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The Moral Relationship Between Humans and the Natural Environment

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The Moral Relationship Between Humans and the Natural Environment Ralph M. Dahm April 2, 2005 Abstract The natural environment sustains and nurtures life of abundant variety. Over millions of years this environment evolved via natural processes. Human, animal, and plant life forms developed to create a global ecosystem. A symbiotic relationship exists for many species. Some are predator; others prey. Natural food chains developed that provide a population balance. Humans evolved to become the dominant intellectual species. The resulting moral relationship and obligations between human beings and the natural environment is explored. Positive and negative aspects of the interaction of humans with their natural environment are discussed. Potential solutions are proffered for contemplation. The Moral Relationship Between Humans and the Natural Environment "Humans...have a precarious place, of nature yet set in opposition to nature" (Jacobs, 2001, p. 607). The concept of "home" for the human species is the Earth. Life has not yet been discovered anywhere else. The environment of the Earth is finite. The environment includes oceans, land, and air. Humans share this environment with a vast number of life forms. ...read more.


This would support the Deep Ecology philosophy of "the impact of humans in the world is excessive and getting worse" (Naess, 1989, p. 26). Humans have a moral obligation to future generations. If the ozone in the atmosphere is depleted, harmful radiation will descend on our planet. The increased ultraviolet radiation may damage plants and animals. Food chains may be disrupted. The radiation may require humans to remain indoors much of the time. The effects of this situation would be wide-ranging to many species. No other species is capable of causing this level of change to the Earth. The entire natural environment of the planet could be affected. Morally humans can not allow this to occur. Fortunately, there exists the knowledge and ability to prevent ozone depletion. Increased radiation levels are not inevitable. As the dominant intelligent species humans can recognize and prevent this potential damage to the natural environment. It is not just ozone depletion that is worrisome. The release of carbon dioxide and pollutants into the atmosphere appear to be causing a global warming through the so-called "greenhouse effect." These gases inhibited the radiation of heat from the Earth's surface back into space much like the glass in a greenhouse. ...read more.


It is a symbiotic relationship. If humans were to destroy every tree or plant the consequences would be dire. The process of transforming carbon dioxide into oxygen would cease or be significantly reduced. Obviously this would affect many species on the planet and cause havoc. Yet humans continue to fell "old growth" forests at an alarming rate. Pollution of land, air, and water continues worldwide. The natural environment will not be able to sustain life if these harmful practices continue. 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. The promise of advances in technology exists to remediate current hazards to the environment. Care must be taken that new technology does not create greater harm. The potential exists for the human species to repair the damage it has caused. It is possible to clean up the natural environment. Humans must accept the accountability to care for the Earth and its ecosystems. The natural environment must be treated with respect and care. It has provided a wonderful habitat for humans and other species. Human must care for it with the dynamic enthusiasm demonstrated by the environment. For it is a "living being" holistically. ...read more.

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