Environmental ethics is the part of environmental philosophy which considers the ethical relationship between human beings and the natural environment. It exerts influence on a large range of disciplines including law, sociology, theology, economics, ecology and geography.
There are many ethical decisions that human beings make with respect to the environment. For example:
• Should we continue to clear cut forests for the sake of human consumption?
• Should we continue to propogate, when our planet is already 2/3 above its maximum carrying capacity ?
• Should we continue to make gasoline powered vehicles, depleting fossil fuel resources while the technology exists to create zero-emission vehicles?
• What environmental obligations do we need to keep for future generations?
• Is it right for humans to knowingly cause the extinction of a species for the (perceived or real) convenience of humanity?
The academic field of environmental ethics grew up in response to the work of scientists such as Rachel Carson and events such as the first Earth Day in 1970, when environmentalists started urging philosophers to consider the philosophical aspects of environmental problems. Two papers published in Science had a crucial impact: Lynn White's "The Historical Roots of our Ecologic Crisis" (March 1967) and Garrett Hardin's "The Tragedy of the Commons" (December 1968). Also influential was Garett Hardin's later essay called "Exploring New Ethics for Survival", as well as an essay by Aldo Leopold in his A Sand County Almanac, called "The Land Ethic," in which Leopold explicitly claimed that the roots of the ecological crisis were philosophical (1949).
The first international academic journals in this field emerged from North America in the late 1970s and early 1980s – the US-based journal, Environmental Ethics in 1979 and the Canadian based journal The Trumpeter: Journal of Ecosophy in 1983. The first British...