Environmental Ethics

The way of life of people in the modern world has become somewhat transformed by the ways and behaviors that come with modernity. The world today is characterized by actions by people that are indicative of the moral and societal preferences in their everyday life. The actions by mankind and the effects that these actions have both on the environment and on the people in that environment are both matters of critical importance which ought to be assessed and analyzed with a view to understanding how best the entire human race can live on this planet without any undue pressure to the environment. Matters and issues of the environment have become very important in the 21st century owing to the direction that is being taken by people and organizations in an attempt to live a better life (Schweickart, 1996). The issues of the environment present challenges too. Most of the present challenges in environment conservation and protection are those that have been brought about by the inability of mankind to pay a lot more attention to the consequences of his daily activities. In seeking to reassert himself, man has engaged in all forms of activities that he believes are essential to bringing about his survival in the world. He has more often than not failed to recognize and appreciate the value that is placed on the environment not only by environmental conservation groups but also by other people who have cared enough to realize the great value that can be gained by preserving the environment (Preston, 2007).
 All actions by mankind are geared towards personal or social development. Economic well-being and personal and social development ought to encompass the societal values that require all forms of development to be sustainable and without undue pressure on the ecological system. The life lived in the world has to be all-inclusive. All around the world, many activities are taking place and all are aimed at improving mankinds life. How about the consequences of these actions Is it all right if the drive for wealth, riches and power is given a priority over matters critical to society like climate change and global warming Can there be anything that can be effectively called sustainable development if on one hand the development itself is injurious to the society and to the environment, and on the other hand it causes untold human suffering because for one to gain another must lose
All these and many other questions ought to keep ringing in the minds of all people in society every time they are about to make a decision on anything. Ethics in the environment have been relegated to the abyss of forgetfulness, and more than ever before in the history of the world they need to be unearthed from those deep recesses of societal forgetfulness where they have been buried all this time. A consideration of some of the emerging issues in the present world especially where environmental affairs are concerned is critical if a balanced assessment of events in the world pitting mankind and the environment is to be carried out successfully.
The Role of Markets in Decision Making
    Environmental ethics are greatly influenced by markets. The making of decisions about matters pertinent to the environment as well as other social matters, when left to be done by markets, impacts greatly in ways that bring about negative effects on the eminent. This is because unlike in economics, environmental and social issues are closely associated with mankind  his actions, decision, and welfare. Making decisions based on the nature on markets creates problems to mankind and to the environment. Usually, people will want to be treated like humans and nothing else. In making market decisions, the main factor that is considered is monetary gain (Schweickart, 1996). Markets seek to have whatever is desired  whatever needs a person has  made available for exchange for some kind of financial gain. It is more conserved with satisfying the needs of people in exchange for a price.
Economic decisions are made by considering factor availability and the cost of the factors in relation of the expected revenue to be generated from the factors. Such decisions bear in mind the demand that is there, and seek to supply the required quantity to meet this demand. Such is not what is needed in making environmental and social decisions. Morality has often been an attribute that every human being is entitled to (Schweickart, 1996). Moral issues transcend economic and financial demarcations. When dealing with people, it is essential that any decision first considers what value systems that person subscribes to, and how the decisions likely to impact on the person. The same applies to environmental decisions. It does not make sense at all to have any decision about the environment based on the existing conditions in the market (Schweickart, 1996).
For instance, the need for energy has been growing over time. Never before has there been a decline in the number of people needing energy. Any decision made will therefore most likely point to the need to have the supply of energy increased. A specific example is fossil fuel. The demand for it has been growing, and even during the current global economic crisis, oil has remained fairly highly priced because its demand has not dipped as much. A market-conscious decision might require that more exploration for oil be done and existing reserves be harnessed to meet newer and existing demands. However, the reality is that the trend in the world is to move away from reliance on non-renewable energy resources like fossil fuel, and instead harness renewable sources (Schweickart, 1996). To add to this, OPEC nations will always base their production decisions on the current market conditions. They will relate their needs of cash and cut or increase output of oil and gas to influence price and hence demand. The extraction of oil has therefore been more as a result of market trends and not as a result of actual human needs.    

The Theory of Sustainable Development
    Theorists commenting on the subject of development have quite often than not failed to make a clear distinction between the need to develop globally and the more important need to make this development as sustainable as possible. Sustainable is aimed at ensuring that in any given undertaking that is geared toward bringing about economic development or any other form of development is able to bring about an assurance that future generations will also be able to make use of resources available in the present age (Schweickart, 1996). An understanding of this need to consider the future and just the present ought to be what drives mankind to preserve present resources, or even better, to use them with restraint and care. The world has all that everyone needs and a lot more to spare.
However, it does not mean that wastage of resources can be a practice that is tolerable in society. Instead, every human being must understand the role heshe is expected to play in bringing about sustainable development  ensuring that development is in line with environmental preservation and management. Economic theorists will hardly agree to the fact that nature has resources for everyone. They are responsible for pushing the society to seek to do all in their ability to find what they call scarce resources. Without seeking to discredit any particular economic theorist, it is imperative that all people understood that the scarcity of resources (and the abundance of wants) does not necessarily mean that nature has suddenly become devoid of resources and so all every one must rush to grab whatever remains. Instead, it remains a true concept that nature has and will faithfully provide for all the needs of humanity. This then means that the best that can be done to ensure this continued provision is to conserve nature  protect natural habitats and stop or reduce pollution of the environment.

Poverty and the Environment
    The relationship that exists between economic well-being and environmental degradation has been responsible for some of the greatest harms done to the environment and to the community. The developing countries of the world are home to some of the worlds rarest animal and plant species which ought to be conserved yet these countries are known to have the worlds most grim human development index figures, a majority living in absolute poverty. As if to compound this, these countries are heavily indebted to Western countries and the Breton Woods institutions like IMF and the World Bank.
The poverty levels have been so high that governments are finding it difficult to service loans and Official Development Assistance (ODA). This has posed a threat to the ecosystems there, as communities have began encroaching on protected land in search for a living. In some instances governments have bowed to pressure from politicians and allowed people to settle in forests and farm there, or poaching has become rampant. For there to be sustainable development in the Third World, therefore, there must efforts to eliminate debt from these countries to ease the economic burden placed on them, and in exchange, the governments can be required to implement programs that will help conserve the environment.
Maldevelopment and Underdevelopment
    More than anything else, what characterizes the developing world and sets them apart as different from the developed nations of the West is their gross underdevelopment. The underdevelopment there is so rampant that it is hard to imagine how people manage to live. The GDP of most of most of these countries is so low that it is hardly enough to cater for the needs of its people. Therefore, development projects are generally lacking, and the mainstay of the economies is normally the primary agricultural sector. The economies of such countries rely entirely on the export of agricultural products to the developed world where they are processed and converted into finished products. These products are then resold to those very countries at very exorbitant prices. This in itself goes against the ethical approaches to the environment (Pierce, 1995).
 Developed countries ought not to capitalize on the poverty of developing nations to rip them off even if it is usually a business activity resulting from the mutual consent of both parties. That aside, there must be a way of ensuring that these beneficiaries from the products that come from farmers in these developing nations are made to compensate them for the degradation they cause to the environment. This is in addition to the price paid for the commodity, and considering that this is the main agricultural sector in developing countries that is relied on in spite of being responsible for a lot of pollution on the environment. One of the notable practices in agriculture in the developing countries is the use of agricultural chemicals not only to add fertilizer to crops but also to control pests and diseases. The chemicals are very harmful to the environment, some of them lasting a long time in the soil. They offset the natural balance that is otherwise responsible for daily occurrence of the natural processes of both plants and animals.
 Natural cycles like the water, oxygen, sulfur, and carbon cycle are usually affected by the presence of such chemicals in the atmosphere. Such chemicals will often cause damage to the ecosystem as well. The pollution that results will always be felt for a very long time after the chemicals have been applied. This is part of the role that underdevelopment has played in hampering environmental conservation issues. Logging is also a common activity in developing nations. The cutting down of trees has been noted as being one of the greatest contributors to the overall pollution that occurs to the environment (Preston, 2007). The cause has mainly been cited as the rampant, usually unchecked encroachment on forests by people clearing the forests to make way for new farms. The efforts they put in are usually genuine sometimes as they seek to have a source of livelihood. However, this is at times a deliberate move to destroy natural habitats in order to achieve some undisclosed motives or to achieve certain selfish goals. It may also be as a payback strategy for past ills committed against such people.
The bottom line, however, is that this has greatly contributed to the growing problem of global warming that results from an accumulation of greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide gas from the cutting down of trees is one such gas. Environmental ethics require that such activities be halted as much as possible. The need to support development programs in the developing countries in order to enable the people to get involved in less hazardous farming practices is urgent. Since the developed world has a lot to gain from such sustainable projects, they ought to be on the forefront in funding them. Health wise, maldevelopment has led to many health complications that has made the developing world a target for multinational drug companies (Preston, 2007). Environmental ethics call for the ensuring that there is a drug-free environment as drugs are generally harmful.
Dumping Ground
    The West has been responsible for a lot more environmental issues abroad, especially in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The damage that has been caused by the dumping of second hand goods and those that are no longer functional has been great, and the West has been so far unrepentant. Many Western computer makers understand too well that their products end up somewhere in the developing countries not because they really intended to sell the computers there in the first place but to dump them there. In addition to this, most of the developing countries use vehicles that have been rejected in their countries of manufacture or initial use (Light, 1998).
    Africa, for instance, is full of Japanese car models and planes made in Russia. This is a problem that can be checked much better by the involvement of international safety and environmental agencies because local ones can never be relied on to do better investigation and consequent control. The manufacturers of products that have ended up in these developing countries have to be made responsible for their actions because it is unacceptable to have them cause harm to people and wildlife far away from where they were manufactured. Alternatively, they ought to be made to account for their products for as long as possible, including the place where the product will get dumped upon expiry of its usage time or period. 
Mining and Construction Contracts
    There have been a lot of mining contracts that have been given to grant to engineering firms from all over the world, but especially from Western Countries. This has brought about a rather huge foreign presence in these countries. Mining in countries like the DRC and Botswana has never gone well with the locals. While the motive might be good, the resultant effects have been so bad that it has been almost impossible for people to realize and enjoy the deserted benefits. Mining, apart from being responsible for rampant environmental destruction, has also caused conflicts between different people in the community who cannot real understand the benefits of the projects.
In the DRC, human suffering including rape of women and displacement of whole families from their homes has become the order of the day. This is done by armed militia opposed to the projects there cannot agree to be deceived in letting their resources to be used by foreigners. These companies must be ready to do a lot more to help the community from where they operate than merely what they give to the government as tax revenue. They must understand that the community is the legal owner of the minerals that they are extracting, and they must treat them with due respect and dignity. This has to be done if sustainable development is ever to be realized.
Social Justice
    The need for the society to have access to what they consider to be very important to them is a critical milestone in helping bring about environmental conservation through sustainable development. What comes to the fore whenever the justice of the people is mentioned is the chilling feeling that people never always get what is rightly theirs. Then one wonders who is responsible for taking away from the society their portion of resources. Often, the society is deprived when decisions are made without involving them. They come to be informed later that a certain project is being undertaken and that they are likely to gain from its successful implementations. As Rawls would argue, all people are entitled to a say in whatever activity, event, or action that affects them (Rawls, 1971). In the world today, and especially in the developing world, the community has been ignored in key aspects of development. If the underlying principal of sustainable development is to be realized fully in any society, there has to be an understanding of what is important to the community (Rawls, 1971).
They must agree that they indeed want the project to go on as planned or oppose it depending on what they believe to be the likely outcomes. The exploration and subsequent drilling of oil by Western Companies in the developing countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America has been noted as one coming without many benefits to the society. The initial promise has always been that the drilling of the oil would result in greater economic empowerment of the people. However, as the projects go in, all the community gets is the pollution that results from the projects (Rawls, 1971). In the Niger Delta of Nigeria, poverty has characterized the lives of the people in spite of their land being a major source of international wealth. Logging in the Brazilian Amazon has been a problem that apart from causing damage to the environment has never been beneficial to the local people living beside the forest.    
World Hunger
    People all over the world ought to get what they need in order to live a life that is comfortable enough not only to make them be able to actively take part in environmental conservation matters but also in order for them to desist from acts that are environmentally unethical. All around the world, people are faced with hunger and starvation, and this is being translated into a mass encroachment on forests and other natural resources as these people attempt to feed themselves (Rawls, 1971). World hunger needs to be halted by use of more collaborative efforts that can be used to bring about more access to daily food for the majority if not all of the people. This can be reflected in efforts by international and national organizations who can work with a view to ensuring that a lot more people are able to afford food. This will keep them from vulnerability to hunger and starvation and open the way for more targeted conservation approaches (Rawls, 1971). The humanitarian organizations like FAO, Red Cross, and Save the Children have been doing a great and commendable work which deserves recognition. In addition, other organizations ought to emulate them. 
Population Explosion
    The population of the world has been growing at a very fast rate. Although there are disparities in these figures, an overall picture points to a situation whereby there is expected continued growth in the coming years. While population growth by itself can not really be said to be responsible for environmental degradation as such, the impacts that it brings have indirect and direct effects on the natural system (Rawls, 1971). Increase in the number of people is always associated with an added economic pressure on the available resources. Prominent economists would argue that like land, natural resources are fixed in supply especially in the short term, although in the long term their supply can only be slightly increased through conservation and restricted use.
With more people around, for instance, more food will be needed to feed them and more clothing to clothe them. All these resources must come from somewhere in nature. The overall impact of population growth is therefore that it will most likely cause degradation to the environment. There is therefore a need to ensure that population growth is in tandem with GDP figures and that economic growth is given a priority more than population control (Rawls, 1971). This is because population growth is not really a problem in itself but it becomes a problem when measures are not put in place to accommodate the extra people.
Overconsumption and Sustainability
    In an endeavor to satisfy unlimited wants using scarce and highly limited resources, people have often ended up exerting too much pressure on the few resources that have been available. The environment is capable of replenishing itself naturally and pristinely. The attempts by mankind to try to extract too much from the environment than is necessary has been responsible for the depletion of natural resources. This is the one point where approaches to the environment are closely correlated with those to economics. While an economist will call it the increased marginal propensity to consume, an environmentalist can describe the excessive consumption of natural resources as overconsumption (Rawls, 1971). There must be a real effort by every consumer to care for the future generations, and even for the future use of the same natural resource. Whatever is conserved today will be available for use the following day by the same person or by another.
    A case in question is the culture of people in the developed worked who will use so many resources at any given time that one is left wondering whether the resources are only meant for one section of society. What is left ringing in the minds of people is whether or not people ought to have as much as they want as long as they can afford to get that which they desire, or if there should be some form of regulation. With all due respect to all people, it is amazing how Westerners can consume so much quantity of everything, literally. Most of the worlds leading fuel-guzzlers are made and used in the West (VanDeVeer, 1994). Consider the Hummer, the Mercedes Benz, and many other car models made in the West and compare them with those made in China, India, or Japan. If the argument is that the Western nations have a lot to spend, then the Japanese have a lot more, yet they make fuel efficient car models because they are sensitive to the needs of the people and those of the coming generations. The overconsumption culture is more of a failure to regard the needs of others elsewhere, so that one only thinks of oneself and those immediately around himher (VanDeVeer, 1994).
    Overconsumption needs to be checked now more than ever before if there can be a protecting of our environment. It is part of environmental ethics to postpone andor reduce consumption in order to use whatever is saved later on. A critical factor to consider before spending of overindulging in merrymaking is what implications ones actions are likely to bring about on the environment and on the welfare of the entire society. If by using two vehicles instead of just one, or by having a 10Watt bathroom lamp instead of a 50Watt one will enable someone else have a better access to the resources one wants  as indeed is the case  then one must go ahead and do just that. The culture of wanting too much than is actually needed only serves to worsen the problem of environmental degradation.  The more that people consume products, the more the degradation that occurs to the environment (VanDeVeer, 1994).
    A factor that is related to both overconsumption and social justice is that of using food. Food is perhaps the most basic human need that one can ever desire to have. The lack of food spells doom to the person, and all measures must be put in place to ensure that food is available for all people in the society. Again, there is a stark contrast between the developed and the developing countries when it comes to food acquisition and consumption. While food is readily available and even a lot is spared in the developed world, people in the developing countries hardly get enough food to eat. Their low income levels have made them victims of hunger and starvation, and malnutrition is a common occurrence there. Some cannot afford as much as a meal a day and if they are lucky to, the food is often lacking in the right and necessary calorific value necessary to make them healthy and protect them from infections. Morally and ethically, such people ought to be helped to get food. Instead of consuming too much and throwing the leftovers, such food items can be donated to the poor and needy in society (VanDeVeer, 1994).
    This will be reducing overconsumption in the West but at the same time helping to meet a social need and so exercising social justice. That aside, donating food will keep the starving and the hungry from the temptation to resort to unconventional and often illegal practices such as poaching and logging in their desperate attempt to fend for themselves and their families (VanDeVeer, 1994). Natural habitats will be conserved and exploitation of natural resources will be halted. Usually, the community will only resort to destroying the ecosystems and natural habitats in their vicinity if they re not made aware of the impacts or consequences of their actions, or when they feel the relevant project implementers are not working in conjunction with them. Sustainable development goes hand in hand with environmental conservation in fact the former is aimed at achieving the latter. If the culture of seeking to have too much is checked, and more people, especially in the developed world, are made to understand the importance of saving for the future and giving to a needy child or family, then efforts aimed at environmental conservation will be given a greater boost (VanDeVeer, 1994).
The Role of Globalization in the Conservation of the Environment
    Globalization  the integrating of national and local economies into one international economy with a common market and closely working trading patterns, reduced barriers to trade and the enhanced free movement of people across national borders - may be a blessing to the business community but it is not really a welcome development to efforts to deal environmental degradation. Globalization has resulted in opening up of international borders and a general relaxing of trading barriers (Schweickart, 1996). There has been formation of trading blocs and has allowed for free movement of labor (people) from one nation another without too many restrictions. There has been a movement away from protectionism to a freer business world. This has made illegal trading in wildlife products relatively easier. Poaching has been on the increase in the recent times because poachers have found it very easy to get around checks and regulations that are still in place (VanDeVeer, 1994).
    The movement of people freely within trading blocs has also increased instances of smuggling of natural resources from one country to another. The rather unrestricted or poorly restricted flow of goods across borders has been responsible for a lot of other goods moving across borders. In order for environmental ethic to prevail, then, it is appropriate that globalization is made more tolerable by ensuring that poachers and other dealers in illegal natural products are hunted down and nabbed (Schweickart, 1996). The fact that globalization is offering a lot of financial and economic gains do not mean that all caution should be thrown away. Instead, there ought to be even stricter border regulations because with the rather increased flow of goods and people across borders, more criminals are more likely to take advantage of this to cause more ecological damage to wildlife and plants (Evans, 2004). 
The Existing Market Systems
    The modern world is becoming rather accommodative and reformist in nature. As a result, different market systems have come into existence. While the more common trend is that of capitalist or absolutely free market economies, other countries are still under socialist and moderately socialist market economies. The operations of national economies have had a direct impact on the policy that is implemented, especially the economic policies, and such have determined the outcomes in environmental conservation. A totally free system will bring about a situation where the affairs of the market are not affected by any form of regulation or control from the state or government. Every business decision will them be determined solely by market forces. Such a system, while being very ideal and appropriate in the business world, is not favorable in bringing about proper environmental conservation and protection (Schweickart, 1996).
    Issues of the environment are best dealt with and addressed based not on what the forces in a free market dictate but by what is deemed necessary and beneficial to the people. If people are able to get benefits of any project or system, then the end will justify the means  it will not matter so much what is available in the market. In essence, a free economy will not bring about desired environmental ethics in the community (Rawls, 1971). Instead, important decisions regarding the environment will have to be made by people who never have the environment at heart. Considering a case where the market has to be the determinant of such matters, then a growing demand for goods and services will increase the level of pollution and general damage to the environment. As economic activities increase, there will be a need for increased productivity in order to keep the many production processes moving forward (Schweickart, 1996). In essence, there will be a lot more economic activities that will be implemented in the name of responding to free market forces. These economic activities will have adverse effects on the environment.
    A fairly regulated market economy will be able to offer some help to conservation efforts. This is because such a system will allow for a significant meddling by regulatory bodies that will seek to control matters that are key to societal and government importance. A fully controlled market economy will have different effects on conservation efforts and environmental ethics. It will remain to see what exactly is regulated (Schweickart, 1996). A totally controlled market system may, therefore, hinder or enhance efforts to promote environmental ethics. The only major issue with heavily controlled economies is that the government has so much say in the affairs and events of the economy that even matters of the environment might be affected negatively. For instance, due to this regulation, economic activities are likely to decline dramatically, and the outcome will be that environmental conservation efforts will be without a sponsor (Schweickart, 1996).
    Quite often than not, funding for conservation measures is either from well-wishers or from government and NGOs. Some of these organizations and agencies will not be willing to take part in joint conservation efforts if the government is too much involved in the affairs of the economy. Heavy regulation, quite often than not, will lock out many foreign players from taking part in the business activities within the market. A much better system is one that is intermediate between the two extremes. This is one which will put in place regulation in matters that are critical. This will most likely be the one that will seek to have environment issues delinked from the rest of the business and economic activities of the nation (Schweickart, 1996). This will in turn help promote conservation efforts because they will not be subject to trends in the market.
    The world has socially been transformed by the way people interact and do business. Many aspects of the society have worked to either hinder or promote efforts that have been aimed at the conservation of the environment. Environmental ethics is a rather controversial issue, and it is only how different political and economic views are able to explain that one can come up with a clear and precise approach to take regarding it. Capitalism, a rather common mode of administration and a popular socioeconomic system, has been criticized for being responsible for the rampant social and ecological problems affecting people all around the world. On the other hand, it has been noted that overly restricted socioeconomic systems like a fully socialist country will also do little to take care of the problem of environmental degradation and the associated problems such as social conflicts.
    The West has been accused of causing a lot of damage to ecosystems in developing countries especially when its companies dump products there. The theory of social justice has been cited as very important in explaining what the needs of the modern man are. It requires, among other things, that mankind be given all the rights he deserves in order that he may live life free from the woes of the world, especially those resulting directly or indirectly from environmental degradation. Nations and international agencies are expected to play a greater role in helping resolve the problem of global hunger. There is a need for international safety enforcement agencies to put in place measures that help prevent rampant dumping of used goods in developing countries. There is also a need to analyze and seek solutions to the social and ecological harmful outcomes of globalization. To this end, border checks and patrols ought to be intensified in order to curb illegal immigration and the smuggling of wildlife products into other countries. On the whole, all in society are expected to do a lot more to help bring about sustainable development, and ensure the world is a cleaner and safer place to live.


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