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Environmental Ethics- Human Needs are

more important than Environmental Needs

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Environmental Ethics- Human Needs are more important than Environmental Needs 1
Environmental ethics is an elaborate concept that has been subject of debate among scholars and
environmentalists. This field of ethics theory and practices mainly deals with duties and values
with regards to the environment. Environmental ethics essentially involves the concern of the
people for the welfare and conservation of the environment. On the other hand, another argument
considers the interrelationship between humans, plants and animals as constituting
environmental ethics in the entire ecosystem. Environmental ethics entails the human moral
responsibility towards the environment. Thus, the environmental ethics that is discussed in this

study emphasizes on the importance of environmental needs going beyond those of human
beings in totality (Jedidah 43).
In environmental ethics, there are two major issues that have created controversy;
anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric. Anthropocentric importance is focused on human
needs and also emphasizes on its significance from the judgment of humans. It is of the idea that
all moral responsibilities that are enjoyed by human beings are based on other humans, including
even those with regards to the environment. Non-anthropocentric value on the other hand, is not
pegged on humans, thereby considered to be environmentally oriented.
Environmental needs are of significance to any society because with the availability of a quality
environment, productivity is boosted. In other words, a healthy environment ensures quality in
the lives of humans which underscores the need for preserving the environment at all costs.
Environmental quality, protection and preservation should be emphasized even when human
benefits are not put into consideration. Environmental needs are of more importance compared to
human needs because they shape the quality of human life, and the latter depends on the former
as pointed out by Nemetz (2002, p.38).
Several environmental problems like depletion of resources, changing weather patterns and
deforestation have been identified to have impact on future generations more compared to the
present. Therefore, humans have an ethical obligation to prevent such from occurring. This is in
support of the argument that environmental needs are more important than human needs since by
accomplishing this goal, we are able to preserve both the present and future generations, thereby
enhancing continuity. However, if we do not take these seriously, we are putting the quality of
the environment as well as the health and wellbeing of the present and future generations at risk
(Douglas 33).
When it comes to the conservation of the environment with the objective of future generations,
many philosophers argue against it because the future generations do not uphold moral
consideration in the present. This argument fails to stand ground since the environment that we
have today is impacted by human activities that took place decades ago.
Another challenge that has also been identified to hinder the preservation of the environment for
future generations is non-identity problem. This argument is inclined to the unknown identity of
people who will be in existence in future, thus, we do not owe them any obligation. In fact, there
are very few chances that any future generation would raise legitimate claims about being
‘wronged’ by hostile environmental policies adopted by the earlier generations. Based on this
argument, it should imperatively be
noted that future generations will be
interested in the environmental
conservation activities that we are
involved in at present.
Besides, there is no justification for
engaging in destructive environmental
policies simply because it is impossible

for the future generation to make complains on the same. Trying to attach any irresponsible
action to the environment on such grounds is totally not acceptable based on the human needs at
present and in the future. Therefore, it is important that we stayed true to our social responsibility
and protected our environment (Sideris 11).

Environmental Ethics- Human Needs are more important than Environmental Needs_
The present generation should put into consideration, their actions and the effects that they will
have on future generations even though they may not have conclusive evidence of environmental
pollution. Humans should also treat other inhabitants of the environment like animals with
respect. This should be based on the realization that animals also feel happy with a quality
atmospheric way of life just like humans.
This is further emphasized by the fact that animals too have emotions, desires and beliefs. Thus,
environmental conservation for human survival should be handled with a holistic approach. It
should be noted that, our responsibilities are focuses on achieving the greatest interest
satisfaction that can be attained. This is also an important factor in this discussion since animals
are part of the environment and their preservation contributes to the actualization of the
environmental needs of human beings (Sideris 19).
Pollution of the air, change in climatic conditions, depletion of resources, reduction of
biodiversity, deforestation among other acts of such kind exhibit some of the worst impacts on
the environment. These impacts are effected by human activities that result from technological
advancements, industrialization, economic growth and increase in population. While pollution
entails the state of human health, climate change advances the risks of natural habitation.
Diminishing resources threaten the living standards of humans (quality of life) while biodiversity
reduction reduces the potential medicinal benefits, thereby destroying the beauty and importance
of flora and fauna. Since all these threats result from our negligence in protecting the
environment, it is our moral obligation to ensure that all the environmental aspects are protected
and preserved even though it comes with extreme costs (Prue 2001 p.67)
According to Utilitarianism ethics that are related to environmental conservation, an action
should be taken only it is aimed at strictly inducing more happiness compared to any other
action. Act Utilitarianism (AU) is a theory which states that the only moral action that humans
have the obligation of undertaking is welfare maximization. The theory does not focus on the
happiness of one person but welfare of everyone or the community at large. Therefore, the
satisfaction of everyone matters in equal measure without exemptions. This clearly points out
that this generation and the ones to come should both be treated equally. Hence, there is no doubt
that maintenance of a quality environment will help in the maximization of the wellbeing of
humans, therefore, according to the theory of AU, we have a moral obligation of doing whatever
it takes to ensure that the environment is protected and preserved (Marc 24).
Considering the contributions made by the Kantian ethics, with regards to the principle of
humanity which argues that in every action, human beings must be handled as ends and not just

means to an end. Kant stresses on human self esteem and respect with regards to environmental
conservation. Therefore, Kantian theory suggests that firms that use human labor are not careful
about their welfare or quality of life which in this regard should be accorded protection. Human
principle is also seen to be in support of the Autonomy principle which argues that everyone has
the right of living their lives according to their own views on religion, dignity, moral values
among other aspects provided that they are not in violation of the rights of others to act on equal
grounds (Prue 93).
With regards to the hierarchy of needs as outlined by Maslow, the basic needs, safety needs,
social needs, esteem needs, cognitive needs and aesthetic needs should be achieved because they
contribute to the general well being of the society and without which it will be difficult to ensure
the happiness of everyone. At a more advanced stage, Maslow introduces the self-actualization
needs and transcendence needs that involve assisting others in realizing self-actualization.
These two levels can be attained although it is
not compulsory that every human has to get to
this level in order to be happy. On the other
hand, it cannot be disputed that that the
achievement of this level will indeed enhance
the total well being of a particular person. This
further emphasizes on the importance of
environmental protection and preservation for
the welfare of humans. All aspects of the
environment discussed above have
demonstrated their contributions towards
enhancing the well being and life of humans.
However, this presents a challenge to business ethics. For example, a business operating in a
given society is accorded the freedom of acting in any manner that is consistent to its belief
systems provided that it does not go against the rights of other people. This is an insinuation that,
even though this business may be impacting the environment negatively, it has a legal ground for
continuous operation because it does not threaten the quality of environmental needs of the
society. The business has both corporate and social obligation. Hence, it should initiate measures
for controlling the level of its pollution through a reduction in its activities or offering
compensation to the members of the society who are negatively affected. The reason for this is
because ecological needs bear more significance compared to those of human beings. Generally,
the environment should be accorded utmost consideration so as to improve human life (Cafaro
Environmental needs are of great importance compared to human needs since it has been
established that the existence of human beings and the continuity of their generation highly
depends on the environment. Besides, the superiority of the environment controls and determines
the quality of the present human life. These factors are considered in ethical economics which
stresses on the need for the preservation of the environment in order to attain enhanced quality of

life. Therefore, the human society should take the moral responsibility of protecting the
environment so as to maximize the welfare of both the present and future generations. However,
it should imperatively be noted that human needs are also of equal importance. It would not be
ideal to overlook the necessities of humans at the expense and disadvantage of environmental
needs. Thus, economic expansion and industrialization are very important because they are
instrumental in facilitating human interactions and improving the efficiency of work.

Works Cited.
Cafaro, Phillip. Less Is More: Economic Consumption and the Good Life, Philosophy Today,
2008, 42(1): 11-98
Douglas, Moo. Nature in the New Creation: New Testament Eschatology and the Environment,
Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 2006, 49(3):21-56
Jedediah, Purdy. Our Place in the World: A New Relationship for Environmental Ethics and
Law, Duke Law Publication, 2013, 62(4): 2-87
Marc, Lucht. Does Kant have Anything to Teach us about Environmental Ethics? The American
Journal of Economics and Sociology, 2007, 66(1):23-56
Nemetz, Peter. Sustainable Resource Management: Reality or Illusion? Introduction and
Summary, Journal of Business Administration and Policy, 2002, 30(2): 23-127
Prue, Taylor. Heads in the Sand as the Tide Rises: Environmental Ethicsand the Law on Climate
Change, UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy, 2001, 19(1): 34-192
Sideris, Lisa. Environmental Ethics, Ecological Theology, and Natural Selection, Colombia
University Press. 2003. Print.
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