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Environmental Ethics

Environmental ethics is that branch of philosophy dealing with the major ethical questions regarding the relationships between humans and the environment. This includes issues such as biodiversity, wildlife management, ecological preservation, hunting practices, farming techniques, and food regulations.

Emergence of the Field

Environmental ethics emerged as a distinct field in in early 1970s. Among its driving forces were the environmental concerns regarding the dependability of our society on natural resources as well as the threat that our use of those resources poses to the integrity of the ecosystem; it should also be noted that the increased attention to an ecological perspective on life was promoted also by the prospect of exploring life on other planets.

It should be noted that around the same period a cognate field was also developed: philosophy of biology. In the 70s, in other words, our theoretical perspective on life was deeply transformed and has led to movements such as the green revolution and the contemporary quest for sustainable living. Retrospectively, the emergence of those fields seems almost obvious.

A Non-Anthropocentric Philosophy?

Although environmental ethicist have applied ethical theories – such as consequentialism – to try and solve environmental concerns, the specificity of environmental problems facilitated the development of some novel ethical perspectives; an example of this is the non-anthropocentric perspective endorsed by a wide number of scholars in the field.
Let’s look at one example.

Speciesism

Probably one of the most well-known arguments against the anthropocentric ethical perspective was proposed by Peter Singer in Animal Liberation(1975). In the first chapter of this classical book, Singer argues that most ethical views nowadays upheld can be accused ofspeciesism. As…...

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