Mahatma Gandhi once said that the earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed. Humanity today uses the equivalent of 1.5 planets to provide the resources people use and absorb their waste. That means that now it takes this planet a year and a half to regenerate what people use in a year. What is more, moderate scenarios indicate that, if current population and consumption trends continue, by the next two decades the population will need two earths to support them. Unfortunately for people, they only have one planet. That is where environmental ethics comes in.
Ethics, in general, is a wide way of wondering about what makes a good and righteous life and how to live one. It addresses questions about what is right and what is wrong, how to make the right decisions, and the character and attributes necessary to live an ethical life.
In addition, environmental ethics applies ethical thinking to the natural world and the relationships between the human and earth. They address the hard questions of what is right for people and what is right for the planet and what human actions will cost to the future generations.
In this essay one would address the issue of energy and the reasons why people still rely on non-renewable energy sources, while there are other alternatives. Moreover, one will discuss what those alternatives are and apply an environmental ethical school of thought to try and resolve it.
Why do We Rely on Non-Renewable Energy Resources and
What are Our Alternatives?
Studies have shown that almost 85% of the used energy in the world today is produced with the help of using non-renewable energy resources. The main reason is that for the time, these resources seemed to be widely available and affordable. What is more, this is anticipated to remain the same at least for the next two decades. Those resources include oil and petroleum products, gasoline, diesel fuel, coal, propane, natural gas and even uranium used for nuclear energy.
The term non-renewable energy refers to the sort of energy that is taken from sources available on earth in small and limited amounts and which will disappear in a few years. These resources are not environmentally friendly and can result in serious problems for people, as well as the environment. These are called non-renewable because they cannot be regenerated within a short period of time.
Non-renewable energy sources are cheap and easy to use. As far as the nuclear energy is concerned, a small amount of it can produce a huge amount of power. What is more, at the time being, non-renewable energy sources have little or even no competition worldwide.
On the other hand, it is well-known that they will expire some day. Nonetheless, the speed by which people exploit these resources has caused serious environmental damage. Non-renewable energy resources are the main sources of global warming, since they release toxic gases in the atmosphere when burnt. Finally, since these resources are due to expire in the near future; their prices are increasing every day.
Yet, concerns about the economy keep the public opinion nervous and unwilling to put the environmental interests over the energy needs. While scientists are looking for ways to increase the energy efficiency and implement the renewable energy sources like wind and solar power, the fact remains that people still rely on non-renewable sources of energy.
Renewable energy sources show the significant promise to preserve many natural resources that people currently use today. One of the most common alternative energy sources is wind power. It has already been used extensively in the U.S. and in many countries in Europe, and has a number of advantages.
To begin with, it is the cleanest form of renewable energy. Unlike the solar energy, wind power is endless, strong, as well as stable. Moreover, as an energy source, it is the only one that does not cause any pollution to the environment.
On the other hand, there are few disadvantages to it. Firstly, wind can mostly be used near the coastlines and they make a lot of noise. In addition, studies have shown that they cause a threat to wildlife, like birds and animals living nearby.
Like the wind power, geothermal energy is another good alternative source. Geothermal energy comes from digging out the heat stored inside the earth itself. Like the wind power, it causes no pollution to the environment. It has low running costs and it reduces the reliance on the fossil fuel. It is safe, clean and environmentally friendly.
Nonetheless, the installation costs for power plants are very high. They could sometimes release harmful gases. Moreover, it is not easily transported throughout the nation; and in some cases, the geothermal sites could run out of steam.
Finally, there is a solar energy, which is the energy produced by sunlight. Solar energy can be easily deployed, since it does not require any huge set ups, like power stations (wind and geothermal). What is more, solar energy causes no pollution, no noise and has low maintenance costs. Solar panels are installed easily, and they will continue to produce electricity for as lost, as the sun exists.
Though, there are few setbacks in the solar power. First of all, they can only be used in sunny locations and only during the day. However, the major disadvantage of solar panels is their initial cost of purchase and installation.
Energy Sources Considerations Through the Environmental
Ethical School of Thought
One of the most common ecological moral dilemmas lies between eco-centrism and anthropocentrism. Anthropocentric supporters acknowledge themselves as being the one and only most important entity in the universe, while they disregard the environment, unless it provides them with life necessities. Eco-centrism representatives, on the other hand, recognize the inherent value in all living things on the earth, regardless of what they can offer to humans. It encourages respect and concern for plants and animals for their own sake.
However, environmental ethics does not seem to apply to everyone, and it has a lot to do with each person’s point of view. Ethical decisions related to the environment can be very contradictory. In order to make a decision about energy resources that would benefit humans and would be harmless for the environment, people must consider all the parameters and their consequences.
Digging for oil and using that oil as the most widespread source energy are harmful for the earth, yet beneficiary to man for various reasons. Still, considering all the damages it costs, people strive to find the alternative energy sources.
From an anthropocentric point of view, one could argue that resources like oil, gas and coal are here now. They are cheap and available to everyone. People use the resources, in order to make their lives easier, and the future is yet to come.
On the other hand, eco-centric supporters would argue that people are only temporary inhabitants of this planet. They live on it, but they do not own it. To reach the end of the energy resources is both unfair to the environment, as well as to the future generations and they have no right to do so.
In my opinion, people are capable to find solutions for many difficult environmental challenges. However, it is not always possible at all times. Political and economic aspects can change people’s inner decent choice. Unless they recognize the value of this planet and everything that is on it, the earth will remain under threat.
Human beings are greedy by nature; but it is greediness regarding this planet that is leading them towards the dark future ahead. Failing to take actions in order to save the environment is simply irresponsible.
People ought to respect the earth and its energy resources. They ought to fight for the alternative sources of energy that are not harmful for their surrounding environment. One is not implying that something like that can happen overnight, but it is a high time to think of the consequences of their actions, because they are vital for their survival as species. It is true that ethical decisions regarding nature can be quite conflicting and complicated, and yet the right choice would be to do the less harm.