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Discuss the role of ethics in environmental planning

Discuss the role of ethics in environmental planning

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Jane Healy. Originally submitted for Arts at National University of Ireland Galway, with lecturer Dr. Frances Fahy in the category of Social Studies
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Jane Healy. Originally submitted for Arts at National University of Ireland Galway, with lecturer Dr. Frances Fahy in the category of Social Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 30, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
Question: Discuss the role of ethics in environmental planning
 A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the bioticcommunity. It is wrong otherwise”
Aldo Leopold (O’Neill,2008,p.104).This quote by the father of the Land Ethic,
 
Aldo Leopold sums up what exactly to do whendealing with issues of environmental planning (Pojan, 1998). Leopold wants planners to takeinto consideration the ethics, where the issue of nature and the environment is concerned. Butthis is much easier said than done as ethics is a very open and ambiguous word. Thedictionary definition of ethics is “the philosophical study of the moral value of humanconduct and the rules and principles that ought to govern it”. This may all seem veryunderstanding and logical on paper but ethical values are very different to every individualand we see this as the essay continues. In this essay I hope to discuss the role of ethics inenvironmental planning. By doing so I need to understand what environmental planning isand what environmental ethics is and fuge the two together to understand the role they play.An environmental ethics can be seen as an ordinary ethic which is related to situations wherefacts about the environment are concerned (Attig and Scherer 1983). Connelly and Smith(1999) see environmental ethics as presenting a barrier to traditional ethics as it raisesquestions about duties towards the plants, inanimate objects and natural phenomena. Cloke etal.,(2005) introduce us to the fact that environmental awareness was also an issue incivilization, even in the times of Ancient Greeks were they worried about soil erosion or inLondon in the thirteenth century where they were concerned about pollution so theyintroduced laws to try minimize it. Britain also introduced National Parks and an Access tothe countryside Act 1949. But it was not until the late nineteen sixties and early seventies that public interest of environmental issues rose. Such groups as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earthand Earth Day have made it a more popular subject. The issue of environmental ethics hasalso become popular in recent years due to such matters as serious of alarming publications,specific images generated to the public- earth seen as a fragile spaceship and all the abovegroups. Earth Day was a modern environmental movement that took place in 1970,conducted by Gaylord Nelson a U.S Senator wanted to publish the issue of the fragileenvironment and how it should be preserved. Twenty million Americans lined the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy sustainable environment(Earthdaynetwork, 2009).
 
But to really begin to talk about this issue of ethics in environmental planning, I first need tolook at what exactly are environmental planning and its importance. Selmon (2000, p.1)defines environmental planning as “it’s concerned with society’s collective stewardship of the earth’s resources. The “environment” refers to the physical and biological systems which provide our basic life support, and which contribute to our psychological well begin.Planning is a generoic activity of purposeful anticipation, of, and provisions for the future”.The nature for environmental planning is to understand both the environment andenvironmentalism. The need for Environmental Planning is it increased consumption of environmental goods, increased production of environmental bads and increasedenvironmental uncertainty. Environmental Planning is there to obtain a sustainable outcomeand the role of environmental planning is it achieves “sustainable transition” (Selmon, 2000, p.1).There are many conflicts in Environmental Planning these days as different groups approachthe same area, issue or resources in different ways. This is where ethics is introduced likeeverything in life, everyone has their own unique and different take on situations. The issueof the environment and how it should be preserved or if it should even be preserved at all, isno different. Some believe nature is there for mankind to be used and done as they wish with.Others see nature as to be protected and enjoyed. Aldo Leopard wants every human to “think like a mountain”. (Attig and Scherer, 1983, p.2). He believes the earth is worth preserving, healso understands that humans have no responsibility to respect the earth, and he sees allhumans as controllers and dominators of the earth, but he does hope we will start a revolutionthat will lead humans into seeing the environment as useful and treating it correctly. (Attigand Scherer 1983). On the other hand W.H Murdy believes humans should look after number one and pursue their own interests (Attig ad Scherer, 1983). Even religion has its own take onnature for example Paganism understands the world as occupied by spirits there for natureshould be approached in a spirit of reservation and respect (Connelly and Smith, 1999).Ethics is extremely important in environmental planning as its opens up strong environmentalquestions such as , how should we think?, what should we take into consideration, or evenwho should we take into consideration and how these decisions affect one in years to come?(Attig and Scherer 1983). Justifying and answering these ethical questions is not easily doneas everyone is individual, everyone in society has their own different morals, their owndifferences between right and wrong. Even environmental planners have their own specificethics and take on situations, this is important as it makes that planner stand out from the
 
crowd in their area of work. Certain countries such as America have a code of ethics for their environmental planners. The American Institute of Certified Planners [AICP] has a professional code of conduct involving ethics the role of this is that informs the public of the principles to which professional planners are committed. The AICP offers help to plannerswith ethical and moral problem’s they may face. There is an ethical principle guide for  planners to use. Some of these principles are; recognising the rights of citizens, assist in theclarification of community goals, objectives and policies in plan-making, strive to protect theintegrity of the natural environment and the heritage of the built environment, and exercisefair, honest and independendant judgement in their roles as decision makers andadvisors(AICP, 2010).Ethics in environmental planning just does not affect nature and the surroundings but also people’s culture and economics.O’ Neill et al. (2008) gives the example that if the forest andlakes of Scandinavia and Germany were attacked this would not just affect their surroundings but also their economy and cultural identity. To some the cutting down of trees may not beseen as ethically bad but for others it as seen as wrong. This example just show theimplications when one see themselves as doing the right thing when in reality they are not.But we need not look to other country’s to see were ethics are an issue in environmental planning. If you just take are small island were so many issues are intertwined in peoplesethics if you just look at the recent article that was published in the Irish Independent entitled“Councils zoned land for million surplus homes” (Melia, 2010, p.6) you will see that councilsacross the country rezoned more than forty four thousand hectors of land over the past decadewhen in reality there was only need for around thirty thousand. The ironic scenario about thissituation was Housing Minister Michael Finnerans home county of Roscommon had thehighest zoned land where one thousand one hundred and ninety three percent of the land waszoned then need be (Melia, 2010). One journalist compared the planners to children when hewrote “children with crayons would have made better planners” (Melia, 2010, p.24) Whenreading this article I began to wonder were did the role in ethics go here? Did the planners nottake morals and values into consideration? Board Pleanala Irelands answer to fair, effective planning must have over missed this zoning scenario. Connelly and Smith(1999) entertain uswith the idea that the Western worlds values are influenced of that of the Christian traditionsand that Christian attitude towards nature is split in two principles one is that the naturalworld is there for mans sole instrumental use and the other is that humans haveresponsibilities to the natural world. So if you take that into consideration was it ethical

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