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What Is Environmental Ethics? | ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS | Ethics

  • Environmental ethics refers to the values attached with environment. It studies the moral relationship of humankind with its environment. Environment plays an important role by
    • Providing resources
    • Sustaining life
    • Waste management
  • Environmental ethics relates to our obligations and responsibilities towards nature. Environmental ethics is the guiding force that should make every human care of their surroundings.
  • This states that for an equitable share in the ecology we must have equal responsibilities. But one must remember that each one owes some responsibility towards the environment which provides not only food and other materials but also satisfies aesthetic needs of humans’ comforts.
  • However, over exploitation of resources by growing human population has upset the natural balance. The use of technology and economic growth have led to ecological problems.

Approaches To Environmental Ethics

There are three primary theories of moral responsibility regarding the environment.

  • Anthropocentrism: Anthropocentrism is the view that all environmental responsibility is derived from human interests alone. The assumption here is that only human beings are morally significant and have direct moral standing. Since the environment is crucial to human well-being and human survival, we have an indirect duty toward the environment, that is, a duty derived from human interests. We must ensure that the Earth remains environmentally hospitable for supporting human life and even that it remains a pleasant place for humans to live.
  • Ecocentrism: The third approach to environmental responsibility, called ecocentrism, maintains that the environment deserves direct moral consideration and not consideration that is merely derived from human or animal interests. In ecocentrism it is suggested that the environment itself, not just the living organisms that inhabit it, has moral worth.
  • Biocentrism: According to the broadest version of the biocentric theory, all forms of life have an inherent right to exist.

Issues Involved In Environmental Ethics

  • Environmental pollution: Consequences of environmental pollution do not respect national boundaries. Moreover, the poor and weaker sections of society are disproportionately affected by negative effects of climate change.
  • Consumption of natural resources: Since humans are part of nature, sustainable use of resources can be achieved through cooperation with nature.
  • Destruction of forests: Big industries and multinational companies form the major section which exploits forests unsustainably. However, the brunt of the destruction is faced by the poor and tribals who are the inhabitants of the forests. It leads to the loss of biodiversity, habitats and extinction of plants and animals.
  • Equity: People living in the economically-advanced sections/ parts use greater amount of resources and energy per individual and also waste more resources. This is at the cost of poor people who are resource-deprived.
  • Animal rights: The plants and animals that share the Earth with us too have a right to live and share the Earth’s resources and living space. Animal welfare is relevant to environmental ethics because animals exist within the natural environment and thus form part of environmentalists’ concerns.

Role Of Individual In Maintaining Environmental Ethics

  • Moral responsibility normally implies knowledge, capacity, choice, and value significance. That is to say, if a person is morally responsible to do something, then he (a) knows of this requirement, (b) is capable of performing it, (c) can freely choose whether or not to do it, and (d) the performance thereof affects the welfare and/or liberty of other beings. Because one‘s response to these requirements reflects upon his value as a moral person.
  • The individual forms the base of the society and morality at its end is important for maintaining balance.
  • Individuals committed to a strong environmental ethic can make many lifestyle changes to significantly reduce their personal impact on the planet.

Various Examples Of Environmental Ethics

  • The Vishnoi society of Rajasthan once sacrificed their lives to save the local Kejadi trees (Prosopis spicigera).
  • Delhi and NCR were transferred to industries causing pollution . Then vehicles necessarily to use CNG in Delhi and NCR. The “Green Fuel Clean Fuel” campaign led to the use of unleaded petrol in cars in Delhi. This happened for the first time in India.
  • Demonstration against dams is a controversial issue and the Narmada Bachao Andolan is a very active movement for the people removed from the Narmada Dam. (Many people are being displaced due to the construction of this dam.) A similar issue also arose over the Tehri dam.
  • The Valley Project in the Western Ghats was terminated due to protests and public representation by environmental activists. This helped save the rain forests of the region, which is one of the biodiversity hot spots in the world.
  • Advocate MC-Mehta v. Union of India case whose objective was to protect the Taj Mahal of India from extraterritorialities emanating from Mathura Refinery. Due to this famous case, every citizen has rights over pure air, water and land. The decision in this case as a right to a clean environment is considered under the the right to life of the Indian Constitution.
  • The famous Chipko movement is an important link in this regard.

The Conservation Ethics And Traditional Value Systems

  • Since olden days, people have always valued mountains, rivers, forests, trees and several animals. Thus, much of nature was venerated and protected.
  • Traditions held plants and animals as an important aspect of nature and were considered the basis of life-support systems and integral to bring about a harmonious life.

Virtue Ethics

  • Virtue ethics is a way of thinking about how to behave well, which focuses on the character of moral agents and the nature of the good life.
  • Virtue ethics is based on a positive view of human nature, one that takes into account that humans are strongly predisposed to recognize excellence in others (including non-human) whom they can take as role models and gain fulfillment from a life lived virtuously.


  • To cope with the issues of environmental ethics, human beings must reach some value consensus and cooperate with each other at the personal, national, regional, multinational and global levels. Global environmental protection depends on global governance.
  • An environmental ethic is, therefore, typically a global ethic with a global perspective.



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