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Environmental Ethics and International Policy Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 27th, 2020

The Earth is under the threat owing to the challenges raised by pollution. There was a time when people showed a great love for nature. People were very excited about the environment. It is a time when the population was not a huge as it is today. There were very few or no manufacturing industries existed at all. However, things changed very fast particularly in the last two centuries and the environment has become so polluted today. There have been debates about the role human beings play in escalating environmental pollution. The debates that have taken place over the years have generated crucial information to understand the notable things that people do to pollute the environment.

However, something that has not emerged is whether differences exist between the present generation and the previous ones. It is noteworthy that human beings have remained the same. This is an indication that something else had gone wrong with the generations of human beings who lived in the 19th and 20th century when pollution emerged and started transforming the environment. It is noteworthy to suggest that the present generation is just continuing with damaging the environment. I am arguing that on the contrary, environmental pollution, which is attributed to human activities have been increasing because of the decay of peoples’ ethical values and a continually diminishing re-inspect for the intrinsic value of nature.

It is my view that the rate at which the environment is polluted presents a time bomb. The environment may not be able to support human survival in the near future. It is notable that in many parts of the world the environment has transformed significantly affecting peoples’ livelihoods. The emergence of discussions about climate change and global warming was associated with pollution. The two have become disasters with detrimental ramifications on the lives of human beings, property, and livelihoods.

Ecological pollution signifies wasted resources and economic opportunities.

The polluted environments around the world continue to endanger the existence of flora and fauna. The discussions around sustainability and sustainable development have focused on how to strike a balance between ensuring that economic expansion does not result in wasting the environmental resources. There are several laws and regulations legislated to facilitate the protection of the environment against pollution (Peirce, Vesilind and Weiner 6).

Whereas development is not bad for anybody, the question pertains to the reasons why people have to pollute the environment. It is a sign of the decay of ethical values of people who pursue economic growth at the expense of the environment. It shows that people give more respect to acquiring wealth than ensuring that the environment supports their existence today as well as that of their grandchildren’s to come.

The sources of environmental pollution have been associated with the escalating waste generation and poor human interactions with the Global Commons. Environmental economists have also suggested that insufficient models for pricing natural resources in order to attach economic value to them have escalated pollution as people continue to deplete resources. The economists are also concerned that human beings are showing no mercy to environmental resources.

It’s my suggestion that disposing wastes in a clean environment over time reduce the quality of that environment. For example, a neighborhood that lacks waste collection points may decide to dispose of wastes in an open field near their houses and eventually make such a place to lose its aesthetic value. It is notable that many people have done this and turned open places into dump sites. Their motivation to pollute in this case is not because they do not have a waste collection point but because their ethical values have decayed.

The role multinational and national companies have played in causing pollution is well documented. However, their motivation to release harmful wastes into the air and water shows the decay of ethical values in people who make the decisions in such companies. Their practices show how they do not appreciate the importance of fresh air and fresh water. They could be aware that their action negatively affects the quality of life of people but the fascination with making profits is just too high. In my opinion, someone who willingly pollutes the environment knowing the potential effects of their actions has decayed ethical values.

It is notable that people have caused some of the world’s greatest environmental pollution leading to massive loss of lives and destruction of the ecological well-being. Some of them have occurred due to human errors. However, the main concern emerges on the possibility of drawing a line between “human errors” and “human plans.” The argument for human errors is always tempting because it is easy to get away with. It is also easy to convince other people with lies that are fabricated as if they were the truth.

Compelling evidence has shown that human factors have played a significant role (Woods and Mary 14). It is my opinion that if the argument is true, then such people have really loosed their ethical values. The fact that people who understand the potential dangers of chemical they are working with and still dispose of them off carelessly defeats the possible human reasoning.

Reports have suggested that conspiracies taking place with different government personnel and people interested in disposing of hazardous wastes have contributed to a violation of environmental laws. Consequently, unfortunate environmental disasters such as the Bophal disaster, the Chernobyl disaster, and the recent oil spillage at the Gulf of Mexico have occurred. This was dangerous gas pollution that killed over 5,000 locals while having effects on many people over long periods (Woods and Mary 56).

These environmental disasters have been attributed to human errors. It is my suggestion that errors can only emerge when standards are not observed. The failure to take all precautionary measures while handling such highly dangerous chemicals indicates unethical business practices. The reason for conducting unethical business practice emerges from the individual’s nature of ethical values. The people have decayed ethical values find it a lot easier to practice unethical business.

The Chernobyl disaster resulted from an explosion in the nuclear power plant. The effects of the pollution presented by devastating health problems (Woods and Mary 24). This has been the biggest nuclear power pollution problems. It definitely provided others working in the same field many issues worth learning. However, the notion that other nuclear-based pollution has continued indicates that people and companies do not learn from the mistakes others made. The firms that failed to learn from such previous mistakes also reveal that their business practices are sometimes conducted unethically. The fact that company choices are made by individual’s shows that it is the decision-making components of such firms that have decayed ethical values.

These unfortunate forms of environmental pollution are attributed to human errors. The general argument made by Woods and Mary (16), is that many companies transfer their dangerous and hazardous wastes across borders into other countries. In this argument, I suggest that since the companies always undertake such actions intentionally, their conduct is unethical. Moreover, I think that moving harmful wastes into the boundaries of less developed countries while disregarding the potential health problems shows the decay of ethical values among the people making those critical decisions.

Although, Woods and Mary (16) suggest that sometimes the companies do this because the costs involved in treating such wastes are prohibitive. I still maintain that the transfer of the harmful wastes to other regions shows that the people involved lack the ethical values and respect for the locals in those areas.

Peirce, Aarne and Ruth (68), contends with Woods and Mary (16) that multinational companies undertaking to manufacture and generating diverse wastes are constantly faced with the dilemma over the most appropriate method of waste disposal. Specifically, Peirce, Aarne and Ruth (68), observes that the companies have many options including using modern waste disposal methods. I think that many companies instead choose to transfer waste to other nations.

However, as I have suggested in the preceding argument choosing to violate the rights of other people for a clean and healthy environment signifies a decay of ethical values. The fact is that transferring wastes to other regions by companies means the decision makers do not appreciate the role quality environment plays in the lives of people.

Peirce, Aarne and Ruth (68) that such companies fear the possibilities of unsuccessfully treating the wastes thus attracting punitive measures based on the approach of the Polluter Pays Principle (PPP). This principle requires that people who pollute the environment bears all the costs of restoring the environment to its original state. In my view, even acts of attempting to avoid paying for PPP shows a lack of respect for the law in business operations, which is unethical.

I am always perturbed with questions as to whether the companies undertake analysis of the opportunity cost involved in transporting wastes to other countries as opposed to treating them locally. In any case, such analysis is done, then the fact that a company finds it easy to transport wastes into new locations where it is injurious to other people is a clever unethical decision. It reveals that people making these decisions have decayed environmental ethics and morals.

Carroll (104) argues that environmental ethics operate around three core areas including the moral status of nature, the intrinsic value of nature, and the ecological systems. Specifically, Carroll believes that ethical values play a significant role in the management of environmental resources. In my opinion, I would look at ethical values in terms of the environment, as that which pertains to moral thinking about nature and peoples’ interaction with it. Moreover, I think that people have not been able to match the three core areas already mentioned to facilitate their contribution to sound interaction with nature. I think that this may also include the way people relate to the issues of intrinsic value of the earth and natural resources and their moral view of nature.

Carroll (34), suggest that people need to act in specific ways guided by their ethical values in order to ensure environmental quality. Particularly, Carroll believes that this is crucial to the appropriate ecological resource management to include the protection of the natural environment from pollution in their plan. In my opinion, however, the activities of the first and second generation of environmentalists are what the third and emerging generation take up.

I believe that the foremost generation of environmentalists paid attention to the species and habitat conservation. The second generation was concerned with species and habitat conservation together with some aspects of pollution. Therefore, I suggest that a third and probably the last generation of environmentalists should emerge with appropriate energy to take up pollution and natural resource management.

According to Resnik (24), the decay of ethics among human beings emerged at the start of the industrial revolution when basic information was known about environmental pollution. Specifically, Resnik has suggested that intellectuals of the time played a crucial role in reducing pollution through advocacy. While I agree with Resnik, it is my suggestion that those days the focus was on consumerism and contamination activities that were harmful to the ecological systems.

The most important issue to pick from Resnik’s argument for discussion is the place of intellectuals in advocacy. I am sometimes saddened that the intellectuals of the present generation are perpetuating consumerism without any pollution control efforts. The level of consumerism is reaching its peak leading to questions as to whether or not people really have ethical values of the environment.

Gottlieb (5) suggests that early enthusiasts such as Henry David Thoreau interacted with nature in an exciting way showing their love for the environment. Specifically, Thoreau built knowledge in this area by living a simple life closer to the environment. Resnik (24) agrees with Gottlieb (5) that there remains the original and the most successful ways through which peoples’ ethical values contributed to the reduction of environmental pollution. However, in my opinion, I think that people like Thoreau are not existing presently. This has been a source of debating the issue of ethical values among human beings.

Gottlieb (7) repeats Leopold’s belief that it was unethical to damage the environment. Gottlieb also suggests that the 1962 publication by Rachel Carson, the Silent Spring, exposed how people had started damaging the environment DDT in the environment. Rachel Carson argued that it was improper to release chemical wastes into the environment without prior understanding of the impacts they had on the environment. In my opinion, the banning of the use of DDT should have changed the trend of pollution. However, even after the compelling evidence about the environmental pollution those days people continued to escalate release of wastes into the environment.

Peirce, Vesilind, and Weiner (6) are also concerned that environmental contamination continues to rise despite the stringent laws and regulations aimed at averting and preventing polluting activities. Furthermore, ongoing management and prevention programs and projects have considerably failed to alter ecological pollution. This is an indication that there is a missing link in the present environmental management efforts. Showing that the level of impunity environmental pollution is taking place demonstrates the decay of peoples’ ethical values.

Vesilind and DiStefano (78) give a general concern that scientific inventions and technological advancements have started superseding environmental ethical considerations. Specifically, they think that many technological achievements that emerge in the marketplace today create a massive volume of e-waste, which is difficult to dispose of using the most recommended methods. In my view, the innovation and manufacturing procedures of the technological inventions do not explain to people how to manage the products when they wear out.

I am concerned that this could be a business strategy. Furthermore, the way people have yearned for new inventions remains unthinkable. People have developed the highest appetite for a consumerism behavior, which is characterized by the desire to consume more each time. This is very different from the case in the early centuries. The two scenarios presented a sharp contrast in the ethical values of people today and in the past.

Emmanuel (24) suggests that a consumerist society shows that people can go at all lengths to escalate the amount of food and resources they consume. A consumerist society disregards the impact of resource depletion cause to the environment. In my opinion, a society that specializes in consumption endangers the well being of the environment. Overexploitation escalates the rate of environmental resource depletion. Furthermore, overconsumption escalates waste generation and release to the environment. It is notable that people who engage in consumerism have diminished ethical values. The existence of ethical values should guide people in making proper decisions including living in harmony with the environment. The efforts people make to overexploit environmental resources while at the same time pollute nature show that they are not interested in a harmonious relationship with nature.

Furthermore, the very nature of a consumerist society entails the unending demand resources and products required to satisfy their needs. The demand for technologically generated resources continues to escalate in consumerist societies. As (Emmanuel 24) points out, the notion that people have also continued to purchase their materials is an indication of a bad lifestyle. The author has indicated that technological advancement is crucial to the development of society.

There are aspects of technological advancement that are not good for the environment. This is associated with decision makers engaged in the generation of such materials. The decision makers have consistently failed to fulfill social responsibility, including undertaking public education to escalate knowledge among consumers on the management of technological materials. It is my opinion that the decision makers in the technological development field need to show more attention to the impact their products are having on the environment to formulate new ways of managing the challenges.

I have argued that the continued incidents of environmental pollution are demonstrable of the decay of peoples’ ethical values. It has established that the level of environmental pollution is unprecedented. Furthermore, it has argued that people are at the center of environmental pollution. Legislated environmental laws and policies do not necessarily reduce environmental pollution. My research has also discussed some of the worst environmental pollutions that have taken place globally.

The notable examples of environmental disasters include the Bophal disaster, oil spills, and the Chernobyl disaster. Although the disasters were attributed to human errors, there have been suggestions that some of them occurred owing to government conspiracies. I also presented the role played by the early ethicists such as John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Henry David Thoreau, and Rachel Carson.

It has established that technological growth and manufacturing expansion have contributed significantly to environmental pollution. Conversely, the failure of people to develop appropriate technology required for waste management has also viewed the current environmental predicaments. The case of non-compliance with environmental laws and the adoption of CSR activities amounts to the decay of peoples’ ethical values. There is a need to undertake a paradigm shift from contemporary polluting activities to a green economy and sustainability efforts.

Works Cited

Banerjee, Subhabrata B. Corporate Social Responsibility: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2007. Print.

Carroll, Archie. Business & Society: Ethics & Stakeholder Management. Mason, OH: South Western Cengage Learning, 2009. Print.

Charter, Martin. Greener Marketing: A Global Perspective on Greener Marketing Practice. Sheffield: Greenleaf, 1999. Print.

Emmanuel Agius, Robin Attfield, Johan Hattingh, Alan Holland, Teresa Kwiatkowska, Holmes Rolston, Mark Sagoff, and Tongjin Yang. Environmental Ethics and International Policy. Ten Have, Henk AMJ, Ed. Paris: UNESCO, 2006. Print.

Gottlieb, Robert. Environmentalism Unbound: Exploring New Pathways for Change. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2002. Print.

Keller, David. Environmental Ethics: The Big Questions. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Print.

Peirce, Jeffrey, Aarne Vesilind and Ruth Weiner. Environmental Pollution and Control. Burlington: Elsevier, 1997. Print.

Resnik, David. Environmental Health Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Print.

Vesilind, Aarne, and DiStefano, Thomas. Controlling Environmental Pollution: An Introduction to the Technologies, History and Ethics. Lancaster, Penn: DEStech Publications, 2006. Print.

Woods, Michael, and Mary B. Woods. Environmental Disasters. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Co, 2008. Print.

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