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Moral philosophy or what we call ethics is mostly concerned with the clarification of fundamental ethical concepts, the elucidation of principles and the critical discussion of positions and perspectives (Miller, 1984). In other words, ethics as one branch of philosophy is concerned with particular sort of value, namely, value as it applies to personal actions, discussions, and relations (Ibid). It is concerned with moral values which define personal decisions and actions as good or evil, as moral or immoral. It raises questions like: what is moral good? What is right? Am I my brother’s keeper? Etc …    

With regard to moral philosophy there are different theories. The most prominent ones are teleological and deontological theories of morality. A teleological theory of morality is one which stresses the consequences of actions and even makes the consequences of actions the criterion, or test, of their rightness (Miller, 1984). An action is judged right or wrong, moral or immoral, depending on what happens as a result of it, its payoff (Ibid). In simple terms it means the end justifies the means. Quite different from teleological moral theory—in fact, directly opposed to it—is the deontological moral theory. An important clue as to what this means lies in the Greek word from which it comes: deo, which means “to bind” (Ibid). On the deontological view, the will is bound by duty. That is, what makes an action right or wrong is the actor’s conformity to his or her duty. The actor’s duty has nothing to do with what might or might not happen as a result of the action.

However, one should note that in moral philosophy (ethics) at large and in the above two moral theories briefly discussed above, the main concern is humanity or it is human welfare. It has nothing to do directly with protecting Mother Nature (Pachamama) where life is reproduced and exists. The irony of human morality whether teleological or deontological is that it does not give a damn to the fountain of life Mother Nature as far as human greed (in modern language human rationality or profit) is satisfied. Because of this anthropocentric (short sightedness) approach or none inclusive (species chauvinism) approach of morality, currently humanity is facing a serious existential problem—the climate change.

I think I do not have to preach the effects of climate change on us (least developing countries like Ethiopia) since we are experiencing it firsthand. Again, the irony is developing countries like Ethiopia are not the causes of this existential threat but we are paying dearly. In this regard “in a telling example, the Africa Progress Panel notes that it would take the average Ethio­pian 240 years to register the same carbon footprint as the average American (Brookings Institution, 2015).  


Of course, at this juncture, I must make myself clear that I do not mean we do not have to use Mother Nature to exist. Or in other words, I do not mean we need to romanticize Mother Nature but we need to take due care in using Mother Nature. And this should start by including Mother Nature in our daily ethical discourses. Hence, the title “The Imperative to include Mother Nature (Pachamama) in our Moral Discourses. 


Tsegai Berhane (PhD)

Mekelle University, School of Law




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