What Is The Importance of Environmental Ethics?

Understanding the importance of environmental ethics and the role it plays in society  

Environmental ethics is a branch of ethics that focuses on the human relationship to nature. There are multiple philosophies that argue for different understandings of our responsibility to nature. For example, some environmental ethical philosophies argue that humans are superior to nature, while others argue that we are equal to every being in the ecosystem, including non-living things, and owe them moral treatment.

In this post, we will discuss why environmental ethics is so important, and how environmental ethics plays a role in society today.

Background information: What Is Environmental Ethics?

importance of environmental ethics

What Are The Key Points of Environmental Ethics?

At its core, environmental ethics focuses on using ethical principles to make moral decisions about the environment. Generally, there are three main branches of environmental ethics:

  1. Anthropocentrism: This ethical philosophy argues that humans are superior to other creatures.
  2. Biocentrism: This ethical philosophy argues that all living beings deserve moral consideration and treatment.
  3. Ecocentrism: This ethical philosophy argues that all parts of the ecosystem, including non-living things like water or rocks, deserve moral consideration and treatment.

There are three basic principles of ethics that act as the basis of many of the questions environmental ethics focuses on. 

  1. Justice and sustainability: Equal beings deserve fair treatment that can be sustained into the future.
  2. Sufficiency and compassion: All beings deserve access to the resources they need to survive and thrive
  3. Solidarity and participation: We are part of a community (or multiple communities) and we must act in a way that reflects concern for the well being of others.

Each of these ethical principles informs how we respond to environmental problems, but our understanding of our place in relation to nature (our chosen environmental philosophy) impacts this response as well.

For example, under the principle of justice and sustainability, all equal beings deserve equal treatment. But are animals equal to humans, and do they deserve the same treatment? Environmental ethics can help us answer this question.

Similarly, who is deserving of sufficiency and compassion? Humans alone (an anthropocentric viewpoint), all living beings (a biocentric viewpoint), or all parts of the ecosystem, even non-living things (an ecocentric viewpoint)?

Finally, the solidarity and participation principle asks us to decide who is in our community – just humans, all living things, or the natural world as a whole – and guides us on how we can make decisions that take our community as a whole into account.

These guiding principles help determine what moral action is, and environmental ethics helps us apply these principles to environmental problems.

What Is The Importance Of Environmental Ethics?

Environmental ethics revolves around making human communities as well as ecosystems better. It prioritizes the importance of preserving and protecting resources for all kinds in the present as well as the future. 

Environmental ethics is a philosophical approach that values the human/nonhuman dynamics in nature. It notices how humans and the environment have an ongoing relationship with one another that needs to be cherished and looked after. 

Just like the earth gives humans resources to sustain themselves, humans need to help give back resources to nature and other ecosystems to help them sustain themselves as well. Ultimately, we’re part of a complicated web of beings and ecosystems that cannot thrive without each other.

What Is The Role Of Environmental Ethics In Society?

Environmental ethics help us to establish a moral relationship between humans and nature. These guiding principles help us make decisions, both when it comes to how to use environmental resources morally, and when considering our impacts on the environment.

Environmental ethics also helps us understand our place in the world. No matter how big or small an ecosystem might be, each ecosystem and organism impacts the world around it. Environmental ethics helps us understand that we all have a part to play on this earth and that without each piece, a crucial link in the chain would be missing. By understanding our relationship to other species and ecosystems, we are better prepared to make decisions based on ethics.


Environmental ethics helps human beings extend moral consideration to nonhumans, helping us understand our place in relation to nature. This is important because, with a strong set of environmental ethics, we can more easily make decisions about environmental issues.

To learn about each of the main environmental ethical philosophies, read our article What Is Environmental Ethics?