Environmental Ethics

This post is part of the series Eleanor on the Environment.

Deciding what is right and wrong continues to puzzle humanity. What values are most important? Who decides who is prosperous and who isn’t? Do animals deserve rights? How many rights can we offer to humans? These are all questions about ethics. It can be argued that climate change is an ethical dilemma. The way in which humans now contribute to the planet is cruel and ruthless. These injustices can be examined further through our looking into our systems of agriculture, our desire for expansion, and the treatment of other human beings. 

There are almost 8 billion people on this planet. All of them need food and water to survive. Because of overpopulation, we are forced to mass produce food. This can look like single crop farms stretching for miles. It can look like one thousand cattle squished together into one hamburger. It can look like chickens strapped to assembly lines. When children are taught about farms they are shown images of a red barn with free range animals of all kinds. Even when buying foods from the grocery stores we are consistently told a lie. Farms now look very different than they used to. Pigs hang from wires and are cut open by people tasked with one continuous movement. The images from modern farms are horrifying. Not only do they treat animals poorly but they also emit tons of greenhouse gases and use an abundance of water. No animal should be treated this way.  This is an ethical dilemma that has to be changed. 

Humans have always desired growth. Bigger and better runs constantly through our brains, but how does this mindset affect the environment? The heads of big corporations continue to proceed by any means necessary, even if this means tearing a rainforest to shreds. The long term consequences of these major actions are almost never positive. We have to continue to ask ourselves why we take advantage of the environment? Is it because it is necessary or is it because it is the easy way out? 

Years of research has proven that lower income families are the ones who are directly affected by climate change. For example, the Flint water crisis in Flint, Michigan was a clear demonstration of systemic racism. The government changed the water from Detroit’s system to the Flint river.  The water they were given was polluted and resulted in long term health defects including lead poisoning. This growing Afiican American community felt as though they had been cheated. In this case federal action was taken and in 2016 the courts provided Flint with door to door water services. This is great however many people continue to be taken advantage of all across the world. 

It’s time to give a voice to the people who are suffering. It’s time that the top one percent listens to those who continue to be directly affected by their pollution. At some point the richest will not be able to run from climate change anymore.


Reference List:

Miller, G. Tyler, and Scott Spoolman. Living in the Environment: Principles, Connections, and Solutions. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2015. 

November 08, 2018 Melissa Denchak. “Flint Water Crisis: Everything You Need to Know.” NRDC, May 1, 2020. https://www.nrdc.org/stories/flint-water-crisis-everything-you-need-know. 


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