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Moral Pluralism

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Moral Pluralism Ralph M. Dahm SCI 361 - Environmental Issues and Ethics Dr. Theodore R. Ferguson April 16, 2005 Abstract Moral pluralism acknowledges the existence of opposing ideas and practices. Moral judgments are determined by using more than one criterion. The views of several moral ethicists are examined and considered. Topical examples are provided supporting both sides of moral pluralism as applied to environmental issues. Concerns for and affects on future generations are postulated. The view toward protecting the natural world by the public is visited. Do non-living elements of ecological systems have rights? A "prime directive" is suggested. This directive could be incorporated by the human species when interacting with the natural environment. Moral Pluralism Fournier (2005) defines moral pluralism as using more than one criterion to make moral judgments. Pluralism acknowledges the existence of opposing ideas and practices. This concept does not suggest they are equally valid. Pluralism reigns in the real-world. Humans think of the natural environment as something that exists for their benefit. Protection of the ecosystems frequently results only by regulation. Beatley (1994) embraces moral pluralism by suggesting that "no single paradigm is applicable in all circumstances". He suggests the moral approach to be applied is determined by the specific land-use situation. ...read more.


If the global economy grows by just 2 % per year, in a century it will have grown to 7 times its current size. This means prosperity is increasing worldwide. It is powered by its own momentum. Yet despite being materially better off, future generations may feel worse off due to the loss of a diverse natural environment. The cost of petroleum has risen dramatically. Yet demand for oil continues to rise. Global warming is increasing. Human population is spreading over greater areas of the planet. Pollution continues unabated in many geographic areas. Substantial ecological disruption will result. Numerous plant and animal species will be endangered. According to Leopold (1970) no ethic yet exists for dealing with the relationship between humans and the "land". By "land" Leopold means plants, animals, and ecological systems in general. The human species has a moral obligation to future generations to protect and cherish natural environments. This obligation extends to animals and plants. As the dominant species on Earth humans must assume this responsibility. Yet humans are selective in their moral choices. A report from the Associated Press describes how 4 injured pelicans were discovered in Huntington Beach, California. This incident occurred in early April, 2005. These were endangered brown pelicans. ...read more.


Every organism has innate goodness. They are worthy of our moral concern. Frequently human endeavors cause harm to ecological systems. It is inevitable due to the surging human population. Some species will be negatively impacted. Hopefully, through studied consideration the damage can be minimal. Humans are able to live in harmony with the natural environment with negligible damage to other species. The harm caused by those without moral values toward the environment can be mitigated. All living beings have moral standing. It could be argued that non-living elements of the environment have moral standing too. Even a rock or boulder has its place in ecological systems. Removing the rock because it is "in the way" removes a safe haven for small animals. Moving a boulder from a river so "it flows better" affects aquatic life dependent on the large rock for shelter. The point being every action causes a reaction. Sentient beings need to consider the consequences of their actions on the natural world. Ecosystems are constantly changing and evolving. This is a natural process. Humans need to recognize their actions have significant impact locally and possibly globally. Once the damage has been inflicted it may not be undone. Humans can no longer afford the luxury of moral pluralism. A consistent and thoughtful approach to the interaction of human activity with the natural environment must be the norm. A guiding principle dating back to Hippocrates is appropriate: "First, do no harm. ...read more.

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