Date: 04 Jan 2011

The Ethical Basis of Environmental Law

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Abstract

In the past decade and a half the question as to whether the environment itself deserves protection in addition to human health has come up quite often. Do the environmental laws reflect moral concerns? The answer must be ‘yes’, for without some basis in principle individual laws are no more than mere reactions to individual perceived problems lacking coherence, and likely to result in anomalies. The position of stewardship which is primarily human centered, accepts the need for a degree of resource conservation and environmental management based on notions of sustainable development and intergenerational equity. Moral issues do play an important role but by no means decisive, part in the creation and formulation of the law. The concept of sustainable development is an acceptable moral basis for environmental protection and regulation for many people. Our ethics can only be human centered. The concept of nature’s rights is no more than a fiction. Many human centered values are capable of being elaborated in ways which benefit environmental protection, although these may result only in the protection of aspects of the environment that are considered for human wellbeing.