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Environmental Ethics

  • Date Submitted: 04/06/2011 06:31 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 32 
  • Words: 4790
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WHY WE NEED A NEW ETHIC FOR
THE ENVIRONMENT

We are enveloped and immersed in a world comprised of air, earth, waters, plants, animals and constructed artefacts. It is both animate and inanimate. The environment, then, may be loosely defined as that which constitutes and makes up our surroundings. As we occur in the world together with our surroundings, acting upon it and being acted upon, we form part of the environment. Located within this environment, humankind has grown and developed socially and economically to a point that if present trends continue the earth’s natural systems will be impoverished within less than a century (Pierce & Van De Veer 1995: 37). This situation can be referred to as an environmental crisis. To talk of an environmental crisis signifies that we are at a turning point, a period requiring insightful thinking, creative solutions, and a transformation not only of actions, but also of spiritual, perceptual, and moral outlook. South Africa, in a bid to participate in the global arena, needs to respond to these challenges.
Science and environmental policy are the most commonly accepted options for dealing with this crisis. While each has a significant contribution to make, overemphasis on either option could easily compound the environmental crisis. The environmental crisis is primarily a consequence of human action. Value systems inform actions. Therefore, we need to question our most fundamental values. This highlights the importance of ethical thinking in relation to the environmental crisis. The three main classes of ethical theory are teleological, utilitarian and deontological. It will be shown that they are, for the most part, applied in anthropocentric ways. I will argue that an anthropocentric value system is inadequate for the development of an environmental ethic.
 
THE RESPONSES OF SCIENCE AND ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY
 
Understanding the magnitude of the environmental crisis and the potential threat it poses to life on...

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