Environmental ethics is the part of environmental philosophy which considers extending the traditional boundaries of ethics from solely including humans to including the non-human world. It exerts influence on a large range of disciplines including environmental law, environmental sociology, ecotheology, ecological economics, ecology and environmental geography.
There are many ethical decisions that human beings make with respect to the environment. For example:
• Should we continue to clear cut forests for the sake of human consumption?
• Why should we continue to propagate our species, and life itself?
• Should we continue to make gasoline powered vehicles?
• What environmental obligations do we need to keep for future generations?
• Is it right for humans to knowingly cause the extinction of a species for the convenience of humanity?
• How should we best use and conserve the space environment to secure and expand life?
The academic field of environmental ethics grew up in response to the work of scientists such as Rachel Carson and events such as the first Earth Day in 1970, when environmentalists started urging philosophers to consider the philosophical aspects of environmental problems. Two papers published in Science had a crucial impact:
The first international academic journals in this field emerged from North America in the late 1970s and early 1980s – the US-based journal Environmental Ethics in 1979 and the Canadian based journal The Trumpeter: Journal of Ecosophy in 1983. The first British based journal of this kind, Environmental Values, was launched in 1992.