How far must we take our moral obligations to the earth?

I am an avid protector of the environment, but I find myself facing daily struggles about how to live my life. I think every environmentalist inevitably faces certain hard decisions every day. On one hand, we want to care for the environment and the world’s wildlife and human populations. On the other hand, this makes life very difficult.

Should I bike to work for 30 minutes in the snow and 8-degree temperature? Should I stop eating the french fries I love so much from McDonald’s? Should I buy only local even though I can barely afford it?

Today I read an article about the effects of birth control hormones when they are flushed down the toilet. According to a University of Idaho press release, “James Nagler, professor of biological sciences, recently discovered that 17α-ethynylestradiol – an active chemical in birth control pills – causes cells in rainbow trout to have an abnormal number of chromosomes.”

There have been studies on the effects of birth control hormones on human populations as well. One study stated that the estrogen that entered drinking water as a result of flushing the toilet could affect the gender of an unborn child, thus causing a positive spike in the birth of female babies.

It would seem ethical then, to cease the use of birth control pills. This, however, fails to address the world’s problem with overpopulation. It also fails to recognize the many health benefits that are offered by birth control pills such as controlling the severity of endometriosis and interstitial cystitis.  Many women even use birth control to lessen the pain of their menstrual cycles.

How do we find a balance then, between protecting the environment and protecting ourselves? I personally suffer from a condition known as interstitial cystitis and have been successfully using birth control as a method of controlling the pain and discomfort associated with the condition for more than a year.

I feel horrible knowing that by treating my condition, I may be negatively affecting human and animal populations. So what are we to do?  Should we all just try to do what we can to help save the environment and worry a little less about the not-so-good things we do to contribute to the problem? Is it enough that I use reusable shopping bags, buy organic, recycle, start a carpool club at work, and write this blog? Or should we all sacrifice just a little more?

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2 responses to “How far must we take our moral obligations to the earth?

  1. I think it’s important for us to try as well as we can… The problems of the world are absolutely overwhelming – environmental, human rights, etc. I don’t think anything is ever “enough” per se, but you can’t beat yourself up for not being able to solve all the problems. You know about and are sharing this knowledge with others (like me!) which is a good start to maybe finding a solution to this problem… Take pride in the actions you do take for the earth
    I think if we get caught up in worrying about whether our actions are ever “enough” we may get discouraged and not take the actions we can and that would be tragic

  2. It would seem ethical then, to cease the use of birth control pills. This, however, fails to address the world’s problem with overpopulation.

    Birth control is certainly going to play a part in gracefully reducing the human population, but since food supply is the main determiner of population, you can throw birth control pills at as many women as you can and the population will probably still grow so long as the food supply does.

    As far as the topic of this post is concerned: try to see environmental issues from a non-moral angle and try to realize that destroying your landbase is insane whether it is “wrong” or not.

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