Issues in Environmental Ethics

Consider these issues

  • Why care about nature “for itself” when only people “matter”? If you deny that “only people matter,” on what grounds can you defend that denial? (After all, if no people are around to regret it, what difference does it make if a species, a canyon, or even a planet is destroyed? If people who are around prefer to destroy natural objects and landscapes, then so what? Why not?
  • When species or landscapes or wilderness areas are destroyed, what, of value, is lost to mankind?
  • Will future generations “miss” what we have “taken from them”? (How could they if they never will know what they have “lost”?)
  • “Should Trees Have legal Standing?” (as Christopher Stone contends, and tried to bring a court case int he US through the pressure group The Sierra Club). On what grounds, if not for mankind’s sake?
  • Does “land ownership” make moral sense, or is it a morally absurd and repugnant concept in Western culture (as the native Americans would claim).
  • Do human beings have a need for nature that implies an obligation to preserve it? What is the evidence for this?
  • What are the ultimate grounds of an affirmation to protect the environment? Are they rational? Irrational? Non- rational? Mystical?
  • What, basically, is wrong with the developer’s anthropocentric and utilitarian land ethic? Why not treat land as a “commodity” rather than a “community”?
  • If five-hundred backpackers and river runners per year enjoyed Glen Canyon before 1962, and fifty thousand power boaters and water skiers enjoy it now, then why not have a Lake Powell there?
  • Do future generations (who, after all, do not exist now) have a “right” now to a clean and natural environment when their time comes?
  • Can man “improve” upon nature? How? What constitutes “improvement”?
  • Do the facts of environmental science have moral implications?
  • Are human beings psychologically capable of caring for nature and for future generations?
  • If they have this capacity, are we morally obliged to nurture it?
Source: http://gadfly.igc.org/e-ethics/Intro-ee.htm
There is also a link to a postdoctoral dissertation examining John Rawls’ theory of justice in terms of a possible “duty to posterity.”

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