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Environmentalism Theory in Ethical Philosophy Essay

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Updated: May 26th, 2020


The issue of environmental conservation is critical in modern society because it has a tremendous effect as far as climate change is concerned. Because of the urge to strengthen the global economy, as well as local financial systems, developing countries are keen on establishing industries without necessarily following the regulations set out by the environmental regimes, such as the UNEP (Preston, 2013). The rain patterns are unpredictable, leading to losses among farmers.

The ongoing drought in many parts of the world is attributable to the changes in climate. Several philosophers and theorists posit varying views on the current problem of climate change. In this article, utilitarianism and deontology would be compared to determine which one of the theories best explains the step that should be taken to save the environment. Several ethical questions emerge as far as environmentalism is concerned, including the human obligation towards the atmosphere, the extent at which human beings should go to preserve animal and plant species, and the level of intervention, both locally and globally.

Comparison of the Theories

Utilitarianism is a form of consequential ethics suggesting an action is determined whether it is right or wrong by looking at its effects. In other words, an action should guarantee happiness to the greatest number of people for it to be termed right. In this regard, climate change does not maximize happiness meaning mitigation strategies must be formulated if society is to be guaranteed happiness (Preston 186).

The activities that are undertaken in various societies are harmful to the environment, and this does not support human survival. Any action is assessed based on the pleasure it brings to people. If the act is good, the chances are high that it would maximize happiness, meaning it is the only intrinsic good that must be sought by each person. Under utilitarian ethics, there are no chances of pain, which suggests satisfaction is pleasure minus the total pain.

The problems human beings face because of climate change suggest it entails one of the things that interfere with pleasure. Its effects are negative in three major ways, including increasing temperatures, facilitating unfavorable weather conditions, and vastly increasing the chances of disease contraction. Due to the high temperatures experienced in various parts of the world, the ice is likely to melt, and the seas levels tend to rise at unprecedented rates. High sea levels are known to interfere with the normal lives of the poor locals because it sweeps away their homes, rendering people refugees (Preston 191).

The case of Tuvalu, which is a tiny island in the Pacific, serves as an example. Apart from this effect, high sea levels lead to droughts and heat waves that are likely to kill crops meaning individuals would go for days without food. Continuous release of carbon compounds facilitates extreme weather conditions, including tornadoes and hurricanes, such as Sandy and Katrina, which have extreme consequences given the fact many people lose their lives and property whenever they happen. Human activities are to blame for the increased release of carbon dioxide, especially when people drive, heat, and consume electricity.

According to utilitarianism, conditions that destroy life increases aggregate pain in the sense that the family is left agonizing and yearning for the love of the deceased. The agency charged with environmental protection conducted a study to establish the cost of human life. The findings revealed that a human being is estimated to cost at least $47314.50. Unfortunately, human beings cannot do without engaging in activities that pollute the environment since they bring satisfaction and pleasure.

For instance, flying saves time, and driving enables other people to access food and basic services. However, the total aggregate pain derived from emissions is above the aggregate pleasure, meaning a reduction of secretion to zero is the only option if the issue of climate change is to be resolved. In fact, an emission of zero-carbon footprints facilitates environmental conservation, implying it maximizes total aggregate pleasure. In this case, carbon should be diluted through various existing methods to mitigate the challenge of climate change.

Deontological theorists, such as Kant, had specific views on environmental conservation. In this case, Kant noted that any human being has a desire to produce the best result that is observant of the moral good. For deontologists, Preston notes, “the ends do not justify the means,” since the morality of any action is based on its actions, particularly whether it complies with the set rules and obligations (Preston 195). In this regard, a human being is always expected to act positively because of the existence of rules. In other words, the motives of a human being are the most important in analyzing the actions. According to Kant, things believed to be morally good, such as aptitude, perseverance, and pleasure, are not intrinsically good.

For instance, an individual might take pleasure in seeing another person suffering, which is morally wrong. Therefore, goodwill is the most important principle in analyzing Kant’s view on environmental conservation. This would mean that each person has a responsibility to conserve the environment, irrespective of whether the legal authority exists. Unfortunately, his suggestion does not support environmental conservation because people are never good intentional in the sense that they explore the existing opportunities in the environment for economic development. Again, deontological ethics do not consider the consequences or the results of an action, yet reflecting on the environmental effects, such as climate change, is very important. Due to constant draughts being experienced in various parts of the world, human beings are suffering, given the fact access to food is limited. Based on this, the deontological theory could not be applied successfully in conserving the environment.

Applied Theory

According to Jeremy Bentham, nature places human beings under the control of two masters, one of them being a pain while the other is a pleasure. In this case, it is upon the human beings to choose what they desire (Bentham 81). Whenever presented with an opportunity, an individual has to choose an option that guarantees happiness and prevents the chances of suffering. In supporting the views of utilitarianism, Preston observed, “morally does seem to be about reducing or preventing pain, and the promotion of happiness. Perhaps this is not the exclusive or even primary focus of morality (Preston, 194).”

Similarly, the government, private organizations, and individuals should always be inspired to do the right thing and avoid evil at all times by preserving the environment. The theorist went on to formulate a formula for calculating pain and pleasure, which is commonly referred to as the hedonic calculus. In his view, pleasure and pain could be determined by calculating the intensity, duration, confidence/improbability, and proximity/solitude. Again, the productiveness of an act has to be taken into consideration because a fruitful one ought to be followed because it is pure. Finally, special consideration should be made regarding the number of individuals that an act is likely to affect. In the case of climate change, many people would suffer, implying preservation of the environment would avert the situation. Preston noted, “non-humans do seem to have some measure of moral value (Preston 191)”. This means that their view is supportive of environmental conservation.


Preston, T. M. (2013). Introduction to philosophy: A way of life. New York: Kumarian. Web.

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