Ethics & the Environment, Volume 7, Number 1, Spring 2002
Risky Business: Neclear Workers, Ethics, and the Market-Efficiency Argument
Workers generally face higher levels of pollution and risk in their workplace than members
of the public. Economists justify the double standard (for workplace versus public exposures
to various pollutants) on the grounds of the compensating wage differential (CWD). The CWD,
or hazard-pay premium, is the increment in wages, all things being equal, that workers in
hazardous environments receive, as compared to other workers. Economists defend the CWD by
asserting that workers willingly trade safety for extra money. This essay
(1) examines the theory behind the CWD,
(2) presents and evaluates economists' Market-Efficiency Argument for the CWD,
(3) offers several reasons for questioning the CWD, and
(4) applies the Market-Efficiency Argument to a real-world case, that of U.S. nuclear workers.
The essay concludes that this argument fails to justify the CWD, at least in the case of U.S. nuclear workers.
Standing Humbly before Nature
Humility is a virtue that is helpful in a persons relationship with nature. A humble person
sees value in nature and acts accordingly with the proper respect. In this paper, humility
is discussed in three aspects. First, humility entails an overcoming of self-absorption.
Second, humility involves coming into contact with a larger, more complex reality. Third,
humility allows a person to develop a sense of perspective on herself and the world.
Ethical Responses to Commercial Fisheries Decline in the Republic of Ireland
Susan Power Bratton and Shawn Hinz
An open-ended questionnaire elicited concepts of virtue and duty, and ethical language and
priorities from commercial fishers and residents of ports in the Republic of Ireland.
Respondents came from viable and stressed fisheries and from nontraditional and traditional
natural resources communities (including one in Gaeltacht). In reporting the characteristics
of a "good" fisher, viable fisheries emphasized virtues such as work ethic, respect for the
crew, and respect for the sea. The responses from stressed fisheries materialized virtue,
and decreased emphasis on interpersonal relationships while increasing emphasis on owning a
large vessel, investing, and being greedy. Most noble actions primarily concerned rescues
and sharing equipment and time in difficult circumstances. Worst actions concerned physical
damage to gear, persons, or to the marine environment. Respondents personified the sea, and
used similar vocabulary to express care for people and for marine organisms. Although
respondents from all communities thought over-fishing and illegal fishing were threats to
the fishery, respondents from viable fisheries were more likely to believe they could take
personal conservation action to protect the fishery, while those from stressed fisheries
despaired of personal protective action and believed that nothing could be done, or that
excluding the foreign fleets was necessary for Irish fisheries to recover. European
Community policies often conflict with the norms of traditional, artisanal fishers.
Vestal Virgins and Engineering Ethics
P. Aarne Vesilind
Professional engineers are bound by their code of ethics to place paramount the health,
safety, and welfare of the public. If the "public" includes future people, then the engineer
is also morally responsible for not destroying the supporting environment that will make
future generations possible. In this essay I suggest that the present engineering codes of
ethics are inadequate in addressing the problem of maintaining environmental quality.
Engineers can, while staying well within the bounds of the present codes of ethics, destroy
or modify the environments that support the global ecosystem and in such manner kill future
humans on a grand scale. The moral responsibilities of engineers must therefore include the
commitment to provide a high quality and sustainable environment for future generations and
this requires that the engineering codes of ethics be modified to encourage engineers to
make decisions that promote environmental stability and sustainability.