them. Actual consequentialism seems counter-intuitive when malicious ^
or irresponsible actions accidentally produce good results. To unravel b this dilemma, one needs to keep separate consequentialism as a theory o o of right action and consequentialism in relation to decision procedure.
^ An actual consequentialist tries to achieve the best effects, but judges
¡2 actions, ultimately, on their actual effects. o x Utilitarianism in the twentieth century has come to be associated
"o with the cost-benefit analysis method employed by economists. Only humans participate directly in the economic system. The cost-benefit a analysis version of utilitarianism is a combination of consequential-"5 ism, anthropocentrism, and a theory that what is good is equivalent to "o maximising the economic welfare of humans.12 The shortcomings of the cost-benefit analysis version of utilitarianism do not necessarily extend o
.ü to the consequentialist assumptions of the theory. I argue that Leopold's £ land ethic is based on consequentialism and a modified version of the maximisation concept of goods.
An analysis of environmental issues shows that only the actual effects of our actions are ethically relevant. This is the consequentialist side of environmental ethics. In other areas, we accept accidents and unforeseen outcomes as excusable, if one was being careful and trying for the best. For example, my car goes out of control on an icy road and I ruin your new BMW. My insurance will buy you another. An examination of our dealings with one another shows that motivation is an important factor. But being motivated in a way that was reasonably expected to preserve the environment will not excuse our actions, if the end result is failure. Well, this is not true of isolated actions of little consequence; for example, your straying from a nature trail to follow a path that is eroding the hillside. There are ways of remedying minor transgressions. But there is a point at which ecological systems are damaged beyond repair. When it comes to the large-scale effects of human civilisation, there are no remedies.
If we fall short of preserving the environment, all other than the actual effects of our actions, no matter how noble our intentions or reasonable our aims, will be insignificant. Environmental disaster precludes every other right and good. Imagine that one hemisphere becomes environmentally conservative and the other destructive. The efforts of the conservative half will have been in vain, if the actions of the destructive half destroy the global environment. Human-to-human, we might applaud the efforts of preservationists who fail, but in respect to environmental issues, motives are unimportant. Trivially, environmental preservation will be realised only if it actually comes about. It is an end to which all efforts will be measured according to their impact on its realisation. Dramatic changes in attitude which don't actually achieve widespread, concrete results are of little value here.
One would rather see highly positive results coming from actions motivated by the wrong reasons than less positive results coming from actions motivated by the right reasons. For example, a Central American forest might have gone unscathed through the nineteenth century because its capitalistic owners were purposefully cutting back production in order to drive up prices. Later, after a revolution in the twentieth century, the forest is nationalised and the new leaders want to cut it to buy military hardware, but due to a lack of organisation and machinery, the forest again escapes destruction. In both cases, there was the desire to cut the forest, but the relation of these motivations to the fact that the forest is still standing is irrelevant. From the standpoint of environmental preservation, all that matters are the actual effects, in this case that the forest remains uncut.
Problems inherent to consequentialism generally also apply to environmental ethics issues. Since we can never completely predict the effects of our actions, we can never know with certainty that we have done the right thing. Given the complexity of the environment, this seems reasonable. We can, at best, only be fairly certain that the reduction of greenhouse gases will contribute to the overall health and integrity of the planet. If well-conceived and motivated efforts fail to rectify the problem then they would have been less than the right course of action.
Consequentialism sometimes provides a justification for actions that seem to be horrible. Its application might prescribe that basic human rights be compromised for the sake of the health of the planet. Again, this seems reasonable, since some degree of environmental integrity is a precondition for the enjoyment of these rights. Consequentialism has been seen as contrary to personal integrity; it prescribes actions through a method external to one's own internally-held values.13 Again, we must realise that a minimally healthy environment is a precondition for the existence of personal integrity, unless we are willing to face a dying planet before we are willing to compromise personal integrity, which is ridiculous.
A version of consequentialism, of interest to environmentalists, is the view that actions are right or wrong insofar as their effects contribute to or deter from the integrity of an ecosystem. The land ethic is consequentialist, it evaluates actions and policies in respect to their effects on the overall integrity of ecosystems. Although Aldo Leopold was not explicitly a consequentialist, there are passages that support o consequentialism as being central to his position. For example, when i
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