Handout: Environmental Ethics

Environmental Ethics

This interactive handout is written by Dr Julian Dobson of Tonbridge School, Kent.

The issues

Environmental Ethics has been defined as "a systematic account of the relations of human beings to their environment" (DesJardins, Environmental Ethics, pg 11).  There are three approaches:

1. Anthropocentric, human centred, "light green" (example, Aquinas or Kant)

2. Biocentric, life centred, "mid green" (example, Paul Taylor)

3. Ecocentred, planet centred, "deep green" (example, Aldo Leopold, or James Lovelock and the Gaia hypothesis)

These seem to be the main issues involved:

• What is humanity's relationship to the environment? Should it dominate and use natural resources for their own good or flourishing or preserve them?

• To what extent do future generations need to be considered when making decisions about the environment?

• What is the status of animals? Do they have the same rights as humans and therefore should humans strive to protect them?

• Deep Ecology - are all living things, ranging from people to plants, of the same moral value?


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