Human beings have been classified as the anthropocentric elements on Earth’s surface. This is because the humans are viewed as more valuable that other creatures because of the their use and application of reason. In a typical societal setting, the socially capable people use others, who do not match their social classes, to work for them. The human social life is taken as a hierarchy; hence, the powerful are supposed to be served by the less powerful. However, in a typical ethical setting, one human being is equal to the other and they should conduct themselves the same way towards each other. Benevolence, humanity, respect, empathy, and generosity should be ethical obligations of every human being. However, the actuality of the situation takes the former form, where the less powerful serves the most powerful.
In the ecological system, the naturally occurring entities like animals, plants, rivers and other resources are assumed as less important than man. The difference between man and a tree is that he/she has a mind and can make judgments regarding the reality of a situation. On the other hand, nature does not comprise of man alone; other objects depend on several aspects to survive. Trees depend on water, healthy soil and sufficient sunlight to develop and grow appropriately. Man, on the other hand, depends on naturally occurring elements that determine his survival. For this reason, man and nature are connected because man is part of nature.. The fact that man has to develop the world through technology and business structures does not allow him to spoil the environment. In this case, the environment should be included in the human sphere of moral concern, because it is part of what humans survive on and provides survival for itself.
The reason why individual is obligated to respect or show empathy to another is because they both have feelings and can retaliate if pushed beyond their capacities. The environment, unlike men, cannot think for itself but has to survive through adaptation and seasonal cycles. At this moment, the environment and man are equal in that they try to exist in the same spherical surface of need. Using the theory of utilitarianism, man is placed as the anthropocentric entity, and to ensure his survival, sacrifice of the less valuable is an ‘order’. Man exists in generations and the current populations will be replaced by their children. In the same sense and logic, the environment that comprises of fresh air, rivers, wildlife, birds, and vegetation depends on itself to survive through generations. Given that man’s and environment’s needs have to be equally satisfied, the survival of man is more important than that of the environment.
Business structures, homes, infrastructure, recreational facilities, and sports complexes have to be built for the satisfaction of man’s needs. On the other hand, the environment is placed on the receiving end, meaning that the needs of man will be accomplished and catered at the expense of the environment. Animal habitats, river courses, and ecosystems are cleared, changed, and destroyed respectively, to pave way for man’s needs. The application of utilitarianism theory has been more harmful than beneficial to nature in general, because an imbalance is created between people and the environments they live in. Ethically, the respect a human being shows or is obligated to show to another, should equally apply to the environment.
Peter Singer (2011) explains that something is of intrinsic value if it is valuable itself. The intrinsic value of the environment is that it comprises a large part of the natural world and its natural form gives it value. The environment is valuable; it is therefore supposed to be protected from harm, not only for the future generations, but also for the personal value it has on itself. For example, a tree that grows in a jungle does not depend on man to water and feed it; it is watered by rain and fed by biomechanisms in the soil. A rainforest is supposed to be respected or treated morally because it is responsible for catering the water needs of the young trees and rivers. The ecological cycles and processes are rounded together to make an ecological form of life called ecosystem. In an effort to snap out of the human-centered moral framework, ecosystems should be viewed as equal to humans. The history of America or the history of Britain does not define nature, hence there is no hierarchy in nature. Assuming that nature was weaker than men, then it should be treated the same way the african slaves were treated by british forces during the revolution in America.
A healthy environment is not defined by rights but by obligations. An obligation is a responsibility that an individual has to carry out for the sake of another individual or an object’s protection or satisfaction; it is not a choice. Human rights are the rights of survival the humans have defined to protect themselves. In this case, human rights should not apply in any way when deciding the fate of the environment. Humans and the environment make up the natural world; in this case, the rights of either should be defined by logic and not through egocentric objectives. If a man must eat and a tree must feed as well, the river providing water to the tree should not be drained to cater for the man’s need only. Logically, the above example shows self-centeredness of man in that the tree and the river are affected negatively for the benefit of man.
If man has rights, then the environment does also. The intrinsic value of a rainforest is that it supports its existence and provides rivers with water by attracting rain. The rivers, on the other hand, provide various areas with water that absorbs in the ground and irrigates dry lands. Some rivers drain their water to large water bodies and facilitate the livelihood of aquatic creatures. Some aquatic animals or creatures provide food for birds and land animals; and this makes the original source of life, the rainforest, an important part of the environment. We should prevent the environment from damage and protect it from self-destruction. This is because the future of human life will not depend on bank notes but will depend on how safe the environment is. A safe environment has to balance the need to protect human needs and environmental needs (Singer 338).
Therefore, the environment should be included in the moral sphere of humans through the preservation of the natural environment, recognition of Earth as an indispensable environment, and development of intergenerational ethics. The environment is instrumental to human welfare and therefore draws intrinsic value. In this case, humans are supposed to apply conservation ethics in protecting the environment without viewing it as a form of utility. Deep ecology and conservation ethics should be applied together to display a sense of equity. A humanist theory is supposed to be applied in this case to attach morals to the way we treat the environment. Application of sense was advocated by Peter Singer (2011), to showcase the importance of valuing the interests of non-sentient entities like garden weed. In the same note, Singer pints out that we should preserve ‘world heritage sites’ to generate ‘scarcity value’, this means that natural features that continue to be scarce should be preserved for future generations to enjoy, as they are mostly passed through a family chain. It is for the future generation to choose, whether to give them away or to embrace them.