Laszlo Zsolnai was teaching a class on Environmental Ethics in the program “Sustainable Development for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region” in July 5, 2010 in Venice. The program was organized by the Regional Environmental Center and the Venice International University.
Zsolnai argued that society affects the natural environment at different levels. Individual biological creatures are affected by business via hunting, fishing, agriculture, animal testing, etc. Natural ecosystems are affected by business via mining, regulating rivers, building, polluting the air, water and land, etc. The Earth as a whole is affected by business via exterminating species, contributing to climate change, etc.
At the level of individual biological creatures, awareness-based ethics is adequate. It implies that society should assure natural life conditions and painless existence for animals and other sentient beings. At the level of natural ecosystems, ecosystem ethics is relevant. It implies that society should use natural ecosystems in a proper way, that is, not damaging the health of the ecosystem during use. At the level of the Earth as a whole, Gaian ethics applies. Its implication is that society should not contribute to the violation of the systemic patterns and global mechanisms of the Earth. Satisfying the above principles can assure sustainability in an ethically meaningful way.