What are Environmental Ethics? Types and Principles

Environmental ethics is a philosophical discipline focused on the moral principles guiding human interactions with nature and the environment, exploring responsible stewardship, preservation, and the intrinsic value of ecosystems and living beings.

Environmental ethics perceives humans as an integral part of a larger society comprising other living creatures, including plants and animals.

This field acknowledges the interconnectedness between all life forms and emphasizes our human role to ensure the well-being of all other members of the “bigger society”.

According to Wikipedia,

In environmental philosophy, environmental ethics is an established field of practical philosophy “which reconstructs the essential types of argumentation that can be made for protecting natural entities and the sustainable use of natural resources.” The main competing paradigms are anthropocentrism, physiocentrism (called ecocentrism as well), and theocentrism. Environmmental ethics exerts influence on a large range of disciplines including environmental law, environmental sociology, ecotheology, ecological economics, ecology and environmental geography.

Global warming, climate change, deforestation, pollution, resource degradation, and the threat of extinction are some issues our planet suffers from today. 

Environmental ethics is a key feature of environmental studies that establishes the relationship between humans and the earth. With these ethics, you can ensure you do your part to protect the environment.

Thankfully, following environmental ethics and principles isn’t as complex as you may think. In fact, as long as you’re willing to make some slight adjustments in lifestyle, then that’s what it takes!

With the rapid increase in the world’s population, the consumption of natural resources has increased several times. This has degraded our planet’s ability to sustain livelihood.

Environmental ethics builds on scientific understanding by bringing human values, moral principles, and improved decision-making into conversation with science

Earth Day helped to develop environmental ethics in the US, and soon after that, the same ethics were developed in other countries, including Canada and North America.

This is important because the ethics of the environment are of major concern these days.

What Causes Environmental Pollution?

Human activities remain the major cause of environmental pollution. As the human population grows, the demand for resources increases, contributing to environmental pollution.

The increasing global population brings with it a higher demand for resources, often surpassing the environment’s natural capacity to replenish them. This phenomenon creates an imbalance, leading to various environmental disturbances and challenges.

Several environmental issues have created havoc on our environment and human life. If ignored today, these ill effects will surely curb human existence soon.

The major environmental issues include pollution; overpopulation; industrial and household waste; acid rain; climate change; ozone layer depletion; urban sprawl; genetic engineering; deforestation; and global warming.

These problems have taken a toll on our environment, and we’ve already started seeing some disastrous effects in the form of the effect on human health; a rise in sea level; depletion of non-renewable resources; melting of glaciers; extinction of species; polluted landfills; toxic dust; decreasing soil fertility; a rise in air and water pollution; and many more.


Human beings are considered to be the most intelligent species living on earth. This could be why it is the only species on earth that has civilized itself over the decades to a large extent.

Today, humans boast of being superior to all other animals, but what is the use of such great intelligence when environmental ethics are not followed?

Cutting down trees is something that many humans do for their own benefit without any concern for the animals that are dependent on trees for survival.

Using fossil fuels erratically, industrialization, pollution, and disturbing ecological balance are attributable to human activities.

Just because we are in possession of all of these natural resources doesn’t mean we can use them in any manner we choose without keeping anything for future generations.

Environmental Ethics and Environmental Philosophy

Environmental ethics has been developed around environmental philosophy. Many scientists have taken up the belief in the philosophical aspect of environmental hazards, thus giving rise to environmental ethics. Currently, environmental ethics has become a major concern for mankind.

Industrialization has given way to pollution and ecological imbalance. If an industry is causing such problems, it is not only the duty of that industry but all human beings to make up for the losses.

But how long will an artificial and restored environment be able to sustain?

Will it be able to take the place of natural resources?

Environmentalists are trying to find answers to these difficult questions, which are termed environmental ethics.

It is the responsibility of all to ensure that environmental ethics are being met. It is somewhat difficult to make the necessary adjustments to ensure you follow all environmental ethics.


Ethics play an important role in today’s society, and environmental and business ethics must be considered. This has become more prevalent in today’s society.

Both oil and coal are bad, not only for the environment but also for all living creatures, including plants and animals. Both are highly toxic in their natural raw state.

They pollute the air, ground, and water, and whether or not they are helping to create these natural disasters should be irrelevant. They are both finite and will not last forever, and the sooner we rid ourselves of the need for these two hazards, the better.

Oil and coal companies promoting their products, including the notion of “clean coal,” raise ethical concerns, particularly regarding environmental ethics, as it is viewed as an unrealistic and unethical concept.

Many of the world’s problems stem from oil spills, mining accidents, fires, climate change, and global warming.

Ensure that you are doing your part and following all the environmental ethics that are out there.

Photo by: DepositPhotos

Environmental Ethics and Its Principles

There are several approaches or principles to determine how we are to value our environment. It is such a huge and vast field that it is difficult for one principal to cover all the ground.

Many theories have emerged over the years, and each one has stressed various principles of environmental ethics.

The list below states all the principles that have been predominantly found in those theories.

1. Anthropocentrism

It suggests that human beings are the most important beings. All other living beings are only accessories that would assist in their survival.

Now, there are two further divisions of anthropocentrism:

  • Weak anthropocentrism
  • Strong anthropocentrism

Weak anthropocentrism believes that human beings are the center because it is only through their perspective that environmental situations can be interpreted.

Strong anthropocentrism, however, believes that human beings are at the center because they rightfully deserve to be there. Peter Vardy made this distinction.

2. Non-Anthropocentrism

As opposed to anthropocentrism, non-anthropocentrism is a principle that gives value to every object and animal in nature.

It is the belief or perspective that human beings are not the central or most important beings in the world and that the well-being and interests of other species, ecosystems, or the planet as a whole should be considered and prioritized alongside or above human interests.

It emphasizes the interconnectedness and value of all life forms and seeks to challenge the idea of human superiority or dominance over nature.

3. Psychocentrism

Psychocentrism is the principle that believes that human beings hold more value in the environment since their mental capacities are better developed and far more complex than any other element in the environment.

4. Biocentrism

It is a term that holds not only an ecological but also a political value.

It is a philosophy that imparts importance to all living beings. Regarding environmental ethics, biocentrism is the principle that ensures the proper balance of ecology on the planet.

5. Holism

Jan Smuts coined the term holism in his book Holism and Evolution (1926). Holism considers environmental systems as a whole rather than being individual parts of something.

It considers these environmental systems to be valuable.

6. Resourcism

The principle of resourcism says that nature is considered valuable only because it has resources to provide. Thus, nature ought to be exploited.

This principle calls for ethical decision-making to safeguard the environment’s health, fostering harmony between society and nature while mitigating the negative impacts of resource extraction and consumption.

7. Speciesism

The principle of speciesism justifies the superiority of the human race. Thus, it also justifies the exploitation and maltreatment of animals by humankind.

8. Moral Considerability

This is an important principle of environmental ethics. Intrinsic value is added to every being, which makes us consider being moral.

Moral considerable towards a being means we agree that moral laws bind all our interactions with the being and nature.

9. Instrumental Value

The instrumental value is the value imparted to a being as long as it can serve us with resources. It’s a “selfish” concept that advocates for valuing nature as long as it supplies humans with the resources they need to meet their individual needs.

10. Intrinsic Value

The concept of intrinsic value is a contrast to instrumental value. This concept acknowledges the inherent worth of nature that deserves some moral consideration despite its usefulness or non-usefulness to humans.

According to this principle, all elements of nature have the right to live and flourish, despite whether they serve any purpose to humans or not!

11. Aesthetic Value

The principle of aesthetic value recognizes the inherent beauty and aesthetic worth of nature and its components.

This principle clearly highlights the importance of maintaining environmental aesthetics for the enrichment of human experiences and overall well-being.

12. Animal Liberation or Animal Rights

As is evident from its name, animal liberation or rights try to secure animal life and ensure their welfare by enforcing certain laws.

13. Animal Welfare

Animal welfare ensures that the animals are treated well and humanely.

Animal affection

It focuses on minimizing animal suffering and promoting well-being, recognizing animals as sentient beings. It seeks to ensure their basic needs are met and advocates for responsible treatment and compassionate relationships between humans and animals.

Types of Environmental Ethics

With the emergence of several theories, several environmental ethics have emerged. While some protect human beings, others protect plants, animals, and other elements of nature.

The types include:

types of ethics
  • Social ecology studies human beings and their relationships to their environment.
  • Deep ecology promotes the idea that all beings have an intrinsic value.
  • Ecofeminism is a branch of feminism that helps us look at the earth as a woman so that we can respect it in a better way.

Why is Environmental Ethics Important?

Environmental ethics is important because it serves as the moral ground to protect our planet’s environment and continuously fix the environmental degradation we have caused over the years.

Let us look at the benefits we get from environmental ethics.;

  • They remind us of our environmental responsibilities, awakening our ecological consciousness.
  • People would continue to degrade and destroy our planet and live as if they were not dependent on nature. But with the ecological consciousness provided by environmental ethics, we can lead towards a sustainable future, an ecological balance, and the enrichment of our environment’s diversity.
  • We are reminded that despite being the most dominant and superior beings in nature, we are also expected to be the most responsible for keeping our environment, or planet, habitable and clean.
  • Humans are being humbled and reminded of their main responsibilities to nature through them. With our capacity, the misbalances occurring in the environment can be fixed by some minor or major actions.
  • We become considerate of not only ourselves but also plants, animals, and every object in nature.
  • With the moral grounds and values of environmental ethics, humans responsibly use nature, not in a way that results in resource degradation and destruction.

Every object in nature has its own purpose and use, neglecting its uses for humans. That said, it is just right to be a responsible consumer, as humans do not have the right to destroy nature’s richness and diversity.

To sum it up, environmental ethics is a safeguard against cruelty to all creatures. It helps maintain ecological balance and provides a peaceful and beautiful living environment.

Instead of polluting our environment, degrading our resources, and destroying our planet, environmental ethics leads humans to act accordingly for the welfare of all in our environment and nature.

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About Arindom Ghosh

A professional writer, editor, blogger, copywriter, and a member of the International Association of Professional Writers and Editors, New York. He has been part of many reputed domestic and global online magazines and publications. An avid reader and a nature lover by heart, when he is not working, he is probably exploring the secrets of life.