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Table 1 Environmental ethical perspectives, definitions, and examples with different forestry practices

From: Variable retention harvesting: conceptual analysis according to different environmental ethics and forest valuation

Ethical positions Brief definition Examples with forestry practices
Consequentialism Consequentialism is a family of theories that are united by one central idea: rightness is based on the consequences of an act and not on the act by itself (Shafer-Landau, 2013; Brennan & Lo, 2016). Forests practices are developed according to their direct instrumental value to markets (e.g., products, as timber, obtained from the ecosystem that have exchange value and can be sale in markets).
Deontological ethics In contrast, deontological ethical theories maintain that an action is right or wrong regardless of whether its consequences are good or bad (Shafer-Landau, 2013; Brennan & Lo, 2016). Goodness or rightness is determined by examining acts, independently of the consequences. Forest practices are developed considering not only the extraction of products but also the functionality and conservation of the forests. These practices expect to guarantee the forest uses (e.g., economical, recreational) under sustainable principles.
Virtue ethics The theoretical focus is not so much on what kinds of things are good/bad or on what makes an action right/wrong. Indeed, the richness of the language of virtues is cited as a reason for exploring a virtue-based approach to the complex and always-changing questions of sustainability and environmental care (Brennan & Lo, 2016). Virtue ethics resist any effort to identify just a single model of the good and virtuous life, rejecting the idea that there is just a single ultimate ethical principle that is applicable to all people, in all situations. This combination of views entails that there is no single picture of a virtuous life, but rather a variety of equally tenable pictures (Shafer-Landau, 2013). Virtue denotes doing the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, for the right reason. Forest practices are developed considering forests as providers of common goods for all co-inhabitants (including humans) of the ecosystem. Every living co-inhabitant of the ecosystems is relevant and should be preserved (independently if it has exchange value or not) because it is involved in ecological processes.