2. Three levels of environmental reasoning

Earlier we distinguished three fields of environmental ethics: resource ethics, animal ethics and nature ethics. This division can be abolished in certain cases. Discrimination is applied analytically but not categorically. Some environmental problems—such as the protection of water in the foundation of natural parks, in spacious urban planning, etc.—have aspects of all three: resource, animal and nature ethics.

In order to establish a classification of environmental ethics it is important not only to discriminate between the three fields (among environmental ethicists these are largely agreed), but also to distinguish the different levels on which environmental ethics are implemented. According to Konrad Ott (2000), three such levels can be outlined:

  1. Philosophical level (ethics)
  2. Political–legal level (laws)
  3. Casuistic level (single cases and actions)

On the one hand, each level requires a different sphere of acitivity; on the other hand, these levels are built on each other: public measures in reference to single cases (environmental management) have to be legally protected. The law for its part has to be based on ethical principles.