Carbon footprints, an ethical dilemma

The act of environmental stewardship, dominionship and sustainability being a human matter, which, because of the disregard of laws of nature, through carbon emissions, emissions of greenhouse gases, land degradation and deforestation, results mainly from human beings failing to observe ethical considerations.

By Peter Makwanya

It is the lack of continuous maintenance of environment, otherwise known as environmental sustainability, which is highly ethical, both in scope, content and practice. In any given context, when the environment is allowed to degrade, environmental ethics would not have been taken into consideration.

Environmental ethics stand for appropriate human practices based on the universal ought’s, amounting to sound moral principles. These sound moral principles and practices border on how human beings regulate their consciences.

As such, the dearth of an environmental conscience and moral re-armament is the dearth of environmental stewardship and accounting, all of which amount to sustainable development ethics.

Therefore, environmental ethics border on the relationship between humans and the nature. It is concerned with dos and don’ts of the environmental paradigms and discourses.

The term environmental sustainability is quite easy to articulate, shout or grandstand with, but very difficult to put into practice. As such, that is why we always have these endless Conference of Parties (COPs) and other smaller gatherings alike, designed to take stock on how far human beings would have gone in failing to properly observe and put ethics into practice.

As a result of humans’ insatiable desire, ego, greed and expansionist tendencies, natural resources have been plundered and abused, and the ecosystem remains unbalanced more than ever before.

And as result, we are, therefore, living in a shaky, polluted and intoxicated environment. There are many factors contributing to sustainable development, which also help to shape the environment.

These are economic, socio-cultural, religious, environment and developmental. But problems always arise as a result of the manner in which human beings interact and engage in land use practices. If human beings cannot maintain land, ecosystems and biodiversity, there won’t be a balance in the natural environment.

Many countries have problems in implementing environmentally and ethically sound solutions, or if they did, they have problems of managing their domestic environmental affairs.


Other issues contribute to unethical and incoherent policies when the local communities are not placed in charge of their natural resources.

This would result in their carbon footprint and environmental degradation that are not part of their own making. Local communities always watch as the natural resources in their communities are felled, mined, ploughed and harvested, mainly by foreign interests and their local proxies, leaving carbon footprints dotted all over their local environments.

Environmental advocacy groups and green movements, which help to fight for the conservation and preservation of their natural resources, are always being bullied by the State apparatus, when they attempt to uncover corrupt tendencies of government officials. In some cases, the ecological footprint in local communities, points towards human beings’ desire towards unlimited natural resources plunder.

Of course, countries survive through sustainable exploitation of natural resources, but when the exploitation is done in ways that deny and compromise future generations’ desire to realise their needs and aspirations, then the whole process becomes highly unethical and unevenly balanced.

Other practices that are largely based on unethical behaviour that puts human survival in danger, are those that damage the earth’s support systems like unclean air, polluted water, degraded land and depleted forests. All these complement each other.

Whether it is for the purposes of development, industrialisation or technological development, it is unethical to overuse natural resources indiscriminately. It is also unethical to destroy or temper with wetlands for building purposes, or to pollute the air, water, land and infrastructure.

It is, therefore, the duty of the government and responsible authorities to lead the way in encouraging people to live in harmony with in their environment, through biodiversity conservations, recognising the critical roles played by local communities as environmental stewards.

Lastly, it is critical to recognise and have a repository of human and natural capital for the sustainable development that we always cherish for.

Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his capacity and can be contacted on: petrovmoyt@gmail.com

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