The environment is what surrounds us – it may be artificial like the concrete jungles in urban settings or natural like the five elements; it is also animate objects like humans and animals around us. There is also the cultural environment that is two-way traffic from family to society and vice versa. The environment is subjective. The patriot sees the dead bodies of opponents on the battlefield as a sign of victory, while the cannibal man sees this as a total waste of fresh food. The vegetarian shudders looking at chickens squashed in cages ready to be slaughtered while the gourmet licks his chops in anticipation of a delicious meal. So it is the angle of vision that sets the tone of the environment.
This is the question of ethics or morality; in other words about right and wrong. A deer and a tiger are looking at each other. The deer sees a killer while the tiger sees food. To the tiger, the deer is good while to the deer the tiger is bad. Here again, the relationship issue predominates – when it comes to man. For animals it is simple but man possesses a unique characteristic – he has a conscience that guides him about the relativity of good and bad. Man has to grapple with this conscience; the skeleton of his animality with clothes. He has to whitewash his actions. It is not Need but his Greed that man is justifying; it is this greed that is leading to the wanton destruction of the environment – physical, natural, and cultural (Boersema & Reijnders 2008).
There has evolved a school of the discipline known as environmental ethics that endeavors to step beyond the human circle to the non-human world by recognizing that man cannot live in isolation without the flora and fauna, without the five elements and humanness of his human nature. It is raising many questions regarding being indifferent to the extinction of species, cutting of forests, destroying tribal societies, etc.
The impetus to environmental awareness has come from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that started on 15th April and is yet to be fully plugged. So long as the oil spill happened in a remote corner of Nigeria there was no focus on the colossal damage to the people and the habitat but when it is happening around five states of the USA causing alarm to Washington, the world is beginning to sit up. Soon after this news of massive oil spill is trickling out from China (Cunningham & Cunningham 2008).
Oil! The Industrial Age we are living in revolves around one kingpin – oil. The entire edifice will collapse without it and the day does not seem to be too far off. Alternative energy has not yet reached such a level that it can replace it. With immediate effect, offshore drilling has been temporarily banned in America. There is deep concern whether the people of Alaska will allow its renewal in their region where the environment is fragile (Boersema & Reijnders 2008).
All regulations were overlooked when the drilling companies dug deeper than permitted; now they lack the technology to plug the leak. There are cracks in the ocean floor indicating that deadly methane gas might suddenly burst out causing another tsunami. It was this methane that caused the bursting of the rig last April. A child has broken his toy and now cannot repair it. The oil well is just one instance of the toys in Nature man has Broke (Cunningham & Cunningham 2008).
Boersema, J., & Reijnders, R. (2008). Principles of Environmental Sciences. New York: Springer.
Cunningham, P., & Cunningham, A. (2008). Principles of Environmental Science: Inquiry and Applications (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.