Environmental ethics is a broad area of study which applies the ideas of law and philosophy in the context of the interaction between the living and nonliving worlds. Environmental ethics deals with the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic values associated with nature, with intrinsic values being difficult to define in many cases.
As a discipline, environmental ethics emerged around the 1970s. The emergence of this topic resulted to oppose the traditional view of anthropocentrism, the idea that the environment exists solely to appease the needs of human inhabitants. Furthermore, another objective of this subject area was, and still remains, to be about placing intrinsic values on the natural environment and the non-human components within it, which is a complicated task.
Although environmental concerns are not a new problem and society had begun to realize the negative impacts of human actions on the environment before the 20th century, the emergence of environmental ethics also followed the uproar of environmental issues arising in the 60s and 70s. Legislation was beginning to change and a publically accepted understanding was arising that an anthropocentric view of the world was not a positive opinion to possess.
In essence, environmental ethics deals with the complicated relationship between the human world and the environmental realm (including non-human species) which civilization exists in. The toughest aspect of environmental ethics is that it attempts to answer subjective questions regarding human behaviour and morals in relation to the environment. For example, questions on whether humans should be allowed to use pesticides when farming or whether it is morally acceptable for humans to hunt animals and use their fur for clothing, are extremely difficult questions to address and find a solution for.
Title Image Credit: Pixabay. (2014). Industry Smoke Chimney Pollution Exhaust Gas. Retrieved from http://pixabay.com/p-80939/