Introduction: View on nature and ethics

The term, nature, plays an important role in the understanding of sustainability. The way we perceive nature influences how we treat the different species with which we share the planet. If you think the ocean is a pantry for humans, you will probably be less inclined to think that life in the ocean is not necessarily just for human survival and satisfaction. If you primarily think of the pleasure you derive from eating meat, it is less likely that you will consider the fact that meat production raises ethical questions and has consequences for nature around us. Meat production often entails animals being caged in with very little space, tied up and exposed to pain.

Indeed, agriculture as a whole means that areas with great species diversity are continually being transformed into so-called monocultures, where the diversity has disappeared and only a few crops grow. This certainly meets human needs, but it does not benefit many other species on Earth. Through time, ethical problems of this type have been the subject of philosophical reflections about humans’ relationships with nature. Such reflections concern the way nature is viewed and ethics; the latter meaning philosophical considerations of a moral type. In this theme, we provide a brief overview of some important topics in this field.

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