HomeSandpiper SelectsPhilosophical Feuds: The Environment

Philosophical Feuds: The Environment

Do we have an obligation to protect the environment? Why or why not?

If one looks at the many species that preceded us, there is an observable commonality—namely, physical traits that help organisms weather the forces of nature. The mammals that preceded us (and that exist alongside us) have had hair that covers their whole bodies, helping them stay warm. Humans, in this regard, have the short end of the stick. Apart from our opposable thumbs, we don’t have fur to keep us warm at night, claws for climbing up trees or other useful adaptations.

This would have extinguished the human species very quickly if it weren’t for the most important endowment we were granted: our intelligence. This made it possible for us not to have to survive the surrounding environment, but instead to be able to modify the environment to fit our needs. We don’t have to live in the dynamic, uncompromising, dangerous outdoors because we’ve been resourceful enough to make our surroundings safer and to keep danger at arm’s reach—by means of shelter, agriculture, families and communities, air conditioning, etc.

Taking all I’ve said as fact, to look at how the Earth has been changed at the hands of humans by industrialization and say, “My! We are so evil for affecting the environment,” would be a misinformed opinion, because our impetus to shape the environment was a naturally evolved trait. Environmentalism should be advocated for only to the extent that it continues to protect us. That, my friends, is what nature intended.

– Jordi Faxon (a first-year newspaper student and an esteemed evangelist for nihilism.)

In our relatively posh and cushy 21st-century lives, it’s sometimes easy to forget both the environment that birthed us and the planet that continues to sustain us. Continuing to abuse our planet breaks a contract with the Earth we as living beings agreed to. Our relationship is similar to our obligation towards our government: in exchange for services such as public schools, roads and functioning fire departments, individuals (presumably) pay taxes in trade for these benefits. While this system is far from perfect, it makes logical and moral sense.

Our relationship with the Earth ought to function in the same way. We receive benefits like air to breathe, food to eat, vistas to admire and mountains to climb, but for much of history we have been free-riders and leeches. Time has come to settle that bill. We have the individual responsibility to help the environment, including at the polls.

Every living thing shares a portion of this obligation, but it’s not shared equally. Those that have benefited most from our abuse of the planet have the lion’s share of the burden to fix it. Those who feel that this contract we signed as living beings is unjust or coercive unfortunately don’t have a choice anymore: it’s simply too late.

– Peter Ellison (a second-year newspaper student and a full-time procrastinator.)

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