The strains of the ecological crisis are so apparent that a task to preserve the environment is a must. Adjusting the relationship between humans and nature is one of the most fundamental issues we face and must deal with today. The environmental crisis is an outward manifestation of the crisis of mind and spirit. It all depends on how we think and act. The increasing deterioration of ecological systems and aggravation of the environmental crisis depend on the human beings. Human beings have realised that they cannot rely on economic and judicial methods alone to solve the problems of environmental pollution and ecological imbalances. Environmental ethics also play a vital role to run our life smoothly and create a balance between man and other beings in our surrounding environment. Only after we have adopted an appropriate attitude towards nature and have established a new ethical relationship between human beings and nature will we be able to love and respect nature automatically.
In this context, we can deal with the issues of environmental pollution and ecological imbalances. The magnitude and urgency of contemporary environmental problems collectively known as the environmental crisis form the mandate for environmental ethics, a reexamination of the human attitudes and values towards nature. In this respect, three approaches can be taken to environmental ethics. They are “Anthropocentrism”, “Biocentrism” and “Eco-centrism.”
An “Anthropocentrism” environmental ethics grants moral standing exclusively to human beings and considers non-human natural entities and nature as a whole to be only a means for human ends. Anthropocentrism regards humans as separate from and superior to nature and holds that human life has intrinsic value of nature.
A “Biocentrism” maintains that all life forms are moral entities to which we should accord moral consideration. We therefore have a duty towards all forms of life. As Albert Schweitzer (1923) wrote: “The essence of goodness is to maintain and cherish life, and the essence of evil is to destroy and damage life. All living beings have the will to live, and all living beings with the will to live are sacred, interrelated and of equal value. It is, therefore, an ethical imperative for us to respect and help all life forms.” According to some commentators our exploitative and destructive attitude towards nature originates in an “anthropocentric” attitude. Hence, they argue we need a fundamentally new way of interacting with nature.
More science and technology are not going to get us out of the present ecological crisis until we rethink our old one. The impact of the value system on our interaction with nature has been taken over by many environmental ethicists. Deep ecology - states that the natural world is a subtle balance of complex interrelationships in which the existence of organisms is dependent on the existence of others within ecosystems. Particularly by representatives of the so-called “Deep ecology” movement. Ecological consciousness safeguard against cruelty to all creatures. Rather it involves a safe and sustainable temperament in order to live happily with nature. Due to lack of ecological consciousness we pollute our environment.
As “Utilitarianism” a philosophical concept also maintains that the balance of pleasure and pain should be taken equally into consideration. In this regard the “Utilitarianism” of J.S. Mill and Bentham have prescribed the happiness for all “Greatest happiness of the greatest number,” thus, we the human beings, along with other forms of life, are a part of the food chain closely associated with each other together forming our environment.
Nature is sending us a message with the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis. Leading scientists also said the Covid-19 outbreak is a clear warning shot, given that far more deadly diseases existed in wildlife, and that today’s civilisation was “playing with fire”. They said it was almost always human behaviour that caused diseases to spill over into humans. Human infectious disease outbreaks are rising and in recent years. There have been Ebola, Bird Flu, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers), Rift Valley Fever, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars), West Nile Virus and Zika Virus, all crossing from animals to humans.
The separation of health and environmental policy is a dangerous delusion. Our health entirely depends on the climate and other organisms we share the planet with. The billion-dollar illegal wildlife trade is another part of the problem. The Covid-19 crisis may provide an opportunity for change.
Finally I opine that the importance of environmental ethics in the present day society is indispensable. In so far as living in harmony with nature, we cannot think of human life possible in this eco-centric universe being apart from the viable environment. To make a viable environment we have to comprehend the distinction between ecological balance and ecological imbalance. Environmental ethics is concerned with ecological consciousness that leads to the welfare of all in our environment and nature.
Md. Shide Mahadey Sakender is
General Secretary of Jagannath
University Cultural Centre