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Environmental Issues: The Questions

Is the classical free-market view of economics an adequate guide for protecting the environment? Or, do we require a new, more socialist or nature-centered approach? Defend your response using information from Environmental Ethics.

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Under the classical free-market perspective of economics, the rights and titles of property vest with private individuals, who would take maximum care and exercise greatest control over it. Thus, in a free enterprise system, where there is no coercion or compulsion to buy or sell, and everybody indulges according to his/her own volition with least state interference or control, it is expected that individuals would be in a better position to protect their environment. However, under state control, as envisaged in a socialist or closed economy, individuals cease to hold jurisdiction over “private property” and everything would be in the hands of the Government (Rothbard, 2009).

Thus, it is quite possible that under a bureaucratic and rigidly enforced system, the priorities over environment may not be as efficiently monitored as under a private enterprise system. A typical example could be of socialist country like Russia where state intervention has only succeeded in disintegrating the country and compromising on its economic goals. Again, taking the case of China, it is seen that this country has long abandoned socialism and taken recourse to modernization programs aimed at the common good of its people. With globalization and common global markets becoming a virtual reality, it is seen that, even in the context of environmental ethics, there needs to be a free-market view point that could sustain economies better.

What makes something valuable and morally considerable? Is it being human or rationally self-conscious, as Kant and most Western anthropocentric philosophers have held, or is it sentience, the ability to have experiences and, specifically, to suffer? Defend your response using information from Environmental Ethics.

It is the aspect of common good of all living and non-living entities that make something valuable and morally considerable. From an anthropocentric perspective, it is seen that the interests of animal kingdom and living biotic community may not command priorities, and yet these are important considerations in the sphere of environmental ethics. Therefore, it is not only the anthropocentric aspects that need to be considered, but also the sentient beings, like animals, reptiles and marine life that need to be respected. Thus sentience, the ability to experience pleasure and pain is important factor that needs to be taken into consideration. The ability to bear pain and sufferings is shared by Homo sapiens with other living organism. “If human suffering is morally relevant not merely because we are capable of suffering but because, as conscious agents, we care about or take an interest in avoiding suffering, then nonhuman suffering should be morally relevant for the same reason.” (Environmental ethics – the debate over anthropocentrism, 2009). It could be argued that even the interests of non-sentient matters like rivers, valleys and forests also need to be considered since they provide succor and food to sentient beings. Thus, it is necessary that man, by virtue of his superior intelligence and rational thinking faculties, needs to take responsibilities for other smaller creatures and also other living and non-living aspects of environment and ensure that no harm or detriment is caused to them. By indulging in activities that cause detriment to smaller flora, fauna and members of the biotic community, in a way he is heralding his own doom, since environmental degradation could have serious impacts and implications on the safety, health and well-being of mankind.

How do we assign value to and prioritize the relationships among humans, animals, and the natural environment?

The natural environment in which man lives and dies is filled with exotic and varied kinds of animals and plant life. Animals are not only a source of food for man but their hides also serve to provide clothing to man. Domesticated animals help man in his day to day activities like hunting, looking after the household and providing company to man. Plants are eternal and, while being a source of food and medicines, also help man to relate to smaller living organism. All these provide a symbiotic relationship. Plants depend on man for their growth and development and domesticated animals look upon man as masters and providers of their food and well being. Even the insect community provides useful service to mankind since they are food for animals and reptiles, which in turn, are sought by man. Thus, there are essential inter-relationships between man, plant and biotic life and animal life, and each is, to a very large extent, dependent on the other for sustenance and development. However, humans as the superior species, have a moral responsibility to take care of the smaller members of the community, in not causing unjustified detriment and taking good care of their needs for common good of the world. If humans do not take good care of smaller living species, it is possible that there would be threats of extinction of human race due to lack of food, medicines, water and other natural resources that are important for the survival of human race.

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Reference List

Environmental ethics- the debate over anthropocentrism. (2009).

Rothbard, M N. (2008). The concise encyclopedia of economics free market. 2nd ed. Library Economics Liberty.

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