Nowadays there are numerous issues that are topical for the natural environment people live in. The majority of them are caused by the human activity and technological development. Specifically, there is the increased amount of the endangered species, issues with the ozone layer, melting of the glaciers, decreasing amounts of the fresh water, climate changes, and water, soil, and air contamination (Black & Weisel, 2010). Factually, the ethical responsibility for the mentioned issues is related to the activity of people. Therefore, it is necessary to change the attitude of people to these topics. Many treat nature as a source of income and do not understand its genuine importance. Having a strong desire to have a convenient life, they gradually destroy the natural background that allows them exist. As a result, all decisions regarding the further technical progress, which might have a direct or indirect impact on the ecological state of the Earth, should be based on the ethical aspect, specifically on the natural law of living in safe conditions.
To begin with, the mankind has specific ethical obligations to the future generations. The scientists state that if people do not improve current situation, the planet will not be suitable for living (Black & Weisel, 2010). For instance, it can be related to the animals that exist currently. Certain species and ecosystems have already begun responding to the climate change caused by the negative impact of global warming, which is based on the human activity (Black & Weisel, 2010). Migratory birds began to arrive earlier in the spring and started flying later in autumn, for instance. There are predictions of upcoming extinction of 30-40% of species of plants and animals, as their areas of living will probably change faster than they can adapt to these changes (Ip, 2009). As the temperature will definitely increase by 1° C, it will change the conditions of living in the forest. Forests can be regarded as the natural carbon storages, as 80% of the total carbon in the earth’s vegetation and about 40% of the carbon in the soil are produced with the help of the forests (Ip, 2009). This transition will be accompanied by the releasing of the large amounts of carbon (Ip, 2009). It can be considered as an example of negative effects of the global warming. Generally, continuing the destructive activity people will break the natural law causing their children to live in an inappropriate natural environment.
The concept of natural law can be applied to the current discussion devoted to the ethical social responsibility for the ecological state of the Earth. This concept is usually used in contrast to the positive law (Devine, 2000). The natural law is considered to be a higher, more genuine and typically inherent in man from birth. This is a so-called unwritten law, which refers to the totality of the natural and imprescriptible rights of people. The aspects of natural law are not in the state legislation, but in human nature itself. The application of this law can be seen in the right to life. A man is born and lives realizing that life is given to him by nature, without taking into account the legal aspect of this right. Considering the notion of natural law, the future and current inhabitants of the Earth have a right to live in healthy environments. Making decisions concerning ecology without taking into account the natural law related to the future generation is not justifiable from the ethical point of view.
Thus, ethical conduct both in decision-making and in action should be based on the approach of supporting the natural law of each human being, who has a right to live in the clean environment. In other words, during the process of decision-making, it is necessary to find out who might suffer from the environmental decisions. Ethical approach implies that it might be necessary to change the approach while acting, as the applied situation might differ from the planned one, but it is still necessary to base decision on the ethical conduct. The same idea relates to social responsibility. The natural law and the human right for proper environment should be a priority both in making decisions and taking actions, even if they differ from the intended ones.
At the same time, the current activity of people can have a negative impact on their lives, health, and living conditions. More specifically, global warming might lead to the gradual pollution of the air, and in the nearest future people might need to wear masks to breathe. Moreover, even nowadays in some Asian countries it is impossible to live normally due to the high level of air contamination. It takes place due to the harmful industrial processes of the massive plants. It is possible to analyze the economic reasons of this phenomenon, but the main problem is that ecological issues are breaking the natural law of people, who have to suffer from different diseases, the lack of fresh water, or polluted air and soil. This situation will not improve unless something is done right now. In fact, the responsibility not only applies to the plant owners or governments that are dealing with global ecological failures. It is the social responsibility of each. For instance, the activities of organizations that are aimed to protect the nature might have at least some positive impact on the environment. Actually, ethical conduct in decision-making and action in the processes related to environment should be based on the right of people to live in proper conditions. Moreover, natural law of future generations should not be neglected in this aspect as well. People should develop an understanding of the fact that the appropriate state of the environment should be a priority.
Next, it is possible to apply the moral law of Kant to the current ecological situation. According to Kant, the concept of categorical imperative should always be of the utmost importance in the ethical approach. For the human will to be moral and valuable, it must be coordinated with the existing supreme moral law that is also called a categorical imperative (Sullivan, 1989). Considering the position of Kant in this aspect, the most famous formulation of the categorical imperative is that the act is appropriate only according to that maxim which can become a universal law. Generally, Kant’s moral philosophy aims to address the question of what a person should do to be considered moral and ethical. The ethics provided by Kant is not theoretical, as it also offers practical confidence in the moral act of free will.
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According to the concept of categorical imperative, there are some ethical principles that exist always, and they do not depend on the environment. They must be in constant connection with each other. In fact, according to Kant, the natural law that was discussed above can be considered as a categorical imperative. Thus, it should be applied as a basis for human behavior (Sullivan, 1989). According to the categorical imperative, every person must use special principles that govern behavior, and with respect to the environment, the principle of equal natural law of all people should be central.
According to Kant, a human being is the creature of highest value. At the same time, this value is neglected and ignored in the modern society as the environmental social responsibility is replaced with economic benefits, production, income, and technological development. In other words, fake values are a common phenomenon in the modern world. In accordance with Kant’s philosophy, one person has the freedom to choose how to behave through the lens of another person’s perception. Every action is assessed on the basis of the concepts of good and evil.
The fundamental rules of the categorical imperative are important for the discussed theme and can be regarded as the morally leading ideas with respect to the environmental responsibility. More specifically, a person must act according to the rules that have the force of law, both for him/her and for others. The natural law has significant power, and, thus, it should be applied to all human beings in the same way. An individual should treat people in the manner that he/she wants to be treated by others. It is rather simple to apply this approach to environmental ethics and global warming. In particular, if people want to live in the clean world with live nature, fresh water, and pure air, they should understand and accept the desire and the right of other people to wish the same. This approach promotes strengthening of the idea of social responsibility related to environmental issues.
In conclusion, both the natural law and the moral theory of Kant justify changing the approach to the current state of the environment and promoting the improvement of the situation. Taking into consideration the current and future perspectives, it is obvious that there is the necessity to change the approach to nature for the whole world. The importance of social responsibility cannot be underestimated, as ecological disasters are breaking the right of people to live in a healthy environment. Considering the Kantian moral law, the natural law can be regarded as a categorical imperative. If it is applied by everyone correctly, it can promote personal and social environmental responsibility.