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A role of environmental ethics in modern society

A role of environmental ethics in modern society

Kyiv national university of culture and arts


“ A role of the Environmental Ethics in the modern society”

Executed by: student TBA-40 group

Faculty: direction and


Radchenko Nataliya

Controlled by: Karpenko

Valeriy I.


A Role of the Environmental Ethics in the modern society.

The inspiration for environmental ethics was the first Earth Day in

1970 when environmentalists started urging philosophers who were involved

with environmental groups to do something about environmental ethics. An

intellectual climate had developed in the last few years of the 1960s in

large part because of the publication of two papers in Science: Lynn

White`s “The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis” (March 1967) and

Garett Hardin`s "The Tragedy of the Commons" (December 1968). Most

influential with regard to this kind of thinking, however, was an essay in

Aldo Leopold`s A Sand County Almanac, "The Land Ethic," in which Leopold

explicitly claimed that the roots of the ecological crisis were

philosophical. Although originally published in 1949, Sand County Almanac

became widely available in 1970 in a special Sierra Club/Ballantine

edition, which included essays from a second book, Round River.

Most academic activity in the 1970s was spent debating the Lynn White

thesis and the tragedy of the commons. These debates were primarily

historical, theological, and religious, not philosophical. Throughout most

of the decade philosophers sat on the sidelines trying to determine what a

field called environmental ethics might look like. The first philosophical

conference was organized by William Blackstone at the University of Georgia

in 1972. The proceedings were published as Philosophy and Environmental

Crisis in 1974, which included Pete Gunter`s first paper on the Big

Thicket. In 1972 a book called “Is It Too Late?” A Theology of Ecology,

written by John B. Cobb, was published. It was the first single-authored

book written by a philosopher, even though the primary focus of the book

was theological and religious. In 1973 an Australian philosopher, Richard

Routley (now Sylvan), presented a paper at the 15th World Congress of

Philosophy "Is There a Need for a New, an Environmental, Ethic?" A year

later John Passmore, another Australian, wrote Man’s Responsibility for

Nature, in which, reacting to Routley, he argued that there was no need for

an environmental ethic at all. Most debates among philosophers until the

mid-1980s was focused on refuting Passmore. In 1975 environmental ethics

came to the attention of mainstream philosophy with the publication of

Holmes Rolston, III`s paper, "Is There an Ecological Ethic?" in Ethics.

Arne Naess, a Norwegian philosopher and the founding editor of the

journal Inquiry authored and published a paper in Inquiry “The Shallow and

the Deep, Long-range Ecology Movement” in 1973, which was the beginning of

the deep ecology movement. Important writers in this movement include

George Sessions, Bill DeVall, Warwick Fox, and, in some respects, Max


Throughout the 1970s Inquiry was the primary philosophy journal that

dealt with environmental ethics. Environmental ethics was, for the most

part, considered a curiosity and mainstream philosophy journals rarely

published more than one article per year, if that. Opportunities for

publishing dramatically improved in 1979 when Eugene C. Hargrove founded

the journal Environmental Ethics. The name of the journal became the name

of the field.

The first five years of the journal was spent mostly arguing about

rights for nature and the relationship of environmental ethics and animal

rights/animal liberation. Rights lost and animal welfare ethics was

determined to be a separate field. Animal rights has since developed as a

separate field with a separate journal, first, Ethics and Animals, which

was later superseded by Between the Species.

Cobb published another book in the early 1980s, The Liberation of Life

with co-author Charles Birch. This book took a process philosophy approach

in accordance with the philosophy of organism of Alfred North Whitehead.

Robin Attfield, a philosopher in Wales, wrote a book called The Ethics of

Environmental Concern. It was the first full-length response to Passmore.

An anthology of papers, Ethics and the Environment, was edited by Donald

Scherer and Tom Attig.

There was a turning point about 1988 when many single-authored books

began to come available: Paul Taylor`s Respect for Nature; Holmes Rolston`s

Environmental Ethics; Mark Sagoff`s The Economy of the Earth; and Eugene C.

Hargrove`s Foundations of Environmental Ethics. J. Baird Callicott created

a collection of his papers, In Defence of the Land Ethic. Bryan Norton

wrote Why Preserve Natural Diversity? followed more recently by Toward

Unity among Environmentalists. A large number of books have been written by

Kristin Shrader-Frechette on economics and policy.

In the 1980s a second movement, ecofeminism, developed. Karen Warren

is the key philosopher, although the ecofeminism movement involves many

thinkers from other fields. It was then followed by a third, social

ecology, based on the views of Murray Bookchin. An important link between

academics and radical environmentalists was established with the creation

of the Canadian deep ecology journal, The Trumpeter. In 1989, Earth Ethics

Quarterly was begun as a more popular environmental publication. Originally

intended primarily as a reprint publication, now as a publication of the

Centre for Respect for Life and Environment, it is focused more on

international sustainable development.

The 1990s began with the establishment of the International Society

for Environmental Ethics, which was founded largely through the efforts of

Laura Westra and Holmes Rolston, III. It now has members throughout the

world. In 1992, a second refereed philosophy journal, dedicated to

environmental ethics, Environmental Values published its first issue in


On the theoretical level, Taylor and Rolston, despite many

disagreements, can be regarded as objective nonanthropocentric intrinsic

value theorists. Callicott, who follows Aldo Leopold closely, is a

subjective nonanthropocentric intrinsic value theorist. Hargrove is

considered a weak anthropocentric intrinsic value theorist. Sagoff is very

close to this position although he doesn’t talk about intrinsic value much

and takes a Kantian rather than an Aristotlian approach. At the far end is

Bryan Norton who thought up weak anthropocentrism but wants to replace

intrinsic value with a pragmatic conception of value.

A brief history of environmental consciousness in the western world

places our views in perspective and provides a context for understanding

the maze of related and unrelated thoughts, philosophies, and practices

that we call "environmentalism." Understanding where the questions being

asked and analyzed are coming from is essential in environmental analysis:

the kinds of questions asked by an environmental group and their

interpretation of the results can be vastly different from, for example, a

utility, logging company or special interest (ranchers grazing public

lands, and so forth).

The term "environmental ethics," in fact the whole field, is a very

recent phenomenum, actually only several decades old, although many

particular concerns or philosophical threads have been developing for

several centuries. A Professor named Eugene Hargroves began a journal he

named Environmental Ethics in the late 1970s in which controversies

regarding environmental behaviour and visions could be discussed. This name

became an umbrella for a group of strange bedfellows. A controversy had

begun in 1974 when an Australian named John Passmore published a book

called "Man`s responsibility for nature: ecological problems and western

traditions" in which he argued that environmental preservation and concern

was inconsistent with western tradition. Robin Attfield replied 1983 in a

book entitled "The ethics of environmental concern" by holding that the

stewardship tradition was more important than dominion in western thought,

and that this is what forms the foundation for environmental ethics.

Environmental ethics is a collection of independent ethical

generalizations, not a tight, rationally ordered set of rules.

Environmental ethics will be a compilation of interrelated independent

guidelines - a process field that will be coming together for a long time.

Ethics really flow from peoples perceptions, attitudes and behaviour -

as in the case of environmental ethics and animal liberation. Like chess,

decision making in life is very perceptual or intuitive - by analogy, there

are l) favourite formations (of players or arguments); 2) empirical

investigation of these (with maximum and minimum expectations); which leads

to a progressive deepening of perspective.

The problem is only dimly perceived in the beginning, but becomes

clearer with thought and re-examination. What holds a chess game together

is not the rules but the experience the individual player. A grand master

at chess sees more on a chessboard in a few seconds than an average player

sees in thirty minutes.

Environmental ethics today encompasses a diverse, not necessarily related,

anthology including:

1. Animal rights.

2. The Land Ethic.

3. Ecofeminism.

4. Deep Ecology.

5. Shallow Ecology.

6. The rights of rocks, and so forth.

8. Bioethics.

Bioethics could be defined as the study of ethical issues and decision-

making associated with the use of living organisms and medicine. It

includes both medical ethics and environmental ethics. Rather than defining

a correct decision it is about the process of decision-making balancing

different benefits, risks and duties. The word "bioethics" was first used

in 1970, however, the concept of bioethics is much older, as we can see in

the ethics formulated and debated in literature, art, music and the general

cultural and religious traditions of our ancestors.

Society is facing many important decisions about the use of science

and technology. These decisions affect the environment, human health,

society and international policy. To resolve these issues, and develop

principles to help us make decisions we need to involve anthropology,

sociology, biology, medicine, religion, psychology, philosophy, and

economics; we must combine the scientific rigour of biological data, with

the values of religion and philosophy to develop a world-view. Bioethics is

therefore challenged to be a multi-sided and thoughtful approach to

decision-making so that it may be relevant to all aspects of human life.

The term bioethics reminds us of the combination of biology and ethics,

topics that are intertwined. New technology can be a catalyst for our

thinking about issues of life, and we can think of the examples like

assisted reproductive technologies, life sustaining technology, organ

transplantation, and genetics, which have been stimuli for research into

bioethics in the last few decades. Another stimulus has been the

environmental problems.

There are large and small problems in ethics. We can think of problems

that involve the whole world, and problems which involve a single person.

We can think of global problems, such as the depletion of the ozone layer

which is increasing UV radiation affecting all living organisms. This

problem could be solved by individual action to stop using ozone-depleting

chemicals, if alternatives are available to consumers. However, global

action was taken to control the problem. The international convention to

stop the production of many ozone-depleting chemicals is one of the best

examples yet of applying universal environmental ethics.

Another problem is greenhouse warming, which results mainly from

energy use. This problem however can only be solved by individual action to

reduce energy use, because we cannot easily ban the use of energy. We could

do this by turning off lights, turning down heaters and air conditioners,

building more energy efficient buildings, shutting doors, and driving with

a light foot. These are all simple actions which everyone must do if we are

concerned about our planet, yet not many do so. Energy consumption could be

reduced 50-80% by lifestyle change with current technology if people wanted

to. New technology may help, but lifestyle change can have much more

immediate affect.

Environmental ethics is a relatively new field - and the name

"environmental ethics" derives from Eugene Hargrove`s journal, which was

begun in late 1970s.

This field - environmental ethics, - will be subsumed as other areas

of applied ethics develop more fully. The early pieces or threads of

environmental ethics were disconnected...one needs a quick review to fully

comprehend today`s "whole" - and know the directions in which the threads


Environmental ethicists as well as policy-makers, activists etc.

frequently speak about the need for preservation of various parts of

nature. Two main grounds are repeatedly presented for this need:

1. Our moral responsibilities to future human beings (sometimes called

sustainable development) require that we stop using technology and science

for short-term gains at the expense of long-term risks of very negative

ecological effects for future people. In several official declarations and

policy-documents this idea has been expressed as "the precautionary

principle", roughly the idea that we should not use particular means of

production, distribution etc. unless they have been shown not to effect too

serious risks. However, it is far from clear what is meant by this. What

determines whether or not the effecting of a certain risk (in order to

secure some short-term gain) is too serious or not? - and what determines

whether or not this has been "shown"? Some traditional decision-theorists

would say that it is a question of traditional instrumental efficiency

(i.e. rationality) in relation to morally respectable aims. Some ethicists

would instead claim that it is a question of whether or not the severity of

the scenario illustrating an actualization of the risk in question makes

the taking of this risk morally wrong in itself. Others, yet, hint that

they want to take a stand in between these two extremes, however, without

specifying what this could mean. There is also a rather grim debate

regarding whether or not it can ever be shown that a certain action does

not effect too serious risks, and this of course depends on what

requirements should be laid on someone who purports to show such a thing.

In both cases, the questions seem to boil down to basic issues regarding

what is required of risky decisions in order to make them morally

justified. But, obviously, it must be a kind of moral justification

different from the one dealt with by traditional ethical theories of the

rights and wrongs of actions, since these only deal with justification in

terms of actual outcomes, not in terms of risks for such outcomes.

2. Natural systems possess a value in themselves which makes them worth

preserving also at the expense of human well-being and man-made constructs.

This idea is less common in official documents than the former (although it

is explicitely set out as a part of the basis of the Swedish Environmental

Policy Act) than it is among environmental philosophers and ethicists.

However, also this idea is far from clear, since it is not clear neither

how a natural system is to be distinguished from a non-natural one and why

this difference is to be taken as morally relevant, nor why preservation is

the only recommendation which follows from the placing of an intrinsic

value in nature. Although there are several suggestion on what it is that

makes certain systems intrinsically valuable, it is has not been

sufficiently explained, first, why these characteristics (typically

complexity, self-preservation/replication, beauty etc.) do not justify

preservation also of systems normally not taken to be natural (such as

metropolitan areas, hamburger restaurants or nuclear power-plants),

secondly, why this value does not imply a recommendation to reshape rather

than preserve natural systems, in order to increase the presence and

magnitude of the value-making characteristics. In particular, it seems to

be a challenge for a preservationist to argue in favour of restoration of

certain biotic variants, without leaving the door open also for reshaping,

for example by the use of modern biotechnology.

The aim of this research-project is to attack these two families of issues,

both connected to the justification of common ideas regarding the

importance of preserving various parts of nature. In one part (carried out

by christian menthe), the project will be aimed at mapping out moral

intuitions regarding the moral responsibility of the taking of risks, in

order to use these for developing a normative theory of the morality of

risk-taking which can be used to underpin a more specific version of the

precautionary principle. The other part of the project is instead aimed at

systematically reviewing various proposals (and new home-made to how to

distinguish between that (i.e. nature)) which should typically be preserved

according to preservationists and that which does not need to be so

preserved, and to resist the conclusion that reshaping of nature might be a

better idea from the point of view of typically preservationist values than

actual preservation. The focus here will be on ideas ascribing a value in

itself to nature or certain natural systems.

Bibliography list.

1. Charles Birch and John B. Cobb, Jr., The Liberation of Life: From the

Cell to the Community (Denton, Tex.: Environmental Ethics

Books, 1990), 357 pages.

2. Yrjo Sepanmaa, The Beauty of Environment: A General Model for

Environmental Aesthetics, 2d ed. (Denton, Tex.: Environmental Ethics

Books, 1993), 191 pages.

3. John B. Cobb, Jr., Is It Too Late? A Theology of Ecology, rev. ed.

(Denton, Tex.: Environmental Ethics Books, 1995), 112 pages.

4. Eugene C. Hargrove, Foundations of Environmental Ethics (reprint ed.,

Denton, Tex.: Environmental Ethics Books, 1996), 229 pages.

5. Robin Attfield, The Ethics of Environmental Concern (Denton, Tex.:

Environmental Ethics Books, 1983), 237 pages.

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