to the experience of pleasure orinterest satisfaction as such, not to the beings who have theexperience. Similarly, for the utilitarian, non-sentient objects inthe environment such as plant species, rivers, mountains, andlandscapes, all of which are the objects of moral concern forenvironmentalists, are of no intrinsic but at most instrumental valueto the satisfaction of sentient beings (see Singer 1993, Ch. 10).Furthermore, because right actions, for the utilitarian, are thosethat maximize the overall balance of interest satisfaction overfrustration, practices such as whale-hunting and the killing of anelephant for ivory, which cause suffering to non-human animals, mightturn out to be right after all: such practices might produceconsiderable amounts of interest-satisfaction for human beings, which,on the utilitarian calculation, outweigh the non-humaninterest-frustration involved. As the result of all the aboveconsiderations, it is unclear to what extent a utilitarian ethic canalso be an environmental ethic. This point may not so readily apply toa wider consequentialist approach, which attributes intrinsic valuenot only to pleasure or satisfaction, but also to various objects andprocesses in the natural environment.

Deontological ethical theories, in contrast, maintain thatwhether an action is right or wrong is for the most part independentof whether its consequences are good or bad (see the entry on deontological ethics). From the deontologist perspective, there are several distinct moralrules or duties (e.g., “not to kill or otherwise harm theinnocent”, “not to lie”, “to respect therights of others”, “to keep promises”), theobservance/violation of which is intrinsically right/wrong; i.e.,right/wrong in itself regardless of consequences. When asked tojustify an alleged moral rule, duty or its corresponding right,deontologists may appeal to the intrinsic value of those beings towhom it applies. For instance, “animal rights” advocateTom Regan (1983) argues that those animals with intrinsic value (orwhat he calls “inherent value”) have the moral right torespectful treatment, which then generates a general moral duty on ourpart not to treat them as mere means to other ends. We have, inparticular, a prima facie moral duty not to harm them. Regan maintainsthat certain practices (such as sport or commercial hunting, andexperimentation on animals) violate the moral right of intrinsicallyvaluable animals to respectful treatment. Such practices, he argues,are intrinsically wrong regardless of whether or not some betterconsequences ever flow from them. Exactly which animals have intrinsicvalue and therefore the moral right to respectful treatment?Regan’s answer is: those that meet the criterion of being the“subject-of-a-life”. To be such a subject is a sufficient(though not necessary) condition for having intrinsic value, and to bea subject-of-a-life involves, among other things, havingsense-perceptions, beliefs, desires, motives, memory, a sense of thefuture, and a psychological identity over time.

(Video) Environmental Ethics

Some authors have extended concern for individual well-being further,arguing for the intrinsic value of organisms achieving their own good,whether those organisms are capable of consciousness or not. PaulTaylor’s version of this view (1981 and 1986), which we mightcall biocentrism, is a somewhat deontological example. Heargues that each individual living thing in nature—whether it isan animal, a plant, or a micro-organism—is a“teleological-center-of-life” having a good or well-beingof its own which can be enhanced or damaged, and that all individualswho are teleological-centers-of life have equal intrinsic value (orwhat he calls “inherent worth”) which entitles them tomoral respect. Furthermore, Taylor maintains that the intrinsic valueof wild living things generates a prima facie moral duty on our partto preserve or promote their goods as ends in themselves, and that anypractices which treat those beings as mere means and thus display alack of respect for them are intrinsically wrong. For a summary andoverview of Taylor’s biocentric ethic, see Brennan and Lo 2010,69—86. A biologically detailed defence of the idea that livingthings have representations and goals and hence have moral worth isfound in Agar 2001. Unlike Taylor’s egalitarian anddeontological biocentrism, Robin Attfield (1987) argues for ahierarchical view that while all beings having a good of their ownhave intrinsic value, some of them (e.g., persons) have intrinsicvalue to a greater extent. Attfield also endorses a form ofconsequentialism which takes into consideration, and attempts tobalance, the many and possibly conflicting goods of different livingthings (see also Varner 1998 for a defense of biocentric individualismwith affinities to both consequentialist and deontologicalapproaches). However, some critics have pointed out that the notion ofbiological good or well-being is only descriptive not prescriptive(see Williams 1992 and O’Neill 1993, Ch. 2). For instance, evenif HIV has a good of its own this does not mean that we ought toassign any positive moral weight to the realization of that good.

Subsequently the distinction between these two traditional approacheshas taken its own specific form of development in environmentalphilosophy. Instead of pitting conceptions of value againstconceptions of rights, it has been suggested that there may be twodifferent conceptions of intrinsic value in play in discussion aboutenvironmental good and evil. One the one side, there is the intrinsicvalue of states of affairs that are to be promoted—and this isthe focus of the consequentialist thinkers. On the other(deontological) hand there is the intrinsic values of entities to berespected (see Bradley 2006, McShane 2014). These two different focifor the notion of intrinsic value still provide room for fundamentalargument between deontologists and consequentialist to continue,albeit in a somewhat modified form.

Note that the ethics of animal liberation or animal rights andbiocentrism are both individualistic in that their variousmoral concerns are directed towards individuals only—notecological wholes such as species, populations, biotic communities,and ecosystems. None of these is sentient, a subject-of-a-life, or ateleological-center-of-life, but the preservation of these collectiveentities is a major concern for many environmentalists. Moreover, thegoals of animal liberationists, such as the reduction of animalsuffering and death, may conflict with the goals of environmentalists.For example, the preservation of the integrity of an ecosystem mayrequire the culling of feral animals or of some indigenous animalpopulations that threaten to destroy fragile habitats. So there aredisputes about whether the ethics of animal liberation is a properbranch of environmental ethics (see Callicott 1980, 1988, Sagoff 1984,Jamieson 1998, Crisp 1998 and Varner 2000).

Criticizing the individualistic approach in general for failing toaccommodate conservation concerns for ecological wholes, J. BairdCallicott (1980) once advocated a version of land-ethicalholism which takes Leopold’s statement “A thingis right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, andbeauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tendsotherwise” to be the supreme deontological principle. In thistheory, the earth’s biotic community per se is the solelocus of intrinsic value, whereas the value of its individual membersis merely instrumental and dependent on their contribution to the“integrity, stability, and beauty” of the largercommunity. A straightforward implication of this version of the landethic is that an individual member of the biotic community ought to besacrificed whenever that is needed for the protection of the holisticgood of the community. For instance, Callicott maintains that ifculling a white-tailed deer is necessary for the protection of theholistic biotic good, then it is a land-ethical requirement to do so.But, to be consistent, the same point also applies to humanindividuals because they are also members of the biotic community. Notsurprisingly, the misanthropy implied by Callicott’sland-ethical holism was widely criticized and regarded as areductio of the position (see Aiken (1984), Kheel (1985),Ferré (1996), and Shrader-Frechette (1996)). Tom Regan (1983,p.362), in particular, condemned the holistic land ethic’sdisregard of the rights of the individual as “environmentalfascism”. Since then commentators have noted the links betweenfascism and conservation thinking (Biehl and Staudenmaier 2011). Thesubsequent emergence of explicitly ecofascist on-line movements andterrorist acts that claim to be ecologically-inspired (Lawton 2019)lead one writer to declare that there is a danger the world will enteran age of “climate barbarism”(Klein 2019).

Under pressure from the charge of ecofascism and misanthropy,Callicott (1989 Ch. 5, and 1999, Ch. 4) later revises hisneo-Leopodian position to maintain that the biotic community (indeed,any community to which humans belong) as well as its individualmembers (indeed, any individual who shares with us membership in somecommon community) all have intrinsic value. To further distancehimself from the charge of ecofascism, Callicott introduced explicitprinciples which prioritize obligations to human communities overthose to natural ones. He called these “second-order”principles for specifying the conditions under which the landethic’s holistic and individualistic obligations were to beranked. As he put it:

... obligations generated by membership in more venerable andintimate communities take precedence over these generated in morerecently-emerged and impersonal communities... The second second-orderprinciple is that stronger interests (for lack of a betterword) generate duties that take precedence over duties generated byweaker interests. (Callicott 1999, 76)

Lo 2001 provides an overview and critique of Callicott’schanging position over two decades, while Ouderkirk and Hill (eds.)2002 gives an overview of debates between Callicott and othersconcerning the metaethical and metaphysical foundations for the landethic and also its historical antecedents. As Lo points out, the finalmodified version of the land ethic needs more than two second-orderprinciples, since a third-order principle is needed to specifyCallicott’s implicit view that the second second-order principlegenerally countermands the first one when they come into conflict (Lo2001, 345). In later work, Callicott follows Lo’s suggestion,while cautioning against aiming for too much precision in specifyingthe demands of the land ethic (Callicott 2013, 66–7). WhileCallicott’s reading of Leopold is widely regarded as authoritative,later writers have queried whether Leopold might be better interpreteda a moral pluralist (Dixon 2017) and have also raised doubts about theform of Darwinism that Leopold is supposed to have espoused (Millstein2015). For further critique of Callicott on Leopold, see also Newman,Varner and Linquist 2017, ch.10.

The controversy surrounding Callicott’s original position,however, has inspired efforts in environmental ethics to investigatepossibilities of attributing intrinsic value to ecological wholes, notjust their individual constituent parts. Following inCallicott’s footsteps, and inspired by Næss’srelational account of value, Warwick Fox has championed a theory of“responsive cohesion” which aims to give supreme moralpriority to the maintenance of ecosystems and the biophysical world(Fox 2007). It remains to be seen if this position escapes the chargesof misanthropy and totalitarianism laid against earlier holistic andrelational theories of value.

Individual natural entities (whether sentient or not, living or not),Andrew Brennan (1984, 2014) argues, are not designed by anyone tofulfill any purpose and therefore lack “intrinsicfunction” (i.e., the function of a thing that constitutes partof its essence or identity conditions). This, he proposes, is a reasonfor thinking that individual natural entities should not be treated asmere instruments, and thus a reason for assigning them intrinsicvalue. Furthermore, he argues that the same moral point applies to thecase of natural ecosystems, to the extent that they lack intrinsicfunction. In the light of Brennan’s proposal, Eric Katz (1991and 1997) argues that all natural entities, whether individuals orwholes, have intrinsic value in virtue of their ontologicalindependence from human purpose, activity, and interest, and maintainsthe deontological principle that nature as a whole is an“autonomous subject” which deserves moral respect and mustnot be treated as a mere means to human ends. Carrying the project ofattributing intrinsic value to nature to its ultimate form, RobertElliot (1997) argues that naturalness itself is a property in virtueof possessing which all natural things, events, and states of affairs,attain intrinsic value. Furthermore, Elliot argues that even aconsequentialist, who in principle allows the possibility of tradingoff intrinsic value from naturalness for intrinsic value from othersources, could no longer justify such kind of trade-off in reality.This is because the reduction of intrinsic value due to the depletionof naturalness on earth, according to him, has reached such a levelthat any further reduction of it could not be compensated by anyamount of intrinsic value generated in other ways, no matter how greatit is.

As the notion of “natural” is understood in terms of thelack of human contrivance and is often opposed to the notion of“artifactual”, one much contested issue concerns the valueof those parts of nature that have been touched by humanartifice—for instance, previously degraded natural environmentswhich have been humanly restored. Based on the premise that theproperties of being naturally evolved and having a natural continuitywith the remote past are “value adding” (i.e., addingintrinsic value to those things which possess those two properties),Elliot argues that even a perfectly restored environment wouldnecessarily lack those two value-adding properties and therefore beless valuable than the originally undegraded natural environment.Katz, on the other hand, argues that a restored nature is really justan artifact designed and created for the satisfaction of human ends,and that the value of restored environments is instrumental. Hefurther argues that restoration is a form of the “domination ofreality” and controversially compares such domination to Nazipolicies of xenophobia, nativism and eliminationsm (Katz 2021).Critics have pointed out that advocates of a moral dichotomy betweenthe natural and the artifactual run the risk of diminishing the valueof human life and culture, and fail to recognize that the naturalenvironments interfered with by humans may still have morallyimportant qualities other than pure naturalness (see Lo 1999, andKatz’s response in Katz 2012).

Two other issues central to this debate are that the key concept“natural” seems ambiguous in many different ways (see Hume1751, App. 3; Mill 1874; Brennan [1988] 2014; Ch. 6; Elliot 1997, Ch.4), and that those who argue that human interference reduces theintrinsic value of nature seem to have simply assumed the crucialpremise that naturalness is a source of intrinsic value. Some thinkersmaintain that the natural, or the “wild” construed as thatwhich “is not humanized” (Hettinger and Throop 1999, p.12) or to some degree “not under human control” (ibid., p.13) is intrinsically valuable. Yet, as Bernard Williams points out(Williams 1992), we may, paradoxically, need to use our technologicalpowers to retain a sense of something not being in our power. Theretention of wild areas may thus involve planetary and ecologicalmanagement to maintain, or even “imprison” such areas(Birch 1990), raising a question over the extent to which nationalparks and wilderness areas are free from our control. An anlogy withgardening has sometimes been used to explore the nature of restoration(Allison 2004).

Given the significance of the concept of naturalness in these debates,it is perhaps surprising that there has been relatively littleanalysis of that concept itself in environmental thought. In hispioneering work on the ethics of the environment, Holmes Rolston hasworked with a number of different conceptions of the natural (seeBrennan and Lo 2010, pp.116–23, for an analysis of three sensesof the term “natural” that may be found in Rolston’swork). An explicit attempt to provide a conceptual analysis of adifferent sort is found in Siipi 2008, while an account of naturalnesslinking this to historical narratives of place is given inO’Neill, Holland and Light 2008, ch. 8 (compare the response tothis in Siipi 2011). For reflections on how to protect “onenature with several representations” from the perspective ofscience policy see Ducarme and Couvet 2020.

Finally, as an alternative to consequentialism and deontology both ofwhich consider “thin” concepts such as“goodness” and “rightness” as essential tomorality, virtue ethics proposes to understandmorality—and assess the ethical quality of actions—interms of “thick” concepts such as “kindness”,“honesty”, “sincerity” and“justice”. These, and other excellent traits of characterare virtues (see the entry on virtue ethics). As virtue ethics speaks quite a different language from the other twokinds of ethical theory, its theoretical focus is not so much on whatkinds of things are good/bad, or what makes an action right/wrong.Indeed, the richness of the language of virtues, and the emphasis onmoral character, is sometimes cited as a reason for exploring avirtues-based approach to the complex and always-changing questions ofsustainability and environmental care (Hill 1983, Wensveen 2000,Sandler 2007). One question central to virtue ethics is what the moralreasons are for acting one way or another. For instance, from theperspective of virtue ethics, kindness and loyalty would be moralreasons for helping a friend in hardship. These are quite differentfrom the deontologist’s reason (that the action is demanded by amoral rule) or the consequentialist reason (that the action will leadto a better over-all balance of good over evil in the world). From theperspective of virtue ethics, the motivation and justification ofactions are both inseparable from the character traits of the actingagent. Furthermore, unlike deontology or consequentialism the moralfocus of which is other people or states of the world, one centralissue for virtue ethics is how to live a flourishing human life, thisbeing a central concern of the moral agent himself or herself.“Living virtuously” is Aristotle’s recipe forflourishing. Versions of virtue ethics advocating virtues such as“benevolence”, “piety”,“filiality”, and “courage”, have also beenheld by thinkers in the Chinese Confucian tradition. The connectionbetween morality and psychology is another core subject ofinvestigation for virtue ethics. It is sometimes suggested that humanvirtues, which constitute an important aspect of a flourishing humanlife, must be compatible with human needs and desires, and perhapsalso sensitive to individual affection and temperaments. As itscentral focus is human flourishing as such, virtue ethics may seemunavoidably anthropocentric and unable to support a genuine moralconcern for the non-human environment. But just as Aristotle hasargued that a flourishing human life requires friendships and one canhave genuine friendships only if one genuinely values, loves,respects, and cares for one’s friends for their own sake, notmerely for the benefits that they may bring to oneself, some haveargued that a flourishing human life requires the moral capacities tovalue, love, respect, and care for the non-human natural world as anend in itself (see O’Neill 1992, O’Neill 1993, Barry1999). Not only Aristotle, but also Kant can be used in support ofsuch a position. Toby Svoboda argues, for example, that even indirectduties to protect nature can be the basis of good moral reasons topromote the flourishing of natural things, regardless of whether doingso promotes human interests (Svoboda 2019). Other virtue ethicistsclaim to be able to provie an account of what it is to feel guiltabout damage people have done to the environment and to make sense ofthe idea of a genuine feeling of gratitude toward nature “forbeing what it is” (Wood 2019).

Supplementary Document:
Biodiversity Preservation

5. Wilderness, the Built Environment, Poverty and Politics

Despite the variety of positions in environmental ethics developedover the last thirty years, they have often focused on issuesconcerned with wilderness and the reasons for its preservation (seeCallicott and Nelson 1998 for a collection of essays on the ideas andmoral significance of wilderness). The importance of wildernessexperience to the human psyche has been emphasized by manyenvironmental philosophers. Næss, for instance, urges us toensure we spend time dwelling in situations of intrinsic value,whereas Rolston seeks “re-creation” of the human soul bymeditating in the wilderness. Likewise, the critical theorists believethat aesthetic appreciation of nature has the power to re-enchanthuman life. As wilderness becomes increasingly rare, people’sexposure to wild things in their natural state has become reduced, andaccording to some authors this may reduce the chance of our lives andother values being transformed as a result of interactions withnature. An argument by Bryan Norton draws attention to an analogy withmusic. Someone exposed for the first time to a new musical genre mayundergo a transformation in musical preferences, tastes and values asa result of the experience (Norton 1987. Such a transformation canaffect their other preferences and desires too, in both direct andindirect ways (see Sarkar 2005, ch. 4, esp. pp. 82–7). In theattempt to preserve opportunities for experiences that can change orenhance people’s valuations of nature, there has been a movesince the early 2000s to find ways of rewilding degraded environments,and even parts of cities (Fraser 2009, Monbiot 2013). Note that suchrewilding is distinct from more traditional forms of restoration,since it need not be pursued with the intention of re-creating someoriginal landscape or biological system (duToit and Pettorelli 2019).A spectacular form of rewilding may be associated with efforts toresurrect some long-dead species by using genetic technology tocombine the DNA of an extinct species with the DNA of someclosely-related contemporary species. For a review of some of theissues about de-extinction see Minteer 2015, and also Siipi andFinkelman 2017. Cautions about thinking of de-extinction as radicallydifferent from more conventional conservation and restorationpractices are expressed in Novak 2018.

By contrast to the focus on wild places, relatively little attentionhas been paid to the built environment, although this is the one inwhich most people spend most of their time. In post-war Britain, forexample, cheaply constructed new housing developments were often poorreplacements for traditional communities. They have been associatedwith lower amounts of social interaction and increased crime comparedwith the earlier situation. The destruction of highly functionalhigh-density traditional housing, indeed, might be compared with thedestruction of highly diverse ecosystems and biotic communities.Likewise, the loss of the world’s huge diversity of naturallanguages has been mourned by many, not just professionals with aninterest in linguistics. Urban and linguistic environments are justtwo of the many “places” inhabited by humans. Somephilosophical theories about natural environments and objects havepotential to be extended to cover built environments and non-naturalobjects of several sorts (see King 2000, Light 2001, Palmer 2003,while Fox 2007 aims to include both built and natural environments inthe scope of a single ethical theory). Certainly there are manyparallels between natural and artificial domains: for example, many ofthe conceptual problems involved in discussing the restoration ofnatural objects such as landscapes and ecosystems also appear in theparallel context of restoring human-made objects such as buildings andworks of art (Vogel 2015).

Lovers of wilderness sometimes consider the high human populations insome developing countries as a key problem underlying theenvironmental crisis. Rolston (1996), for instance, claims that (some)humans are a kind of planetary “cancer”. He maintains thatwhile “feeding people always seems humane, ... when we face upto what is really going on, by just feeding people, without attentionto the larger social results, we could be feeding a kind ofcancer.” This remark is meant to justify the view that savingnature should, in some circumstances, have a higher priority thanfeeding people. But such a view has been criticized for seeming toreveal a degree of misanthropy, directed at those human beings leastable to protect and defend themselves (see Attfield 1998, Brennan1998a). The empirical basis of Rolston’s claims has been queriedby work showing that poor people are often extremely goodenvironmental managers (Martinez-Alier 2002). Guha’s worriesabout the elitist and “missionary” tendencies of somekinds of deep green environmentalism in certain rich western countriescan be quite readily extended to theorists such as Rolston (Guha1999). Can such an apparently elitist sort of wilderness ethics everbe democratised? How can the psychically-reviving power of the wildbecome available to those living in the slums of Kolkata or SãoPaolo? These questions so far lack convincing answers.

Connections between environmental destruction, unequal resourceconsumption, poverty and the global economic order have been discussedby political scientists, development theorists, geographers andeconomists as well as by philosophers. Links between economics andenvironmental ethics are particularly well established. Work by MarkSagoff (1988), for instance, has played a major part in bringing thetwo fields together. He argues that “as citizens rather thanconsumers” people are concerned about values, which cannotplausibly be reduced to mere ordered preferences or quantified inmonetary terms. Sagoff’s distinction between people as consumersand people as citizens was intended to blunt the use of cost-benefitanalysis as the final arbiter in discussions about nature’svalue. Of course, spouses take out insurance on each others’lives. We pay extra for travel insurance to cover the cost ofcancellation, illness, or lost baggage. Such actions are economicallyrational. They provide us with some compensation in case of loss.No-one, however, would regard insurance payments as replacing lostlimbs, a loved one or even the joys of a cancelled vacation. So it isfor nature, according to Sagoff. We can put dollar values on a standof timber, a reef, a beach, a national park. We can measure the travelcosts, the money spent by visitors, the real estate values, the parkfees and all the rest. But these dollar measures do not tell us thevalue of nature any more than my insurance premiums tell you the valueof a human life (also see Shrader-Frechette 1987, O’Neill 1993,and Brennan 1995). If Sagoff is right, cost-benefit analysis cannot bea basis for an ethic of sustainability any more than for an ethic ofbiodiversity. The potentially misleading appeal to economic reasonused to justify the expansion of the corporate sector has also comeunder critical scrutiny by globalisation theorists (see Korten 1999).These critiques do not aim to eliminate economics from environmentalthinking; rather, they resist any reductive, and stronglyanthropocentric, tendency to believe that all social and environmentalproblems are fundamentally or essentially economic. The development ofecological economics explores the scope for common ground betweeneconomists and environmental policy-makers, and also the role ofenvironmental ethics in such discussions (Washington and Maloney2020).

(Video) PPD 270 Environmental Ethics, Introduction to Environmental Ethics

Other interdisciplinary approaches link environmental ethics withbiology, policy studies, public administration, political theory,cultural history, post-colonial theory, literature, geography, andhuman ecology (for some examples, see Norton, Hutchins, Stevens, Maple1995, Shrader-Frechette 1984, Gruen and Jamieson (eds.) 1994, Karliner1997, Diesendorf and Hamilton 1997, Schmidtz and Willott 2002). Manyassessments of issues concerned with biodiversity, ecosystem health,poverty, environmental justice and sustainability look at both humanand environmental issues, eschewing in the process commitment eitherto a purely anthropocentric or purely ecocentric perspective (seeHayward and O’Neill 1997, and Dobson 1999 for collections ofessays looking at the links between sustainability, justice, welfareand the distribution of environmental goods). The future developmentof environmental ethics depends on these, and other interdisciplinarysynergies, as much as on its anchorage within philosophy (Dereniowskaand Matzke 2014).

6. Sustainability and Climate Change

The Convention on Biological Diversity discussed in the supplementarydocument on Biodiversity Preservation was influenced by Our Common Future, an earlier United Nations document on sustainability produced by theWorld Commission on Environment and Development (WCED 1987). Thecommission was chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland, Prime Minister ofNorway at the time, and the report is sometimes known as theBrundtland Report. This report noted the increasing tide of evidencethat planetary systems vital to supporting life on earth were understrain. The key question it raised is whether it is equitable tosacrifice options for future well-being in favour of supportingcurrent lifestyles, especially the comfortable, and sometimes lavish,forms of life enjoyed in the rich countries. As Bryan Norton puts it,the world faces a global challenge to see whether different humangroups, with widely varying perspectives, can perhaps “acceptresponsibility to maintain a non-declining set of opportunities basedon possible uses of the environment”. The preservation ofoptions for the future can be readily linked to notions of equity ifit is agreed that “the future ought not to face, as a result ofour actions today, a seriously reduced range of options and choices,as they try to adapt to the environment that they face” (Norton2001: 419). Note that references to “the future” need notbe limited to the future of human beings only. In keeping with thenon-anthropocentric focus of much environmental philosophy, a care forsustainability and biodiversity can embrace a care for opportunitiesavailable to non-human living things.

However, when the concept “sustainable development” wasfirst articulated in the Brundtland Report, the emphasis was clearlyanthropocentric. In face of increasing evidence that planetary systemsvital to life-support were under strain, the concept of sustainabledevelopment is constructed in the report to encourage certain globallycoordinated directions and types of economic and social development.The report defines “sustainable development” in thefollowing way:

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of thepresent without compromising the ability of future generations to meettheir own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:

  • the concept of “needs”, in particular the essentialneeds of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority shouldbe given; and
  • the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology andsocial organization on the environment’s ability to meet presentand future needs.

Thus the goals of economic and social development must be defined interms of sustainability in all countries—developed ordeveloping, market-oriented or centrally planned. Interpretations willvary, but must share certain general features and must flow from aconsensus on the basic concept of sustainable development and on abroad strategic framework for achieving it. (WCED 1987, Ch. 2,paragraphs 1–2)

The report goes on to argue that “the industrial world hasalready used much of the planet’s ecological capital. Thisinequality is the planet’s main ‘environmental’problem; it is also its main ‘development’ problem”(WCED 1987, Overview, paragraph 17). In the concept of sustainabledevelopment the report combines the resource economist’s notionof “sustainable yield” with the recognition thatdeveloping countries of the world are entitled to economic growth andprosperity. The notion of sustainable yield involves thinking offorests, rivers, oceans and other ecosystems, including the naturalspecies living in them, as a stock of “ecological capital”from which all kinds of goods and services flow. Provided the flow ofsuch goods and services does not reduce the capacity of the capitalitself to maintain its productivity, the use of the systems inquestion is regarded as sustainable. Thus, the report argues that“maximum sustainable yield must be defined after taking intoaccount system-wide effects of exploitation” of ecologicalcapital (WCED 1987, Ch. 2, paragraph 11).

There are clear philosophical, political and economic precursors tothe Brundtland concept of sustainability. For example, John StuartMill (1848, IV. 6. 1) distinguished between the “stationarystate” and the “progressive state” and argued thatat the end of the progressive state lies the stationary state, since“the increase of wealth is not boundless”. Mill alsorecognized a debt to the gloomy prognostications of Thomas Malthus,who had conjectured that population tends to increase geometricallywhile food resources at best increase only arithmetically, so thatdemand for food will ultimately outstrip the supply (see Milgate andStimson 2009, Ch. 7, and the discussion of Malthus in the PoliticalEconomy section of the Spring 2016 version of the entry on Mill). Reflection on Malthus led Mill to argue for restraining humanpopulation growth:

Even in a progressive state of capital, in old countries, aconscientious or prudential restraint on population is indispensable,to prevent the increase of numbers from outstripping the increase ofcapital, and the condition of the classes who are at the bottom ofsociety from being deteriorated (Mill 1848, IV. 6. 1).

Such warnings resonate with pessimism about increasing humanpopulation and its impact on the poorest people, as well as on loss ofbiodiversity, fresh water scarcity, overconsumption and climatechange. In their controversial work The Population Bomb, Pauland Anne Ehrlich, argue that without restrictions on populationgrowth, including the imposition of mandatory birth control, the worldfaced “mass starvation” in the short term (Ehrlich 1968).This prediction was not fulfilled. In a subsequent defence of theirearly work, the Ehrlichs declared that the most serious flaw in theiroriginal analysis “was that it was much too optimistic about thefuture”, and comment that “Since The Bomb was written,increases in greenhouse gas flows into the atmosphere, a consequenceof the near doubling of the human population and the near tripling ofglobal consumption, indicate that the results will likely becatastrophic climate disruption caused by greenhouse heating”(Ehrlich and Ehrlich 2009, 66). It was also in 1968 that GarrettHardin published his much cited article on the “tragedy of thecommons” arguing that common resources can always be subject todegradation and extinction in the face of the rational pursuit ofself-interest. For Hardin, the increasing pressure on sharedresources, and increasing pollution, are inevitable results of thefact that “there is no technical solution to the populationproblem” (Hardin 1968). The problem may be analysed from theperspective of the so-called prisoner’s dilemma (also see the entry on the free rider problem). Despite the pessimism of writers at the time, and the advocacy ofsetting limits to population growth, there was also an optimism thatechoes Mill’s own view that a “stationary state”would not be one of misery and decline, but rather one in which humanscould aspire to more equitable distribution of available and limitedresources. This is clear not only among those who recognize limits toeconomic growth (Meadows et al. 1972) but also among those whochampion the move to a steady state economy (Daly 1991) or at leastwant to see more account taken of ecology in economics (Norgaard 1994,Rees 2020).

The Brundtland report puts less emphasis on limits than do Mill,Malthus and later writers. It depicts sustainability as a challengeand opportunity for the world to become more socially, politically andenvironmentally fair. In pursuit of intergenerational justice, it suggests that there should be new human rights added to thestandard list, for example, that “All human beings have thefundamental right to an environment adequate for their health and wellbeing” (WCED 1987, Annexe 1, paragraph 1). The report alsoargues that “The enjoyment of any right requires respect for thesimilar rights of others, and recognition of reciprocal and even jointresponsibilities. States have a responsibility towards their owncitizens and other states” (ibid., chapter 12, paragraph 83).Since the report’s publication, many writers have supported anddefended the view that global and economics [normative] and economic justice require that nations which had become wealthy through earlierindustrialization and environmental exploitation should allow lessdeveloped nations similar or equivalent opportunities for developmentespecially in term of access to environmental resources (Redclift2005). As intended by the report the idea of sustainable developmenthas become strongly integrated into the notion of environmentalconservation. The report has also set the scene for a range ofsubsequent international conferences, declarations, and protocols manyof them maintaining the emphasis on the prospects for the future ofhumanity, rather than considering sustainability in any widersense.

Some non-anthropocentric environmental thinkers have found thelanguage of economics used in the report unsatisfactory in itsimplications since it already appears to assume a largely instrumentalview of nature. The use of notions such as “asset”,“capital” and also the word “resources” inconnection with natural objects and systems has been identified bysome writers as instrumentalizing natural things which are in essencewild and free. The objection is that such language promotes thetendency to think of natural things as mere resources for humans or asraw materials with which human labour could be mixed, not only toproduce consumable goods, but also to generate human ownership(Plumwood 1993, Sagoff 2004). If natural objects and systems haveintrinsic value independent of their possible use for humans, as manyenvironmental philosophers have argued, then a policy approach tosustainability needs to consider the environment and natural thingsnot only in instrumental and but also in intrinsic terms to do justiceto the moral standing that many people believe such items possess.Despite its acknowledgment of there being “moral, ethical,cultural, aesthetic, and purely scientific reasons for conserving wildbeings” (WCED 1987, Overview, paragraph 53), the stronglyanthropocentric and instrumental language used throughout theBrundtland report in articulating the notion of sustainabledevelopment can be criticised for defining the notion too narrowly,leaving little room for addressing sustainability questions directlyconcerning the Earth’s environment and its non-humaninhabitants: should, and if so, how should, human beings reorganisetheir ways of life and the social-political structures of theircommunities to allow sustainability and equity not only for all humansbut also for the other species on the planet?

The concern for preserving nature and non-human species is addressedto some extent by making a distinction between weaker and strongerconceptions of sustainability (Beckerman 1995). Proponents of weaksustainability argue that it is acceptable to replace natural capitalwith human-made capital provided that the latter has equivalentfunctions. If, for example, plastic trees could produce oxygen, absorbcarbon and support animal and insect communities, then they couldreplace the real thing, and a world with functionally equivalentartificial trees would seem just as good—from an economicperpective—as one with real or natural trees in it. For weaksustainability theorists, the aim of future development should be tomaintain a consistently productive stock of capital on which to draw,while not insisting that some portion of that capital be natural.Strong sustainability theorists, by contrast, generally resist thesubstitution of human for natural capital, insisting that a criticalstock of natural things and processes be preserved. By so doing, theyargue, rivers, forests and biodiverse systems are maintained, henceproviding maximum options—options in terms of experience,appreciation, values, and ways of life—for the future humaninhabitants of the planet (Norton 2005). The Brundtland report canalso be seen as advocating a form of strong sustainability in so faras it recommends that a “first priority is to establish theproblem of disappearing species and threatened ecosystems on politicalagendas as a major resource issue” (ibid., chapter 6,paragraph 57). Furthermore, despite its instrumental and economiclanguage, the report in fact endorses a wider moral perspective on thestatus of and our relation to nature and non-human species, evidencedby its statement that “the case for the conservation of natureshould not rest only with development goals. It is part of our moralobligation to other living beings and future generations” (WCED1987, chapter 2, paragraph 55). Implicit in the statement is not onlya strong conception of sustainability but also a non-anthropocentricconception of the notion. Over time, strong sustainability came to befocused not only on the needs of human and other living things butalso on their rights (Redclift 2004, 218). In a further development,the discourses on forms of sustainability have generally given way toa more ambiguous usage, in which the term “sustainability”functions to bring people into a debate rather than setting out aclear definition of the terms of the debate itself. As globalizationleads to greater integration of world economies, the world after theBrundtland report has seen greater fragmentation among viewpoints,where critics of globalization have generally used the concept ofsustainability in a plurality of different ways (Sneddon, Howarth andNorgaard 2006). Some have argued that “sustainability”,just like the word “nature” itself, has come to mean verydifferent things, carrying different symbolic meanings for differentgroups, and reflecting very different interests (Redclift 2004, 220).For better or for worse, such ambiguity can on occasion allowdifferent parties in negotiations to claim a measure of agreement. Forexample, commenting on the connections between agricultural systems,sustainability and climate change, one writer has argued that there isexciting scope for negotiation across different world views in workingout the conditions for a future sustainable form of agriculture(Thompson 2017).

Meadows’ and Daly’s arguments about the need to recognizethat planetary resources are limited have continued to resonate withthinkers, especially those working in ecological economics (Daly andFarley 2011). As one author puts it, “the overriding aim [ofecological economics] ... is to seek viable responses to the biggestdilemma of our times: reconciling our aspirations for the good lifewith the limitations and constraints of a finite planet”(Jackson 2017, 3). While economic growth is a central focus ofneoclassical economic theory (see the entry on philosophy of economics) a minority of thinkers have joined in supporting an agenda of“de-growth” (or “degrowth”) as an alternativeto what is sometimes called “growthism” (for a popularoverview see Hickel 2020). From small beginnings in the late 20thcentury, the idea of de-growth developed from “a politicalslogan with theoretical implications” to become a significantchallenge to the idea of sustainable development considered as a kindof sustainable growth (Martinez-Alier et al. 2010).Advocates of de-growth advocate that the transition to sustainabilitywill be aided by pursuing de-growth instead of economic growth(D’Alisa et al. 2015, Khamara and Kronenbeg 2020). At the sametime some ecological economists argue for a rejection of theanthropocentrism they claim is central to neoclassical economics andsupport embracing a new ecological economics that explicitlyincorporates an ecological ethic (Washington and Maloney 2020). Havingdrawn attention to the huge impact of the human ecological footprint,Rees has gone on to gloomily ponder the kind of economics needed todeal with a situation in which “we are currently‘financing’ economic growth by liquidating the biophysicalsystems upon which humanity ultimately depends” (Rees 2020, 1).He concludes that “the mainstream fantasy…...thisobsession with growth, cannot end well” (ibid., 6).Assuming that some forms of consumption are important to a satisfyinghuman life, some writers have explored the idea that developing moremodes of virtual consumption, while reducing physical forms ofconsumption, might be a significant contribution to sustainablelifestyles (Pike and DesRoches 2020).

The preservation of opportunities to live well, or at least to have aminimally acceptable level of well being, is at the heart of population ethics and many contemporary conceptions of sustainability. Many peoplebelieve such opportunities for the existing younger generations, andalso for the yet to arrive future generations, to be under threat fromcontinuing environmental destruction, including loss of fresh waterresources, continued clearing of wild areas, decreasing biodiversityand a changing climate thus raising questions not only aboutsustainability but also about environmental justice (see Gonzalez,Atapattu, and Seck 2021). Of these, climate change has come toprominence as an area of intense policy and political debate, to whichapplied philosophers and ethicists were slow to contribute (Heath2021). An early exploration of the topic by John Broome shows how theeconomics of climate change could not be divorced from considerationsof intergenerational justice and ethics (Broome 1992), and this hasset the scene for subsequent discussions and analyses (see the entryon climate justice). More than a decade later, when Stephen Gardiner analyses the state ofaffairs surrounding climate change in an article entitled “APerfect Moral Storm” (Gardiner 2006), his starting point is alsothat ethics plays a fundamental role in all discussions of climatepolicy. But he argues that even if difficult ethical and conceptualquestions facing climate change (such as the so-called “non-identity problem” along with the notion of historic injustices) could be answered, it would still be close to politically andsocially impossible to formulate, let alone to enforce, policies andaction plans to deal effectively with climate change. This is due tothe multi-faceted nature of a problem that involves vast numbers ofagents and players. At a global level, there is first of all thepractical problem of motivating shared responsibilities (see the entryon moral motivation) in part due to the dispersed nature of greenhouse gas emissions whichmakes the effects of increasing levels of atmospheric carbon andmethane not always felt most strongly in the regions where theyoriginate. Add to this the fact that there is an un-coordinated andalso dispersed network of agents—both individual andcorporate—responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, and thatthere are no effective institutions that can control and limit them.But this tangle of issues constitutes, Gardiner argues, only onestrand in the skein of quandaries that confronts us. There is also thefact that by and large only the future (and perhaps the currentyounger) generations will carry the brunt of the impacts of climatechange, explaining why so many people in the current generations seemnot to have strong enough incentive to act. Finally, he argues it isevident that mainstream political, economic, and ethical models arenot up to the task of reaching global consensus, and in many cases noteven national consensus, on how best to design and implement fairclimate policies. Some consequentialist theorists, however, haveargued that a form of rule consequentialism can take account of the interests of future generations who may beinhabiting a "broken world" (Mulgan 2011, 2017). Mulgan argues that byimagining a broken world of limited resources and precarious humansurvival, it may be possible to devise an ideal moral ooutlook thatdiffers from the ideal code of many rule consequentialists who usuallypresuppose that the future will be just like the present.

However, Gardiner takes a pessimistic view of the prospects forprogress on climate issues. His view includes pessimism abouttechnical solutions, such as geoengineering as the antidote to climateproblems, echoing the concerns of others that large scaleinterventions in—and further domination of—nature may turnout to be an even worse climate catastrophe (Gardiner 2011, ch 11,Jamieson 1996 and see also the papers in Gardiner and McKinnon 2020).A key point in Gardiner’s analysis is that the problem ofclimate change involves a tangle of issues, the complexity of whichconspires to encourage buck-passing, weakness of will, distraction andprocrastination, “mak[ing] us extremely vulnerable to moralcorruption” (ibid., 397; cf. Gardiner 2011; see alsothe concept of “wicked problem” in Brennan 2004). Becauseof the grave risk of serious harm to current and future generations ofpeople and other living things, our failure to take timely mitigatingactions on climate issues can be seen as a major moral failing,especially in the light of our current knowledge and understanding ofthe problem (IPCC 2021).

In a related reinterpretation of a classic study in psychology,Russell and Bolton re-examine Milgram’s classic “obediencestudies” (see the entry on the concept of evil, section 4.5). In these experiments, Milgram explored the conditionsunder which ordinary people would be disposed to perform evil actions(such as administering electric shocks to strangers). Russell andBolton argue that, when properly interpreted, Milgram’s studiesshow that political, administrative and bureaucratic structures canlead to a general and tacit agreement for those in an advantagedsituation to harm the interests of those less powerful. In Russell andBolton’s new interpretation of the Milgram experiments, thosewho are in the advantaged situation are those living comfortably inwealthy countries, while the powerless are distant strangers andmembers of future generations. Corporate structures and longorganizational chains, Russell and Bolton argue, encourage inaction,denial and diffusion of responsibility that typifies both the commonresponses to climate change and also the behaviour of participants inMilgram’s experiments. They conjecture that Milgram’s workthus explains the phenomenon of what they call “responsibilityambiguity” that underlies hesitancy to take action on climatechange (Russell and Bolton 2019, and see also Rees 2020). While theymake no mention of the work of Hannah Arendt, their analysis recallssome of Arendt’s analysis of the banality of evil (see the entryon the concept of evil, section 2.3). There appears to be scope for more empirical researchand interdisciplinary study on topics such as the diffusion ofresponsibility and denialism. A similar analysis might also apply toinaction in the face of declining biodiversity.

John Broome tries to show some of the ways that one form of climatedenialism takes, when it uses ingenious but, Broome claims, flawedreasoning to depict individuals as making no significant contributionto climate change (Broome 2019, see also McKinnon 2014). A strongerform of denialism refuses to acknowledge the fact of anthropogenicclimate change at all. A puzzle remains over why much ingenuity isexpended on such denial in the face of the urgent problems that nowconfront the world (see the entry on science and pseudo-science). In response, some argue that the persisting denialism over thereality of the environmental and climate crises may be a product ofshame or guilt over the human treatment of natural things and systems(Aaltola 2021). These emotions may interfere with and block amuch-needed and honest confrontation of a frighteningsituation—even if it is one humans have brought upon themselves.There is also a well-known psychological phenomenon of “knowingbut not knowing” which can contribute, along with other factors,to denialism (Norgaard 2011, 404, and compare the classic studyof thisin Cohen 2001, ch. 2). Many countries’ initial and ongoingresponse to the 2020s COVID-19 pandemic, for example, appears to showthat denialism, typically accompanied by widespread misinformation andunfounded hypotheses about conspiracies, may be a very human way toreact in the face of a global catastrophe. Using factor analysisstudies, some psychologists have claimed to demonstrate thatanti-scientific views have close association with beliefs increationism and animism. Further, they conjecture that purposive orteleological thinking is the gateway to such associations(Wagner-Egger et al. 2018). Note that the role of teleological notions in biology remains contested and subject to further research. Other researchclaims to show that people simply reject scientific findings that makethem uncomfortable and threaten their worldviews (see Lewandowsky andOberauer 2016).

(Video) Environmental Ethics

Writers have also tried to make sense of why so much misinformationabout climate change and other catastrophes is so widespread. On thepart of some theorists (see McIntyre 2018), the blame for the evils ofa “post-truth” era has been laid at the feet of somepostmodern thinkers who endorse social epistemology. But social constructionist writers have their own diagnosis of thesocial forces that have given rise to the “new climaticregime” (Latour 2017), which combines science denialism and whathas be called “out-of-this-world”—fanciful andover-optimistic—thinking about the human prospects for escapingclimate catastrophe. One suggested remedy for these cognitve failingsis to encourage the recognition that natural systems respond to humanaction and are not merely the material resources for economicdevelopment. It has been proposed that awareness that humans and thenatural systems that support them share a dwelling place might pavethe way to a new kind of “terrestrial politics” (Lentonand Latour 2018, Latour 2018). The shape of such a politics is stillunder-theorized, and could take many forms (Mann and Wainwright 2018).Meanwhile, some animal ethicists blame “speciesistanthropocentrism” (see the entry on the moral status of animals) for blinding humanity to the evils of its overpopulation anddenialism (Almiron and Tafalla 2019). Whatever the future holds, manythinkers insist that solving the problem of climate change is anessential ingredient of sustainability and that the alternative todecisive action may result in the degrading not only of nature andnatural systems, but also of human dignity itself (see Nanda (ed.)2011, especially chapters by Heyd, Balafrej, Gutrich and Brennan andLo, see also section 3.4 of the entry on human rights). As humanity faces an uncertain future of declining biodiversity andincreasing extreme weather events driven by escalating planetaryheating—causing suffering and alienation for humans andnon-humans alike—the moral challenges listed at the start ofthis entry seem more pressing than ever.

Supplementary Document:
Pathologies of Environmental Crisis: Theories and Empirical Research


What are the environmental ethics answer? ›

What is the core of environmental ethics? Environmental ethics attempts to develop theories based upon three major concerns: preservation of natural environment; development of inter-generational ethics; and recognition of the Earth as a unique, indispensable environment.

What is environmental ethics in your own words? ›

Environmental ethics is a branch of applied philosophy that studies the conceptual foundations of environmental values as well as more concrete issues surrounding societal attitudes, actions, and policies to protect and sustain biodiversity and ecological systems.

Why is environmental ethic important? ›

Environmental ethics provides moral grounds for social policies aimed at protecting the earths environment and remedying environmental degradation.

How does environmental ethics protect our environment? ›

Through environmental ethics, humans are considerate of not only themselves but also plants, animals, and every object in nature. With the moral grounds and values that environmental ethics provides, humans are responsibly using nature and not in a way that results in resource degradation and destruction.

What is environmental ethics essay? ›

Environmental ethics asks about the moral relationship between humans and the world around as; in contrast to traditional ethics, which concerns with relationship among people only.

What are the main types of environmental ethics? ›

Environmental ethics comes in two forms: human-centered and nature-centered (see “anthropocentrism” and “biocentrism”).

What are environmental ethics and our moral responsibilities? ›

Environmental ethics is the philosophical discipline that considers the moral and ethical relationship of human beings to the environment. Human values become a factor when looking at environmental ethics because they are the things that are important to individuals that they then use to evaluate actions or events.

How can individuals implement environmental ethics in their own lives? ›

How can individuals implement environmental ethics in their own lives? By becoming informed about the environmental cost of their consumer choices and by making responsible choices about how much they consume.

Why should we learn environmental ethics essay? ›

Nowadays, human acts lead to environmental pollution. The high demand of the earth resources is a factor that leads to that environmental pollution. Hence, we need those environmental ethics to keep the sustainability.

What is the conclusion of environmental ethics? ›

CONCLUSION. Humans are part of the ecosystem. We are interrelated with each other and every component has their own purpose in the environment. Too much anthropogenic activities have lead to a global problem of pollution.

What is the most important environmental issue at the present? ›

Air Pollution

One of the biggest environmental problems today is outdoor air pollution. Research from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that an estimated 4.2 to 7 million people die from air pollution worldwide every year and that nine out of 10 people breathe air that contains high levels of pollutants.

What are the challenges of environmental ethics? ›

The challenge of environmental ethics is a principled attempt to redefine the boundaries of ethical obligation. Still there is the sense of anomaly that forebodes paradigm overthrow.

What is environmental ethics Why do we need a set of ethics for the Environment explain in Brainly? ›

Environmental ethics is an important part of the environment studies it establishes relationship between the earth and humans. It ensures that we are doing our part to protect the environment and keep it safe.

How did environmental ethics start? ›

Environmental ethics has emerged during the early 1970s, when environmentalists started urging philosophers to consider the philosophical aspects of environmental problems. Environmental ethics considers the ethical relationships between humanity and non-human world.

What is a ethical responsibility? ›

Definition: Ethical responsibility is the ability to recognize, interpret and act upon multiple principles and values according to the standards within a given field and/or context.

What are basic ethics? ›

The expression "basic ethical principles" refers to those general judgments that serve as a justification for particular ethical prescriptions and evaluations of human actions.

Why is it important to protect the environment essay? ›

Due to pollution and deforestation, the health of many people is poor. Conserving the Environment would certainly improve the health of people. Most noteworthy, saving Environment would reduce many diseases. Saving Environment would certainly protect the animals.

How environment affect our daily life? ›

The environment can facilitate or discourage interactions among people (and the subsequent benefits of social support). For example, an inviting space with comfortable chairs and privacy can encourage a family to stay and visit with a patient. The environment can influence peoples' behavior and motivation to act.

How can we improve our environment essay? ›

Stop littering and also encourage others to stop the same. Don't use chemical fertilizers and pesticides, rather go for organic ones. Minimize vehicle use as exhaust gases are the greatest pollutants of air. Save forests and plant trees because they are the lungs of the environment.

What is environmental justice why is it important? ›

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, colour, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

What is the most serious environmental ethical issue facing humanity today? ›

Climate change is the big environmental problem that humanity will face over the next decade, but it isn't the only one. We'll take a look at some of them — from water shortages and loss of biodiversity to waste management — and discuss the challenges we have ahead of us.

How does environmental ethics affect other disciplines? ›

Environmental ethics exerts influence on a large range of disciplines including environmental law, environmental sociology, ecotheology, ecological economics, ecology and environmental geography. There are many ethical decisions that human beings make with respect to the environment.

What moral responsibility do we have in dealing with environmental problems that are caused due to anthropogenic human activity? ›

If we do not act soon, anthropogenic environmental changes will bring serious harms to the future. We have a moral obligation to avert harms to the future, so as to leave a world as rich in life and possibility as the world we inherited. Therefore, we have a moral obligation to act, and act now.

Do you think human beings could change their attitudes towards the environment? ›

the answer is Yes. But let's elaborate on the answer below. The cultural and economic background of people is likely to influence their views with regard to the environment. The views will ultimately influence the attitudes towards our environment.

How can we protect our environment conclusion? ›

Environment can be saved by planting more trees, recycling, reusing, reducing pollution, creating awareness through environmental programs, etc. Conclusion: If we want to save the environment then, we should stop the exploitation of natural resources.

What is the ethical principle behind environmental ethics? ›

Environmental ethics asserts that other animals, plants, and the elements (such as water, soil or air) are morally significant, and that humans have responsibilities to act so that their needs are met too.

Can studying or knowing environment ethics reduce pollution? ›

Yes, but First We Must Recognise the Essential Normative Nature of Environmental Problems.” Environmental Values 12, no. 4 (2003): 489–514. doi:10.3197/096327103129341423.

What are the 3 environmental ethics? ›

There are many different principles on which to draw in moral reasoning about specific environmental problems. This lesson reviews three basic pairs of principles: justice and sustainability; sufficiency and compassion; solidarity and participation.

What is environmental ethics PDF? ›

Environmental Ethics is the study of normative issues and principles relating to. human interactions with the natural environment, and to their context and. consequences, and thus to how ecological problems should be addressed. It comprises. an important area of applied ethics, crucial for the guidance of agents such ...

What is environmental ethics in business ethics? ›

As it applies to the world of business, environmental ethics is centrally concerned with the impact that a company's activities have upon the natural world. In particular, it asks what obligations a company (or its owners and managers) has with regard to the natural environment.

What are the types of environmental attitudes? ›

Based on this value orientation, there are three environmental attitude and they are categorized as rooted in a concern for the self (egoistic concern), for other people (altruistic concern) or for the biosphere (biospheric concern).

What are basic ethics? ›

The expression "basic ethical principles" refers to those general judgments that serve as a justification for particular ethical prescriptions and evaluations of human actions.

How does environmental ethics affect other disciplines? ›

Environmental ethics, along with human values, make for challenging philosophical debates about man's interaction with the environment. Water and air pollution, the depletion of natural resources, loss of biodiversity, destruction of ecosystems, and global climate change are all part of the environmental ethics debate.

How can individuals implement environmental ethics in their own lives? ›

How can individuals implement environmental ethics in their own lives? By becoming informed about the environmental cost of their consumer choices and by making responsible choices about how much they consume.

What is the conclusion of environmental ethics? ›

CONCLUSION. Humans are part of the ecosystem. We are interrelated with each other and every component has their own purpose in the environment. Too much anthropogenic activities have lead to a global problem of pollution.

How did environmental ethics start? ›

Environmental ethics has emerged during the early 1970s, when environmentalists started urging philosophers to consider the philosophical aspects of environmental problems. Environmental ethics considers the ethical relationships between humanity and non-human world.

How are environmental problems related to population growth? ›

Human population growth impacts the Earth system in a variety of ways, including: Increasing the extraction of resources from the environment. These resources include fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal), minerals, trees, water, and wildlife, especially in the oceans.

How can we promote environmental ethics? ›

Business owners and employees can promote environmental ethics issues by stepping up to initiate greener practices. Volunteering to head up committees, restructure manufacturing and waste processes, and hiring sustainability-focused vendors can also help.

What are the challenges of environmental ethics? ›

The challenge of environmental ethics is a principled attempt to redefine the boundaries of ethical obligation. Still there is the sense of anomaly that forebodes paradigm overthrow.

What are the environmental responsibilities? ›

WHAT IS ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY? Environmental responsibility is our duty to protect and improve our environment. An environmentally responsible individual, industry, community, or government assesses their environmental sustainability and applies this knowledge to their decision-making.

How does the environment affect human behavior? ›

The environment can facilitate or discourage interactions among people (and the subsequent benefits of social support). For example, an inviting space with comfortable chairs and privacy can encourage a family to stay and visit with a patient. The environment can influence peoples' behavior and motivation to act.

Why is environmental sensitivity important? ›

Environmental sensitivity describes the ability of an individual to perceive and process information about their environment. It is a basic trait found in many organisms that enables an individual to adapt to different environmental conditions.

How could you develop environment friendly attitude and value? ›

21+ Easy Ways to Become More Environmentally Friendly
  • Become More Aware of Resources. ...
  • Practice Conservation. ...
  • Plant Trees. ...
  • Conserve Water. ...
  • Try Renewable Energy, Go Rooftop Solar. ...
  • Change to LED Light Bulbs. ...
  • Cut Down Meat on your Plate. ...
  • Stop Food Waste.


1. Environmental Ethics: Deep Ecology
(Ryan Hubbard)
2. PHIL 243: Environmental Ethics (Stephen Gardiner)
(University of Washington Department of Philosophy)
3. Environmental Ethics: The Land Ethic and Aldo Leopold
(Ryan Hubbard)
4. Environmental ethics
5. Anthropocentrism (Environmental Ethics)
6. 3. Approaches to Environmental Ethics [Environmental Ethics]
(Biola University)

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