Term Paper: Environmental Ethics Humans

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Ethics

environmental ethics/HUMANS and the ENVIRONMENT

Ethics and Environment

Environmental Ethics: Oil and the Environment

One of the greatest dangers to the environment from human beings is the exploitation of oil reserves and the way that this exploitation upsets the natural balance in nature and is a major cause of environmental pollution. If we accept the view that human beings have an ethical obligation to protect the environment of this planet, then the continuing debate about the environmental impact of the use and search for oil and its negative effects on sensitive ecological systems should be at the top of the list of concerns.

This relates to my view of environmental ethics in the following way. I believe that human beings have an ethical responsibility to care for and protect the natural environment that sustains us. This sense of responsibly is important not only because we should care for other living things in our world but also because without a healthy environment human beings will in fact cease to exist. This is the danger that we face, as has been clearly outlined by scientists in their assessment of the reality of global warming.

Therefore, I feel that issues such as the search for oil in environmentally sensitive areas such as Alaska and the pollution of highly sensitive ocean and coastal ecosystems from oil spills, constitutes a major ethical problem that should be addressed by all human beings.

Oil and the Environment

Many reports and studies note that a central feature of the contemporary oil industry is the problem of environmental pollution. This problem is summarized by the fact that; "Oil is a Fossil fuel. Burnt fossil fuels release Carbon dioxide (CO2) into the Earth's atmosphere and thus contribute to Global warming" (Petroleum industry). If we are not ethically and environmentally responsible in terms of the way that oil is extracted from the earth and how it is transported, then we run the risk of not only increasing global warming and upsetting natural environmental balances but also of polluting the natural resources that we still have left.

The issue of oil pollution has been highlighted by the many recent oil spill disasters, such as the Gulf of Mexico incident and the previous Exxon Valdez spill. . The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 has been generally acknowledged by environmentalists to be one of the most severe ecological disasters in American history. This was preceded by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1998, when the tanker Exxon Valdez collided with an undersea reef and spilled an estimated ten million gallons of oil (Oil Spills and Disasters). In April, 2012, a semi- submersible drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon, sank after an explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. This accident released more than 60-000 barrels of oil per day and created an environmental and ecological disaster which threatened the coastal ecosystems of the region. It is estimated that between 186 to 227 million gallons of crude were released in to the Gulf of Mexico incident ( Spinner, 2012).

The 2010 disaster in particular has had widespread ecological consequences, which includes a negative impact on the ocean environment, as well as on the sensitive coastal areas and ecological wetlands in the region. For example, the fish in the area of the oil spill developed skin ulcers (Spinner, 2012). Furthermore there were reports of hundreds of dolphins dying and being washed ashore. The oil spill also disturbed the ecological marine balance, with the result that "...fewer large migratory animals, such as whales sharks, have returned to their normal feeding grounds"( Spinner, 2012). Thousands of birds were also killed by the oil spill. What adds to the disaster is that there are still reports of crude oil on the ocean floor long after the event, as well as in the ecologically sensitive wetlands. Spinner refers to this one oil spill as being an environmental disaster that was "Unprecedented in scope…Everything was affected: tiny plankton, unreachable corals and bizarre deepwater fish, as well as commercially important" (Spinner, 2012).

Another issue that has been dominant in the news in recent years is the problem of sourcing the Alaskan oil… [END OF PREVIEW]

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