The consequentialist side of environmental ethics


This is the first of three readings outlining philosophical traditions - consequentialist, deontological and virtue-based ethics. Doing what's good constitutes a consequentialist ethic, which considers good and bad (harmful) as being drivers of 'doing what's right'. The most famous philosophical expression of a consequentialist ethic is utilitarianism, associated principally with original writings on the philosophy by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806-73). Utilitarianism focuses on maximizing the happiness of the greatest number and is sometimes discredited by environmentalists as being too human-centred and dismissive of nature as having only instrumental value. This extract from a paper by Daniel Holbrook signals utilitarianism as just one expression of a consequentialist ethic. The author wrote this at a time when many environmentalists were keen to produce an alternative unique ethic that broke from the tradition of standard philosophical ethics. Holbrook in contrast describes the value of a traditional consequentialist ethic within the more contemporary radical tradition of 'deep ecology'. Deep ecology was initiated in the 1970s through the works of the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess and pursued by others, such as Devall and Sessions, referred to in the extract. The consequentialist tradition is considered an important complementary constituent of an environmental ethic. Holbrook suggests that an appropriate biocentric ethic such as Leopold's 'land ethic' (Reading 2) can prompt the development of a more dutiful (deontological) and virtuous relationship with nature in terms of 'self-realization', the implication being that environmental responsibility is not just about consequences but thinking about actual consequences certainly requires some prime attention.

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Renewable Energy 101

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.

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