Throughout the world, people have different perceptions of environmental problems and conservation that are particularly explained by environmental ethics, or simply what an individual believes to be right or wrong in our behavior towards taking care of the natural environment. While almost everyone has his or her own opinion on environmental conservation, there are some major worldviews on environmental ethics that everyone agrees with and they tend to focus on the entire environment or individual species. Some of these major worldviews that will be discussed in this paper include the planetary management worldview, the stewardship worldview, environmental wisdom worldviews, and environmental literacy worldview. This paper will also focus on discussing some of the environmental problems that require ethical consideration and thereafter provide the author’s own perspective on the environmental ethics that are essential to ensuring that the environment is well conserved and taken care of.
The Planetary Management Worldview
This is one of the anthropocentric or human-centered worldviews. Supporters of this worldview believe that human beings are the world’s leading and most important species, therefore, they are charged with the responsibility of managing the Earth’s resources for their own benefit (Miller & Spoolman, 2012). The proposers of this worldview further categorized it into three groups which include the no-problem school, free-market school, and space-earth school. The no-problem school asserts that human beings are capable of solving any environmental problem with a better management and more economic growth (Miller & Spoolman, 2012). Free-market school, on the other hand, believes that human beings manage Earth’s resources through a free-market global economy and conserve both public and private resources through the global market that is controlled by free-market competition (Miller & Spoolman, 2012). The spaceship earth school asserts that the earth is a complex machine which can be dominated, ordered, changed and understood to provide a better lifestyle for all its dwellers without causing a damage to it (Miller & Spoolman, 2012).
This ethical perspective takes into account the best ways to deal with the environment. This perspective postulates that human beings have an ethical mandate to be responsible managers, or stewards of the earth (Lin, 2016). This theory also has the view that when human beings are using the natural resources, they are sort of borrowing from the environment and the future generations. Therefore, humans have the responsibility of using the environment in a sustainable way in order to leave the environment a better place than they found it and leave behind enough resources to sustain the coming generations (Lin, 2016). Stewardship worldview is also one of the anthropocentric worldviews and some critics of this perspective argue that since human beings are superior from other animals and have full control of the environment, they can also not be knowledgeable enough to make future projections on the future condition of the environment.
Environmental Literacy Worldview
This environmental ethical view is significant in helping people understand the significance of environmental conservation and the impacts of unethical acts on the environment. This worldview also covers three fundamental points which include; that people’s ecological footprints and significant and are rapidly expanding, the natural capital is a necessity since it supports the economy and earth’s life, and there are climate-change and ecological tipping points which are irreversible and should not be interfered with because doing so will have major consequences (Miller & Spoolman, 2008). Supporters of this view encourage other people to understand the three facets of environmental literacy arguing that people also lack actual intimate contact with the natural environment that could significantly help them understand the viewpoints associated with environmental problems (Miller & Spoolman, 2008).
Environmental Wisdom Worldview
This worldview generally has the opinion that human beings entirely depend on earth and its natural capital (Miller & Spoolman, 2008). Therefore, it is necessary to conserve the environment and its natural resources to ensure their sustainable use and avoid environmental degradations. It also maintains that humans and other forms of life like other animals and plants are all interconnected facets of earth’s life-support system, therefore, it is necessary for humans not to destroy any part of the environment that may lead to environmental instability. In this case, instability implies that all forms of life that form the environment will all perish. In this contest, since human beings are superior to other forms of life, they are the ones capable of causing this instability. They are, therefore, mandated to take care of the environment and ensure that it is in a stable condition.
Environmental Problems that need Ethical Considerations
It is evidenced by several research studies on climate change that both human activities and natural forces have a significant influence on the global climate (Harris, 2012). For example, the greenhouse effect has been identified as one of the leading causes of global warming as it allows the incoming solar radiation to pass through but prevent much of the outgoing infrared radiation from escaping into space (Harris, 2012). Other human activities have also contributed to the release of infrared radiations, carbon dioxide, ozone-depleting substances that have also led to the greenhouse effect. There are a number of ethical issues that have been raised by global warming issues and one issue include just how much human-induced climate change on the environment should be accepted by the international community? (Harris, 2012).
Loss of Biodiversity
Biodiversity describes nature’s variety. Since the beginning of evolution era, there are a number of animal and plant species that are believed to have become extinct, however, there are ethical concerns that the rapid loss of biodiversity is worrying (Attfield, 2001). This is because the loss of some animal species, for example, white rhino is happening at a rapid rate and careful measures are currently being taken to save these species of animals and plants from becoming extinct. Loss of biodiversity poses the ethical question of the human role in protecting plants and animals. In this context, human beings need to conserve the environment and protect both plants and animals because they have significant value in supporting human life.
Long-range Air Pollution
Air pollution has been considered as one of the worst and leading environmental pollution and degradation in the contemporary world (Attfield, 2001). Specifically, much attention has been focused on the emission of carbon dioxide and other toxic gases such as methane gas into the environment. Also included is a class of chemicals commonly known as the Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) (Attfield, 2001)? while most vehicles and industries still rely on petroleum products as a source of energy, it is still impossible to have zero percent carbon dioxide emission into the environment, but the ethical question rising here is about just how much carbon dioxide should be released into the environment without causing environmental and health risks?
Loss of Marine Ecosystem
Marine areas have been affected by the increasing human settlements and aquatic pollution. For example, the coral reefs are being overexploited by the manufacturing industries while fish stocks are also being overexploited for food purposes. The ethics arising here is about balancing the need for, fish, and preventing overexploitation of fish which has currently become a significant topic of study.
My views are in line with environmental wisdom view because it is a reality that the world resources are scares, therefore, there should need to sustainably use the available resources to ensure that they last longer to support the future generations. Additionally, the fauna and flora of the environment need to be protected and conserved because we highly depend on them and their extinction is a sure way of us human beings also becoming extinct if we entirely do away with them. Therefore, environmental conservation is a necessity for humankind.
This paper has identified and described a number of worldviews with some supporting that the environment should not be conserved because there are enough natural resources that cannot be depleted, while other views strongly advocate for environmental conservation. This paper, however, supports the idea that environmental conservation is necessary because natural resources are slowly becoming extinct, therefore, they should be used sustainably to ensure there future availability for the subsequent generations.
- Attfield, R. (2001). The ethics of environmental concern. Athens, Ga: University of Georgia Press.
- Harris, F. (2012). Global environmental issues. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.
- Lin, J. W.-B. (2016). The nature of environmental stewardship: Understanding creation care solutions to environmental problems. Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications.
- Miller, G. T., & Spoolman, S. (2008). Environmental science: Problems, concepts, and solutions. Belmont, CA: Brooks Cole.
- Miller, G. T., & Spoolman, S. (2012). Living in the environment. Pacific Grove, Calif.?: Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning.