Chapters :
  •  

Global Migration and Adaptation - 01 

Role of Global community in environmental protection

Learning outcomes:

In this unit you will be able to learn:

  • The emergence of environmental consciousness at global level
  • The concepts of environmental ethics and environmental diplomacy
  • The various international conventions, funds and  institutions 
  • The national commitment towards the environment protection goals
  • The current ongoing schemes and projects of the government 

ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS 

Introduction 

We have learnt till now about the basic concepts of environment and the environmental issues. We have also learnt about the need for conservation and management of natural resources. The earth is one, but the world is not. We all depend on one biosphere for sustaining our lives. Yet each community, each country, strives for survival and prosperity with little regard for its impact on others. It is our fundamental duty to make this planet earth a decent habitable place. The challenge of living in harmony with the earth is as old as human society itself. Environmental ethics relates to our obligations and responsibilities towards nature. For an equitable share we must have equal responsibilities.

We have learnt in earlier lessons that equilibrium is maintained in natural ecosystems between different components through various processes including assimilation and recycling. But over exploitation of resources by growing human population has upset the natural balance. The use of technology and economic growth has led to ecological problems. The economic progress has been achieved at an enormous cost to the environment as manifested by growing pollution, loss of biodiversity and critical shortage of basic resources. The role of ethics becomes important, therefore, as it helps to assess strengths and weaknesses of developmental activities such as deforestation, building a dam, mining, draining a wetland etc. There are many ethical decisions that humans need to make with respect to the environment. For example, should one continue to cut forests? How long increasing use of fossil fuel can continue? Do humans have the right to cause extinction of other species? What environmental obligations do we have for maintaining a healthy environment for future generations?

Ethical issues

Case 1 – Industrial waste,

Both solid and liquid are usually dumped indiscriminately into the surrounding land and water bodies. Is it ethical to throw the waste outside ones’ boundary? Can any industry afford not to be insensitive to the environment? Are the birds, animals, plants, soil and water quality not important to an entrepreneur or should he/she only be concerned about his/her profits?

Case 2 – deforestation and tribal rights 

The constant legal and executive force faced by the tribal dwellers in their livelihood and forest right due to projects like dams, research facilities (e.g. Nutrino observatory in Theni district) and other issues like deforestation in the Aarey forest Mumbai, the earliest Chipko Andolan etc.

Case 3biotechnology  

The issue of genetic modification of crops (BT Brinjal, bt cotton) and animals like cow etc for development of biotechnology etc involves ethical question of tampering with the natural selection and process and should be carefully seen how far it can be done by not drastically disturbing the balance of the nature. 

Case 4 – groundwater exploitation 

The over extraction of groundwater for consumption by the commercial entities as well for domestic purposes is reaching beyond permissible levels. This kind of issues cannot be dealt without the perspective of collective responsibility of the people towards their environment. Though it is for consumption, it cannot disturb the ecological balance of the earth. 

Therefore such environmental and developmental issues need basic interpretation from the ethical angle which the foremost need in the growing context of exponentially increasing climate change and catastrophic environmental altercations (e.g. arctic ice melting). Lets’ look at the different approaches to practice environmental ethics.

Approaches to environmental ethics 

There are basically three approaches to environmental ethics.

  1. Anthropocentric viewpoint
  2. Life centric or biocentric viewpoint 
  3. Ecocentric viewpoint

One view is that humans are the dominant and important species on the planet earth. That gives them the power to manipulate and use nature for their own benefit. This view is “human centered” and thus it is called anthropocentric.

A second human centered view is that humans have the ethical responsibility towards future generations of human beings so humans are the ‘stewards or caring managers’ who must leave earth in a good condition for future generations. The critics of anthropocentric view point talk of human ignorance. They feel, humans yet do not know how many species live on the earth, how they interact with the environment and with each other. Environmental wisdom talks of total dependence of humans on nature and the nature is for all species. This is life centric or biocentric approach.

An extension of the above view seeks respect for all life and demands reverence towards the entire environment. Such a non-anthropocentric approach that talks of ethical responsibility towards other species and even ecosystems is also called ecocentric

According to this view point, it becomes compulsory to save the planet. The basic fact is that humans cannot erode the planet completely, but it can destroy us in entirely. It is our basic necessity to protect the environment so that we can ensure our survival, and prevent ourselves from perishing. Therefore it can said that everything in nature and all natural systems have intrinsic value. If mankind has to survive, the environment needs to be protected.

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