The ethical responsibilities a person should uphold to those they are in a direct relationship with, specifically the environment, is to act in consideration of its value as an ecological conscience and to not take the land for granted in terms of its value from a philosophical standpoint due to the principles of the land ethic. In accordance to this, Aldo Leopold’s land ethic largely supports the land as an entity and suggests the proper and ethical way the land and its non-human elements such as animals should be treated with equal consideration to that of human beings.
The land ethic is “… a community [that] is the basic concept of ecology, [and] that land is to be loved and respected [which] is an extension of ethics”(Leopold). In order to maintain ethical responsibilities with the land, one must view the “… relation to land presupposes the existence of some mental image of land as a biotic mechanism” and thus the responsibilities included are to those “only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in”(Leopold).
In order for humans to uphold their ethical responsibilities to their environment, one should preserve the health of the land support the conservation of the harmony between man and land. A person’s ethical responsibilities to the environment is to Leopold’s views on land ethics was that any action done to the land is right so long as it “… preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community” and that “It is wrong when it tends otherwise”(Leopold). Nowadays, the land we refer to is simply a commodity and is only seen for its economic value.
Land use ethics are purely controlled by economic motives and self-interest. These intentions simply do not follow the ethical responsibilities a person has to the land and forms an unethical relationship between the people and the environment. In accordance with the land ethics, one must take in account how the land ethic “… reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of land”(Leopold). The land ethic is viewed that humans should see the land with an ecological conscience and that ave the responsibility to preserve and protect the land. The land should not be regarded as a commodity, but rather as a community. Aldo Leopold’s view on this was that ethics are to direct individuals and agree to cooperate with one another for the purpose of mutual benefit for all. In this general sense, the community is thought to include non-human elements such as plants, animals and the land as well.
Human beings are simply a member of the community and Leopold’s land ethics view of the relationship between humans and the environment is that “… humans are] not the master, of the land community” and that “[humans] abuse land because [they] regard it as a commodity belonging to [them]”(Leopold). Only when humans are able to view the land as a community that they belong in, that is when humans are able to use the land, so long as they are able to show the love and respect the land deserves. Leopold also mentions how “a land ethic changes the role of homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it”(Leopold).
This implies Leopold’s ideals on the mutual respect towards the members as well as the community of the land. This kind of recognition is needed so that individuals are able to play a role that protects and preserves the health of the community Such level of consideration and respect is needed in order to maintain one’s ethical responsibilities and following through with the land ethic’s principles. Other ethical philosophy based theories that might oppose the land ethics view of conservation for example is the theory of utilitarianism.
Generally, the form of utilitarianism that is discussed in land ethics is largely in support of industrial agriculture as to perform actions that will produce the most happiness and good for the greatest number of people. Now from a utilitarian based land ethic perspective, one might argue that a parcel of land should be used for industrial and residential uses or simply for farming which would potentially benefit a greater amount of people in the community. The benefits of using the land for industrial agriculture would then allow a community to have an increase in yield, and people would benefit by taking in the goods from farmed land.
Utilitarians would favor this in supporting the use of land largely because of the wide benefits that people would receive such as in increased in crops and lower prices for food. However, there are also arguments that oppose this view of utilitarian land based ethics. Using land solely for industrial farming and agriculture does not take into account of the suffering of animals that live in the ecosystem. Attempting to use the land for economic reasons or simply using it for one’s own purpose devalues the rights of animals and does not take into consideration that the land may be the habitat for many species of animals.
Although, some philosophers may argue that the species living in the land do not matter and neither do their rights. This however, would be unethical because humans have ethical responsibilities to those that they can “… see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in”(Leopold). It is also important to mention the fact that the community that consists of the human beings and land, also includes non-human elements such as animals, and would therefore show that animals would not be truly valued in and of themselves.
Another point to mention is how human beings would not be moral agents in this case and would mean their actions toward the land and animals would be unethical. Immanuel Kant explains that “moral agents are considered responsible for their actions and are blameworthy for the results of their decisions”(Aleshire). As such, moral patients are those unable to take on these responsibilities and makes it so that animals are considered to be examples of moral patients.
Kant explains that moral patients deserve some protection, and that abusing them would cause psychological damage to a moral agent and verifies that the actions being done are considered ethically wrong. Thus, the factors revolving around utilitarian land based ethics should also take view other ethical relations view in regards to dealing with the land. In conclusion, the major factors of the land ethic largely support how human beings have the ethical responsibility of viewing the land for its aesthetic value and not solely for its economic use.
In order to uphold these responsibilities, human beings should not take advantage of the land and of the animals that live in the ecosystem and appreciate the land through a cultural perspective. By committing deeds that do not take the land’s ecological conscience as an existence into account means that human beings are unethical towards their relationship with the land. Only until human beings educate themselves of the preservation of the land and love it for what it’s worth is when they start carrying the ethical responsibilities that humans have to the land as a community.