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Environmental Ethics Essay

2857 words - 11 pages

Our modern industrial society provides us with great physical and psychological comfort. We live not with a fear for our lives, we are politically stable and dominant; even the terrorist attacks against us cannot strip us of our safety bubble. We live with the luxury of convenience provided by our technologies, such as household appliances, personal computers, indoor heating and plumbing, personal automobiles with “endless fuel” the list is infinite. We live in a disposable society, where it is not commonplace to have material goods fixed, but rather replaced. We have disposable everything, diapers, water bottles, contacts, paintbrushes… again, our convenience is never-ending. This convenient lifestyle coupled with our massive desire for material goods has created immense devastation to the Earth. As time progresses we learn of more tragic outcomes of our lifestyles. I will discuss the major environmental tragedies that are facing our planet and possible solutions to the disasters. I will also give comparative thoughts by a handful of philosophers and dispute our moral obligations to the environment and for those whom occupy it. I feel that we need to do something soon to stop the destruction before it is too late.

First off, the biggest argument for preserving the environment would be; we have an obligation to future generations. Singer discusses these thoughts in his chapter on environmental ethics in his book, Practical Ethics. He begins with the assumption that people are self-interested, and while current philosophy and economics fail to present answers to the problem of obligations to future generations, we still have them. He recognizes that we do not know exactly what future people will cherish; will they choose to value computer games over nature walks? Regardless, Singer states, “We should preserve wilderness even though it is possible that future generations will care little for it. Thus we will not wrong future generations, as we have been wronged by members of past generations whose thoughtless actions have deprived us of the possibility of seeing such animals as the dodo, Steller’s sea cow, or the thylacine, the Tasmanian marsupial ‘tiger’. We must take care not to inflict equally irreparable losses on the generations to follow us.” (p.273)

Singer discusses the question of intrinsic value and to whom it pertains. Are humans the only sentient beings who have interests that matter or do we as a society also perceive value in non-human beings? To answer this, we need to examine the meaning of intrinsic value. Something of intrinsic value is good or desirable in itself and in contrast, instrumental value is a means to some other end or purpose. An example of intrinsic value would be our own happiness because we desire it for its own sake. Money, on the other hand, is of only instrumental value to us because we want it only for the thing we can buy with it.

With this in mind, Singer seems very realistic in the push...

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