Valuing lives and preserving the planet

New Perspectives from Environmental Ethics

Written on 2014/02/18 by Alex J Simiema

On August 20, 2013, the world has reached its limit. Known as Earth Overshoot Day, this is a day of impressive name that does not deserve any celebration. It represents the estimated date when the world reaches the capacity to absorb all the carbon emitted globally. Simply put, all the emissions from August 21 until the end of the year will be accumulated. We are, year after year, pulling against the future to pay off the environmental deficit of the present. And it means that we are aggravating the problem in the future.

If every year we accumulate more and more pollution, the absorption potential of the following year is reduced and so the time is dwindling. Deprive future generations of their development capacity. This is evident by the annual retreat of such date on the calendar. In 1993, for example, the overshoot occurred on October 21. Did the pollution increase? That is beyond doubt. But it is crucial to understand that we have reduced the ability to absorb carbon in the planet. The clearing of tropical forest, for example, influences two statistics.

It has been widely discussed as how do we stop the extermination of life on this planet; speaking of environmental ethics that should be adopted by global community and especially by governments. So, what conclusion is reached?

It is time to face the environmental discussion as fundamental part of various societies that comprise the global community. And the most sensible way to achieve the goal is to implement local actions inserted in the global context. The society of each region needs to wake up to the environmental cause that must be addressed both horizontally, and vertically. This is not unrealistic, utopian; or does anyone still doubt of the importance of waste sorting, for example? 

The human being has fundamental freedoms such to preserve one’s own life. At different times, it may have meant large open clearing in forests and woodlands for settlements, killing wild animals to eat (or avoid being eaten), and even start wildfires in order to obtain arable lands. But given the magnificent scale that humanity has acted, it is necessary to rethink the way we live.

The American astronomer Dr Carl Sagan wrote that the Humanity has reached the point of its own existence where the fundamental numbers are given in billions. One of the examples used was the number of individuals on Earth. Nowadays, the estimation is of 7 billion human beings, but in 1810 we were 1 billion. And we might be 10 billion in 2050. Is there room for all of us?

We live in a world of infinite possibilities, but with finite resources. One such possibility is the sustainable management of agricultural and forest lands. This can be achieved by the establishment of groups of farmers in the forest areas that are committed to the environmental service and are guardians of the forest, literally speaking without any romantic view of such expression.

One major field of discussion today is the food production, since this is linked to the environmental discussion. The productive land extensions are also finite. The global community has been reviewing its priorities and concluded that the current production way is unquestionably unfair. The planet is devastated, people are dying of hunger and food is wasted.

The Environmental Ethics is a comprehensive field of study and it must take into account important issues such as Food Supply, Geopolitics and Freedom. It is time an ultimate approach to such Ethics is introduced to the world. We need a solution that is able to meet the various demands of the world that addresses the environmental cause, while solving the social question and supplying economic demand.


It is time the World discovers Brasil Mata Viva.


Contribution by:

Alex J. Simiema. Vice-president of BMTCA Sustainability Exchange.