Philosophy 191 - 10.2 Environmental Ethics

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain the current environmental and climate crisis.
  • Describe different philosophical positions pertaining to humanity’s relationships to the natural environment.
  • Identify the circumstances that have led to marginalized groups being especially affected by climate disasters.

Before environmental ethics emerged as an academic discipline in the 1970s, some people were already questioning and rethinking our relationship to the natural world. Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, published in 1949, called upon humanity to expand our idea of community to include the entire natural world, grounding this approach in the belief that all of nature is connected and interdependent in important ways. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) drew attention to the dangers of what were then commonly used commercial pesticides. Carson’s essays drew attention to the far-reaching impacts of human activity and its potential to cause significant harm to the environment and to humanity in turn. These early works inspired the environmentalist movement and sparked debates about how to deal with emerging environmental challenges.

Map of the Pacific Ocean showing three separate garbage patches: the Eastern Garbage Patch or N. Pacific Subtropical High, off the coast of California; the Subtropical Convergence Zone, in the center of the Pacific; and the Western Garbage Patch, off the coast of Japan.
Figure 10.6 This map indicates areas in the Pacific Ocean where small particles of plastic and other waste collect in enormous clusters. (credit: "Garbage Patch Illustration" by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Public Domain)
This lesson has no exercises.

The content of this course has been taken from the free Philosophy textbook by Openstax