Man's endeavor to evolve a mutually re-enforcing relationship with nature is age old, however if this creative relationship would not have been established, life on the planet Earth would have disappeared long ago.
It is our fundamental duty to make this planet earth a decent habitable place. This leads to the rise of concept of environmental ethics.
Environmental ethics relates to our obligations and responsibilities towards nature. Environmental ethics is the guiding force that should make every human care of their surroundings.
This states that for an equitable share in the ecology we must have equal responsibilities. But one must remember that each one owes some responsibility towards the environment which provides not only food and other materials but also satisfies aesthetic needs of humans’ comforts.
However, over exploitation of resources by growing human population has upset the natural balance. The use of technology and economic growth have led to ecological problems.
Approaches to environmental ethics
There are three primary theories of moral responsibility regarding the environment.
Anthropocentrism: Anthropocentrism is the view that all environmental responsibility is derived from human interests alone. The assumption here is that only human beings are morally significant and have direct moral standing. Since the environment is crucial to human well-being and human survival, we have an indirect duty toward the environment, that is, a duty derived from human interests. We must ensure that the Earth remains environmentally hospitable for supporting human life and even that it remains a pleasant place for humans to live.
Biocentrism: According to the broadest version of the biocentric theory, all forms of life have an inherent right to exist.
Ecocentrism: The third approach to environmental responsibility, called ecocentrism, maintains that the environment deserves direct moral consideration and not consideration that is merely derived from human or animal interests. In ecocentrism it is suggested that the environment itself, not just the living organisms that inhabit it, has moral worth.
Role of individual in maintaining environmental ethics
Moral responsibility normally implies knowledge, capacity, choice, and value significance. That is to say, if a person is morally responsible to do something, then he (a) knows of this requirement, (b) is capable of performing it, (c) can freely choose whether or not to do it, and (d) the performance thereof affects the welfare and/or liberty of other beings. Because one‘s response to these requirements reflects upon his value as a moral person.
The individual forms the base of the society and morality at its end is important for maintaining balance.
Individuals committed to a strong environmental ethic can make many lifestyle changes to significantly reduce their personal impact on the planet.