ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS AND
Environmental ethics is concerned with the moral relations that hold between humans and the natural world. The ethical principles governing those relations determine our duties, obligations, and responsibilities with regard to the Earth’s natural environment and all the animals and plants that inhabit it. I shall use the term “the natural world” to refer to the entire set of natural ecosystems on our planet, along with the populations of animals and plants that make up the biotic communities of those ecosystems.
The idea of a natural ecosystem as it is to be understood in this book means any collection of ecologically interrelated living things that, without human intrusion or control, maintain their existence as species-populations over time, each population occupying its own environmental niche and each shaped by the evolutionary processes of genetic variation and natural selection. Two types of natural ecosystems may be distinguished. First, there are those that have never been exploited by humans and have not undergone any major changes as the effect of human culture and technology. Examples are remote expanses of northern tundra, mountain forests, savannah grasslands, cactus deserts, and the marshlands of river estuaries. Insofar as such ecosystems are left undisturbed by humans, they remain in pristine condition and their biotic communities exist in a