Give two examples of situations in which environmental values could come into conflict with other values.

Examples of situations in which environmental values could come into conflict with other values, such as economic values or family values, include deciding whether or not a businessman should fly across the country for a meeting or whether a family should buy a gas car or an electric car.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are numerous cases where the needs of the environment come into conflict with those of human beings, especially those in the developing world.

For instance, a multinational oil company might want to build a refinery in a developing country. Indeed, this is precisely what happened in Nigeria. Such a...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

There are numerous cases where the needs of the environment come into conflict with those of human beings, especially those in the developing world.

For instance, a multinational oil company might want to build a refinery in a developing country. Indeed, this is precisely what happened in Nigeria. Such a refinery is likely to provide well-paying jobs that are desperately needed by local people, most of whom will be very poor.

Yet at the same time, the projected oil refinery will almost certainly be responsible for toxic emissions that will cause massive air pollution in the area, damaging the health of the local population. In this particular scenario, a trade-off has to be made between employment opportunities and the wellbeing of the environment.

Another example of a conflict of values can be seen in the decision of the Trump Administration to allow drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). As well as providing more jobs, proponents of drilling argue that it will drive down the cost of energy, thus reducing America's reliance on foreign oil imports.

However, opponents have responded by saying that drilling in the ANWR will cause irreparable damage to a fragile eco-system as well as generating massive pollution in the area. Once again, we see a clear conflict between the need to protect the environment and economic imperatives.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In order to answer this question, we need to think about what some examples of environmental values would be. Preventing climate change would be one great example, as would keeping air and water pollution to a minimum. Depletion of natural resources is another example, as is the responsible use of energy.

Let's take a look at climate change as one issue which causes environmental values to clash with economic values. Burning fossil fuels is one of the primary causes of accelerated climate change, and every time an airplane takes a flight, fossil fuels are burned. It is therefore logical to say that when a businessman flies across the United States for a meeting, he contributes to climate change. It may seem like a negligible amount of fossil fuels are used to transport one person, but from an environmental ethics point of view, we need to remember that every person's actions make a difference. While the business may benefit from him attending the meeting, this comes into conflict with environmental values.

As a second example, let us consider a family who chooses to buy a traditional gas-powered car rather than an electric car in order to outlay less money. This creates a conflict between family values, in which a parent is ensuring that they have the funds required to pay for all the family's other needs, and environmental values, which dictate that they should buy the electric car in order to lessen fossil fuel emissions.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The desire for economic growth and profits for businesses often come into conflict with the desire to protect the environment. There has been growing concern about the effects of climate change caused by the emission of pollutants into the environment. People are worried that as climate patterns change, there will be devastating consequences throughout the world. However, businesses don’t want to install equipment that will add to their costs and potentially reduce their profits. Many consumers don’t want to pay higher prices for environmentally friendly products. Installing anti-polluting devices on machines in factories or catalytic converters in automobiles add to the cost of products. There was also significant opposition to the Alaska pipeline project because of fears of how it might impact the environment. However, the project did proceed, which led to an increase in the production of oil in the United States while somewhat reducing the American dependency on foreign oil supplies.

Another example of this conflict is the deep tunnel project in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There was a great debate about the need for this tunnel and the cost of this project. Some people felt it was a waste of money and was not necessary to build the tunnel. Eventually, a deep storm sewer tunnel was built to help store runoff water and to manage sewage levels during rainy periods. As a result of this tunnel, the number of times untreated sewage has been released into Lake Michigan has dropped significantly, which has been beneficial to the water supply and for the environment. However, when Milwaukee receives large amounts of rain, the tunnel capacity gets overwhelmed and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District (MMSD) has to release untreated waste into Lake Michigan. This is done to avoid sewer backups in people’s homes. MMSD is allowed to do this up to six times in one year. While it isn’t good for the environment, it saves people the cost of having to clean up and/or repair their basements when the sewers back up, which would bring sewage into their homes.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

For the most part, environmental values come into conflict with economic values.  They can also come into conflict with the value of personal liberty.

As an example of the first, think about the idea of a carbon tax.  Such a tax would tend to reduce pollution.  However, many people think that it would also raise prices on energy and hurt the economies of countries that imposed it.  In this case, the value of environmentalism comes into conflict with that of economic prosperity.

As an example of personal liberties, think about the ban on incandescent light bulbs.  Some people simply like those bulbs better and want to be allowed to have them.  This desire for liberty comes into conflict with the environmental values that tell us we should not use light bulbs that are not energy-efficient.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team