(Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude - Theory)General Studies Paper 4
Question:- 61. What do you understand by environmental ethics? Put a light on the development vs. environmental ethics debate using suitable examples. Answer in 250 words.
Sep 09, 2022



Environmental ethics is a branch of applied philosophy that studies the moral and ethical relationship of human beings to the environment. Environmental ethics helps to define man’s moral and ethical obligations toward the environment. This branch of ethics emerged due to effects that technology, industry, economic expansion and population growth have on the environment.

Growth and development, often happens at the cost of environment. To ensure sustainable development, the Environment Protection Act, 1986 was passed by Parliament for protection of environment which contains provisions like Environmental Impact Assessment .

However, making a choice between environment and development is hard and the debate is becoming very crucial due to increasing population, rise of middle class, limited resources etc.



    1. 1.Rapid industrialisation and urbanisation are inevitable to bring in desired levels of economic development. This is also believed to be essential to substantially increase the per capita income. However, these income-generating activities are sure to have negative environmental consequences such as pollution. The increasing amounts of hazardous e-waste and plastic waste are a result of unplanned development activities.
    2. 2.Noticeably, environmental quality is being compromised for the goals of mass employment generation and poverty reduction. It is believed that with gradual increase in income levels along with growth in financial and technological capabilities, environmental quality could be restored. But the reality is that the continued growth generating activities only increasingly deteriorates the environmental quality. Indian soils- once a home to the Green Revolution are turning alkaline, fertile areas are turning into deserts, groundwater levels have reduced to a point beyond reversal in many parts and the most important phenomenon responsible for Indian economy- the monsoon is becoming unreliable due to climatic shifts every year.
    3. 3.Neglect of environmental principles is a key reason why natural hazards end up causing a significant number of avoidable casualties. Unregulated quarrying and the unscientific cutting of slopes into hills aggravates the risk of soil erosion and subsequently increases the risk of landslides. Increase in the number and intensity of tropical cyclones in coastal areas, floods in north-east, landslides and avalanches in hilly areas and recurrent droughts stand as a proof.
    4. 4. In pursuit of providing welfare to vulnerable sections of society, the government has provided a bulk of subsidies. However, subsidised nature of services like energy and electricity leads to their overuse and undermines environmental sustainability. Further, subsidies also undermine the revenue base and limit the government’s capacity to invest in new, cleaner technologies.
    5. 5.Further, poverty generates significant incentives to raise large families and stimulate migrations, which makes urban areas environmentally unsustainable. Both outcomes increase pressure on resources and consequently worsen environmental quality, diminish productivity and reinforce poverty.



We are in the midst of the sixth era of extinction. This problem can be solved only by proper guidance, awareness, education, transfer of advance technology, research, conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity

Only after adopting a proper attitude toward nature and forming a new ethical relationship between humans and nature, we will be able to automatically love and appreciate nature, as well as cope with challenges like pollution and ecological imbalances. In this context, environmental ethics and practices can play a critical role in ensuring that our lives function smoothly and that humans and other beings in our environment are treated equally.

Environmental protection is not always an obstacle to development. In fact as the Principle 1 of Agenda 21 states: “Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.”