When looking at the Maldives and other quickly diminishing countries, coupled with raising temperatures and huge variations in extreme weather across the world, it is clear that environmental ethics must be taken very seriously. But there have been a number of ethical approaches towards the environment trying to tackle and provide moral guidelines on how to treat and use the earth. During the course of this essay I will attempt to outline a few of the main secular and religious approaches to environmental issues and then through evaluation come up with a conclusion on which I feel is the best to follow.
To make a good environmental theory, the ethical approach must provide moral guidelines for governments, big businesses and individuals alike. One secular theory, which tries to achieve this, is Conservationism.
The conservationist theory aims to look at the value of that the environment has to humans and how looking after it and using it will affect us. The conservationist approach takes a shallow ecology approach, which believes that the earth has instrumental value. This means that if lowering the carbon emissions to protect the Maldives will benefit human life then a conservationist approach will argue that this is a good thing to do. The conservationist approach can be closely linked to Bentham’s hedonistic approach to Utilitarianism, sharing the ‘ if its beneficial enough to humans then we will do it but we wont bother if its too much work’ approach, which is also a secular theory. This anthropocentric view is useful when looking at ways to ensure individuals to there bit as it holds the moral opinion that by helping the earth you help humans in the long run, however it is somewhat flimsy and fails to appreciate the idea that the earth can have intrinsic worth something which a lot of libertarianists believe is a criticism. It also falls when looking at nuclear power and future generations. The shallow ecology approach fails to recognize that an effect on animals now is very likely to seriously affect human prosperity in the future.
The Liberation approach has a rather different view on environmentalism. It suggests that earth has intrinsic value. They suggest that environmental ethics should be valued not just for individuals but suggest that governments and big businesses should be forced to do more to protect the planet also. Coining the term ecosophy, which is the belief that all living things have rights as well as humans. A leading Deep ecologist Aldo Leopold argued that humans should stop viewing themselves as the ‘dominators’ of the earth and instead we should see our existence as part of a moral community that includes the land and all its life. He Famously quoted ‘ a thing is right when it ends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. Otherwise it is wrong’. This view when developed by Naess went further to say that in order to protect the planet humans must: significantly reduce the human population, abandon goals of economic growth for preservation of diversity of species. Live in self reliant and sufficient communities and work to protect the earth and live in balance.
This view is somewhat controversial and has been rejected by many environmentalists as too radical but the basic principle of deep ecology does have many benefits to earth and humans and does offer a very clear strict set of rules to follow with regards to environmental ethics for businesses, governments and individuals. This surprisingly fits in quite well with Kant’s view, who argues that any protection of the earth is ultimately beneficial to humans and although his means to an end theory doesn’t technically apply to animals through his other work it seems that he would agree with some aspects of the Deep ecology view, not that earth has intrinsic value but instead it has such strong…