UNIT 9: Environmental Ethics
• Unit Background/Author Perspective
• Module 47: Dumping
• Module 48: Environmental Disasters, from the Valdez to BP
• Module 49: Sustainability: Renewable Energy and “Green” Buildings
• Module 50: Animal Rights
• Module 51: “Perfectly Good Items”
Unit Background/Author Perspective
Global warming, carbon footprints, greenhouse gases, cap and trade, pollution credits,
renewable resources, sustainability: Many environmental causes have become everyday items for
discussion. These issues are extremely important to vast numbers of people, and the modules in
this unit deal with them.
Law tends to set minimum standards of conduct; it is fairly unusual for laws to require
the “best” behavior. So, while there are many environmental regulations, companies can often go
much further than the law demands. But often, it is far cheaper to merely comply with the law,
and do nothing further.
The opening module presents a simple decision about dumping waste. The second
module takes a look at an environmental disaster along the lines of the Exxon Valdez leak and the
current BP problems in the Gulf of Mexico. It examines ethical decision making in addressing
environmental harm and decisions that can prevent the harm in the first place.
Sustainability and green building practices are the focus of the third module. Companies
are often faced with choosing building practices that are either cheaper (at least in the short term)
or that are more expensive but better for the environment.
The fourth module in this unit covers a topic that seems to have fallen off the radar in
recent years: the protection of endangered species. General animal rights are also addressed.
The last module looks at wasteful business practices. Companies often dispose of
“perfectly good items” that could be put to use simply because it is the cheapest or the most
convenient thing to do. But do companies have obligations to be less wasteful and to make an
effort to see that someone is able to use no-longer-wanted items?