Environmental Ethics

Establishing an environmental ethic is of utmost concern to the human species to
better comprehend our place in the world and our potentials for the future. In
doing so, we must extend our thinking of rights and responsibilities. I believe
we must incorporate not only a temporal component, but also a spatial
understanding of the world as an organic biotic community and how consumption is
a part of the natural order. Aldo Leopold believes that conservation ethics must
be rooted in a determination: "A thing is right when it tends to preserve
the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when
it tends otherwise." I would like to start with Leopold\'s statement, and
further explore how the definitions of integrity, stability and beauty can be
better understood given three corollary\'s: 1. All organic entities must consume
to survive – it is not only a right, but a responsibility 2. There are limited
resources to be consumed by organic entities on the planet 3. The human species
has the ability, through rational thought, to conserve ever-depleting resources

Leopold\'s ethic attempts to extend what is of human, moral concern to include
animals, ecosystems, and endangered species. How can this concern be expressed
in today\'s society? I see one problem with this argument in that there is little
discussion about power and influence that is inherent in current definitions of
rights. Therefore, I will introduce the notion that organic entities, those that
depend on the consumption of energy for survival, must retain the right to
consume resources to survive. Notions of right and wrong now have no standing
– it is a fact that organic entities must consume to maintain life. I will
turn to Callicott for some discussion of limits and to the Second Law of

Thermodynamics as a moral decree to conservation. The resources for survival are
diverse and limited, and we must explore more fully the components of a biotic
community as a whole to explore our moral limits. Community components Organic
entities exist (i.e. live) in an interdependent organic community. This
viewpoint will examine components of the world which are necessary to maintain
organic life. Biological entities are not the only things that require
consumption in these organic communities: Fire consumes oxygen as well as
organic entities, the atmosphere consumes radiation from the sun, water consumes
through the removal of essential oxygen to those that require it, and the earth
consumes through convection. The earth, itself, does nothing more than recycle
energy. Inorganic earth, water and air are also methods of transportation within
the consumption community. Temporally, to better understand the
interconnectedness with other entities we must look at humanities history
through the ancestry of the land. Leopold described the rings on a fallen tree
to show where, at different points in time, it may have been affected by other
forces of consumption. We can see this in a ring that is charred black due to a
fire over one hundred years ago, or where romantic lovers etched their names in
its sturdy frame. However, when we examine things at the microscopic level, a
rich picture emerges that relates our biological history with nature. Leopold
writes of this through the Odyssey of "Particle X": In the flash of a
century the rock decayed, and X was pulled out and up into a world of living
things. He helped build a flower, which became an acorn, which fattened a deer
which fed an Indian, all in a single year. The human sensory methods of
discovery tend to miss many relationships between organic entities. We tend to
miss a lot of things when we are not actually living in nature as well. The
modern market-driven consumer society is very different from the consumer
community of the totality of organic entities on the earth – and quite
possible less complex. We tend not only to consume resources, but technology
allows us to build things that consume resources just in the production process
itself. These, in turn, produce forms of energy that can then be consumed by
human beings as a species. Finite energy resources Up until now, I have
neglected the inorganic life that abounds on the planet. I will now turn to the

Second Law of Thermodynamics which states that in any closed system, entropy is
always increasing. Organic entities require energy for survival, and entropy,
which is a measure of the amount of energy unavailable for work during a natural
process, is constantly increasing. That is, the more we consume, the more waste
is produced that is not available to organic entities to survive. Organic
entities and