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Govering for the Environment

Environmental bioethics is an undertaking that seeks just social arrangements that can promote human well-being and, at the same time, preserve the natural environment, both now and in the future. The core of the environmental bioethics portfolio consists of three basic issues: technology, toxics, and consumption. Environmental hazards have negative human health impacts, but the role of bioethics is not to achieve the goods of health, but to identify, articulate, and contribute to the maintenance of ethical goods: fairness, equity, rights, dignity, and so forth.

Taking justice seriously as a bioethical good will require attending to the health equity implications of our environmental future. Climate change will have adverse public health and infrastructure impacts globally and increase health inequities between nations and groups. Bioethics must reorient itself according to its original environmentally inclusive aspirations in order to be able to address issues that have both human health and ecosystem implications which either cannot or should not be addressed in isolation.

To that end, the clinical and graduate bioethics programs have an obligation to ensure that environmental bioethics is elevated to a core competency. Skip to main content Skip to table of contents. Encyclopedia of Global Bioethics Edition. Contents Search. Bioethics: Environmental. Reference work entry First Online: 16 July How to cite. Sustainable healthcare. This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access. Beck, R.

Journal of Policy History, 12 1 , — CrossRef Google Scholar. Bullard, R.

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Dumping in dixie: Race, class, and environmental quality. Boulder: Westview Press. Google Scholar. Change, I. Summary for policymakers. In Climate change Impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability pp. If you were a business owner, would you be willing to spend company resources on environmental issues, even if not required to do so by law? If so, would you be able to justify your actions to shareholders and investment analysts as smart business decisions?

If a business activity harms the environment, what rights does the environment have to fight back? Corporations, although a form of business entity, are actually considered persons in the eyes of the law. The generally accepted constitutional basis for allowing corporations to assert that they have rights similar to those of a natural person is that they are organizations of people who should not be deprived of their rights simply because they act collectively.

Thus, treating corporations as persons who have legal rights allows them to enter into contracts with other parties and to sue and be sued in a court of law, along with numerous other legal rights. Federal Election Commission , which upheld the First Amendment free-speech rights of corporations, there have been numerous challenges to the concept of corporate personhood; however, none have been successful. Thus, U. A question that logically springs from judicial interpretations of corporate personhood is whether the environment should enjoy similar legal status.

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Should the environment be considered the legal equivalent of a person, able to sue a business that pollutes it? Should environmental advocates have been able to file a lawsuit against BP formerly British Petroleum on behalf of the entire Gulf of Mexico for harm created by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill discussed in more detail in the government regulation section of this chapter , which, at five million barrels, was ten times larger than the famous Exxon Valdez spill and remains the largest and most widespread ocean oil spill in the history of the global petroleum industry?

Furthermore, the Deepwater Horizon spill affected not only thousands of businesses and people, but also the entirety of the Gulf of Mexico, which will suffer harm for years to come. Should the Gulf of Mexico have legal standing to sue, just like a person? While U. Ecuador is now the first country to officially recognize the concept.

Earth jurisprudence is an interpretation of law and governance based on the belief that society will be sustainable only if we recognize the legal rights of Earth as if it were a person. Advocates of earth jurisprudence assert that there is legal precedent for this position. As pointed out earlier in this chapter, it is not only natural persons who have legal rights, but also corporations, which are artificial entities. Our legal system also recognizes the rights of animals and has for several decades. Businesses that pollute the environment often hide what they are doing in order to avoid getting caught and facing economic, legal, or social consequences.

The only witness may be Earth itself, which experiences the harmful impact of their invisible actions. For example, as revealed in a recent report,. A company that needs to dump a toxic substance usually has three choices: dispose of it properly at a safe facility, recycle and reuse it, or secretly dump it. There is no doubt that dumping is the easiest and cheapest option for most businesses. As another example, approximately twenty-five million people board cruise ships every year, and as a result, cruise ships dump one billion gallons 3.

Friends of the Earth, a nongovernmental organization NGO concerned with environmental issues, used data from the U. The sewage dumped into the sea is full of toxins, including heavy metals, pathogens, bacteria, viruses, and pharmaceutical drugs Figure. When invisibly released near coasts, this untreated sewage can kill marine animals, contaminate seafood, and sicken swimmers, and no one registers the damage except the ocean itself.

5 Human Impacts on the Environment: Crash Course Ecology #10

Many believe the environment should have the right not to be secretly polluted in the dead of night, and Earth should have rights at least equal to those of corporations. Cormac Cullinan, an environmental attorney, author, and leading proponent of earth jurisprudence, often collaborates with other environmental advocates such as Thomas Berry, an eco-theologian, scholar, and author.

Cullinan, Berry, and others have written extensively about the important legal tenets of earth jurisprudence; however, it is not a legal doctrine officially adopted by the United States or any of its states to date.

The theory was later popularized by ecologist and philosopher Garrett Hardin, who tied it directly to environmental issues. In other words, when it comes to natural resources, the tragedy of the commons holds that people generally use as much of a free resource as they want, without regard for the needs of others or for the long-term environmental effects. As a way of combating the tragedy of the commons, Cullinan and others have written about the concept of earth justice,. Humans must adapt their legal, political, economic, and social systems to be consistent with the fundamental laws or principles that govern how the universe functions.

Human acts, including acts by businesses that infringe on the fundamental rights of other living things violate fundamental principles and are therefore illegitimate and unlawful. This classic analysis of the environmental dilemma describes how, from colonial times, Americans regarded the natural environment as something to be used for their own farming and business ends.

Overuse, however, results in the inevitable depletion of resources that negatively affects the environment, so that it eventually loses all value. Today, supporters of the environment assert that government has both a right and an obligation to ensure that businesses do not overuse any resource, and to mandate adequate environmental protection when doing so. In addition, some form of fee may be collected for using up a natural resource, such as severance taxes imposed on the removal of nonrenewable resources like oil and gas, or deposits required for possible cleanup costs after projects have been abandoned.

As part of the growing acceptance of the concept of earth justice, several nonprofit educational organizations and NGOs have become active in both lobbying and environmental litigation. One such organization is the Center for Earth Jurisprudence housed at the Barry School of Law in Orlando , a nonprofit group that conducts research in this area. The following video describing the Center for Earth Jurisprudence discusses support for laws that legally protect the sustainability of life and health on Earth, focusing upon the springs and other waters of Florida.

The notion that the environment should be treated as a person is relatively new.

But given the prominence of the environmental movement worldwide, no well-managed business today should be conducted without an awareness of the tenuous balance between the health of the environment and corporate profits. Ignoring this interrelationship between business and the environment not only elicits public condemnation and the attention of lawmakers who listen to their constituents, but it also risks destroying the viability of the companies themselves.

Virtually all businesses depend on natural resources in one way or another. Progressive corporate managers recognize the multifaceted nature of sustainability —a long-term approach to business activity, environmental responsibility, and societal impact. Sustainability affects not only the environment but also other stakeholders, including employees, the community, politics, law, science, and philosophy.

A successful sustainability program thus requires the commitment of every part of the company. For example, engineers are designing manufacturing and production processes to meet the demands of companies dedicated to sustainability, and the idea of company-wide sustainability is now mainstream. Many of the largest companies in the world see sustainability as an important part of their future survivability. The edition of the list, presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, shows that an increasing number of major multinational companies take sustainability seriously, including many U.

The highest-ranking U. Other U. You may expect that companies dedicated to sustainability would be less profitable in the long run as they face additional costs. Cisco Systems, number seven on the global list, is a good example of how green procurement and sustainable sourcing have become a regular part of the supply chain. Cisco relies on its Supplier Code of Conduct to set standards for suppliers so they follow fair labor practices, ensure safe working conditions, and reduce their carbon footprint , the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds released by the consumption of fossil fuels, which can be measured quantitatively see the link below.

Cisco is in the process of embedding sustainability into supply chain management at all levels. Do you know what your carbon footprint is? This personal footprint calculator allows you to find out where you stand. Another company dedicated to sustainability is Siemens, which was ranked number nine on the list. Siemens is a multinational industrial conglomerate headquartered in Germany, whose businesses range from power plants to electrical systems and equipment in the medical field and high-tech electronics.

Siemens was rated the most energy-efficient firm in its sector, because it produced more dollars in revenue per kilowatt used than any other industrial corporation.


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This is a standard technique to judge efficiency and demonstrates that Siemens has a low carbon footprint for a company in the industries in which it operates. Glickman Library Borrow it. Library Links. About Services. Embed Experimental. Layout options: Carousel Grid List Card. Include data citation:.

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