Environmental Ethics

The environment and the ethics linked with it.

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  • Created by: oyinlola
  • Created on: 08-04-13 19:28

Threats to the environment: pollution and global w

  • Climate change presents very serious global risks and demands an urgent global response.
  • It is very likely that the increase in temperature in the 20th century is due to the increase in greenhouse gases.
  • System that nurture and sustain life, providing clean air, water and soil, are breaking down through pollution and abuse.
  • The worlds finite natural resources are being depleted at an unsustainable rate.
  • Environmental damage will disproportionately affect the poor.
  • Industrialisation and technological and scientific development has led to the destruction of the wilderness.
  • Technological advancement and scientific investigation are threatening humanity's long-term survival.
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Conservation, preservation and protection

  • Holmes Rolston III argues that we should not be exclusively concerned with human poverty, but should also be concerned with other aspects of civilisations as well as the value of the natural world.
  • Animals have rights because they have some intrinsic value.
  • We should avoid the mistreatment of animals and seek to improve their quality of life.
  • Animals also have inherent value and all beings who have inherent value have it equally,
  • Singer argues that equality should be applied for animals as well as humans.
  • Fox argued that animals are not members of the moral community and that we have no moral obligations towards them - moral capabilities arise from faculties that animals don't have.
  • However, not all human beings display these moral capabilities (babies, etc.) and yet we give them moral status and regard them as deserving of special protection.
  • Arguably, wildernesses contain undiscovered valuable natural resources, they are a kind of life-support system for the world, they provide a retreat for humans from the built environment, they should be preserved and protected for the diversity of life withing, rather than what they might offer humanity or the biosphere as a whole.
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Developing countries

  • Poorer countries need to develop to improve the life of their people, but industrialising in the way rich countries did increases pollution and greenhouse gases,
  • Rich countries are encouraging unsustainable economic development of developing countries as they can produce goods more cheaply to satisfy wealthy consumers.
  • Rich countries have got rich through unsustainable development.
  • Failure to develop leaves poorer countries poor.
  • Poorer countries are more exposed to the dangers of climate change.
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A deep ecology

  • Deep ecology recognises value in all life and other aspects of the natural world as part of an interconnected whole and so the whole bio/geosphere has moral significance.
  • Deep ecology preserves the biosphere for its own sake, not just for the benefit of humanity.
  • James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis sees the ecosystem as a whole, as an entity in its own right, which must be considered in any moral deliberation.
  • Some argue the Gaia hypothesis gives the biosphere a consciousness which is not there - it is romantic language.
  • Deep ecology is also critical of mechanistic materialism, industrialisation and capitalism.
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Jewish Perspective

  • Humanity has a special place in nature above other aspects of the natural world, though nature should be protected.
  • Nature exists for humanity and for its own sake.
  • Genesis seems both to encourage exploitation and also restrict which animals may be eaten - the sabbath laws imply restraint in human activity and there are restrictions about the use of natural resources.
  • Nature can be seen as dangerous (e.g. the flood)
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Christian Perspective

  • Built on Jewish perspectives.
  • Aquinas maintained that all animals are subject to man and did not recognise the possibility of sin against the environment.
  • However, Christian ethics is God-centered, rather than human centered.
  • Concern for your neighbour should include concern for your neighbour's environment.
  • Non-human creatures have intrinsic values in the christian traditions.
  • The environment has value because it was created by God.
  • Poor treatment of the environment reflects human sin.
  • Humans are called to renew the face of the earth until there is peace and harmony, life and health for all.
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Muslim Perspectives

  • The natural world was created by God and all elements of the world exist with distinct purposes in balance.
  • Creation exists in continuous praise of God, and humanity has duties as stewards of creation.
  • Natural laws are God's laws and there are other communities, beyond the human communities, which live in the world.
  • Human relationship with the environment should be based on justice and equality.
  • Humans are maintainers of the environment and not owners, and must sustain it and observe it.
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Hindu Perspective

  • The principle of the sanctity of life is ingrained in the Hindu religion.
  • Human beings do not have dominion or sovereignty over all creatures, only God has this.
  • Human and non-human lives are of equal value and all have the same right to existance - the earth is for the other creatures as well as humans.
  • Beyond animals and birds, trees and flora are also respected - plants have divine powers including healing properties.
  • A human being is authorised to use natural resourses, but has no divine power of control and dominion over nature and its elements.
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Buddhist perspectives

  • Buddhism os thought to be a path of harmonious integration with nature which fosters identification and mutual respect within the natural world.
  • However human beings remain the primary focus of Buddism which is to bring human beings form suffering to liberation.
  • The basic principle of non-violence requires the abstention from harming living beings, which includes the industrial use of natural resourses.
  • The Buddhist concern for human beings means the over-consumption of resources is unacceptable.
  • Respect for plant life and trees is not on par with humans and there is not much evidence to support the conservation of wilderness, beyond the observation that it is beautiful.
  • In Buddhism humans are not stewards of non-human nature but neighbours to less sentient beings.
  • The concern for the destruction or damage to the environment is motivated by a concern for sentient life including, and most importantly human life.
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Sikh perspectives

  • The Sikh Gurus saw that human beings had some responsibility towards the natural world and urged people to study and respect it - Guru Nanak said, "The earth is your mother. Respect mother earth."
  • Important in Sikh thinking is that human beings live in harmony with creation.
  • There is a sacred relationship between humans and all creation, and knowledge and understanding of this is called eco-sophism, the wisdom of the universe.
  • The idea of equality, is important in Sikhism's rejection of the caste system, suggests a balance between humanity and nature.
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Conclusion 1

  • Different themes can be found within the different religious traditions examined here but there are also common themes.
  • Religion has recieved some criticism that it has not adequately addressed environmental concerns.
  • Scott I. Paradise has suggested that certain common religious beliefs need to be revised to give value to all things, to turn away from the emphasis on consumption and production as leading to fulfilment, and to care for limited resources.
  • All living creatures have an interest in sustaining the environment.
  • The poor stand to loose more at first, though the rich will also loose in the end.
  • Those with wealth and power have a special responsibility in how they use it and for what ends.
  • However, saving the planet requires individuals to change the was they live their lives.
  • Some argue that human interests should be the motive for environmental concern rather than other life-forms, though the environment might have instrumental value, in that it can make human life better.
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Conclusion 2

  • Anthropocentric thinking might encourage selfishness, and also encourage a false view that human life is seperates from the eco-system around it - such a view is responsible in part for the problems the world faces now.
  • Life on earth is interconnected and so it is difficult to identify single parts of life only as having moral value or significance.
  • The state should only intervene to force people to act in a certain way if the community is seriously threatened by environmental disaster, as individual freedoms will be lost.
  • The state can also intervene in a softer way, e.g. taxes, to influence behaviour.
  • There is also a mooral concern that individuals have a sence of responsibility for their actions.
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