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Environmental bioethics is a part of environmental philosophy that expands the traditional boundaries of bioethics from being concerned with humans to include the rights of all other living beings in our ethical and moral values. It thus, incorporates questions around coexistence.
Therefore, environmental bioethics plays a very important role in sustainability and in mitigating the impact of human activity on the environment. Issues ranging from biodiversity loss to deforestation, the greenhouse effect, ocean pollution, and the overexploitation of resources, among others.
The role of bioethics in the sustainability of environmental education
Bioethics includes matters centered around environmental education, regarding the protection of the environment, its conservation and sustainability. This paves the way for the right to life and existence for all living forms, consequently.
The way the approach of bioethics differs from that of environmental studies, generally, can be demonstrated through a few examples, for instance, typical environmental education focuses on the environmental issues resulting from a wetland's drying, but bioethics investigates the roots of the problem and confronts the process in the context of the ecosphere. (Okan et al., 2012)
Another example to consider is the symbol of a polar bear sliding on a chunk of ice, which is frequently covered in traditional environmental education and is often used as a symbol for global warming. The key takeaway that the symbol is indicative of is that we must change our eating patterns and safeguard both this species (the polar bear) and the glacier ecosystems, which serve as the species' habitats. The primary problem, however, which has persisted for years, is that such messages does not mention the bioethics course.The messaging, while making people duty bound which it rightfully should, also distances them from realizing the core of the problem of how our collective eating patterns have harmed the species’ habitat and thus, seems dissuading, towards any discourse impacting conscious learning towards the subject. In a similar vein, bioethics strikes at the core of the debate by urging people to "turn off electrical devices when not in use," which is advised for traditional environmental education in the means of individual combat against global warming. This sets the stage for the person to internalize this process in terms of their actions. (Okan et al., 2012)
Bioethics and Global Climate Change
The scientific community has come to a resounding conclusion that human activity is altering the world's climate for over the last 20 years. Environmental scientists, political interest groups, social activists, religious organizations, and some politicians have contributed the majority of the moral consciousness-raising about climate change to date. President George W. Bush of the United States had contested the scientific consensus on climate change and fought efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The majority of the time, bioethicists have stayed out of the discussion. This lack of speech is a dangerous omission. Bioethicists should participate in the conversation about global warming and offer their opinions on these pressing concerns because it is expected that climate change will have significant effects on the environment and human health. The reasons for why bioethicists haven't spoken out much on global warming are many. First, challenges and choices relating to relationships between patients, medical personnel, and healthcare organizations have traditionally been the focus of bioethics. Bioethics research, instruction, and consultancy center on issues like abortion, euthanasia, informed consent, privacy, reproductive health, and access to healthcare. Typically, concerns about global warming do not come up in routine interactions between doctors and patients or when developing institutional policy. Second, the majority of bioethicists are employed by institutions of higher learning or hospitals that are not directly involved in environmental concerns. Bioethicists are compensated to assist in the resolution of healthcare-related issues, not to discuss environmental issues in-depth. Third, unlike the daily life-and-death dramas that occur in hospital wards, environmental challenges do not have the same emotional impact. As a result, the public, academics, and the media tend to pay less attention to them. Nobody has trouble comprehending or appreciating the moral dilemmas involved with removing life support from a loved one, but relatively few people can grasp the gravity of global warming. Climate change concerns are frequently ethereal and challenging to grasp. Although environmental issues have not received much attention from bioethicists, this is starting to change. Many authors have claimed that bioethicists and health policy analysts ought to take into account how the environment affects human health and how the health care system affects the environment in recent years.
What can bioethicists do to help address environmental challenges, such as climate change, if they should be on the agenda of the field of bioethics?
First, bioethicists may educate decision-makers in the healthcare industry about how their actions affect climate change. They can persuade hospitals and medical facilities to think about methods to lessen their impact on global warming, such as boosting telecommuting and telemedicine and increasing mass transit. Second, bioethicists engage in discussions regarding issues related to climate change that are relevant outside of the context of health care, such as disaster preparedness, land use policy, international law and ethics, and pollution cap and trade systems. Third, bioethicists can investigate the ethical, intellectual, spiritual, and legal underpinnings of environmental policy. There are some circumstances where advancing human health and defending the environment are fundamentally at odds. For instance, even a seemingly insignificant decision like changing a hospital's thermostat can influence both human health and the environment because decreasing the setting may lessen the hospital's environmental impact while rising it may improve patient health. Health care administrators should consult with bioethicists when making decisions like these.
Human’s responsibility for the environment
In the face of the challenge posed by climate change, which threatens the planet and future generations, it is more necessary than ever for individuals, international organizations, national governments, and businesses to take responsibility for protecting the environment and commit to sustainability. To this end, measures are being taken all over the world:
The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): a United Nations (UN) action plan for people and the planet.
Climate change policies and negotiations: such as the Paris Agreement, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent global warming.
Environmental education: instilling respect and care for nature from a very early age is fundamental to safeguarding the planet.
Conservationism: the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other organizations are working to save many species from extinction.
1. Foster JB, "The Vulnerable Planet", New York-Monthly Review Press, 1999
2. Dawkins R. "The Blind Watchmaker", Norton&Company Inc, 1986, ISBN: 0-393-31570-3, Keles R. Ertan B, "Introduction to Environmental Ethics". Imge Kitabevi Publications, 2002.
3. Jackson T. "Prosperity Without Growth-Economics For A Finite Planet", London Earthscan, 2009.
4. David B. Resnik, JD, PhD "Bioethics and Global Climate Change" Bioethicist, NIEHS, NIH
5. Okan Urker, Murat Yildiz, Nesrin Cobanoglu "The role of bioethics on sustainability of environmental education" CY-ICER 2012
6. Jessica Pierce, Andrew Jameton “The Ethics of Environmentally Responsible Health Care”
R. Dhanushya is an undergraduate student of political science from Kamala Nehru College, University of Delhi. A research enthusiast and writer who enjoys reading and exploring new concepts.