The Ethics of Government Intervention in Environmental Change

Bioethics is a complex, necessary field of philosophical study. While our government has usually stayed away from normative ethics in favor of applied ethics, protecting the environment often elicits an after-the-fact normative question: “How ought the government have acted in protecting the environment?” With numerous federal agencies and programs set up explicitly to help protect the environment from further degrading and bolstering species and environments back to their previous statuses, it’s clear that the intentions often seem to be pointing towards environmental protection as a clear governmental ideal. But this isn’t always the case.

According to this article in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, the human desires of protecting species and financial incentives are constantly battling in the policies and responses of the federal government. This is an innate clash, one that positions us as explicitly human, but sometimes clouds our understanding of the true consequences of valuing the environment over fiscal gain and vice-versa. In this way, a core knowledge of business and finance is crucial for those working in the government and advising on and crafting the policies that are to affect our current generation and those long past ours. For the distance learner, current worker, or even the successful business owner, programs like the University of Texas-Austin’s online Business Foundations Program creates a comprehensive foundation, or bolsters already-honed skills, in myriad fields.

To truly know if the government is making the right decision, one must be skilled in the empirical and the theoretical. Within this program and others like it, courses in accounting, finance, information technology, legal studies, marketing, and organizational behavior and administration offer key facets of knowledge to starting or advancing desired careers in government. Even lesser-known ventures like the highly-sought-after industrial organizational psychologist can find their resumes be bolstered with a class in organizational behavior and administration. For those looking to explain how the government’s ethical decision in an environmental case was based on preferring financial stability for humans over environmental impacts, accounting and finance courses crunch numbers to solidify ethical positions.

The mainstream shift towards valuing the protection in the environment began in the middle of the 20th century, and the efforts they spurred will either disintegrate or become strengthened in the years to come depending on who is elected and advising in the government. Ethically, it may be easy to say that cutting down huge swaths of forests is “bad,” but without a formal understanding of what “bad” really is, such decisions cannot be made as accurately as possible. This is why ethics have a continued place in governmental actions regarding the environment, that the battle between normative and applied is consistently raging on. The burden of proof lies on the actor, and enacting policies for the sake of environmental protection needs more than a what, it needs a convincing why.

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