chapter  3
The challenge to environmental ethics
WithRainer Paslack
Pages 17

On completing this chapter, the reader will be able to: describe the central fields and questions of environmental ethics, discuss the differences between a direct or indirect ethical obligation to nature. In general, ethics examines what is valuable in individual and social life, in relation to the world, in so far as ethical behaviour always consists of implementing ethical values. We can distinguish three areas of environmental ethics, which together build an ascending sequence. Each subsequent area includes the former or extends it with an additional ‘moral agent’. Animal ethics is concerned with the well-being of individual beings that are sensitive to pain. The term ‘animal ethics’ is a bit ambiguous, as animal ethics usually only applies to sentient organisms. The ethics of nature attends to the moral aspects of dealing with lower ‘insentient’ life forms (plants, fungi, bacteria, etc.) as well as with other supra-individual biotic entities as species, ecosystems and landscapes.