Homework 4: Environmental Ethics
Anthropocentrism refers to a human-centered point of view. Anthropocentric individuals believe that all other beings exist to meet human needs. People holding this notion opine that human beings have the right to dictate the moral standing of all other organisms. In addition, they see nature as a valuable resource to human existence and advocate for its sustainable use.
Example- advocates of anthropocentrism often promote the preservation of the environment.
Biocentrism is a theory that explains that all organisms are central pieces to being, reality, and the cosmos. Supporters of this notion argue that each living thing forms an important part of life and has equal intrinsic value that entitles it to moral respect. The theory explains how life creates the universe and not the other way around. Therefore, humans have a moral duty to preserve the value of living things.
Example- biocentrism faces criticism from a section of scholars.
The book silent spring laid the foundation for the environmental conservation movement. Carson revealed that the massive deaths of birds experienced in the country were as a result of powerful synthetic insecticide, which threatened the entire food chain. Consequently, the paper triggered ecological awareness in the United States and Europe. The former director of natural world argues that Rachael Carson was the first person to show concern and address the issue well for society to understand it. Consequently, environmental movements successfully convinced many to fight against the corporations that produced powerful insecticides. In addition, her efforts to elaborate on the dangers facing human existence inspired other parties to take action such as the banning of DDT in the United States and later in Britain.
Carson was a brilliant marine biologist and an excellent writer who expressed her views with precision. She focused on researching the deadly killers of birds in the country. Other researchers had proposed several causes including poisons, viruses, and other disease-causing agents but they were inconclusive. The author revealed that the synthetic insecticides used such as DDT were the leading cause of the deaths. She claimed that the drugs poisoned low-level food chain constituents such as insects. The poison ingested went up the food chain since the organisms could not eliminate it from their bodies. She further argued that sprays, dust, and aerosols have become an essential part of modern farming. The chemicals used are so powerful that they destroy even the good insects in the farms, gardens, and forests. She argued that there was no need for farmers to use the insecticides to eliminate a few insects and kill thousands of beneficial insects and birds. Carson’s research is still relevant to the world since the use of DDT and other related chemicals pose a threat to all organisms and humanity.
Environmental ethics is a discipline that aims to identify the moral relationship between human beings and the environment. It focuses on studying the value the environment holds and its moral status. One may wonder whether it is morally acceptable to destroy an overpopulated indigenous species to protect the ecosystem. Moral standing defines the extent society considers an action right or wrong. At times, individuals come across situations that require them to act fast to save lives but destroy the environment in the process.
Religion defines the relationship between an individual and a higher being that they regard holy. There exists a close relationship between religion and the environment as outlined in most Holy books. Under animism, people find a spiritual link between human beings and nature. Similarly, Buddhism respects life and nature as interconnected forces. Buddhists believe in protecting natural resources such as forests because they deem them sacred places. The belief underscores why the monks in Thailand located their monasteries in the endangered forests. Christianity also acknowledges that all creations are works of God and humanity should preserve them. The importance is exhibited by the church of Germany that started using solar power in its 300 churches to encourage the use of clean power to conserve the environment. Other religions also hold that human beings should protect the environment and other organisms as mandated by God. Therefore, it is clear that major religions have a common belief that nature is important and human beings should protect it.
Hundreds of billions of bacteria occupy the human body, but humans still consider them a single organism. The Gaia theory encompasses all the living and non-living components of the earth. Contrary to the common belief that the earth exists as a planet whose primary aim is to provide habitat and resources, it seems more of a living organism. Moreover, it functions as a single organism that maintains conditions necessary for its survival, which is the probable reason humans have been referring to it as Mother Nature for a long period. Therefore, Gaia hypothesis assumes that the earth is a single living entity. On the same, James Hutton referred to the earth as a superorganism, which supports Gaia hypothesis. The presence of life keeps the earth’ atmospheric composition in a dynamic steady state, which makes it possible for all organisms to survive.
There exists a deeper interrelationship among plants, atmospherics, animals, and humans based on the way they complement each other. The system exists in a balanced state that provides a feedback mechanism when there is disruption from one entity followed by the necessary correction action. According to Lovelock, the entire ecological system depends on one another to promote life sustenance. The processes regulated by the earth are comparable to the way the theory is symbolic since land acts as the earth’s bones and the living organisms as the senses. The earth behaves like an organism as it changes the conditions and evolves according to the varying needs of the biota. Therefore, negative actions by some of the constituents can have serious implications on the others as depicted by human activities on the environment. Critics of the Gaia theory argue that the earth does not qualify as a living organism as it is not an offspring of any parents and is unable to reproduce.
Earth’s population has increased dramatically in the last few decades. Technological advancements and improved medical care have made it possible for people to live longer and pro-create with minimal risk of losing a life. However, the increased population growth has pressured the environment through the encroachment of natural forests to create habitable areas for the larger population. In addition, human beings engage in activities that lead to environmental pollution, which increases the depletion rate of natural resources. Moreover, agriculture, urbanization, and infrastructure development have many wastes that influence the environment negatively. People need to change the way they interact with the environment through sustainable forestry and agricultural activities. Some of the strategies they can use include utilizing natural based components instead of chemical ones, using biodegradable bags, planting trees, and conserving water catchments. Awareness programs on the importance of conserving the environment can also help in conserving the environment.
Stones argues that trees, animals, waterways, and other natural resources have equal right to participate in legal actions to enforce their agendas. He argues that the law recognizes other nonhuman entities such as corporations and charitable trusts that can sue and be sued in a court of law. Legal changes are already evident considering that children and women have legal rights now. Similarly, forests, rivers, and other natural should have legal obligations to avert abuses by human beings. Stones reasoned that granting these resources legal statuses could allow them to be represented by groups such as Sierra club when human beings abuse them. The organization has already sued some corporation such as the Sierra Club v. Morton case, which it lost because of its inability to prove injury to its interests or its member. However, the judges acknowledged Stones proposal by stating that some of the natural resources and features should be granted legal personhood. Therefore, the case has been instrumental in advancing conservation agendas in the world. It also encouraged conservationists to pursue legal channels when they think that human activities have a long-term negative impact on the environment.
Cochrane, A. (2006). Environmental ethics. Internet encyclopedia of philosophy. Retrieved from https://www.iep.utm.edu/envi-eth/
International Environment Forum. (2010). Religions, Ethics and Environment. Retrieved from http://iefworld.org/unepgc21.htm
Kirchner, J. W. (2002). The Gaia hypothesis: fact, theory, and wishful thinking. Climatic change, 52(4), 391-408.
McKie, R. (2018). Rachel Carson and the legacy of Silent Spring. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/may/27/rachel-carson-silent-spring-anniversary
O’neill, I. (2015). Gaia Hypothesis: Could Earth really be a Single Organism? Retrieved from https://www.universetoday.com/13939/gaia-hypothesis-could-earth-really-be-a-single-organism/
The Reasonable Observer. (n.d). Should Trees Have Standing? Retrieved from https://www.thereasonableobserver.com/should-trees-have-standing
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2015). Environmental Ethics. Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-environmental/
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