In discussing the issue of value and nature, it is crucial to differentiate between intrinsic and instrumental values. An object is said to have intrinsic value “for its own sake” or “in itself”. It refers to the worth or value of nature itself, irrespective of whether it is used as an instrument of fulfilling the preferences or needs of individuals. Therefore, it is the value that life forms and environment have in their right; this value cannot be gotten from human use of these life forms and environment. For example, numerous arguments for preserving environment are founded on the moral basis that all living things have a significant intrinsic value, and thus should be prevented from extinction at all cost. However, there are numerous problems that are associated with looking at the environment from this perspective. Intrinsic value can only exist if there is a conscious valuer; efforts by human beings to incorporate intrinsic values are limited by their preferences as opposed to the conservation of nature (Sergeevna and Ascher 2002, 181).
Instrumental value refers to the value as a means to a given good, for instance happiness. It is usually associated with commodities, money, and the things which have material worth to someone. If something is sought because it can be utilized to attain a given goal, then it can be classified as something which has instrumental value. It is the value that is entirely associated to something of environment protection on the basis of its importance to human beings. Nevertheless, the problem with instrumental value is the fact that what one considers being instrumentally valuable, might not be of value to another person, or it might be valuable to the other person for an entirely different reason.
Due to the instrumental value that is placed on environment, human beings exploit it daily. From an instrumental value perspective, human beings are the locus of all value. The other things in the world such as the environment; animals, plants, natural resources and land, all lack intrinsic value. Such things only have moral significance if they can be used to meet the needs of human beings. Therefore, activities such as draining wetlands, harvesting timber, or killing animals for sport, medical experiment, convenience, and food cannot be limited or prevented unless, indirectly or directly harm human beings.
The environment possesses enormous resources within itself. The absence of belief in the view that the environment is intrinsically valuable promotes further exploitation. However, it is crucial to acknowledge the fact that not only is the natural environment instrumentally valuable, but also has intrinsic value. Therefore, it is unethical for human beings to destroy anything which is intrinsically valuable so as to satisfy their material needs. The lack of connection of nature with non-instrumental value is what promotes further exploitation of the fragile ecosystem. In as much as human beings might not believe in total catastrophe, it is vital that we all consider the future of generations to come.
For the sake of future generations, it is essential to recognize the fact that moral standing is a requirement for valuation. Many people are of the idea that it is not right for human beings to cut down a tree intentionally, if there is no benefit derived from it. However, this form of judgment proposes that a tree is of intrinsic value. If this tree does not have any value beyond that which man has decided, then there is nothing that can stop man from destroying anything that he considers valueless. Nature is a controlling and resilient, yet delicate system. However, man has come up with ways of influencing the environment and creating an unsound environment for man or creatures and plants. The environment can recuperate from its present state of destruction. In addition, it has the capability to do away with the harmful species that affect its ecosystem.