The end of environmental ethics?
The subject of investigation is the group of concepts involved in the moral aspects of relationships between people and their environment. Two principal threads are identified as leading to the central problems of environmental ethics. They are, firstly, the issue of rights for animals, plants, rivers etc, and secondly the question of obligations to future people. In examining the conceptual foundations of these problems the discussion focuses principally on the notions of: rights, interests, obligations, duties, responsibility and values, and the involvement these have in questions of how we ought to behave with regard to the environment. The idea that we can meaningfully extend “normal" ethics to include animals and other parts of the environment is examined and found wanting. This does not mean people are morally unconstrained in what they do to the environment. On the contrary, our normal ethics can have considerable implications for how we value the non-human environment. In particular the following are discussed: the significance of metaphors in moral evaluations; the concept of intrinsic value and the importance of values in defining different world-views; the moral relevance of future uncertainty; the notions of “environmental actions" and “duties as humans”. Throughout there is a tension between understanding and acting: between moral philosophy and resource management. The intention is to see this as a creative situation and to relate the contemporary discussion in moral philosophy to problems in environmental ethics.... [Show full abstract]