ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS

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Title: Environmental Ethics

Environmental Ethics

Environmental ethics extends the boundaries of ethics from concentrating to humans only to include the non-human nature world. Environmental ethics academic field spans from 1970s, when renowned scholars published scientific papers urging philosophical scholars to consider the philosophical aspects of problems in our environment. Thereafter, an international journal as established in 1979 and 1992 in US and Britain respectively (Brennan, 2008; Rolston, 2012). Today, human beings are faced with many ethical decisions regarding the environment such as cutting trees and propagating endangered species (Taylor, 2011). The discussion set out in this essay is based on the concepts that nature has rights, use of aesthetics to make decisions about land, humans cease to be conquerors of nature and all creatures are part of the same bio-community.

Advancements in environmental ethics are based on understanding that the community consists of non-humans and humans who mutually benefit from the co-existence. Therefore, all members of the community deserve equal rights without speciesism biasness. In addition, the environment is viewed as valuable to the existence of quality human life and serves as an adequate reason to conserve it (Taylor, 2011). Considering part of the nature is acquiring the scarcity value, the preservation of the environment is necessary for the future generations to enjoy what has been handed over from generation to generation. Some of the natural environments that exist took many generations to develop to their current state; therefore tampering with them would take thousands of more years to regenerate (Schlosberg, 2007).

Recently, the Christian faith has joined in support environmental ethics. The church has urged its members and the world to respect the nature as created by God. Pope Francis letters on environmental preservation is one example of Christian faith supporting environmental ethics. According to Pope Francis, the universe was created by God and is controlled by God. Therefore, all human kind are expected to be accountable to God on how they utilise God’s Creation (Francis, 2015).

Nature Has Rights

The Rights of Nature refers to a recognition that Nature has rights just like humans. Therefore, it calls for balancing human needs and the needs of the other species by ensuring they co-exist in a mutually beneficial way. It is also an understanding that all ecosystems are intertwined and are meant to co-exist. The Rights of Nature opposes treating nature as property but proposes an acknowledgement of its right to co-exist, and regenerate. It tasks human to enforce those rights to the nature and to uphold, decisions, culture and values that promote good in the entire nature (“Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature,” n.d.-a).

The Rights of Nature have recently received worldwide acknowledgement thanks to several movements, scholars and championing alliances such as The Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. In 2015, the first international forum on the Rights of Mother Earth was convened at Mexico. Leaders who attended the forum reiterated the urgency to globalize legislations for the Rights of Mother Earth as well as implement the Universal Declaration of The Rights of Nature (“Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature,” n.d.-b; Vidal, 2011).

The Universal Declaration of The Rights of Nature was developed in the year 2010 at World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Bolivia, and it was aimed at recognizing the nature as a living being. In addition, they underscored the inherent need to protect, restore, respect and preserve the nature and all species. The utilitarian view and irrational exploitation of nature as experienced today was condemned because it was endangering the future of innumerable forms of existence (Ayma, 2011).

The environmental protection laws that existed in several countries had yielded much success. However, recognizing Rights of Nature has provided a new legal structure that supports the lawful existence of ecosystems. The Universal Declaration of The Rights of Mother Earth stipulates that every component of the earth have three rights namely; The Right to be, the right to Habitat and The Right to fulfil its role in the earth community. In 2014, The International Rights of Nature Tribunal was set up to examine abuse of Rights of Nature based on the established laws based on the Universal Declaration on The Rights of Mother Earth. It adjudicates social justice and environmental cases based on the Rights of Nature laws (“Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature,” n.d.-b).

Decisions About Land Use Made on The Basis of Aesthetics

Aesthetics refer to principles aimed at appreciating the beauty of nature. It is applicable in land use where it safeguards misuse of land, destruction of ecosystems and creation of hazards when utilizing land. In 1950s, communities struggled with court cases to control open pollution of environment without success. The courts generally sympathized with them but upheld that creating beautiful neighbourhoods was subjective in nature and there were no precise aesthetic standards (Duerksen, 1986; Leighty, 1971).

However, as early as in 1988. A New York Court had allowed 80-foot height limitations for all residential constructions along the parkways while in 1904, Baltimore City limited height of building to 70-foot in order to maintain a the desired character in the neighbourhoods. In 1970s, courts recognized aesthetics as a valid subject of legislation thereby allowing regulations based purely on aesthetics (Duerksen, 1986; Leighty, 1971).

In modern times, communities, private developers, leaders and citizens are looking for the best use of land while promoting aesthetics. They are aiming to make their villages and towns more liveable and friendly to everyone. Much of the focus on construction and development projects are on environmental concerns. Aesthetics regulations have been put in place to guide planning commissions. Governments and local authorities have the prerogative to adopt or reject development plans based on their effect on the land (Bronin, 2008).

Land use control has reduced pollution of natural resources and improved the living standards of not only human beings but also all species. However, it is possible source of both political and legal conflicts. These conflicts should be avoided through careful identification of what is most important, tailoring laws to suit local situations, establishing explicit review standards and merging the value of aesthetic land use regulations to the community benefits. The community must understand value of aesthetic based regulations to avoid constant and irresponsible breakage of the law (Duerksen & Goebel, 1999; Karp, 1990; Vlear & Edward, 1987).

Humans cease to be conquerors of nature

Shapiro (2001), tells a story of a King in China who ruled with the slogan “Man Must Conquer Nature” between 1949 and 1976. The King associated the economic recovery of China to population increase. He believed whatever disaster would happen, Chinese people would survive. Industrial activities were encouraged, mainly in agriculture where forests were cut, dams built, and rivers were diverted addition to eradication of species that reduced crop yields. Soon, the effects were experienced with some parts of China experiencing desertification, erosion of hillsides, and water pollution among other undesired effects of misuse of nature. Governments that took over from him had an uphill task in reverting the environmental hazards created and impact of attitude that citizens had developed. The story is a good model of what not to do.

Environmental ethics philosophers have constantly published convincing papers to prove that human beings are not the owners of Mother Nature but part of it. The assumption that Mankind is the conqueror of the nature has resorted to abuse of nature, destruction of ecosystem and subsequent poor quality on human life who are not separate but part of the nature. Therefore, the way to quality life of humankind is to promote the co-existence of other species and the nature (Kahn, 1999; Kinch & Worster, 1995).

In conclusion, continued discussion on environmental ethics is geared towards concession that non-human nature has rights just like humans. Religions have openly supported this view and encouraged their followers to utilize God-created resources responsibly. In addition, human kind is held responsible of ensuring the other members of nature enjoy their rights to exist, to habitat, to regenerate and to fulfil their nature’s role. The Universal Declaration of Nature rights and Establishment of The Rights of Nature Tribunal are good steps taken towards recognizing human beings are not conquerors of nature and has improved regulation and appreciation of aesthetics in land use.

References

Ayma, E. M. (2011). The rights of nature: The case for a universal declaration of the rights of Mother Earth. Council of Canadians.

Brennan, A. (2008). Environmental ethics. Retrieved from http://philpapers.org/rec/BREEE

Bronin, S. C. (2008). The quiet revolution revived: Sustainable design, land use regulation, and the states. Minnesota Law Review, 93, 231.

Duerksen, C. J. (1986). Aesthetics and land-use controls: Beyond ecology and economics. American Planning Association.

Duerksen, C. J., & Goebel, R. M. (1999). Aesthetics, community character, and the law. Planners Pr.

Francis, P. (2015). Laudato si. Our Sunday Visitor. Retrieved from http://roastedelephantcafe.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/chapter6.pdf

Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. (n.d.-a). Retrieved May 20, 2016, from http://therightsofnature.org/?p=935

Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. (n.d.-b). Retrieved May 20, 2016, from http://therightsofnature.org/?page_id=22049

Kahn, P. H. (1999). The Human Relationship with Nature: Development and Culture. MIT Press.

Karp, J. P. (1990). Evolving Meaning of Aesthetics in Land-Use Regulation, The. Colum. J. Envtl. L., 15, 307.

Kinch, J. A., & Worster, D. (1995). The Nature of Environmental History. JSTOR. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2713287

Leighty, L. L. (1971). Aesthetics as a legal basis for environmental control. Wayne L. Rev., 17, 1347.

Rolston, H. (2012). Environmental ethics. Temple University Press.

Schlosberg, D. (2007). Defining environmental justice: Theories, movements, and nature. Retrieved from http://philpapers.org/rec/SCHDEJ

Shapiro, J. (2001). Mao’s war against nature: Politics and the environment in revolutionary China. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=C0f_jN-ek6AC&oi=fnd&pg=PR10&dq=Politics+and+the+Environment+in+Revolutionary+China,+by+Judith+Shapiro.+Cambridge+University+Press+2001&ots=9CbNBlT7Ww&sig=gzBhp0iu59GgxPPP821WsNc8TPI

Taylor, P. W. (2011). Respect for nature: A theory of environmental ethics. Princeton University Press. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=9TdcnC98eRwC&oi=fnd&pg=PP2&dq=Environmental+ethics&ots=wedUMNbTiA&sig=3UJXohhaERoXhFuEFqTC5Nw9KwM

Vidal, J. (2011). Bolivia enshrines natural world’s rights with equal status for Mother Earth’. The Guardian, 10. Retrieved from http://www.halsautangranser.se/nyhetsbrev/bolivia_law_of_mother_earth_guardian.pdf

Vlear, V., & Edward, J. (1987). Land Use Aesthetics: A Citizen Survey Approach to Decision Making. Pepp. L. Rev., 15, 207.