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Environmental Issues and Ethics: The Questions

Should scientists ignore their personal values and ethics when designing and conducting a scientific study to examine an environmental problem using the scientific method? Why or why not?

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Environmental ethics concerns itself with “the moral relationship of human beings to, and also the value and moral status of, the environment and its nonhuman contents.” (Environmental ethics, 2008, para.1). Thus, human beings as superior beings have greater responsibilities towards the environment and should also be concerned with the preservation and protection of the environment and also that of the smaller non-human species which are living on it. Moreover, aspects in living have both ‘instrumental value and intrinsic value’ (Environmental ethics, 2008). Instrumental value is the benefit to others outside the person’s domain. For instance, a school teacher provides benefits to students. These benefits provided to the taught could be termed as instrumental value. Besides this, the teacher provides benefits to himself in terms of his personal satisfaction, privileges and duties. These constitute the intrinsic value, and needs to be protected. Intrinsic value needs to be well identified and assessed; otherwise it is possible of causing detriment or damage to others, as well as to users themselves. Thus, it would be correct to assume that something which has intrinsic value triggers off a “prima facie direct moral duty on the part of moral agents” to preserve it, or better still not to cause harm to it. (Environmental ethics, 2008, Introduction: the challenge of environmental ethics, para.2).

Thus, it would be essential to consider the instrumental interest and intrinsic interest while examining an environmental problem using the scientific method. In the event such scientific study necessitates damage to the ecological balance, or harm to existing environmental structure, and is against the personal values and ethics of the concerned scientists, it is necessary that these aspects are not ignored and they should refrain from conducting such research studies. This is because not only are such studies morally wrong, but these are also capable of causing irreparable damage to environment.

What do you consider the challenges of applying utilitarian, deontological, and religious ethics to environmental issues?

The challenge of applying utilitarian ethics fundamentally deals with ‘human-interest frustration’ and non-human desperation. (Environmental ethics, 2008). Thus, under utilitarian ethics, the quantum of people who experience pain and pleasure (human, animals, etc.) are only considered. The consideration of non-sentient aspects like hills, valleys, forests, etc.) are not considered. Thus, it may be said that many actions in terms of killing animals, mammals, etc. could be justified under utilitarian ethics since these actions have higher human interest pleasure balance, ignoring its effects on objects that have no sense of feelings. Utilitarian ethics, thus, could be considered, as a subject matter of debate. Coming to deontological ethics, it advocates that the righteousness of action is independent of its consequences – good or bad. It is evident that human beings have an obligation for protecting the biotic world, which also includes all living organism. If environmentalists allow destruction of forests or interference with nature, they are in essence, violating deontological ethics. Rather than raising environmental ethics disputes, why such activities need to be allowed is a moot matter of argument. That being said, it is necessary to consider religious ethics. This school of ethics considers that all thoughts and actions should be for the good of mankind and also for growth and development of the human race. While religious ethics could be said to be human oriented, it is also necessary to consider non-human beings within its scope. Human development can only be sustained if the larger context of life on earth and protection of life is also considered.

What is the role of education in changing individual values, attitudes, and practices toward a healthier global environment? What might you do to improve the global environment?

Education plays a compulsive and critical role in changing individual values, attitudes and practices towards a healthier universal environment. By creating awareness in ourselves and others, it is possible to work towards creating a healthier, safer and secure environment for humans and other living organism in this world and address challenges and issues that emanate from the destruction of ecological structures and environmental pollution. Moreover, the role played by environmental ethics goes beyond just caring for the environment. It also needs to devise ways and means, through awareness and activity programs regarding how certain unwanted environmental hazards could be eliminated and man could live at peace with his environment.

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In order to improve the global environment, it is necessary to identify and work out viable solutions to the uncontrolled and arbitrary destruction of nature, such as clearing of forests, building high rise concrete structures on land, and creating other problems for flora and fauna inhabiting these regions. It is necessary to draw and implement action plans for protection of endangered species of animals, birds and reptiles and ensure their safe sanctuary. These beings should be secure in their natural habitat. It is also necessary that detrimental activities like illegal killing of beasts for their hides and tusks, encroaching land, and pleasure hunting activities are restricted, if not eliminated. Moreover, a world body needs to be created that could address specific issues relating to environmental ethical values and their implementation on a global level.

Reference List

Environmental ethics. (2008). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Environmental ethics: Introduction: the challenge of environmental ethics. (2008). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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