Environmental and Social Ethical Dilemmas, Moral Responsibility

Questions: The Ethics Of Environmental And Social Issues

Water, Environment, Ethics

Is Water A Basic Human Right And Who Should Profit If It Is Indeed A Commodity?

If not, then who should profit from water and does the question even matter?

We know some of the story of Nestlé and its bottled water industry. Brabeck raises questions of ethics around water: who should have access, who has a right to water, and who should profit from what he and Nestlé believe is a commodity, not a given human right.

“Arguably, no country understands the water crisis better than South Africa. The era of water at throwaway prices is coming to an end. I have long argued that we need to set a price that more accurately values our most precious commodity.” ~ Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, former CEO and Chairman of Nestlé.

Interestingly, Brabeck consistently uses the argument that clean water is a finite, precious, and increasingly scarce resource to prove his opinion that water as a basic human right is extreme.

Instead he says,

“So this 380 liters of water [Brabeck’s estimation of the excess water Americans use]; I don’t think is a human right. This should have a price. Why? Because if you do not put the price, we would not make the investments which are necessary in order to use the most precious of the resources that we have in a more responsible manner.”

Is Brabeck right? Do we use and waste too much of our clean water proving this to be true: “not all water use should be regarded as equal?” Does this mean that we lose our right to that water?

Nestlé believes that water must have a greater monetary value to see an economic return, with the greatest profit going to corporations. Is privatization the way to realizing water conservation?

“A rise in water prices would also improve efficiency in this area [agriculture].”

What water usage is regarded as important enough to be considered a human right and how one should get access to clean water look?

What Is Acceptable If You’re Poor?

Apparently poor isn’t what it used to be, especially because they are not paying their “fair share.”


Besides the fact that nearly everything mentioned in the Fox News montage was an altered version of the truth, should we really condemn those who own refrigerators as “parasites”, a “moocher class,” and “utterly irresponsible animals”?

Jon Stewart has the snark covered, and I hope you watch the whole clip, but I this raises some important questions we need to ask ourselves about class, fairness, and again, what we need to do about it.

What Do Morals Have To Do With Government Budgets?

Paul Ryan’s version of a federal budget has already passed the House, but recently garnered more attention for the overarching theme of placing a greater burden on the poor. Ryan claimed that his Catholic teachings inspired his decision to cut services and programs for the poor and vulnerable.

However, the chairmen of the USCCB’s Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace, Bishops Blaire and Pates, decried Ryan’s budget as failing to meet moral criteria. Is this what we want from a federal budget?

What are the problems with our federal budget options and what moral criteria should be used in determining a sound budget for the country?

“The bishops’ conference acknowledges the difficult challenges that Congress, the Administration and government at all levels face to match scarce resources with growing needs. A just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons; it requires shared sacrifice by all.”

“[W]e urge the committee to draw a “circle of protection” around resources that serve those in greatest need and put their needs first even though they do not have powerful advocates or great influence.”

The measure of a society should rightly be based on how it treats its most vulnerable members.


If you haven’t figured this already, can you guess what Paul Ryan, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, and most in the Fox News montage have in common?

“Rich people paying rich people to tell middle class people to blame poor people.”

I think it is obvious that while there may be no hard lines or black and white answers on these ethical issues, when it comes to natural resources as commodities, class economics, and global hunger and poverty, we do have moral obligations to one another and to future generations.

It only benefits us all when ethics weigh more heavily than money. Perhaps counterintuitive to some, there are greater social and economic gains to be seen when human resources, children, and the environment are a priority.

The personal is political and I wonder where your personal ethics, or morals, lead you?

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Environmental and Social Ethical Dilemmas, Moral Responsibility — 3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Environmental and Social Ethical Dilemmas, Moral Responsibility … | Captainslacko's Green Living Tips

  2. Absolutely agree that “The measure of a society should rightly be based on how it treats its most vulnerable members.” Those who are privileged enough to live beyond an everyday awareness of their most basic needs have no right to speak for, manage, or dictate to those living financial hardship. Where we have most in lives is where we need to practice gratitude and generosity – anything else shows us to be underserving of our riches.

    Thanks for the post.

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