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Environmental Ethics in Theory and Practical Application

Workineh Kelbessa


Environmental ethics is a critical study of the normative issues and principles relevant to the relationship between humans and the natural world. It covers various fields, ranging from the welfare of animals versus ecosystems to theories of the intrinsic value of nature. There are various approaches to environmental ethics. This paper examines some of the key positions presented by different environmental ethicists and their impacts on the natural environment. Some writers maintain that environmental ethics does not have a major contribution to make to the solution of environmental problems. However, this study and the contribution of many scholars show that environmental ethics has much to contribute to the solution of global environmental problems.

Various governments and policy makers can bring the insights of environmental ethics into various natural resource management settings. The ideas of environmental ethicists have had an impact on the natural environment. Among others, the “Precautionary principle” is an ethical principle that is increasingly being embodied in the legislation of various governments. If environmental ethics broadens its scope and addresses the injustice done to the majority of poor and powerless people and to nonhuman species, it will have a paramount role in creating awareness within countries and globally about the actions of transnational corporations, irresponsible capitalist countries and local industries which damage the environment.

Environmental ethicists may alert peasant farmers, pastoralists and other indigenous people to understand the long range effects of environmental degradation that are beyond the purview of local people and otherwise unavailable. Environmental ethicists with varied backgrounds can join peasant farmers and pastoralists who have multidimensional knowledge of the natural environment and help them develop further knowledge of it. The efforts of many people will one day bring change in favour of the majority of the people, nonhuman species, and the planet Earth. In fact, the paper stresses that environmental questions are not simply ethical. It suggests that the present power relations at the local and international levels should be changed in the direction of just and environmentally and socially sound development.

EJOSSAH Vol.1(1) 2003: 63-88

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eISSN: 2520-582X
print ISSN: 1810-4487