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The Daily Tar Heel

Environmental panel discuss ethical issues

6 share views on the environment

A panel of environmental experts magnified the link between nature and human rights Wednesday night.

In a public discussion about environmental responsibility held in the Sonja Haynes Stone Center, an expert panel expressed the importance of environmental issues in the public consciousness.

Jeanette Boxill, director of the Parr Center, said environmental issues were chosen to be discussed for their universal importance.

“The Earth is what we all have in common,” she said. “Taking care of it is our responsibility.”

The discussion consisted of six panelists, each of whom shared their perspectives on the ethical issues associated with environmental responsibilities.

Jamie Bartram, professor of environmental science and engineering, noted that the United Nations has declared drinking water and sanitation as basic human rights.

“The government is respecting the right of drinking water and sanitation, protecting the right, and most importantly, fulfilling the right.”

Bill Ross, an environmental science and policy professor from Duke University, said relinquishing preconceived notions about the environment is critical to sustaining its future.

“The environment’s old story are the notions that our resources are inexhaustible and that man has dominion over nature,” he said. “We must work towards a sustainable future in which people have a fighting chance at a healthy and prosperous life.”

Victor Flatt, professor of environmental law at UNC, brought attention to the limitations of common law in relation to environmental concerns.

Even though this could provide a framework that would maximize the health of individuals, as far as the environment is concerned, common law hasn’t been able to keep pace with technological changes,” he said.

Contrary to the governmental focus of most panelists, Marilyn Adams, a philosophy professor at UNC and an Episcopalian priest, framed the issue with a religious viewpoint.

“Many use the Christian religion to rationalize the rape of the environment, but this is a misrepresentation of context,” she said. “The theology of life is the idea that God is the source of all life. Nature isn’t ours to use however we want to — we must be courteous consumers.”

Senior Alexander Gillon said he was able to relate to the meeting’s message.

“I appreciated Bartram’s economic perspective because I am in a class about that, and it was interesting to hear his take on the current debate on environmental policy,” he said.The panel was sponsored by the Parr Center for Ethics, an organization that sponsors and supports events that address ethical issues.

Contact the University Editor at udesk@unc.edu.

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