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Environment Column

Environmental Ethics

Many people associate the environmental movement as a bunch of nature loving, tree huggers, who want to save the polar bears and whales. While the environmental movement is definitely geared towards preserving nature, an often overlooked aspect of the movement is the ethical responsibility that we as humans have.

When a nuclear power plant needs to dispose of its waste, or a new landfill is looking for a location, the "NIMBY" (Not in my back yard) movement is always prevalent. Nobody wants to live near a toxic environment, especially one which pollutes the air and water we use every day. By default, people and countries which have the most money tend to have the most political clout.

Here in the Bay Area, there are plenty of obvious examples of how poor communities are left with the burden of undesirable sites. The infamous Chevron oil refinery located in Richmond, CA is well known for the negative health effects it causes on the surrounding community. The atmospheric pollution which is emitted by Chevron's refinery has caused cancer and other lung ailments, yet the nearby community does not have the power to change it. If this exact scenario was happening in Beverly Hills, killing rich people, you can bet it would be fought against and the refinery would no longer exist.

In the Western World, we use countless high tech electrical devices that become obsolete within a couple years. Most Americans have had numerous cell phones within the past decade, usually at least one every 2 years when the contract is up. It is easy to forget where the old phones go because we simply throw them away or bring them to an electronic waste recycler. It turns out that even some of the "legitimate" E-waste recycling companies send everything to undeveloped countries. Once they are dumped on these underdeveloped countries, people who have no other alternative form of income are forced to submit their bodies to toxic chemicals while they remove and heat off the precious metals found in the electronics.

Who cares?

Well, hopefully you care. As someone who has the ability to make choices as to what they buy and use, it is our moral responsibility to minimize the suffering we cause to other human beings. It is possible to live your life ignoring the fact that our possesions affect other people, but if you have any moral conscience, at least give it some consideration.

By Corey Chin

Corey's Recent Articles

Biodegradable Plastics 11/5/10

Are Hybrid Cars Better? 10/27/10

Plastic in the Pacific Ocean 10/22/10

Thomas Friedman's Ideas on Globalization 10/20/10

Yellow-Legged Frog Population Decline 10/15/10

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