Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
National Park Service (NPS)
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Role of Civil Society in Environment Protection & Preservation
Environment protection and preservation has been a serious concern for countries all across the globe. But the government of United States government has been acting as a leader in this regard. It is the first government to introduce a separate department solely for the purpose of ensuring that the natural environment is well-protected and in case of any damage, necessary preservation methodologies are adopted. In order to support this objective, U.S. government has formed various agencies and other departments over time with the sole purpose of protecting all the elements of natural environment.
However, it is important to note that where there two distinct approaches available to be followed in terms of environmental ethics i.e. anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric approaches, U.S. government has shown its advocacy for a middle way instead of following one approach as one emphasizes on intrinsic values whereas the other focuses on rights of the nature and its inhabitants. Steps taken by U.S. government have shown that it considers protection of ecological balance of the nature as important as human rights. It has introduced various legislations and acts with reference to climate change, emergencies, green living, fuel economy, oil pollution, radiation protection, health and safety, land and water cleanup, pesticides, chemical and toxics, waste management, water protection and recycling, wild life protection, agriculture management etc.
United States government has also supported civil society to play it role in this regard. The presence of relevant legislations and dedicated authorities for environment protection and other policies encouraging participation from NGOs and other citizens, are also making substantial contribution for the achievement of this objective.
Environmental ethics is one of the major concerns of many nations across the globe. With the advancement in society' structure, technology and business processes, governments along with other social elements are paying considerable attention to this area. Where many countries are introducing concrete measures in order to play their role in environment protection, United States is no different. In fact, United States' government is a pioneer in acknowledging the importance of environment protection since it was the first one to introduce a formal government body solely for this purpose. United States government is playing an effective role in introducing reforms and taking measures meant for environment protection and restoration whereas other organizations such as business enterprises, non-profit organizations, communities and religious bodies are also taking part for the fulfillment of similar cause.
Definition of Environment Ethics & Its Approaches
The term environmental ethics is associated with many policies and procedures lately. It is mainly used to define a relationship of a society with the environment in which it is operating. The foundation of environment ethics is based on a simple question: what is our responsibility to environment and the social balance of it. Whenever the term environment is used, it is perceived to be a reflection of the living and non-living elements of nature creating an ecological balance. This nature is meant to stay in balance in order to avoid any natural calamity. Damage to one element has a tendency of introducing a domino effect; therefore it is important that no harm should be caused to it, in the first place.
Whenever the term environment ethics is coined, a concern arises as to what exactly constitutes the environmental ethics i.e. what is society's responsibility to nature and how far does it goes. This question would become rather easier to answer if an exact value of nature can be estimated. Here, another question arises: does the nature posses any intrinsic value of its own or is it only important on the basis of scope of benefits offered by it to the society. This difference of intrinsic and instrumental value leads to two different approaches towards environment protection and reservation.
It has been almost four decades since the importance of environment protection has been acknowledged by the United States and also by other nations of the world, however the field is still in its infancy with reforms being introduced at exponential rate. With the evolution in this field, two different approaches have been introduced. Anthropocentric approach refers to examining the importance of environment in terms of benefits offered by it to the humans. According to this approach, only humans hold the key importance in this environment and all the other forms of life and units to ecological balance are meant to serve humans. Even humans are valuable because they have a rationale purpose to serve which makes them the only logical inhabitant and owner of this environment. However, this approach fails to acknowledge the role of infants and elderly citizens in the society along with mentally-challenged individuals as well. Considering this major drawback, this approach tends to provide a limited scope of environment protection reforms since it fails to provide the moral grounds which can be levied equitably on all units of the society.
On the contrary, the non-anthropocentric approach considers every element of ecological system ranging from microorganisms to other non-living units which are responsible for providing habitat to the living things along with performing other functions. However, this approach itself is too broad in nature since if moral consideration acts as a ground for utilizations of any natural resources, some of them may possess conflict to the human requirements. For example, if bacteria causing fatal diseases are considered as a living organism towards which society possess reasonable responsibility in terms of protection, then human safety would be endangered whereas there are no empirical evidences of benefits offered by this bacteria.
It can be seen that these two schools of thought offer a broad range of vision which is not suitable to be adopted by humans completely. If current policies of United States government are considered that a compromised way of dealing with environmental issues has been opted by it.
United States & Environmental Ethics
Role of United States Government
United States government has undertaken the responsibility of environment protection and preservation and for this purpose; it has established a network of agencies which are provided with the roles of protecting different elements of the environment. Some of the most eminent agencies are Environment Protection Agency, National Parks Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Department of Agriculture. The government of United States has been highly active in introducing measures meant for protection of human rights (Bill of Rights, Minorities Act etc.), but it has not neglected the other aspects of the society and nature.
These agencies are solely responsible for the protection of the longevity of natural resources, wild life and the related species thriving in the ecological systems governed by these agencies. Although it will be noted that United States government has paid more attention towards the elements which are of intrinsic value i.e. land, water, food, animals. However, it is also important to note that these measures are not solely motive driven and are meant for the welfare of the society at the end.
Environment Protection Agency
In 1970, United States government dedicated a complete federal department named as Environment Protection Agency, for the purpose of environmental safety which was a pioneering step of its kind. The sole purpose of this department is to provide guidelines to the general public, federal departments, business enterprises and other units of the society with reference to environment protection and restoration. These guidelines are related to human health, air-related issues, climate change, emergencies, green living, fuel economy, oil pollution, radiation protection, health and safety, land and clean up, pesticides, chemical and toxics, waste management, water protection and recycling. This broad range of issues cover human rights protection related to environment, animal protection, general layout of corporate social responsibility of business enterprises, drugs and food management etc. It is important to note that along with providing guidance regarding environment protection, EPA also has complete authority to take measures which are necessary for reinforcing these standard procedures and processes intended for environment protection.
Although EPA is not a federal department but an agency its administrator is appointed by the president with the status equivalent to cabinet rank. With headquarters in Washington D.C., the agency has its operations extended all over United States with the help of an extensive workforce comprising of 17000 employees having specialized skills and knowledge, scattered in ten regions, working with 27 laboratories. EPA is responsible for introducing and enforcing national standards operating under environmental laws, state acts, and local legislation. The agency has a wide ranging of authority extending from grating sanction, imposing penalties and issuing restraining orders. The agency also works with industries and all levels of government in a wide variety of voluntary pollution prevention programs and energy conservation efforts.