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I’m trying to learn for my Environmental Science class and I’m stuck. Can you help?

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I have to answer one discussion question, and respond to 2 of my classmates’ discussions. for the discussion question might be one page long or more. for the responds for each one a paragraph long. thanks.

this is the discussion question.

This course has touched upon many different environmental problems and several ethical approaches to those problems. What is your considered view about the place of humans in the natural world? Do the actions of human beings constitute part of the natural world, or do human actions belong in a different category? Compare environmental problems that occur with no human involvement, such as volcanic eruptions, to environmental problems that occur at least partially due to human actions. Consider such questions as whether humans have a special moral status that other creatures do not have, whether humans have any moral obligations to nonhuman creatures, and whether there is a morally preferable attitude that humans ought to have toward the environment.

In your replies to others, consider how one’s views of the place of humans in the natural world might change depending on one’s job or position within a community.

the first discussion to respond to.

Trying to chose my specific view about the approaches that we’ve talked about in this course, has been a difficult task. I do believe that human actions should be put in a different category because we are aware of and responsible for our actions. We can think and experience morality, therefore I think we should. Environmental occurrences like volcanic eruptions do cause damage to the ecosystem around it, but it is a naturally occurring process. I believe that the world can sustain and withhold the damages caused by naturally occurring instances. I think the world is meant to handle these events and come back stronger than before in a great cycle. Human involvement is where things get rough. A power plant explodes, causing extreme damage to the environment, can that environment bounce back? Maybe, but it shouldn’t have to. The climate has always been warming, this is naturally occurring cycle, but it’s our involvement that’s speeding the process up. We should be morally accountable for our actions that have contributed to the sped-up process.

As stated in the readings this week, we live in a time when there are massive amounts of information and research out there for us to read and better understand how we live and how it affects everything around us. How our activity affects the planet is a well-known phenomenon at this point, shouldn’t we be focusing on making changes more quickly? It’s kind of like that quote about what makes someone insane, doing the same actions over and over, but expecting a different outcome. Is that not what we’re doing by turning our shoulder to our moral obligation to planet and all that is a part of it? How do we expect to always have access to clean water and food when we take more than we need? These questions and arguments are difficult to discuss. Choosing just one approach and argument is something that I cannot do. I believe that all need to be considered when discussing environmental issues. I have enjoyed getting to delve further into this issue with you all this course. It is a great tool to be able to communicate, especially in controversial, necessary conversations. I hope to take these skills learned and communicate with as many as I can about the importance of environmental ethics.

the second discussion to respond to.

This class has really made me reflect upon my own views and helped me to understand other viewpoints as well. I’ve held certain opinions but never reflected too deeply on why I had such opinions. Having views without good reasons or evidence is not wise or reasonable to keep holding onto. With that being said, this is the worldview I feel is right for me, and maybe most people, to follow:

  • Human beings are not special. We are animals that are a part of nature, just like every other “thing”- living or non-living – on this planet is a part of nature.
  • Although human beings are animals and are of no more importance than anything else in nature, we have the unique skills of superior intellect, reasoning skills, and abstract thought. We can foresee events (in certain aspects), understand the difference between right and wrong (for the most part), and shape/influence the entire biome of Earth with our choices.
  • With our mental abilities, we are able to understand that our actions can have positive or negative consequences. We should be a “big brother” and take care of the planet to provide a clean, safe, and sustainable future for all life on Earth, for if one group fails or is harmed, it indirectly harms the rest of the life on the planet.
  • Because of the extreme changes human beings can make on the planet, certain human activities can be considered outside of the natural world. For example: burning fossil fuels, mass agriculture. Most human inventions don’t seem to fit in the natural world, but some can promote the health of the Earth, while others hurt the environment.

Seumas Miller mentions the theory of collective moral responsibility in our readings this week. He states that “Agent A” has a moral responsibility to “action x” (Boylan, 2014, 262). I feel this makes perfect sense, especially when reviewing human actions. For example: If Company “A” wishes to build a dam (action x), they are morally responsible for ensuring the safety of people, animals, and the environment surrounding the dam from foreseeable harm. I feel this idea Miller brings up can also be expanded. If “action x” causes unforeseen harm/unintended consequences, then “Agent A” is morally obligated to resolve the problems. A perfect example would be burning fossil fuels. Human beings figured out how to burn fossil fuels and used the technology to better the lives of our species, but did not have the knowledge of how damaging burning these fuels would be. Now that we understand how horrible fossil fuels are for the environment, humans are obligated to convert to cleaner energy sources and to try to repair the damages that were unintentionally caused. With such overwhelming evidence that burning fossil fuels harms the environment, any who deny this or keep massively contributing to the problem are morally bankrupt (looking at you oil companies and politicians taking bribes). Individuals shouldn’t be required to revert back to pre-industrial times to save the planet, but with as advanced as technology is, and having the knowledge of environmentally-friendly practices, people should strive to make small changes in their lifestyle. Small changes made by all can create big changes to benefit the planet, as Miller suggests in his work (Boylan, 2014, 258-259).

Although natural disasters, like earthquakes, have no moral agent to blame, I feel it is the duty of human beings, with our intellect and reasoning skills, to help all those impacted by the event. People, animals, plants, etc. suffer from natural disasters, and since the human species is capable of helping all groups recover, we are obligated to lend a hand. As I stated before, when one group on Earth suffers, all other groups indirectly suffer as well. The “Web of Life” connects us to all things, and when one part of the web is destroyed (a broken link in the food chain, an animal going extinct, etc.) it will lead to more stress on other parts of said web.

My last thoughts about human beings and our place in the world make me think of Dr. Carl Sagan (and kind of reiterates a bit of what I stated at the beginning of my post). The first chapter of his book, Pale Blue Dot, always brings me peace and clarity when I feel anxious or unsure of what to do. He expresses that everyone and every event that seems so big and important, all occurred “on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam” (Sagan, 1994, 6). That what we think of as so great and vast is really tiny on the grand scale, and that we should care for our “pale blue dot” for it is “the only home we’ve ever known” (Sagan, 1994, 7). I heartily suggest you all google Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” and read that excerpt from his book. It really points out the folly of greed and fighting, and that we should all love and care for our little home.