Examining the Importance of Environmental Ethics
Examining the Importance of Environmental Ethics
Examining the Importance of Environmental Ethics

In the past several decades, individuals began recognizing the importance of sustainability and started studying the moral and ethical relationship between humans and the environment. Sustainability specialists, conservationists, environmentalists, geoscientists, and others have devoted their careers to the study of preserving the nonhuman world.

In our current digital age, it’s easy to see the direct relationship between human actions and the environment. Now more than ever, professionals can study and recognize the growing importance of environmental ethics and how human values drive environmental ethics initiatives.

If you’re passionate about the environment and environmental ethics, you may want to consider a career in sustainability. By pursuing Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Sustainability, you can learn how to apply ethical environmental concepts to your career.

A student sits on a sunny lawn in front of a college building studying on a laptop.

Environmental Ethics Defined

Sustainability and environmental issues make up a significant aspect of human life, so understanding the importance of environmental ethics can benefit both humans and the environment. At its core, environmental ethics can be defined as the philosophic study that examines the ethical relationship of humans and the environment. The philosophy also explores the moral relationship humans have with Earth, animals, and plants. Environmentalists, sustainability specialists, and other experts seek to understand whether humans have an ethical responsibility to take care of the environment, and if so, to what extent?

The study of environmental ethics became an official discipline in the 1970s. During this time, experts sought to understand how technology, commercial industries, and the growing global population had — and would continue to have — an impact on the environment. Individuals have continued to work toward understanding how these human-related factors will have a long-term impact on the environment, nonrenewable resources, climate change, rising sea levels, loss of biodiversity, and other issues.

While the discipline of environmental ethics examines the ethical obligations humans have to Earth, human values also play an important role. If people don’t place any value on the environment, they’ll not likely get involved with movements such as conservation and preservation. It’s only when people understand and care about matters such as water and air pollution or the destruction of ecosystems that they’ll make an effort to understand and implement environmental ethics.

A Look at Environmental Ethics Philosophies

Individuals who aren’t familiar with the importance of environmental ethics philosophies often wonder about the purpose of sustainability. Debates about the environment ensue across a variety of fields and industries. Due to this, it can be beneficial to understand conservation ethics, anthropocentrism, and libertarian extension philosophies in relation to environmental ethics.

Conservationism and Conservation Ethics

An important aspect of environmental awareness and environmental ethics is conservation, which can be defined as the act of preserving and protecting what already exists in the environment. Conservation specialists study how the environment, ecology, culture, architecture, use of resources, and human health exist in relation to one another and have an impact on one another.

Conservation ethics, like environmental ethics, largely rely on the respect that humans either have or don’t have for the environment and ecosystems. Conservation ethics also revolve around making human communities and ecosystems better, protecting important resources for the present and future. This philosophical approach values the human/nonhuman dynamic in nature, recognizing how humans and the environment have an ongoing causal relationship with one another.


In contrast to conservation and nature-focused philosophies, anthropocentrism is the principle that humans represent the central and most important beings in the world. Individuals who hold to this philosophy emphasize a hierarchy in which human beings are superior to animals, plants, and natural resources. Since anthropocentrism doesn’t place value on animals, plants, or the environment, the human/nonhuman dynamic allows humans to exploit elements of nature for their personal benefit or gain.

Libertarian Extension Philosophies

Libertarian extension philosophies acknowledge the rights of humans and — unlike anthropocentrism — extend these rights to animals and the environment. Libertarian extension seeks a more biocentric model, looking to provide an equal distribution of rights in the human/nonhuman dynamic. For example, the philosophers Arne Naess and Peter Singer advocate for libertarian extension philosophies in their professional studies. In their works, these moral philosophers debate the importance of understanding the worth and rights of animals.

Using Education to Build Environmental Ethics

If you’re a student who’s interested in learning more about the importance of environmental ethics and environmental ethics philosophies, Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Sustainability program may be a good fit for you. The program’s curriculum focuses on conservation, ecology, environmental law, sustainability, and other important topics. Each course can help you gain a deeper understanding of the philosophies that drive the dynamics behind environmental ethics. In the program, you can take the following courses:

  • Introduction to Sustainability. This course covers the fundamental concepts and strategies regarding environmentally responsible living, touching on sustainability’s relationship with socioeconomic concepts.
  • Environmental Science and Health. This course provides students with an understanding of how human health is connected to the environment, including access to natural resources such as water, air, plants, and animals. Students also learn about the processes of analyzing and mitigating environmental hazards that have biological and chemical effects on health.
  • Nature and Humanity. This course dives into the history and goals of the global environmental movement and examines the relationship between humans and the nonhuman world through philosophical, religious, literary, and political conceptualizations.

Pursue a Bachelor’s in Sustainability

Different individuals and cultures value the environment in different ways — some believing the environment to exist for the purpose of benefiting human life, and others placing equal value on the rights of humans and the environment. If you’re invested in studying issues such as sustainable agriculture, urban planning, conservation, and cultural and social issues related to the environment, you may want to consider a career in sustainability.

If you’re interested in examining environmental ethics and studying how environmental principles impact the relationship between humans and the environment, you could consider pursuing Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Sustainability. Explore how the program can help you further understand the importance of environmental ethics and pursue your professional goals in the field.

Recommended Reading

Maryville University, Online Bachelor’s in Sustainability Curriculum


Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Anthropocentrism”

Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Environmentalism”

EnvironmentalScience.org, Conservation: History and Future

Frontiers, “The Relation Between Human Values and Perceived Situation Characteristics in Everyday Life”

SAGE Reference, “Marshall, Alan: Libertarian Extension”

Taylor & Francis Online, “The Concept of Nature in Libertarianism”

World Economics Association, “Do We Need Environmental Ethics?”

Be Brave

Bring us your ambition and we’ll guide you along a personalized path to a quality education that’s designed to change your life.

When you think of the environment, do you think about issues such as global warming or global sea levels rising? Do you consider the relationship between human beings and the world, from air pollution to the depletion of natural resources?