Applying lessons from the health sector – a personal perspective.
Jane Morris, Evidentiary’s environmental ethicist provides some personal reflections of her journey.
Returning to study as a mature age student was the best thing I have ever done. With a science/nursing background my interest in Genetics had further piqued over the ensuing years and I was keen to reacquaint myself with study and books. Books, you ask, I know it’s all about laptops these days but I relished the chance to immerse myself into a brand new world of printed matter.
As it transpired my purchase failed to eventuate. Scientific understanding of our genome coupled with associated technology meant that recently published textbooks were rapidly considered redundant, deplete of constantly developing findings.
This raging and escalating impetus in the genetic field and the associated realm of Artificial Reproductive Techniques fascinated me. However it seemed that things were developing at a frightening pace. I remember the words ‘just because we can doesn’t mean we should’ resonating soundly with me. From that moment I became immersed in the concept of ethics. Ethics is now very much an integral part of medical practice. Were it not for ethical committees, human cloning may now be a commonplace event. We have seen what happens when we utilize a new medical practice without appropriate ethical consideration as evidenced by the issue of sperm donation for infertile couples. Scant regard was given to the progeny of this ‘wonderful technique’ and consequently the aftermath has proved disastrous for many families.
I completed a Master of Bioethics, fascinated by every concept. Additionally harbouring a great love and passion for the Environment I became interested in the topic of Environmental Ethics pondering the concept of applying basic medical ethical principles to the Environment. I registered several years ago for an Environmental Ethics course only to be contacted several days before the event to inform me that it had been cancelled as a result of minimal interest. This I found to be quite extraordinary.
Our planet is in a perilous state. Like many people I despair and grieve for the destruction we have inflicted upon our home. It is absolutely vital that we unite in an attempt to prevent further havoc and that is why we need to formulate a simple code of environmental ethics. Humans must adopt a more ethical approach in how we pursue solutions to these momentous issues. The basic medical ethics of respect, honesty and justice must be utilized if we are to approach these critical, life-threatening issues, with any form of success. An ethical approach to the environment will take into consideration the present, future generations and also reflect back upon the lives of our ancestors.
Environmental Ethics is undoubtedly an extremely contentious topic. Like any ethical issue there is no definitive right or wrong and most confounding is the consideration of the applicability of ethics to the natural world. Do we just apply an ethical code of conduct in our approach to include only sentient beings, perhaps all living things or even that which composes the entire ecosystem? Do all sentient beings, all living things and those that comprise an ecosystem have rights? It is certainly a crucial time for all and I feel it is imperative that we approach our planet’s problems from both a scientific and ethical platform.