Rethinking Business Ethics in an Age of Crisis
Studies in TransAtlantic Business Ethics series
Edited by Knut J. Ims and Lars J.T. Pedersen
Chapter 9: Ecological economics: a new paradigm ahead
When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money. Native American saying. We are living in complex and turbulent times – “with amazing scientific discoveries, technological inventions, industrial and commercial expansion, population increase, social transformations, new systems of transportation and communication, vast educational and research establishments, ventures into space” (Berry 2007, p._57) – in other words a brilliant time. But there is another more destructive aspect – “mountains are ripped apart for the underlying coal and ore deposits; rivers are polluted with human and industrial waste, the air is saturated with toxic substances, the rain is turned to acid, the soil is sterile with chemicals, the higher forms of life is endangered, the great mammals have been killed off almost to the point of extinction, the tropical forests are being ruined, and many coral reefs are endangered beyond repair” (Berry 2007, p._57). These are the negative side effects following the modern industrial society and are to a large extent the unintended consequences of the mechanistic worldview. Merton warned against “unanticipated consequences of purposive social action” (Merton 1936, p._894), and he differentiated between the consequences in the following categories: (a) consequences to the actor, (b) consequences to other persons mediated through (1) the social structure, (2) the culture and (3) the civilization (Merton 1936, p._895).
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