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Developed and submitted by

C Chakraborti
Dept of HSS
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

Limitations of Utilitarianism

zProblem of measurement: subjective

element in benefit, some benefits &
costs cannot be measured by
numerical value
zUnpredictability of consequences
zHas no importance for intention or
motive, which is often morally
zProblem of defining ‘cost’, ‘benefit’
satisfying all
zToo impartial: Who should you save
when you cannot save all? No clear
zConcerns only for the greater
number of people may override
minority RIGHTS
C Chakraborti IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

1. Problem of measurement:
2. 1.1. Are all ‘pleasures’, ‘pains’
quantifiable? E.g. Value of life,
health, etc.

4. 1.2. Problem of measuring

interpersonal comparisons: your
happiness vis-avis my happiness.
How far egalitarianism in this respect
is defensible?

6. 1.3. Is it plausible to think that sum

maximization of all different kinds of
pleasures and pains, which may not
be really comparable, can always be
attained? E.g. What is the sum total
of benefit from jobs, cost from health
hazard in the Clemenceau case?
C Chakraborti IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

If not happiness, Welfarism is indicated

by certain factors:

Human Development Index (HDI)

Human Happiness Index (HHI)

C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Problematic questions for Utilitarianism:

1. Is ‘happiness’, or well-being the only

value to be counted in deciding the
moral worth?

2. ‘Greatest good for greatest numbers:

is always a worthy goal to pursue?

3. Is very low, practically negative value

a very large number of people ‘better’
than moderate benefit for a lesser

4. Harms are consequentially more

important than benefits. So, should we
not try to promote least amount of

5. Is happiness of one comparable to

another’s happiness?

6. Should consequence be the only

factor to determine moral worth of an
action? What about motive?
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008


Foot & Judith Jarvis Thomson,

You see a trolley hurtling fast down a

track. In its path, 5 people are
working, unaware of the danger.
You are standing near a fork, and
can pull a lever that will divert the
trolley on to a spur (branch line).
But the trolley would then run over
one person who is working on the

Is it ethically permissible to throw

the switch, kill 1 man to save 5?

Survey says; almost everyone

says: YES
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Consider a modified scenario (Case


Now you are on a bridge overlooking

the hurtling trolley, the five unaware
people down the track. Now no lever,
no switch, and the only way to stop the
trolley is to throw a heavy object in its
path. And the only heavy object within
your reach is this fat man standing
next to you.

Is it ethically permissible to throw the

man off the bridge, kill 1 man to save

Almost everyone says: NO, two

cases are not equivalent.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Martha Nussbaum: Limitations of


Utilitarianism is insensitive to matters of justice.

Because maximum good is its goal, distribution
is unimportant. It allows some individuals to be
used merely as means to promote overall

Can yield injustice in individual cases

Non-Utilitarianism position: Justice must be

done, individual rights must be protected (even if
does not increase sum total of happiness).

Application to Human Rights: Each

individual is repository of certain
inalienable rights, which must not be
denied. No person is to be used as
merely means to promote maximum
good for maximum people.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Application to Animal Rights:

Miyun Park (Peter Singer Anthology):

Hens are cramped for their entire lives in wire

cages stacked on top of one another. They
stand on wire-mesh flooring so unlike the earth
that their nails, which would normally wear down
while scratching the ground, curl around the
bars. Feather loss is common as hens rub
against cages until many appear to have been
plucked, their bodies raw with sores. They
cannot roost at night, dust-bathe to clean
themselves, feel sunlight, breathe fresh air, build
a nest, raise their young, or even freely stretch
their wings ... (Singer, 176) (1)

An egg-laying hen requires 290 square inches of

space to flap her wings, yet each bird is allotted
an average of 52 square inches--smaller than a
single sheet of paper--in which she eats, sleeps,
lays eggs, drinks, and defecates.
All this is so that the egg prices remain low for
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Bringing Real Life into ‘Responsibility’

[“BMW Nanda gets five years- Age no excuse”, Legal Correspondent, The
Telegraph, Kolkata, Sept 6, 2008]

New Delhi, Sept. 5: A court today sentenced Sanjeev

Nanda to five years’ imprisonment, saying he should
have known the consequences of drunk-driving since
he had got his license in the US. The judge rejected
Nanda’s plea to let him off on probation as he was
only 19 at the time of the incident and his family had
compensated the victims. “A person who got a driving
license from the US can be considered to be having a
higher degree of knowledge of the consequences of
drunken driving. Therefore, on account of his young
age, no benefit can be given,” he said. That Nanda
had tried to win over witnesses also merited the high
quantum of punishment, the judge said.
Two of Gupta’s employees, Bhola Nath and Shyam
Singh, were sentenced to six months in jail and fined
Rs 100 each for washing off bloodstains and
removing pieces of flesh from Nanda’s BMW.
Nanda, was convicted of culpable homicide not
amounting to murder for mowing down six persons
while driving his BMW in 1999.
“The question is whether a man on the road is safe and
whether drunken drivers would keep on committing such
offences. This accountability to society can only be suitably
answered if a substantial jail term is provided to him,” the
order said.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Non-consequentialist position:

To know if the choice of an action is ‘good’/

‘right’, not consequences, but criteria other
than what the choice brings about should
be looked into.

i. Some actions, no matter how

ethically good their
consequences are, are

Choices cannot be judged by their results.

Deontological Ethics (Gk. Deon (duty)): An

action is ethical iff it is done in conformity
with an ethical norm.
C Chakraborti IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

Non-consequentialist position:
judges the rightness or wrongness of an
action based on properties intrinsic to
the action, not on its consequences

Praiseworthy goals can never justify

immoral actions

Ends do NOT justify the means

C Chakraborti IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

Examples of relevant properties intrinsic

to an action:

1. Does the chosen action uses /

exploits another person in any

2. Is the chosen action fair / just to all


3. Would the decision-maker like to

be at the receiving end of the

4. Does the chosen action show

enough human sensitivity?

5. Does it violate anyone’s

fundamental right?
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Kant’s Deontological Ethics:

An action is ethical iff it is done out of the

‘duty motive’ (the agent).
Different Conceptions of DUTY
z A. DUTY as compliance to given orders
– -Military model
– -Duty is externally imposed

z B. DUTY as self-imposed obligation

– -A choice made by the agent himself
B is Kant’s conception of an ethical duty

z ‘I should do this’
z ‘I should NOT do this’

z Orders to oneself: Imperatives,

C Chakraborti

IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

Kant’s view of the Moral Agent

z1. Human beings are part of the causal
nexus of the world of physics.
z2. Yet, they are also capable of FREE
WILL or will power. In this aspect, they
escape the net of causal determinism
that rules the world of physics.
z3. They can impose on themselves a
rule, a sense of obligation or DUTY by
their free choice.
z4. Moral duties are one of a kind, self-
imposed rules.
z5. This ability to be governed by self-
decided rules is something that sets
humans apart.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Kant’s Classification of DUTIES

z Self-imposed Imperatives or duties may
be of two kinds:
First type:
Hypothetical or Conditional Imperative: Self-
imposed Duty conditional upon what I seek

If I want to go to IITs, then I should prepare

for JEE. (Then your duty is to prepare for
If one wants to study at the IITs, then ought
should prepare for JEE.

It is NOT binding if (and when) the condition

is removed.
-What if one does not want to study at
the IIT-s?
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Kant: This occasionally binding, contingent

‘imperatives’ are not DUTY per se. (Anyone
claim exemption at any time)
Whatever ‘goodness’ there may be in these
choices are qualified ‘good’, and not good in
the ethical sense.
-Prudence, shrewdness, worldliness
may be good, but these are not ethical
DUTY: The RIGHT action done from the
RIGHT motive

What Kant will not consider as ‘right’ motive:

„ Self-interest: Kant does not consider it
morally worthy to do the “right” action
out of self-interest
‹ -Grocer’s example: not cheating
because that harms his business
‹ Paying to charity to impress
others, or to get a tax break
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

„ Feelings or impulses: Kant considered

these as unstable, unreliable as basis of
‹ One day I feel pity, and I help a
person, next day I don’t feel like.


Categorical Imperative or Unconditional
“ought”: Moral judgments bind us with an
ought of this kind. No clauses, DUTY no
matter what.
I should do this because I realized it as the

DUTY: The RIGHT action done from the

RIGHT motive
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

z The moral imperative, or DUTY, is

z and should be done because it is
recognized as the duty.
z Live by rules that you yourself see as
The only thing unqualifiedly good is the
‘good will’

How to find what is a ‘duty’ (a categorical

z 1st Formulation: I ought never to act
except in such a way that I can also will
that my maxim should become a
universal law.
z · Universalizability: What if everybody
did that?
z ·Reversibility: How would I like to be in
his/her shoes?
z If I cannot will my action to be universal
or reversible, then I have some amoral
or non-moral motive.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

First formulation says: What is fair, should

be fair for all, and not just for the agent:

z 2nd Formulation: Act in such a way

that you always treat humanity, whether
yourself or others, never simply as a
z People are persons, not means or tools
for advancing one's own interests.
z Respect and help to develop the other
person's capacity to choose freely.

z A morally right action will not involve

using others as mere tools for self-
z What is morally right is universally right:
holds for everyone including me.

z Moral right or wrong is not decided only

by the results of action, but also by the
right motive: motive: of realizing the
action as a DUTY.

z Tight correlation with ‘RIGHTS’

z Moral personhood: Being specially

endowed to live by one’s chosen
principles, every human as a moral ‘self’
is of equal value. In a moral community
we must respect each other, and each
other’s free choices. HUMAN RIGHTS
C Chakrabort IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010


1. Respecting Autonomy: Choices

Informed Consent…
Veracity or the duty of truth-telling
1. Sanctity of life

2. Other Human Rights

C Chakrabort IIT KGP Intro to
Ethics, A-2010

Problems with Kant’s Ethics

zUniversalizability: Can human nature
be so standardized? What is
universalizable and reversible to a
psychopath, may not be moral.
zHow do we resolve conflicts, if
everyone’s right has equal value?
zSometimes circumstances matter a
lot. Kant’s theory seems to ignore
C Chakrabort IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

Deontological recommendation: Right

and wrong-making characteristic of a
choice may be independent of the

Bhagavadgita : NISHKAMA KARMA
(action without any desire for

Arjuna is in profound indecision because

the war will lead to so many

Krishna advises that priority must be

given to duty irrespective of
consequences, irrespective of the fruits
of the action.(Deontologist)
C Chakrabort IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

Other Non-consequentialist answers:

1. Justice theories:

The right and wrong-making

characteristic of a chosen action
/policy is whether it is just or unjust.

Equality for all

Equity or Justice as Fairness
Equal opportunity
Level playing field
Capability Approach
C Chakrabort IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010



Out of 134 countries surveyed, India is

among the lowest ranked countries at
the 114th position in terms of gender

Economic Participation and Opportunity:

0.412 (Rank 127) Corporate sector: No
woman CEO, only middle or entry

Educational Attainment: 0.843 (Rank


Health and Survival: 0.931 (Rank 131)

lowest, worst sex ratios

Political Empowerment: 0.273 (Rank 24)

C Chakrabort IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

Other Non-consequentialist answers:

2. Virtue Ethics: Concerns with right

and wrong behavior is about the central
question: How should we live?
(entire life)
And not about ‘what is the right thing
to do?’ (a specific dilemma)

It is about the ‘good’ life and the kind of

person we ought to be to get it right all
the time throughout life.

ARISTOTLE: Ethics and ethical actions

are for ‘Character’ building, and
unethical actions are for undoing
goodness in us.
C Chakrabort IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

Character: a state of ‘being’ (having

certain psychological dispositions and
being a certain state)
No one is born ‘good’, or ‘bad’. People
are born with all kinds of tendencies.
These can be encouraged or thwarted
by influences around (parents, teachers,
peer group, role-model, appreciation

A character is built through repeated

choices and behavior (a habit) over a
long period of time. And it is important to
develop the right habits, and wean the
wrong ones: moral development
C Chakrabort IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

Character traits are stable, reliable. Ex:

someone with character trait of kindness
is expected to act kindly in appropriate
situations, even when it is difficult to do
so. Similarly, with the character trait of

Ex: Kindness as a virtue requires (a)

realization that kindness is the right
response to a certain situation, and (b)
the disposition to act kindly. It is not a
mechanical action, involves recognizing
kindness as a virtue and choosing to act
in a certain way.

Virtue “lies in a mean” because the right

response to each situation is neither too
much nor too little, but appropriate
(situation-specific, role-specific).
C Chakrabort IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

Virtues lead to Eudaimonia (blissful

existence, human flourishing and well-
being) : a good life. Vices lead us away
from that.

Feminist theorists: In addition to ‘Being

fair’, ‘being brave’, ‘being rational’, there
are other feminine virtues from caring
for others which are often marginalized:
such as virtue of being patient, the
ability to nurture, self-sacrifice, etc.
C Chakrabort IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

The aim …
zIs to develop good virtues, so that
the right choices become more of a
habit, followed by right actions
z Involves prohairesis: a virtuous
person will choose to do the virtuous
zTo avoid the vices, which also will
rule our choices, actions, and
eventually who we are.

zInstitutions too can be evaluated as

virtuous or vicious.
C Chakrabort IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

The Six Pillars of Corporate

Wisdom -N.R.Narayana Murthy
zImportance of being trustworthy in
your dealings.
z·Fear is natural, but do not let your
actions be totally governed by it.
z·A supportive family is the bedrock
upon which lives and career are
z Learn how to manage yourself,
separating the merits and demerits
of a decision from the feelings
accompanying it.
z·Live your life and lead your career in
a way that makes a difference to
your society.
z·Choose a dream and go after it
confidently, but always ensure that
you are following your bliss
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Causing Harm

Criminal Intention
(Murder) (culpable homicide)
X did by commission X did by commission
or omission or omission
so-and-so to Y so-and-so to Y
with the intention, or with without the intention,
the knowledge or without the
that thereby knowledge
X is likely to that thereby X is likely
cause the death of Y to cause the death of

Abetting a murder

Abetting culpable homicide

C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

What is Applied Ethics?

Easy answer: Application (and also discovery )

of ethical concepts, criteria, and reasoning to
concrete problems


C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Generally two ways to apply:

1. Theory extended to facts: Utilitarianism,
Deontology, Virtue theory, Justice, Care _
revised and reinterpreted to adequately
understand and explain current ethical

2. Casuistry or Case-based reasoning: Does

not begin with theory, but starts with a
particular case and asks what theoretical
and practical ethical considerations should
be considered in this case.
E.g.: Medical Ethics Board and a problematic
medical case (withholding medical support)
C Chakrabort IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

1. If Theory extended to facts approach:

1.1. May choose one selective theory to

generate the recommendation or the rule,
but then:
(a) show why NOT the other theories
(b) show what is so special with this theory

1.2. May try to analyze the situation from

the perspectives of several theories, and
show what the available solution are, then
adopt a relative weighted approach to select
a particular solution,

Or, do a scoring system from all


(a) If there are conflicting solutions, whether

there is any overriding concern to resolve
the conflict
C Chakrabort IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

Stakeholder analysis: tool for identifying

ethical issues

A stakeholder:
“any group or individual who can affect or is
affected by the achievement of the
organization’s objectives” (Freeman 1984,
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Environmental Ethics
Ecology: First use attributed to German
biologist Ernst Haeckel in 1860s.
Two Greek words:
Eko (home, household) + Logos (Study,
It is the logos / study of living organisms in
their home / natural habitat

Earlier ecology used Organic model

(Cowles, Clements in late 1800s):
Assumed a part to whole relationship
among every individual species (e.g.
animals, plants) and environment.
Analogy: as organs are related to a body.
eye, nose to a human body
Assumes: a single common purpose among
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Ecologist’s job was thought to be like that of

a doctor: to diagnose and treat problems to
ensure a healthy and balanced state
between the parts and the whole.

By early 1900s, many ecologists came to

reject this model:
Natural biotic communities (Lifezones,
Biomes) : E.g. Alpine region of Sikkim,
They do not always develop towards a
single organic whole (e.g. Plants Vs
More complex interaction among species,
within the species, with abiotic natural
factors exist (Soil, water, weather)
British ecologist Arthur Tansley first
introduced the term “ecosystem” (a physical
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

A complex system of relationships among
living resources, habitats and residents of a
-not just linear relations, but very
complex relationships within particular
species, and across the species [In Origin of
Species, Darwin referred to “web of
complex relationships”]
-not parts and whole
-not just causally connected in one
direction, but also there are feedback loops,
and marked interdependence among
various forms of life, and non-living
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

A pond: fish, other marine animals, bacteria,

insects, waterfowls, fungi, weeds,
planktons, plants, sediments, water
temperature, oxygen level, …, [the human
The Rivet argument: Change one →
affects the entire system
No Fungi→ ‘decomposer’ of dead matter’
lost→ natural recycler lost → water quality
deterioration → diseases in water plants,
fish → diseases in birds ….
A river: ………,[human impact]
A forest: trees, animals, microorganisms
living off the trees and animals, the
interaction among the trees and animals,
among the animals and the animals, the
abiotic elements: climate, rainfall, soil,
nutrients …..[human impact]
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Natural ecosystem: the food chain

Soil→ plants →herbivores (rabbits,
elephants, humans) →carnivores (hawks,
wolves, humans) → carcasses → beetles,
insects, microorganisms → nutrients → soil

80% of land plants depend on the symbiotic

root fungi which fortify the plant’s root
Remove one component (drought,loss of
habitat, overhunting, extinction), there may
be considerable impact on the Food web
Dung beetles (14,000 species) clear out the
droppings of herbivores : without them
African savannah would be wastelands
No bees (pollination crisis): fall in
agricultural crops→ less food for humans
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Mangroves of Indian coastlines:

Sunderbans. Mangroves are salt-tolerant

plants which are highly productive but
extremely sensitive and fragile. Besides
mangroves, the ecosystem also harbours
other plant and animal species. the
presence of mangrove ecosystems on
coastline save lives and property during
natural hazards such as cyclones, storm
surges and erosion. These ecosystems are
also well known for their economic
importance. They are breeding, feeding and
nursery grounds for many estuarine and
marine organisms. Hence, these areas are
used for captive and culture fisheries. The
ecosystem has a very large unexplored
potential for natural products useful for
medicinal purposes and also for salt
production, apiculture, fuel and fodder, etc.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008


Climate Change:

Ozone layer depletion: the shield between

Sun’s harmful UV rays, more harmful
wavelengths, and earth’s beings

Greenhouse gas emission: from various

human activities (chemical processes etc)
through use of Ozone depleting substances
(ODS), e.g. CFC compounds

Carbon footprints: a way to measure the

impact human activities on the environment
in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases
produced (measured in units of CO2)
Applicable to individuals, societies, nations,
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

From Ecology to Ethics:

When we start looking at ecosystems as

part of the moral community
When we start conferring ‘rights’ to non-
human creatures and things
When we start to ponder on what ought to
be the relation between humans and natural
When environmental problems (e.g.
pollution) are framed in terms of social
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

From Ecology to Ethics

Ethical and policy implications rising from
environmental concerns
Ecosystems are (and can be) understood as
independent living organism, with moral
James Lovelock (Brit. Scientist) & Lynn Margulis
(Am. Biologist): The GAIA hypothesis
1. The entire earth could be understood
as a SINGLE living organism with
humans just as a part
2. GAIA, the Greek goddess of Earth =
Earth is a living entity, a goddess,
Mother Nature
3. Human activities that degrade and
pollute the entire planet are morally
Rolston (1996): humans are a kind of
planetary ‘cancer’
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Ideological Change: Ecological Ethics

z We, humans, are part of a much larger
ecological system. It is our ethical duty
to protect the welfare about not just
humans but also that of non-human
parts of that system
z Corollary: Well being of all the parts
have value in themselves, independent
of their usefulness for human purposes

z Humans have no special right to

interfere or adversely affect this rich and
diversity of life forms
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Environment, Ecology and Ethics:

Q1. The relation between humans and
nature: How should it be?
Q2. Do humans have moral obligations
towards the environment? If so, what?
Q3. Is it morally wrong to pollute soil, water,
and air?
Q4. Why should we conserve? Do humans
have moral duties to future generations
to conserve natural resources?

Q5.What kind of moral obligations do

humans have to the nonhuman forms of
life? Why? Do the beings and things of
nonhuman world have intrinsic value, or

Q6.Is it morally wrong to be cruel, or to

abuse non-human animals?
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Q7.Can we extend the boundaries of the

moral community to the entire natural
world, so that ‘rights’ can be ascribed?

Environmental ethics say ‘yes’ to most of

the questions above

It debates how to balance the claims:

-of the present and the future
-of humans and non-humans
-of sentient and non-sentient
-of individuals and wholes

And strives for a sustainable relationship

C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Human-centeredness: ANTHROPOCENTRISM
*That the world belongs to humans alone

*That everything else that is there is to

serve the humans or for their use

*Nonhuman beings and objects have only

instrumental value, or utility value in so far
as they are useful to the humans.
-Instrumental value: valued only as a
means to some other goal (e.g. a pen)

Only humans have intrinsic value and

unique worth.
-Intrinsic value: valued for its sake,
inherent worth, independent of its value for
something else (e.g. friendship, talent)

Idea can be found in ancient thinking,

C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

For example:
Aristotle: nature has made all things
specifically for the sake of man (Politics,
Bk. 1, Ch. 8)

Judaic-Christian beliefs: God created

man in His own image. “God said unto
them: Fill the earth & subdue it, have
dominion over fish & birds, & over every
living thing that moves upon the earth.”
(Genesis, Bk.I)

Men are God-made stewards of the earth,

and rest of the beings (women, slaves,
animals, plants) are put there to serve men.

BUT, that animals are there to serve human

end has become increasingly untenable
with Darwinism.
Similarly, adverse effects of human activity
on environment have steadily undermined
the idea of nature merely as a resource
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008


“Christianity is the most anthropocentric

religion the world has seen. It places
animals and nature at the feet of humans.
Thus the main strands of Christian thinking
had encouraged the overexploitation of
--The Historical Roots of Our Ecological
Crisis”, Lynn White, 1967, Science,

“ Christianity encouraged certain attitudes to

nature: that it exists primarily as a
resource…that man a right to use it as he
will…that man’s relationships with it are not
governed by moral principles…”
[Philosopher John Passmore]

But, it is not an exclusive flaw of Christianity

C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Though Asian religions have religious

sanction for treating every life as sacred
(Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism etc) and
teaches oneness with the world,

YET, China, India : destroying forests

systematically, desertification, dumping into
the riverways
Japan: whaling industry, purchases lumber
from rainforests, Cadmium and itai-itai
disease, Minemata Bay mercury poisoning

Thus, anthropocentrism is an attitudinal

problem: an illusion, a false presumption

No ground for anthropocentric attitude, it
should be replaced by bio-centric
egalitarianism: everyone in a ecological
system has equal right to be there,
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

and non-human parts of the environment

deserve to be preserved for their own sake,
regardless of whether they are of any use to

So, environmental values:

A. Intrinsic value:
(a) value as an individual organism
(b) value as a component, biotic or
abiotic, of the ecosystem to which it
-Does not make a distinction
between biotic and abiotic entities

B.Respect for Biodiversity

Biodiversity: Variety of life forms (gene
diversity, species diversity in a given
ecosystem. It is a measure of health of
biological systems.
Natural diversity is to be preserved.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Principal focus of Biodiversity is on: Species

Abt 1.5 million species of plants and animals are
known to biologists, but that is only est. 1/10 of
the total number existing.
In 500n Mn yrs, 5 times major species extinction
had happened.
Before the arrival of humans, one species
became extinct every 1000 years.
Now the annual rate is between 1000 to 27000
[Carpenter, S R, 1998, Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics, (ed.)
Chadwick R., San Diego, Academic Press, Vol. 4., 275-293.]

Terrifying rate if remains unchecked

5 basic causes for biodiversity loss:
1. Overhunting and harvesting: animals for shell,
skin, fur, bones.
2. Pressure of population growth and their
increased needs
3. Habitat destruction: drive to increase
agriculture, taking over forests, oceans, land,
rivers for commercial purposes
4. New diseases that affect indigenous species
5. Pollution, and climate change, and their
collective effect
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics A-2008

Why preserve biodiversity?

Consequential ethics answer: Because
human welfare and survival is inextricably
intertwined with the welfare and survival of
the non-human beings and things.

Non-consequential ethics answer: Because

all the members of the biotic and non-biotic
community have rights which are to be

So, Q7. Certain legal and moral rights must

be extended for protection and conservation
of living beings such as non-human animals
(animalia), trees, flora and fauna, forests,
insects, and of non-living things such as
rivers, mountains, deserts, wetlands, and
other natural objects.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

12 mega-diversity Ecological Hot Spots in

India: North-East India, Western Ghats,
Eastern and Western Himalayas, Andaman
and Nicobar Islands, Sikkim, etc.

India with 2.4 percent of world’s area has 8

percent of global bio-diversity.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics A-2008

From Ecology to Ethics

Basic argument A
P1. Destruction / impairment of natural
environment is largely due to anthropogenic
effects or human impact
P1.1 What is at the root of this reckless
human behavior?
A1.1. The worldview of Anthropocentrism or
Human centeredness (DEEP ECOLOGY)
A1.2. Patterns of social domination of one class
over can foster ideology of domination of nature
(SOCIAL ECOLOGY, Murray Bookchin)
A1.3 The same social structures which serve to
oppress women in a society are closely liked with the
domination and abuse of nature (ECOFEMINISM)

P2. [Those who cause damage, injury, harm,

ought to bear the responsibility / obligation / duty
to repair, compensate, restore where possible.]
Ethical principle based on Justice, Fairness.

C. Hence, Humans ought to bear the

responsibility / obligation / duty to repair,
compensate, restore the natural environment
where possible.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Deep Ecology: Radical Environmental


Deep Ecology: Arne Naess, (1973)

Norwegian philosopher, Bill Devall, George

Radical cure suggestion: Rejection of

anthropocentric attitude and adopting a
holistic, non- anthropocentric outlook

Naess first introduced a distinction: Shallow

Vs Deep Ecology

‘Shallow ecology movement’: Ecology

movement at a superficial level looking at
pollution, resource depletion as isolated

Ultimately it is an anthropocentric ‘fight

with the central objective of how to maintain
‘the health and affluence of people in the
developed countries.’
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

‘Deep ecology movement’: A ‘relational,

total-field perspective. Looks beyond
outcome into the social and human
practices that cause them (e.g. pollution,
resource depletion.
-Affluent, easy lifestyle promotes
overconsumption → Forsake it, go for a
simpler, less technology-driven lifestyle,
Asian religions
- Greed of businesses lead to
overutilization of resources → curb
consumerism, block overambitious eco-
unfriendly business moves
- Self-centered individualism allows for
false distinctions from the nature and from
other human beings → Change to a
holistic, relational perspective

A PRACTICAL ETHICS: Significant change

in outlook, behavior at individual and
organizational level
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Deep Ecology Principles:

1. Human and non-human life have

intrinsic value, irrespective of their
utility to human purposes
2. Biodiversity is to be preserved,
humans have no right to reduce this
diversity except to satisfy vital needs
3. Principle of ‘biospheric
egalitarianism’: no humans have
special right, our needs cannot
override needs of other creatures.

Change human economic, technological &

ideological structures.

By: A new self-realization based on

Spiritualism, Buddhism, Gandhian thoughts
An agenda of political action, civil
disobedience, and eco-sabotage.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Greenpeace : Its earlier days

z June 1990, under pressure US Fish &
Wildlife Service barred Timber Industry
from logging old forests in North
California (Wilderness conservation,
plus Habitat of Spotted Owl). Loss:
36,000 lumber jobs, price of furniture,
musical instruments soared

z In 1980s, members of the Sea

Shepherd Conservation Society
sabotaged plants, sunk ships & thus
imposed costs on commercial whaling
industry (depletion of whales)
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

GREENPEACE :Deep Green and


Dec 2007 : IFC, Worldbank’s lending arm ,

sells its equity stake in Olam International,
for illegal timber trading in Congo.
2007: EU’s ban on energy-wasting
incandescent lightbulbs
2007: deep-sea bottom trawling method no
more allowed for fishing industry in South
2006: Food companies, supermarkets,
suppliers sign a zero deforestation policy :
no purchase from newly deforested land

The world is today more aware of

conservation of wilderness, protection of
natural resources and biodiversity
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Criticisms against Deep Ecology:

1. What is to be done when human interests
conflict with the interest of the elements in non-
human natural world? There seems to be no
clear answer

2. Ramachandra Guha: Deep Ecology is

Utopian. It may prove disastrous for poor and
agrarian population (tribals) of less developed
countries (India) who live in fine balance with
nature. A policy of wilderness preservation and
biocentric equality would effectively result in
direct transfer of wealth from poor to rich and a
major displacement for the poor (ecological

3. Social Ecology and Ecofeminism: Deep

ecology is concerned with factors that are too
abstract while ignoring the human and social
causes of the environmental destruction. E.G. It
overemphasizes value of wilderness while
ignoring the human costs of environmental
harm. The focus should be on social justice.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Ecofeminism: Connects environmentalisms

with feminisms

Root of ecological problems lies in certain

social factors: A power issue
Social injustices based on race, gender and
class are related to the ideologies that
sanction the exploitation and degradation of
Nature is an analogy to women: There only
to serve the needs of men. Uncaring use,
dominate, exploit and then discard
The attitudes towards women in a society
reflect in attitude towards nature

Also, many ecological damaging issues

have more detrimental effect on women, if
the women are involved more in the
household management: Food,
desertification, deforestation, flooding,
access to safe water, etc.
C Chakraborti IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

Male chauvinism: The belief that men

are superior to women

Assumed precept: Those who are

superior have this right to be the master
of the inferior class

There is violence inherent in that

assumption, power politics is an integral
part of the art of conquest


Environmental destruction and

degradation is yet another expression of
male chauvinism

The ideology that authorizes

oppressions based on race, class,
physical disability, also sanctions the
oppression of nature.
C Chakraborti IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

Women affected worst by climate


70 per cent of the world's poor, who are

far more vulnerable to environmental
damage, are women

75 per cent of environmental refugees

are also women.

severe water scarcity :

women are more likely to be the unseen

victims of resource wars and violence as
a result of climate change.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

More on Ecofeminism:

1. Male ownership of land → a culture of

domination and exploitation, abuse of
land (overcultivation, overgrazing) and
of other humans (serfs, bonded
labour), abusive land ethic where the
land and animals in it are valued only
by economic value (a certain kind of
2. Environmental degradation harms
women more when agriculturally
productive land is taken away for cash
crops, when fertile forest is deforested
for timber (money) or for real estate
3. Vandana Shiva (Physics, IISc-B): (a)
how societies look mistakenly at both
women and nature taken as passive
and submissive, and take that as a
signal to be misused. (b) A river, e.g.
is perceived as unproductive if it is
simply there fulfilling thirst. Unless it is
a source of ‘hydropower’, it is not
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Vandana Shiva & Ecofeminism (Staying

Alive: Women, Ecology and Development)

Women have a way of taking from the forest

that is distinctly different from that of men.
Women give back also to the forest. They
care and see to it that the forest
regenerates and is conserved.

At 6000 ft altitude, in Balganga Valley of

Garhwal lies the Kangad, a hamlet of 200
families. In 1977, the already degraded
forest of Kangad was marked for felling by
forest dept. The women, who had to walk
long way to gather fodder, fuel and water,
were determined to same the last patch of
trees. The men of Kangad were employed
by the Forest dept for the felling operations.
With the gender fragmentation within the
village, it was not easy to launch Chipko.
The women contacted Bimla Bahuguna in
Silyara (15 kms away from Kangad), and
she came with Chipko activists Dhoom
Singh Negi and Pratap Shihar. After 4
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

months of resistance, the women

succeeded in saving their forest.
The womens’ orgn. (Mahila Mandal) then
decided to regenerate the forest. On the
basis of cattle owned by each family,
contributions were raised to employ a forest
guard (Rs 300 p.m) to deter gathering of
wood and fodder. It worked for three years,
after which the watchman became corrupt
and allowed some people to gather wood
and fodder. When the women came to know
of this, they abolished the watchman post
and guarded the forest themselves. 10-12
women were on duty, and it was rotational
in a cycle of 15-20 days. As one woman
said:” On these days we leave our own work
and protect the forest because our oak trees
are like our children”. Oak trees are now
regenerating naturally in Kangad.
Once a Gujjar allowed his goats to graze in
regenerated area, and the women fined him
Rs 200. Once during a forest fire the women
joined hands to put out fire. As one woman
said: “The men were at home, but they
decided to stay back rather than join us.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

The men are least bothered about saving

the trees. In 1986 Mahila Mandal decided to
assist Forest Dept in tree planting. They dug
15000 pits but when they found out that
Forest Dept wants to plant only exotic
Poplars, they refused and forced Forest
Dept to bring back the diverse indigenous
fodder species.

The strength of nature and the strength of

women is the basis of recovery of forest in
Kangad. The market is not the guiding
factor. The capital is not debt and aid from
World Bank. The energy of women and
nature is the capital,and the principle is
conservation for a sustainable living with the

Shiva: The chipko struggle is a non-violent

struggle to recover hidden and invisible
productivity of vital natural resources and
that of women, to recover their entitlements,
and to create ecological insights (social
forestry) and political spaces which do not
destroy fundamental rights to survival.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Ethics of care

Ethics need not follow only the dictates of

rationality (consequence calculation,
authoritarian concerns for justice and
fairness, duty, or rational ideals of
universalizability and reversibility)

For, rationality is not the only element that

humans are made of. Feelings and
emotions play an equally important role in
defining who we are.

The extra emphasis on ‘reason’ as the

defining characteristic of humans as a
species (by Plato, Aristotle, etc) is a ‘male’
bias, which presents a distorted view of
human nature.
It overlooks the role of softer emotions in
our decision-making, and in our moral

Ethics of care, i.e. ethics based on care, is

an ethic from that viewpoint.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Carol Gilligan: The ‘standard’ (male)

viewpoint in ethics is adherence to abstract,
universal rules. ‘Cold and shrewd’ reasoning
drives the moral reasoning. ‘Objectivity’ is
extolled but long-term self-interest is
advocated, and the motivating factor is how
in a moral community every moral agent
has equal worth.

In contrast, there is another perspective

(Gilligan: often feminine) possible on why
we ought to do something. This viewpoint
derives its moral imperatives from the
contextual and unique details of certain
situations and certain individuals.
[E.g. the unique bond between a degraded forest
and local women in Kangad case]

The substantive concern in this perspective

is CARE and RESPONSIBILITY that ensue
from caring (for fellow human beings, for
nature and natural elements)
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Feelings of empathy, compassion,

friendship, kindness, and the self-imposed
moral obligation that one assumes because
of that feeling, particularly when
considerations of short-term or long-term
benefit, or reparation of injustice, apply.

z The moral task is not to follow only

universal and impartial principles, but to
fulfill situation-specific obligations to
specific individuals or groups based on
a sense of care

An accident trauma patient, no one else

C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Ethics of care: person-to-person, or person

to group, or within society

Radical examples:
-Obligations that a mother (parents) feels for
‘caring for’ a child with terminal illness
- Obligations towards the bereaved family of
a departed, very good friend

Moderate examples: Obligations towards

the underprivileged

Extension: A society is an web of

relationships, our well-being cannot be an
isolated affair

We have an extra obligation to take special

care towards those with whom we have
special relationships, such as dependency.
- caring for old parents, sick patients,
friends or relatives going through a
rough patch
- Caring for sick animals
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Ecofeminism of a certain kind speaks

of environmental obligations because
(a) Non-exploitative, non-oppressive
emotional bond with nature (e.g.
the valley that you grew up in),
(b) Asks for a change in the outlook
towards nature (not as
(c) In a sense, much of degradation
and its reparation stands in an
asymmetric ‘dependency’ with

It suggests a different paradigm for

sustainable living.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Shiva on Women in the food chain

Historically nature and women have been

primary food providers thorough natural
The ‘feminine’ principle of food production:
intimate, reciprocal links with crops, trees
and animals. Food production is not a
distinct process from forest, water, animal

The ‘male’ paradigm of food production:

‘Green revolution’, ‘scientific agriculture’,
‘scientific dairy / animal farm’ .
-Food became a commodity for profit
- Displaced women, peasants, and
nature from the process
- Manipulation of nature to yield more.
-‘Efficient’ but not sustainable
Resulting in eco-degradation.

Commodization of food either destroys the

basis of women’s work in food production or
devalues it.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Bina Agarwal [“Neither Sustenance nor Sustainability:

Agricultural Strategies, Ecological Degradation, and Indian
Women in Poverty”, in Structures of Patriarchy, Delhi: Kali
for Women, 1988]

Commercial prosperity through taming of

nature and the resulting devaluation of

In the heart of Green Revolution region of

Punjab, the food abundance in the market
has not been translated into nutrition for the
girl child in the house. A 1978 study shows
that within the same economic zone in
Ludhiana district % of undernourished girl
children is higher than % of undernourished
male children.

This region was the first to turn to

amniocentesis for selective termination of
female fetuses.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Bandopadhyay & Moench [“Basic Needs and

Biomass Utilization”, in J. Bandopadhyay et al, India’s
Value of the
Environment, Dehradun: Natraj, 1987.]:
womens’ knowledge base in food
In Garhwal Himalayas, 2/3 of fodder for
farm animals from the straw of cereal crops
(wheat etc). This is stored to provide animal
fodder during low periods.
The shift to plants vegetables for export
earns cash.
But destroys food and fodder source on the
Pressure on the forests for fodder increases
threefold, as if population has grown
Invisible costs: women have to spend more
energy to get fodder from forests, resulting
forest degradation, soil erosion etc.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Male and Female Morality

From the field of moral psychology: Whether
there is a distinctly female approach to ethics
that is grounded in the psychological differences
between men and women.
According to many feminist philosophers,
traditional morality is male-centered since it is
modeled after practices that have been
traditionally male-dominated, such as acquiring
property, engaging in business contracts, and
governing societies. The rigid systems of rules
required for trade and government were then
taken as models for the creation of equally rigid
systems of moral rules, such as lists of rights
and duties.
They claim: Women, by contrast, have
traditionally had a nurturing role by raising
children and overseeing domestic life. These
tasks require less rule following, and more
spontaneous and creative action. Using the
woman's experience as a model for moral
theory, the basis of morality would be
spontaneously caring for others as would be
appropriate in each unique circumstance. On
this model, the agent becomes part of the
situation and acts caringly within that context.
This stands in contrast with male-modeled
morality where the agent is a mechanical actor
who performs his required duty, but can remain
distanced from and unaffected by the situation.
A care-based approach to morality, as it is
sometimes called, is offered by feminist ethicists
as either a replacement for or a supplement to
traditional male-modeled moral systems.
From Ecology to Ethics: Environmental
Justice and Social Ecology
Basic argument B
P1. Destruction / impairment of natural environment is
largely due to anthropogenic effects or human
impact by certain advantaged populations or
societies, but the burden is placed on the least
advantaged (minorities, poor).

Example: Race is the best predictor in which

neighborhoods the toxic waste sites will be (1982
study, “Toxic Wastes and Race in United States”).
Health and safety risks always higher in the poor
Poor countries are more likely suffer the brunt of
environmental degradation than wealthy countries.

A1.2. Patterns of social domination of one class

over can foster ideology of domination of nature
(SOCIAL ECOLOGY, Murray Bookchin)

P2. Disproportionate burdening is unfair and is social

injustice [Ethical principle based on Rawls’
Distributive Justice, Fairness].

C. Hence, the populations who enjoy more benefits

ought to bear the more burden / obligation / duty to
repair, compensate, restore the natural environment
where possible.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics A-2008

Environmental Justice:
Key issue is the inequity in the distribution
of burden of environmental degradation +
depletion borne by certain groups (the poor,
the women, the racial minorities, the less
developed countries)

And also the inequitable access to the

environmental benefits of certain groups
(the poor, the women, the racial minorities,
the less developed countries)

Goods: Livable environment, better health,

better healthcare, nutrition from food, safe
water, clean air, safe living zones, safe
recreation zones, natural resources

And also participation in the decision-


Burden: Pollution, ozone layer depletion,

fossil fuel cost, proximity to unsafe waste,
health problems, violence, crime, etc.

The aim is: To redress this inequity

C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics A-2008

Acc to this view,

The root causes of environmental injustices

include :

An institutionalized form of discrimination

(race, gender, class, caste, wealth, less
developed countries): a dominating attitude,
a power issue

Power structures that foil the attempts of

more equitable environmental reform

Advocates of this view demand:

That governmental policies (public policies)
be based on respect for all (without
That natural resources should be ethically
That there should be universal protection
from harm
That right to participate in every level of
decision-making should be equitably
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics A-2008


The following memo was circulated at the
world bank in 1991.Lawrence Summers was
the chief economist of world bank at that
time, and went on to become the president
of Harvard University.

Date :December 12,1991 To Distribution

From Lawrence H Summers.

“Dirty” industries: Just Between You And

Me, should not the world bank be
encouraging MORE migration of the dirty
industries to the LDCs (less developed
countries)? I can think of three reasons:

1. The measurements of the costs of

health impairing pollution depend on the
foregone earnings from increased
morbidity and mortality. From this point of
view, a given amount of health impairing
pollution should be done in the country
with the lowest cost, which will be the
country with the lowest wages. I think, the
economic logic behind dumping a load of
toxic wastes in the lowest wage country is
impeccable and we should face upto that.
2. The costs of pollution are likely to be
nonlinear as the initial increments of
pollution probably have very low costs. I
have always thought that under populated
countries are vastly UNDERpolluted, their
air quality is probably vastly inefficiently
low compared to Los Angeles or Mexico
city. Only the lamentable facts that so
much pollution is generated by non-
tradable industries (transport, electrical
generation) and that the unit transport
costs of solid waste are so high prevent
world welfare enhancing trade in air
pollution and waste.
3. The demand for a clean environment
for aesthetic and health reasons is likely
to have very high income elasticity. The
concern over an agent that causes a one
in a million change in the odds of prostrate
cancer is obviously going to be much
higher in a country where people survive
to get prostrate cancer than in a country
where under 5 mortality is 200 per
thousand. Also, much of the concern over
industrial atmosphere discharge is about
visibility impairing particulates. These
discharges may have very little direct
health impact. Clearly trade in goods that
embody aesthetic pollution concerns
could be welfare enhancing. While
production is mobile the consumption of
pretty air is a nontradable. The problem
with the arguments against all of these
proposals for more pollution in LDCs
(intrinsic rights to certain goods, moral
reasons, social concerns, lack of
adequate markets, etc.) could be turned
around and used more or less effectively
against every Bank proposal for

[Source: Laura Westra, “A Transgenic Dinner?

Ethical and Social Issues in Bioetchnology and
Agriculture”, Journal of Social Philosophy 24,
Winter 1993, 215-32.]
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008


Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF)
(EPA) 1986
BUT it is mainly about pollution
EPA 1986 gives power to the central
government i.e., the Union Ministry of
Environment and Forests to take all
measures that it feels is necessary to
protect and improve quality of the
environment and to prevent and control
environmental pollution. To meet this
objective the Central Government can
restrict areas in which any industries,
operations or processes or class of
industries, operations or processes shall not
be carried out or shall be carried out subject
to certain safeguards.(Refer section 3(2)(v)
of the Act.)
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution)

Act, 1974,amended 1988
prohibits the discharge of pollutants into water
bodies beyond a given standard, and lays down
penalties for non-compliance
CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) lays
down the standards

Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act,

C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

2. Conservation
Central Govt is empowered to declare some
areas as Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA)
or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFA) and
thereby granting it a special protection
-1989, Doon Valley, Uttaranchal
[prohibitsthe setting up of an industry in which
the daily consumption of coal/fuel is more than
24 MT (million tonnes) per day in the Doon
-1989, Murud-Janjira (fragile coastal ecology
& heritage), Maharashta,
-1992, Aravalli Hills, to save from large scale
-1996, ‘No development zone’ 15 km radius
of Numaligarh refinery, to save Kaziranga
National Park, Assam
-2001, Mahabaleswar, Panchgani and 2003 Matheran,
to save from human impact and unplanned tourism
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972,

Amendment 1991
Protection to listed species of flora and fauna
and establishes a network of ecologically-
important protected areas.
Empowers the central and state governments to
declare any area a wildlife sanctuary, national
park or closed area. There is a blanket ban on
carrying out any industrial activity inside these
protected areas.
Regulate the hunting of wild animals; protect
specified plants, sanctuaries, national parks and
closed areas; restrict trade or commerce in wild
animals or animal articles; and miscellaneous
The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
Restricts the powers of the state in respect of
de-reservation of forests and use of forestland
for non-forest purposes (the term ‘non-forest
purpose’ includes clearing any forestland for
cultivation of cash crops, plantation crops,
horticulture or any purpose other than re-
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Other notable notifications and rules issued

under EPA:
Taj Trapezium Notification (1998): no power
plant could be set up within the geographical
limit of the Taj Trapezium
Disposal of Fly Ash Notification (1999): to
conserve the topsoil, protect the environment
and prevent the dumping and disposal of fly ash
discharged from lignite-based power plants.
Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling)
Rules, 1989, amended 2000
Biomedical Waste (Management and Handling)
Rules, 1998
Municipal Wastes (Management and Handling)
Rules, 2000
Factories Act, 1948 and its Amendment in 1987
contains a comprehensive list of 29 categories of industries
involving hazardous processes, which could

• Cause material impairment to health of the persons engaged

• Result in the pollution of the general environment

C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

The National Environment Appellate

Authority Act, 1997
the establishment of a National Environment
Appellate Authority to hear appeals with
respect to restriction of areas in which any
industry operation or process or class of
industries, operations or processes could
not carry out or would be allowed to carry
out subject to certain safeguards under the
Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

Other Govt strategies:

z Particulate matter emission standards
z Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)
z Lower Carbon emission (complies to Kyoto
Protocol 2002)
z Incentive for Non-conventional, renewable
energy: Solar, wind
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Other Govt Initiatives:

z Fiscal incentives to the industry: customs
waivers, soft loans, to help installation of
pollution abatement equipments
z Fines on old, inefficient coal-fired plants
z Recycling: deposit refund system
z Bicchri Case, Udaipur, Rajasthan, 1996:
Supreme Court laid down the rule:

Polluter Pays Principle (PPP) 1996:

Absolute and strict liability for harm to the
industry who caused the pollution
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

In Spite of the laws, the facts show a dismal

Uncaring Industrialization is worsening the
State of West Bengal
• All of 15 major rivers are badly polluted. Pollution
load is more from rural and domestic sources
than from urban sources.
• Groundwater level in Kolkata has gone from 3m
to 9m (Highrises)
• Arsenic ( 7 districts very badly affected) and
fluoride contamination (4 major districts)
• Illegal coal mining in Asansol-Ranigunj area has
turned the land over 110 mines into wasteland.
• The KMC and Howrah Muni. Corp produce
120+tonnes of hospital solid waste without a
proper system of waste disposal.
• West Bengal Industrial Dev Corp (WBIDC) and
West Bengal Industrial Infrastructure Corp
(WBIIDC) have no link with State Environmental
Dept or State Pollution Control Board.
[HT, Kolkata Live, “Growth Demon fouls up Bengal Green
Scene”, Subhomoy Chatterjee. Oct 13, 2008, p.4)
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Foremost Environmental Responsibility /

duty : To practice sustainability
Sustainability: the capacity building to
maintain a state or a process indefinitely
Originally from forest, animal management:
-How many trees can be cut without
hampering forest growth: (“Maximum
sustainable cut”)
-How many fish can fished and still have a
fishery functioning at the end of the time
period? (“Maximum sustainable yield”)
But these trees, fish etc are just individual
components of an ecosystem. Even when
these “maximums” are observed for certain
elements, the ecosystem may not remain
Sustainability for a species ≠ sustainability
of the ecosystem
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Also, short-term sustainability ≠ long-term

So, a wider definition is required
Sustainability is a community’s strategy to
build capacity to maintain the quality of life
(economical quality, ecological quality, and
socio-cultural quality)
-Healthy, productive, enriched life

E.g. If in last 10 yrs, less jobs, less

affordability…economical loss in quality of
If in last 10 yrs, more crime, more violence,
more insecurity…loss of social quality
If in last 10 yrs air quality, water quality,
food quality gotten worse, …loss of
environmental quality of life
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

The piecemeal approach to each is the

traditional way.
But now, sustainability is an idealization
about achieving balances simultaneously
among all these three parts:

How to live long, dignified, comfortable, and

productive lives, satisfying their needs in
environmentally sound and socially just
ways so as to not compromise the ability of
other human beings from doing the same
now and into the distant future.

Since humans have contributed to the

environmental problem by unsustainable
ways of living, they have the onus to control
and curb consumption rates and patterns to
achieve sustainability
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

DEVELOPMENT: How to have the cake
and eat it too?
-To bridge the gulf between development
and environment
Defn 1. “Meeting the needs of the present
without compromising the ability of future
generations to meet their own needs”
(Brundtland Report, World Commission on Environment and
Development, 1987)

Mohan Munasinghe (1993, World Bank

Economist): ‘Survivability’ ≠ ‘Sustainability’.
The former requires welfare to be above a
threshold at all times, and the latter requires
that the welfare does not decrease at all
Newer Defn 2. Improving the quality of life
while living within the carrying capacity of
the supporting ecosystems. (Jacobs, 1996,
Politics of the Real World, Earthscan, p.26)
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2010

Sustainability has 3 components or 3

bottom lines (Triple bottom lines or 3BL):
1. Economic (development)
2. Environmental (ecology)
3. Social (equity)
Brundtland report suggested 7 initiatives for
sustainable development:
1. Reviving growth;
2. changing the quality of growth;
3. meeting essential needs for jobs, food, energy,
water and sanitation;
4. ensuring a sustainable level of population;
5. conserving and enhancing the resource base;
6. reorienting technology and managing risk;
7. merging environment and economics in
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Guiding steps towards sustainability:

1.Develop an environment which supports
human dignity through gender and racial
equality and promotes intergenerational
2.Develop honesty and integrity in daily life.
3.Encourage the fair distribution of wealth.
4.Work to strengthen local communities and
safeguard the health and safety of all.
5.Commit to maintaining and enhancing the
integrity and biodiversity of the natural
6.Use natural resources, such as water and land
wisely and aim to reduce consumption.
7.Refuse, reduce, reuse, repair and recycle.
8.Where possible buy “green” products, locally
produced with reduced packaging.
9.Understand the synergies between advances in
technology and behavioural change to achieve
10.Encourage ethical business practices.
11.Develop business strategies which promote
good corporate governance.
12.Encourage financial success through
openness and transparency.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

Some theoretical considerations:

A. Mathusianism or Doomsday argument
Economist Thomas Malthus (in 1798)
predicted that population when unchecked
grows in geometrical ratio and subsistence
for man in arithmetical ratio. Ergo, there is a
limit to any growth (Malthusian limit).
Critics: How has it been possible to have
six-fold increase of population since 1798
and still able to more or less feed the
Neo-Malthusians: In 1973, ‘Club of Rome’
published a book ‘Limits to Growth’
predicting dire consequences for the next
30 years. Most of them have not come true.
But the overall lesson is good: Continued
profligate consumption rate could sooner or
later get us into trouble.
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

B. The optimist Cornucopians: Ester

Boserup (1981) and others claim that
population pressure is not necessarily bad,
it acts as incentive and pressure for more
innovation in technology, for more
production of food. Population declines
when developmental needs are met.
Who is to be believed and what is to be
We still do not have a consensus how
impaired world’s ecosystems are, or what is
our potential for continued development for
the growing population.
So, sustainability remains a core issue
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

The ecological approach to Sustainability:

1. Responsible consumption particularly for
non-renewable resources (mainly for
‘western’ lifestyle, consumerist culture):
-Curb overconsumption wherever possible, -
-Control waste, recycle and reuse wherever
Ex. EU in 2007 mandated that 20% of EU’s
energy requirements must come from
renewable source by 2020. Current rate is
2. Maintain the essential ecological
processes and life support systems: Prevent
decimation, prevent or manage harmful
pollution at the source, help regeneration

3. Preserve genetic biodiversity

Not an easy task
C Chakraborti
IIT KGP Intro to Ethics, A-2008

5 identified areas of sustainable development:

1. economic growth to a limit
2. equitable allocation of resources to sustain
3. more democratic systems: more participation
in developmental decisions and policies
4. adoption of lifestyles within the planet’s
ecological means (aimed to developed
5. population levels within the productive
potential of ecosystems (aimed at Less
developed countries).

India’s National Environment Policy 2006:

Sustainable development is to be
understood in terms of human well-being

(a) Human beings shd be able to enjoy a

decent quality of life
(b) Humans shd become capable to
respect the finiteness of biosphere
(c) Neither aspiration for good life nor
respect for biophysical limit shd
preclude the greater justice in the
[Preamble, NEP 2006]