Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 7 Issue 42 | October 24, 2008 |

  Cover Story
  Food for Thought
  One Off
  Straight Talk
  A Roman Column
  Art-A Multi-faceted   Retrospective
  Art-The Colours of   Emotions
  Making a Difference
  Music Review
  Star Diary
  Book Review

   SWM Home


Being Environmentally Ethical

Obaidur Rahman

With the passage of time and constant efforts towards progress the result has been a deterioration in the rapport between man and environment, the latter having witnessed the constant wear and tear that has eventually threatened man's very existence. However, it also has to be understood that all relationships require a lot of work; the severity of the problems is spawned when things are taken for granted and that's exactly we, humans have, made the mistake in our relationship with environment. It comes down to the principles and ethics which secure integrity and success is assured with common understanding where the rights of each other are respected. Being born a human earns his/her rights to have the sincere access to some basic elements that are meant to ensure his/her survival as human being, the rights which are globally referred as human rights. But never before has the right to a sound environment reached such importance as now since by definition environment refers to all external conditions and factors that affect living organisms, and regrettably the effect is now taking place in a very depressing way.

The right to a clean environment is indeed a matter of urgency and certainly a human rights issue since if the environment is not preserved then its worsening could certainly put the other human rights concerns like right to life, in a dire altercation and eventually jeopardize our very own existence. Perhaps being ethical towards the environment is one of the solutions that could ensure the much needed betterment in the ways of our existence and endurance of humanity.

Conventionally speaking environmental ethics refers to the discipline that studies the moral relationship of human beings and environment and her nonhuman contents. This philosophical approach towards the environment earnestly deals with the ethical concerns that signify the relationships between man and environment. Should we fill up all the low land areas around Dhaka city for the (perceived or real) convenience of the urbanisation of the capital or should we make some sense when incorporating a development effort. The qualms that taps into our conscience of deliberating right from wrong in the aspects of life is called ethics and when this principle is applied to the environment, the righteous approach towards nature is triumphed and we solemnly achieve some justice to our very own existence.

The historical setting of environmental ethics was pioneered through the work of scientists such as Rachel Carson and events such as the first Earth Day back in 1970. Later the consideration of a philosophical approach towards environmental problems matured with the publications of Lynn White's “The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis in March, 1967 and Garrett Hardin's “The Tragedy of the Commons” in December, 1968. Whether as an academic discipline or an aspect of environmental revolution, the preeminent feature of environmental ethics is that everyone is born with this knowledge as it is simply the notion of executing either right or wrong acts towards the environment. Unfortunately we have witnessed how the ethical issues regarding environment, both in a global and local context, have been manipulated and poorly addressed over the years that compromised the integrity of the planet's environment. Perhaps the worst example of such unethical environmental atrocity is the climate change and how vulnerable mankind's existence has come up due to that.

According to one article published in Nature, 2005, human-induced warming of the world has already caused 150,000 deaths and the number of casualties are soaring with each passing year and it is central to cite that climate change is relentlessly confronting the access to basic amenities for inhabitants of the planet, especially the lot from the poor nations. But this is just an international exemple that evidently demonstrates that climate change, thus environmental degradation is compromising rights to life, liberty and personal security. And the rights to life, liberty and personal security are basic human rights which are the key foundations for developing other extensively recognised rights found in international law and practice and specifically set out in Article III of the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. These rights which are the basis for such practical rules as the “no harm principle” and the “precautionary principle” are recognised in a number of international treaties and decisions in international tribunals and in fact widely documented as foundational by all the major religions of the world.

Human rights are celebrated every time a virtuous act is executed and as humanity is triumphed by this process the distance between us and ethics condenses. And being ethical towards the environment, whether at the personal or communal level, certainly defends human rights as any immorality towards environment is in fact a debauchery done towards ourselves. The right to life, security and liberty is absolutely subsisting within the settings of environment and any effort towards the betterment of the environment is simply a noble practice to uphold these human rights. Sustenance of rights and deliverance from wrong is simply a theme of choice and the implementation of the right one is naturally the ethical one. Whether to throw away the empty packet of chips in the middle of street or pour toxic waste in a wetland which is the only source of survival for an entire community, at the end of the day it's all about choices which inevitably have their own course of consequences. Thus it is both judicious and humane to secure the ethical ones.

The ethical obligation towards the environment and hence towards one another perhaps demonstrates the genuine appreciation towards the earth and cautions the sense that everyone has the right to a resonant environment. The ability to choose requires empowerment of morality in these days to assure that the environment that we live in, that surrounds us, is ethically dealt with and consequently the rights of us, humans, to live freely and fairly is undeniably established.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2008