From our two readings, I liked the Sandler essay most. Thus far in class we’ve learned about what environmental ethics is and how we might develop an environmental ethic that will include everyone. Sandler on the other hand, discusses the importance of character in developing an environmental ethic. Although I still enjoyed Elliot’s essay and agree with his “mixed ethics” proposal, I think Sandler’s essay is a prerequisite to Elliot’s.
Without having an appreciation for nature beyond what it physically gives us, it’s very difficult to establish a strong reason and ethic as to why we should protect it. But, if we extend our social human nature to the environment, we can better understand why it’s important to have an environmental ethic and can better choose which ethic is best. Sandler gives four ways in which we can develop this environmental character. The first is to ascribe our human values to nature. The second is to realize that nature can provide aesthetic, intellectual, and spiritual value once we open our minds to receiving it. The third is that as social creatures we should extend our sociability from our human communities to the natural environment. The fourth is to study the traits of other influential environmental leaders and strive to be like them. These four ways of appreciating nature are so basic, yet so essential to environmental ethics. It’s hard to convince people to save something if they aren’t sure it’s worth saving. In forming a new environmental ethic, virtues and character should be the first part of the ethic so people understand why there is an environmental ethic to begin with.
Once people have an environmental character and value the environment for what it is, we can then discuss how we interact with nature. Elliot’s essay discussed different normative ethics that could be used for environmental ethics. He presents consequentialism and deontological ethics, but both of these have problems. After his description of what these ethics entail and their problems, he presents a mixture of the two ethics. In this type of ethic, if enough value of an object is at stake, we should take a strict, deontological ethic and forbid harm to it. But, this deontological approach would not always beat consequentialism. For example, the destruction of part of a forest to create a fire break to prevent spreading of a forest fire would be acceptable because the few trees being destroyed wouldn’t have as much value at stake as the rest of the forest and consequentialism would win. This type of “mixed ethic” would benefit greatly by adding a virtue and character like Sandler proposes. The character of the people observing the ethic would be such that whatever ethical calls were made in regards to nature would be honest calls and would be for the best of nature and humans together.
Sandler opens his essay with, “there is at least one certainty regarding the human relationship with nature: there is no getting away from it.” Humans have been, are, and always will be intertwined with the nature and because of this we need to develop an environmental ethic. The best way to do this would be to first develop virtues and character in relation to nature so we can better form an ethic that will be best for nature while maintaining human development. If we have our hearts in the right place, then we can develop and ethic that will follow that.
I read a blog this week on “green valentines” which shows that our nation is moving towards developing a good character and virtues for nature. Valentine’s Day has always shown the relationships between humans, but now it can also show our relationship with nature. The blog wasn’t promoting we buy candy for our favorite tree, but rather was giving ideas for people to express their love for each other in a way that will cause less hurt for the environment. It’s more eco-friendly to make your own card out of recyclable material, pick your own bouquet of flowers instead of relying on imported flowers from greenhouses that use a plethora of pesticides, or buy recycled stones for jewelry instead of buying diamonds or gold whose industries produce a lot of environmental damage. These aren’t laws that must be abided by, but rather things that can build your character if you care about the environment. The fact that Valentine’s Day is now associated with respecting the environment and not just associated with human relationships show’s that we’re building character which will help us develop and ethic appropriate for humans in this century.
Here is the blog on green Valentine’s Day gifts if anyone is interested in using them next week J