Thesis: Environmental Ethics and Morality

Pages: 9 (2889 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 9  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Transportation - Environmental Issues  ·  Buy for $19.77

Environmental Ethics and Morality

What kind of ethical posture does the United States Government put forward with reference to the environment? Is the U.S. considered a nation that protects and nurtures the wildlife and its habitat? Are their policies and mission statements in the federal government that reflect a deep moral concern for protecting the planet? These are all excellent questions and the answer overall is that yes, the United States Government, through its laws and stated policies, most certainly has an environmental ethic. That having been said, it is also true that because of very different executive styles of managing resources and responding to environmental challenges the United States Government does not always live up to its stated mission vis-a-vis the environment. This paper will point to the official pronouncements as regards the U.S. Government and its lawful duties, statutes and promises to protect the environment and it will also point to areas where those statutes and missions have been abused, ignored, or otherwise not followed in lawful ways.

Mission Statements of Executive Branch of U.S. Government

The President of the United States: The most visible of all departments within the executive branch of the U.S. Government of course is the White House. The President of the United States, Barack Obama, has been in office less than a full year but he has clearly taken creative and innovative approaches to cleaner energy sources, to reducing the amount of greenhouse gases that are being released into the environment -- along with preservation of the wild lands and wildlife that lives there. The ethical buck stops on the desk of the President of the United States in good times and bad, and these are difficult times with many environmental challenges facing the country.

There is no official mission statement for the president's office in regards to the environment, but Obama has a section on his White House Web site that is called "Guiding Principles." The president states that he wishes to "take this country in a new direction" and help to pass "comprehensive legislation to protect our nation from the serious economic and strategic risks associated with our reliance on foreign oil" -- and the "destabilizing effects of a changing climate" (White House).

The president pledges to create "new jobs in the Clean Energy Economy" and to "invest in the Next Generation of Energy Technologies" which will reduce the need for fossil fuel-based production of electrical energy, and also reduce the need for foreign oil. When it comes to a discussion of the environment, these statements are as close to a "mission statement" by the executive branch of government as there is available.

Obama was able to push through Congress a massively expensive "Recovery and Reinvestment Act" -- against a great deal of opposing arguments -- and in that bill there are $80 billion earmarked for clean energy investments. Preserving the environment means more than just cleaning up toxic waste dumps and preventing pollution from ruining the air, land and water. Putting forth an environmental ethic also entails making sure homes are weatherized in winter and summer, reducing dramatically the amount of energy needed to heat and cool homes; Obama has committed $5 billion to weatherize low income homes.

An environmental ethic also means increasing the fuel economy standards for automobiles and making common household appliances more energy efficient; both of these goals are spelled out in the president's "Energy & Environment" page in the White House Web site. Finally, President Obama has pledged to work toward the goal of "Closing the Carbon Loophole"; that means promoting a "market-based cap" on polluting industries (like coal and oil-fired electrical generating plants). The revenues generated through the "cap" could (and should) be used to help communities and businesses be more energy-efficient.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): The Mission Statement of the EPA firmly lays out the fact that the environmental ethic of the United States is based on law: "To protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment -- air, water and land -- upon which life depends" (EPA). The purpose of the EPA, the official government agency that is lawfully responsible for maintaining the environment's health, is listed in seven bullet points. EPA's purpose in existing is to ensure that: a) all Americans are protected from "significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work"; b) "national efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information"; c) federal laws that protect human health and the environment "are enforced fairly and effectively"; d) environmental protection is an integral consideration in U.S. policies "that relate to natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, and international trade" -- and these "factors are similarly considered in establishing environmental policy"; e) all communities, individuals, businesses and state, local and tribal governing bodies have "access to accurate information sufficient to effectively participate in managing human health and environmental risks"; f) environmental protection contributes to "making our communities and ecosystems diverse, sustainable and economically productive" and g) the U.S. plays a "leadership role in working with other nations to protect the global environment" (www.epa.gov).

The U.S. Department of the Interior: The mission statement of the Department of the Interior (DOI) is very straightforward: "The U.S. Department of the Interior protects and manages the Nation's natural resources and cultural heritage; provides scientific and other information about those resources; and honors its trust responsibilities or special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and affiliated Island Communities."

The DOI is charged with oversight on land use, protection of the natural world through intelligent land use planning. For example, the DOI issued a news release on November 18, 2009, announcing that it was "taking immediate actions to strengthen oversight of state surface coal mining programs" (www.doi.gov). The action that DOI is taking is to basically eliminate the loophole that the previous administration (George W. Bush Administration) put in place.

The Bush "stream buffer zone" rule allowed the "surface coal mine operator to place excess material excavated by the operation into streams if the operator can show it is not reasonably possible to avoid doing so" (DOI). That loophole allowed those companies that were strip mining off the top and near top of mountains to simply dump their "excess material" (which contained pollutants that should not be allowed into rivers, lakes and streams) into nearby natural water resources.

The DOI will insist on reviewing all permits that allow surface coal mining and make sure that those operators follow the guidelines under the Clean Water Act. When an operator has a state-issued license to exploit coal resources on mountains the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) will, for "the first time since coal-producing states assumed responsibility for their regulatory programs," will independently conduct inspections of those projects to assure that they are done in accordance with existing environmental law.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM): An agency that falls under the stewardship of the DOI, the BLM's mission statement reads: "The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for stewardship of our public lands. The BLM is committed to manage, protect and improve these lands in a manner to serve the needs of the American people." The resources under the BLM include: "Recreation, rangelands, timber, minerals, watershed, fish and wildlife habitat, wilderness, air and scenic quality, as well as scientific and cultural values."

Under the auspices of the BLM and the DOI is the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) whose mission is to: "conserve, protect and restore nationally significant landscapes recognized for their outstanding cultural, ecological and scientific values." The NLCS presently oversees the environmental protection of over 27 million acres of precious natural world wonders.

Agencies That Protect the Environment in the U.S.

Under the auspices of the Department of the Interior is the Endangered Species Act, a critically important law in terms of conservation and ethics.

The Endangered Species Act -- High Moral Ground for the U.S.

The Endangered Species Act -- which demonstrates the fact that the United States utilizes an ethical environmental approach through law -- has been responsible for the preservation of vital species that otherwise would have become extinct. The California Condor is a perfect example of this environmental ethic, and is worth mentioning in this research about ethics and the environment.

The California Condor flourished by the thousands in the western part of the North American Continent -- from British Columbia to Baja California -- for centuries. The condor fed on the carcasses of big creatures that roamed the land then, like mastodons and giant sloths. The giant birds, with 9 and 1/2-foot wingspans, also fed on the carcasses of marine creatures like sea lions, whales and elephant seals, according to the book Raptors of California (Peeters, 2005, p. 113). But when the mastodons became extinct and hunters killed "large congregations of sea lions and elephant seals to supply oil for heating and lighting" -- and whales were hunted to near extinction -- those… [END OF PREVIEW]

Environmental Ethics Term Paper


Environmental Ethics Social Economics and Political Term Paper


Environmental Policies Essay


Ethics Is a Moral Philosophy Term Paper


Ethics Theory Research Proposal


View 198 other related papers  >>

Cite This Thesis:

APA Format

Environmental Ethics and Morality.  (2009, November 25).  Retrieved November 20, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/environmental-ethics-morality-kind/49065

MLA Format

"Environmental Ethics and Morality."  25 November 2009.  Web.  20 November 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/environmental-ethics-morality-kind/49065>.

Chicago Format

"Environmental Ethics and Morality."  Essaytown.com.  November 25, 2009.  Accessed November 20, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/environmental-ethics-morality-kind/49065.