What responsibility, if any, do countries have in preventing environmental damage?

Published 20 Apr 2017

It is written in the Bible that God created first the mountains, the seas, the animals and the trees before He made the first man and woman. Probably because He apprehended that man cannot live without all those things hence He prepared them for man’s subsistence. With this, man should be grateful not only to Him but also to the things that are necessary for his survival.

According to Thomas Hurka, the author of the book: Virtue, Vice, and Value, man’s everyday dwellings can be condensed with man’s pursuit of what can give him pleasure or happiness. This pleasure or happiness that he was talking about is measured by a particular value. Value then is that which determines the degree of pleasure or happiness that a person can get upon obtaining certain things.

But then, value is a much contested concept. As I had stated earlier, value is that which indicates the degree of pleasure or happiness. However, the value of the things that we have in this world varies with reference to the benefits that these things can provide to mankind. Value is then classified into two kinds, namely: the intrinsic and the instrumental value. A particular thing is regarded to have intrinsic value when it is indispensable in itself or for its own sake. Examples of this are justice, freedom, good and happiness. On the other hand, the latter is a derivative of intrinsic value. This implies that instrumental value is being pursued in lieu of the intrinsic value.

Examples of this include all the things that are necessary for man’s survival.
In connection with the abovementioned survival of mankind, the nature or the environment itself is vital in human flourishing. The nature or the environment itself gives man the food that he eats, the house that shelters him, the clothes that cover him and all other things that man uses in his everyday activities. Hence without the nature or the environment, man cannot really exist.

Nevertheless, man is being ungrateful to the environment. He seeks help from it yet he neglects and abuses it. Man becomes so selfish that he only thinks of himself. He becomes so much in tuned of the belief that man can do whatever he wants with the things that surrounds him. He is being blinded by the idea that man is the most superior being thus he can do whatever that pleases him. As how Hurka asserted it, when man becomes self-centered he refuses to include in his preservation other things that co-exists with him. He moves away from the concept of being virtuous and turns himself as vicious and capricious being. These vices of mankind result to environmental degradation. Illegal loggings, illegal fishing, destruction of natural ecosystem, increase on number of endangered species, global warming, and even nuclear testing are among those ill-activities and ill-results of man’s evilness towards the environment. In his pursuit of what can give him happiness, he unconsciously (or maybe he is somehow aware of it) devastates the environment and all that it has.

Consequently, man’s desertion of environmental welfare results to his own annihilation. Various kinds of diseases are present in this modern period. Poverty and famine are taking many lives of people from different regions of the world. Even with the aid of the First World Countries, such incidences cannot be treated without addressing first the root of all the evil things that holds back man from safeguarding his own life – and that is the disregard for environmental maintenance.

Surely, countries have duties and obligations towards the environment. The fact that their people themselves are the very ones who benefit from the environment is enough to consider a campaign for sustaining and protecting the environment. Man has duty to himself and to others hence he should also accept the verity that he owes so much from the environment. Preserving the environment implies preservation of mankind. Thus, all of us (all countries regardless of their race and cultural inclinations) must act together to achieve environmental stability. Let us not look at it as an altruistic attitude. Let us just say that by pursuing things that have instrumental value, we are also moving towards the things that has intrinsic value. Let us live with the virtue of moderation. By this, we are only getting what we only need.


  • Hurka, T. (2006). Virtue, Vice, and Value Oxford University Press.
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