Environmental ethics is a branch of environmental perspective, which tries to widen the borders of ethics from only including human beings to non-human world. Its influence touches many disciplines such as theology, law, economics, geography and more. Human beings make many ethical decisions relating to the environment. We decide whether we should continue clearing forests for the sake of consumption, should we make gasoline-powered vehicle, should we cause extinction of various species in order to live conveniently.
The study of environmental ethics is growing due to events like earth day and work of scientists. We ask ourselves certain questions, should we destroy overpopulated species, should we put out natural fires, should we cull feral animals. Should farmers practice slash and burn techniques when clearing agricultural grounds. Are these actions ethical? If for instance a firm performs open pit mining, does the firm have the responsibility to re-establish the surface ecology? In addition, if the company restores the environment, will the man made environment be the same as the natural environment. We all agree that morally, it is not right to destroy or pollute the environment (Brennan, 2008). Is this so because the environment is necessary for the present and future well-being of the human race or for the reason that the environment has values in its own right and needs protection? Environmental ethics analyzes and seeks to answer these questions. An individual, communities or a group can face these questions.
Non-anthropocentric does not bases environmental ethics solely on grounds of human concern. Some people judge wrongly that environmental ethics can only comprise anthropocentric basis. Any ethical system, which removes man from being the focus of focus, is non-anthropocentric. For illustration, all organizations advocating animal rights, those that claim that all living things have moral standing and that ecological systems have moral position are all non-anthropocentric. These viewpoints are divers hence there is a great range of non-anthropocentric theories.
Studies have tried to categories the study of environmental ethics in different ways. One of the approaches is by a scholar named Alan Marshall, which categorizes environmental ethics in three general approaches. The approaches include libertarian extension, the ecological extension and conservation ethics. Marshalls Libertarian extension propagates civil liberation approach. This is the pledge to extend the same rights to members within an environment, which are all human and non-human members. He argues that by the fact that human and non- human exist, they both deserve to be given ethical worth. They have intrinsic worth or inherent value. He advocates expansion of the moral worth to include rights of non-human animals. The ecological extension propagates acknowledgment of the interdependence of all biological species.
It is actually a scientific advance of natural world. Ecological extension advocates that there is intrinsic worth in all biological entities within the global environment (Jardins, 2005). It states that the earth keeps on changing its geo-physiological configuration so that there is maintenance of equilibrium of human and non-human biological world. The earth in this context is thought of as unified. It includes all entities with ethical value of which man is of little import in the long run. Conservation ethics propagates the using of value into the non-human world.
Instrumental and intrinsic values are of great importance in the literature of environmental ethics. The first one is the value of an item as a way to advance some end while the last one is the value of an item as an end in itself. For illustration take the value of pawpaw which has an instrumental value for birds that feed on it. Feeding on this fruit is a means to the survival of the birds (Pojman & Pojman, 2007). Nevertheless, many people disagree that pawpaw has value as an end in itself. On the other hand, we can consider a teacher as having instrumental value to the students. Still the teacher as a person has intrinsic value despite serving the ends of others. In another example, we can consider a wild plant with instrumental value since it provides ingredients for a given medicine. If apart from being beneficial in medicinal value, the wild plant has worth in itself, then it has intrinsic value. Since what is good quality as an end in itself has intrinsic value. Many people agree that an item's possession of intrinsic value lead to amoral duty for it to be protected or desist from harm it.
Humanistic approach advocates conservation of the heritage sites on earth. These are parts of the earth with scarcity worth since they depreciate over time. We conserve them for the sake of the future generations because we inherited them from our ancestors. The future generations also in the same spirit have the responsibility of conserving the same. For illustration, let us consider the tropical rainforest. The rainforest is special by virtue that it has taken a long time to evolve. If we clear the forest in order to plant crops on it, the farming is bound to fail over time since the soil condition shall have been disturbed. This may take centuries to regenerate. Theology advocates that we should preserve the environment as a resource entrusted to us by God.
It states that since God created the universe, and he entrusted everything in the hands of man thus man should preserve the entire environment. This should Range from caring for people to protecting the environment. The love of Christ enables man to overcome sin. Sin is revealed in thoughtlessness and selfishness of man, which leads to destruction of resources.
Environmental ethics questions the unspoken moral dominance of man over the natural environment. It also investigates the prospect of arguments that give other species of earth an intrinsic value. It is a fact that human beings depend on the non-human environment. Therefore, our duty towards the non-human environment came from our duties towards fellow human beings. Environmental ethics thus, provides basis for social policies that protect the environment hence reducing environmental damage.
All things, living and non-living have inherent worth and hence deserve moral respect. If something is alive, it possesses inherent value. Respect for nature propagates that all living things, which also strive to stay alive, have inherent value. Responsibility to protect the ecological system can be one of the duties we have; it is an indirect duty to a single living thing in the ecological system. We should therefore take a new moral attitude, that not only man but also all things that are alive have inherent value. Every living thing posses a good of its own, it can either be harmed or be made to benefit (Taylor, 2010).
They have the ability or potential to develop in their respective environment. Through this ability, everything can remain okay or not. Apart from this we should also acknowledge that living things also posses an inherent worth.
This can emanate from within us if we take the position of respect of environment. This attitude can cause us to show respect for all living things, human and non-human. Developing the attitude of respect should come from our understanding of the interdependence of living things. One, we should understand that we are members of biotic community and are not special in any way. We should acknowledge that we are products of evolution and are dependant upon ecological systems for life. We should appreciate that all living things have a biological function, each with its own purpose and goal. This will enable us to view living things as centers of life hence they are unique.