Carnegie Mellon University

photoPeter Madsen


A basic belief of the environmental movement is that there should be a change in the relationship that exists between humans and nature. It is claimed that we should abandon the current instrumentalist view that takes nature as an unending resource, serving only as a storehouse to satisfy our conspicuous consumption. If there is to be an end to such malpractices as pollution, species decimation, habitat degradation, etc., then we must develop and practice a new environmental ethic. For some, unless this shift in ethics takes hold soon, then catastrophe is bound to happen. The new environmental ethic redefines obligation and responsibility. It asks that we engender a new sense of respect for nature and its diversity. This new ethic urges us to realize that future generations have environmental rights and that our present behavior abridges those rights. This new ethics urges us to widen the circle of our moral consideration and grant rights to non-human animals and in some regards to non-living things as well. In short, our new environmental ethic is very demanding. We should ask how individual and collective behaviors show respect for nature. Learning such respect can be understood, practiced and taught in and outside of schools and it can be modeled as well. Hopefully educational institutions will model and will share this new ethic with the next wave of professionals whose future work may allow nature to flourish and be sustainable once again.