Kriterium for berekraftig husdyravl og retningslinjer - Skog og landskap

Kriterium for berekraftig husdyravl og retningslinjer - Skog og landskap

Precautionary principle

It is claimed that the precautionary principle is the most important component of the concept

of sustainability.

This is especially important when there is a risk of considerable damage to the environment or

human health, and when the degree of such a risk is uncertain. Uncertain factors must be

given significant emphasis when making decisions that could have a substantial

environmental impact. There are several ethical justifications and considerations for the use of

the precautionary principle.

Economic and social considerations: An appropriate environmental strategy must take into

consideration such aspects as social and economic stability. Experience shows that the cost of

treating environmental pollutants is generally low when remediating large-scale pollution

events, but that costs rise significantly if the aim is to repair all environmental damage. An

ethical assessment may conclude that a certain level of harmful emissions can be accepted.

Neither the precautionary principle nor ethical norms assume a zero-risk society. It is

important that environmental policies are acceptable by the public, and that they can be

implemented without running the risk of social unrest.

Future generations: The precautionary principle implies the use of a longer time perspective

than traditional risk assessment models. All of us living today are clearly responsible for

future generations. However, this responsibility must be balanced with the interests of the

present generation. For example, the consideration of future generations would hardly suffice

to justify limitations of the basic human rights of contemporary generations.

Nature’s intrinsic value: Certain environmentalists and ecophilosophers consider nature as

such as the primary ethical subject. For them, ecosystem survival is the main issue, based on

their view that nature has an intrinsic value independent of humans’ need for clean air, food,

recreation, etc.

The report by the Brundtland Commission, Our Common Future, was based on an

anthropocentric ethical approach. The main reason for avoiding environmental damage

therein lies in securing human survival. However, the report also underlines nature’s value.

The Brundtland Commission report also assumes a commitment to future generations to avoid

compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Resource

management thus means managing nature in a way that enables future generations to benefit

from these resources to the same extent as their ancestors.

As a basis for political actions, the precautionary principle must be founded on a general

ethical approach that can be widely accepted by the general public. Anthropocentric ethics

should also make substantial environmental considerations, since we all depend on the same,

limited natural resources. We can therefore assume that both ecocentric and anthropocentric

ethics will de facto have concurrent interests, when we first realize that we as humans are

dependent on our natural environment.


When introducing new technology, we often experience unexpected consequences. Any

assessment of such unknown effects can only be made as an approximate judgement. In such

a case, who is to assess such imprecise, uncertain consequences? Experts are rarely the ones

to be affected the most if their predictions are wrong, and they should thus not be the only


More magazines by this user
Similar magazines