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Environmental Ethics

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Farrah-Lee Ludwig

on 8 November 2014

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Transcript of Environmental Ethics

Environmental Ethics
The Alberta Oil Sands
Rainforest Destruction

Clayoquot Sound
Feminist Activists
Native Worldview

Do we have an ethical obligation to future generations to preserve and protect the environment?

Human-centered approaches:
Human beings are moral point of reference

Man and his works are at the centre of the universe.

Ethical Egoists:
self-interest is the only moral justification for treating the environment in a particular way. (Group Egoists)

Utilitarianism: Ultimate goal -->
increase pleasure and happiness and decrease pain and suffering for humans --> Environment derives value from the way it contributes to human well-being.

Cost-benefit analysis (economists version of utilitarianism):
sum to be maximized is society’s wealth measured in monetary units (not happiness)

commitment to human rights and freedom

Expanded circle approaches:
wider radius of what is deserving of moral consideration.

Expanded Utilitarianism:
extends moral consideration to include non-human animals.

All living beings deserve moral consideration in their own right and have a purpose --> We as humans should not act in ways that thwart their movement toward their natural goal.

Ecocentrism (Deep Ecology):
Holistic Ecocentrism gives moral weight to each species, type and so fourth in the ecosystem. Deep ecologists believe they are the leading edge of the environmental movement; the spiritual philosophical, and political vanguard of global Environmentalism.

Natural Worldviews (held by Natives and religious groups):
continuity and interdependence of human beings and the natural world. We need them; they need us.

The Process and the Consequences
Ethical Questions
Human Centered vs. Expanded Circle
benefits for all humans vs. negative effects
Environmental Virtue Ethics
Do trees deserve our moral protection and respect?

Burn it?
- Toxic chemicals
- Waste To Energy
Aral Sea
Ethical Considerations
To whom do we assign value?
Humans and needed resources
Fish and other beings relying on the river
Ecosystem as a whole

Is it ethical to re-establish a species in a river with the intention to kill it?

To what degree can people be charged for water, considered a human right, in an effort to preserve a resource?
Indigenous Communities
My opinion...
Different Perspectives...
“In the absence of human interests, the natural world would be nothing but a mere wasteland, gratuitous, and without a final purpose.” - Kant

"In order to find something beautiful, we must let what encounters us, purely as it is in itself, come before us in its own stature and worth" - Heidegger

"Aesthetics can promote morality by habituating us to selfless reflection and conduct, thereby preparing us to treat other beings not merely as means to our ends, or as our instruments, but as ends in themselves" - Kant

- "To take an interest in something, suggests wanting to have it for oneself as a possession, to have disposition and control over it" – Nietzsche

3 questions:

1. Who, or what, is deserving of direct moral consideration?
2. How much moral weight does each entity have?
3. How do we make decisions when there are conflicts among different types of beings, each of which have moral weight?

We must answer these questions in order to guide our
actions as human beings.

“What is unacceptable are the radical conclusions drawn by deep ecology, in particular, that intervention in nature should be guided primarily by the need to preserve biotic integrity rather than by the needs of humans.”

- Do you agree with this paradigm? Why? Why not?

(Sterba, 1994)
A Principle of Human Defense:
Actions that defend oneself and other human beings against harmful aggression are permissible even when they necessitate killing or harming animals or plants.

A Principle of Human Preservation:
Actions that are necessary for meeting one’s basic needs or the basic needs of other human beings are permissible even when they require aggressing against the basic needs of animals and plants.

A Principle of Disproportionality:
Actions that meet non-basic or luxury needs of humans are prohibited when they aggress against the basic needs of animals and plants.

Agree? Disagree?

Environmental ethics operates at high level of abstraction --> not immediately fruitful for making decisions about the specific environmental issues (applied ethics).

Issues surrounding environmentalism take us to the heart of a fundamental clash of worldviews (value systems).

Problem --> finding a non-arbitrary way to value nature.
--> No compelling ethic that tells us what to do about the environment.

Moral distinction:
things sharing the kind of essence that human beings possess are dignified and make moral claims upon us, whereas non-rational or at least non-sentient beings possess only relative value as means to some rational beings ends. Dualism sanctions Anthropocentrism.

United Nations Environment Program (UNEP, 2009):

1. Earth’s surface is warming, impacting water availability, land quality, food security, and biodiversity.

2. 2 M people + die each year from air pollution.

3. Ozone hole is larger than ever before.

4. Availability of fresh water is on the decline --> contaminated water is the greatest environmental cause of human sickness and death.

5. Aquatic ecosystems are over-exploited, risking food supplies and biodiversity.

6. Poor people are most vulnerable to environmental change.
Environmental Ethics
Melissa Chambers, Nicole Chirkoff, Farrah-Lee Ludwig, Braden McMillan, Mark Tromsness
Toxic Hazards & Consumerism:

Manufacturing industry releases toxins into our environment in quantities larger than ever before --> We are a consumer-based society where the acquisition, use and disposal of individually owned items is greatly desired. Toxic waste needing disposal is produced, as a by-product of the general pursuit of what our society defines as valuable, that is the consumption of material goods.

Global Economy depends on Consumerism
Ashford (2002)
While creating a program in public health and law, one ought to consider developing an alternative pedagogy whereby economics is seen as the servant of achieving social justice and equity, rather than having law serve dominant economic interests.
One Persons Trash is Another Persons... Trash
The Columbia River
-Personal Opinion
Full transcript