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Moral Obligations in Environment Essay

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Updated: Aug 20th, 2019

The environment constitutes of the lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and the atmosphere. Synergy between the four components of the environment is crucial to the stability of the environment. The biosphere constitutes of all living things. The diverse views regarding the ethical approach the human beings should employ to address current environmental issues is a key concern among philosophers.

While some individuals propose the need for humans to incorporate aspects of moral obligation in their interaction with the environment, opponents of the non-anthropocentric environmental ethics consider an anthropocentric system as the only suitable basis for interacting with the environment. An analysis of animal rights, living things and ecological systems illustrates the need for moral obligations in environmental ethics.

The moral obligation of human beings arises because all living things have a natural value. The sole condition for the attainment of an intrinsic value is that an element in the environment possesses the characteristics of a living thing. In this regard, other than human beings, other living things in the environment deserve moral respect. Therefore, to revere the worth of all living things, human beings should adopt the non-anthropocentric environmental ethics.

The basic concept of the value of a living thing depends on the ability to enjoy benefits or suffer due to unfavourable conditions in the environment (Williston 2012, p.57). Thus, the growth and development of all elements in the biosphere is subject to human activities. An appropriate ecological system determines the existence of all living things including humans.

The lack of an ecological equilibrium increases the vulnerability of living things to unfavourable environmental factors. The adoption of the non-anthropocentric environmental ethics is crucial to the sustenance of ecological equilibrium. Moral obligation incorporates moral rights and aspects of being morally considerable.

Although human beings are the only sentient beings and thus have the greatest degree of moral standing in the environment, they should interact with the environment without being morally inconsiderate. Despite the fact that it is difficult to measure the level of pleasure or pain that some living things such as trees experience due to human activities, the non-anthropocentric environmental ethics ensure that human beings do not violated the moral standing of other living things.

Anything with wants and needs has a moral standing (Williston 2012, p.115). Living things such as trees need water, light and nutrients. In this regard, human beings have an obligation to uphold moral respect when interacting with the environment. The observable strive by living things to grow and develop clearly illustrates the need of the non-anthropocentric environmental ethics to create an accommodative environment.

The perception of land has always been in terms of its economic use. In this regard, the interaction between human beings and land often overlooks aspects of land ethics.

Personal or community land that does not possess economic value is subject to human destructions. Areas such as wet lands, dunes and deserts lack the key factors that prohibit human beings from destroying land. However, evaluating land in terms of its role in sustaining ecological equilibrium introduces the need for a non-anthropocentric approach on the valuation of land.

Land, irrespective of its economic value, plays a key role in the sustenance of biological production and resources used by living things. In this regard, the lack of moral obligation in human beings when interacting with land amounts to a violation of the moral standing of living things. Because land is a key element in the ecological system, it shares the same level of ecological value awarded to plants and animals.

Thus, since human beings have a moral obligation towards plants and animals, they should observe the non-anthropocentric environmental ethics when interacting with land. Land ethics promote sustainable human practices that ensure the management and use of natural resources expands to incorporate the definition of a moral community. In this regard, the value human beings attach to land should incorporate love, respect and admiration.

Amoral community eliminates the aspect of superiority granted to human beings so that they become members of a large biotic community. Promoting proper interconnection between the lithosphere and biosphere requires the adoption of the non-anthropocentric environmental ethic (Williston 2012, p.213).

Moral inconsideration towards land poses various threats to members of the biosphere. Thus, benefits or damages to land due to inconsiderate human activities are likely to replicate in the biosphere and thus affect the sustenance of moral obligation even among human beings. The biosphere greatly benefits the lithosphere and thus the two components of the environment should work in synergy.

Concepts of moral obligation towards land apply to the protection of the hydrosphere and atmosphere. These two components of the environment are crucial in the sustenance of ecological equilibrium. Pollutants have adverse effects on the sustenance of growth and development of living things. Thus, human activities that introduce harmful component in the environment disregard the value of other living things.

Adopting the non-anthropocentric environmental ethics ensures that the interconnection of various components of the environment does not hamper growth and development, which is a key obligation for human beings. Although environmental conservation enhances aspects of class differences and thus hampers the focus on the elimination of human dominance in a biotic community, it is a key role for human beings considering their level of consciousness.

The implementation of the non-anthropocentric environmental ethics does not mean that human beings should relinquish their roles and status in the ecosystem. However, they should operate within a framework that recognizes the value of all the components of the environment. The interdependence of the components of the environment means that human beings cannot survive by sustaining their moral obligation only to fellow humans.

Ecological equilibrium is sustainable if human perceptions of the environment promote the recognition of individual organisms and their dependence on other components of the environment. A non-anthropocentric approach promotes the realization that organisms in an ecosystem are interdependent, and that human beings cannot exist in disregard to the moral rights and moral standing of other things in the environments.


Respecting living things involves supporting their growth and development. Protecting the worth of living things does not mean that human beings should desist from activities such as eating. The non-anthropocentric environmental ethics promote the concept of cooperation amongst various components of the environment to sustain ecological equilibrium. The sustenance of a symbiotic relationship between living things eliminates the idea of dominance, which increases human tendency towards moral inconsideration.

Human beings have a greater role in promoting and protecting growth and development because they have the highest degree of rationality among all components of the environment. Human activities should consider the impacts of the interconnection of various components in the environment to avoid infringing on the value and moral standing of all living things.

Reference List

Williston, B. 2012, Environmental ethics for Canadians, Don Mills, Oxford University Press: Don Mills, Ont.

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