This page features a collection of the best resources on environmental ethics. Just to be clear, there is no single best resource on environmental ethics. The best one will depend on your preferred learning style and the amount of time you want to spend learning about it.
To get started, simply choose one of the links below:
If you want an academic overview of environmental ethics:
- Read the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Environmental Ethics. However, you should keep in mind that the SEP is often quite technical and this article may be difficult for beginners. It’s also quite long at around 16,000 words. Here’s a short excerpt that introduces environmental ethics:
“Suppose putting out natural fires, culling feral animals or destroying some individual members of overpopulated indigenous species is necessary for the protection of the integrity of a certain ecosystem. Will these actions be morally permissible or even required? Is it morally acceptable for farmers in non-industrial countries to practise slash and burn techniques to clear areas for agriculture? Consider a mining company which has performed open pit mining in some previously unspoiled area. Does the company have a moral obligation to restore the landform and surface ecology? And what is the value of a humanly restored environment compared with the originally natural environment? It is often said to be morally wrong for human beings to pollute and destroy parts of the natural environment and to consume a huge proportion of the planet’s natural resources. If that is wrong, is it simply because a sustainable environment is essential to (present and future) human well-being? Or is such behaviour also wrong because the natural environment and/or its various contents have certain values in their own right so that these values ought to be respected and protected in any case? These are among the questions investigated by environmental ethics. Some of them are specific questions faced by individuals in particular circumstances, while others are more global questions faced by groups and communities. Yet others are more abstract questions concerning the value and moral standing of the natural environment and its non-human components. . . .”
If you’re looking for a somewhat shorter and more engaging introduction:
- Read Michael Paul Nelson’s article: Does nature have value beyond what it provides humans? [700 words]
If you’d prefer a video introduction:
If you prefer audio and podcasts:
Unfortunately, there’s only so much you can learn by using free online resources. If you want to learn more, check out this list of the best books on Environmental Ethics.
For more introductory philosophy resources and reading lists check out this collection of Resources and Reading Lists.