Ethical theories have enabled human beings to assess whethethe r their actions and consequences of their actions are ethical or unethical. Human beings can assess their athe ctions basing on deontological theories and consequences of their actions basing onthe teleological theories. According to Immanuel Kant, deontological ethics perceives morality as an inherent attribute of an action, which contrasts with teleological ethics that perceivethe morality from the consequences of actions.
Since human beings act according to certain rules, regulations and principthe les, deontological ethics evaluate whether actions comply with them or not. Thus, compliance with certain rules, regulations, and principles determine the ethical nature of actions that people perform. To evaluate whether certain actions are ethical, Imthe manuel Kant formulated a concept of the categorical imperative. The categorical imperative compels people to perform moral duties in spite of varied desires that influence thea m to act otherwise.
Thus, the concept of the categorical imperative can effectively analyze whether certain actions are ethical or not. As mega companies experience ethical dilemmas, they need an urgent and effective solution that is morally acceptable. Xstratthe a is a company that is facing an ethical dilemma of helping community economically and at the same time polluting their environment with lead. Therefore, to analyze the morality of Xsthe trata activities of mining, this paper uses deontological theory to assess lead pollution in Mount Isa.
Xstrata has been mining on Mount Isa since 2003, and it has received numerous accusations for polluting the environment with lead and predisposing children to lead poisoning. Lead emissions from Xstrata mines have polluted gardens and water, thus elevating levels of lead in blood among children making them have physical and mental impairments. A recent study has shown that levels of lead in blood among children are above 10ug/dL, which is a lethal threshold set by the World Health Organization.
High levels of lead in blood have serious health effects, particularly in children who are still developing because they affect physical and mental development. Since severely affected population are people who live around Mount Isa or workers of mines, Xstrata is in a dilemma of whether to reduce lead pollution or increase its mining activities to generate more money. It is evident that Xstrata is focusing on generating profits since lead pollution reached the highest levels ever in 2010.
Despite several complains from environmentalists, healthcare, and Mount Isa victims of lead pollution; there has been little response to protect Mount Isa population from massive emission of lead by Xstrata mines. Although substantial evidence to prove that elevated levels of lead in blood and environment are real, authorities such as healthcare, Mount Isa Mines and Queensland Environmental Agency have been reluctant to act appropriately to reduce emissions or alleviate impacts of lead pollution in the environment and blood.
Therefore, it means that government in conjunction with Xstrata has been focusing on generating much profit from the mines while neglecting activities that cause lead pollution. At some instances, Xstrata has attributed lead pollution to rock outcrops within Mount Isa because management does not believe that it is responsible for lead pollution that threatens the lives of many children.
Deontological theory of ethics postulates that morality lies in actions that people perform rather than consequences of actions. According to Immanuel Kant, goodness is not in consequences of actions, but an intrinsic attribute of an action. Rationality of human beings enables them to weigh their actions before doing them. Therefore, it means that a good or a bad action originates from the mind and not consequences of actions.
From deontological perspective, consequences do not matter because nature of actions determines morality. Immanuel Kant reasoned that our beliefs, desires, and preferences guide our rational actions and behaviors. Hence, according to deontological theory, morality is a product of rational actions that originates from the mind and compels people to act or behave in a certain manner.
Given that the nature of actions can vary depending on circumstances, Immanuel Kant formulated the concept of the categorical imperative as a way of assessing the morality of actions. Since human beings rely on moral laws to determine the morality of actions, Immanuel Kant holds that laws, rules, and regulations are categorical imperatives, which compel people to perform or not to perform certain actions.
In categorical imperative, Immanuel Kant teaches that one needs to act in a manner that reflects universal law and desirable to everyone. Actions that are not desirable to many people are immoral because they cannot become universal principles that can morally guide humanity. Thus, laws, rules, and regulations are categorical imperatives that people use in judging the morality of actions in society.
Application of Theory
From a deontological perspective, Australian government and Xstrata are acting unethical in Mount Isa mine because their priority is to generate money at the expense of causing lead pollution. Since Xstrata generates millions of dollars, the government obtains enormous revenues and royalties while neglecting health concerns of Mount Isa population because money is everything.
Thus, the government has violated categorical imperative of protecting the lives of its citizens by allowing Xstrata to emit prodigious emissions of lead dust into the atmosphere, against regulations of the national environmental agency.
The government has given Xstrata much freedom to pollute the environment with lead because it has set a high threshold of lead, which causes pollution to be above the threshold recommended internationally. Thus, government and Xstrata are not only violating national regulations but also international regulation of lead pollution.
Moreover, even though many children have high levels of lead in their blood, government and Xstrata have not taken any serious interventions to mitigate the effects of lead or reduce pollution. Since the government has a responsibility of protecting the health of its citizens, it has violated categorical imperative by allowing Xstrata to release much emission into the environment that has caused physical and mental impairment to young children.
Due to the insufficient studies conducted, the government and Xstrata hold that lead, which caused contamination, originated from rock outcrops, but currently there is enough evidence to incriminate Xstrata mines. Therefore, both government and Xstrata have violated the rights of citizens for they have failed to provide a safe environment and enhance the healthy lives of Mount Isa population.
Deontological theory of ethics is helpful in determining the morality of human actions because it is unbiased. As teleological theory examines the consequences of actions, it is prone to bias because the same action can have different consequences, hence varied implications of morality. Use of rules, regulations, and laws to determine the morality of actions is decidedly a standard and uniform way of assessing and defining morality in society.
Hence, the categorical imperative is a concept that Immanuel Kant formulated to explain how people act in accordance with laws, rules, and regulations. Moreover, deontological theory acknowledges that human beings are rational in their actions and behaviors; hence, the action is an appropriate parameter of determining morality.
Deontological theory of ethics is appropriate in determining morality in society because it offers a standard view of morality based on human actions. Since human beings are rational in their actions and behavior, it is suitable that their actions are subject to rules, laws, and regulation. In the case of Xstrata mines, if environmental laws did not exist, the government could have allowed Xstrata to release excessive emissions into the environment, which would have caused severe health conditions among residents of Mount Isa. Thus, the deontological theory is the best theory of ethics that has no biases or inconsistency in its application.
Ethical theories are essential, for they guide people in making ethical decisions when faced with dilemmas in life. The deontological theory examines morality based on the nature of actions because it claims that morality is an inherent property of action but not the consequences of actions.
Thus, the analysis of Mount Isa mines from a deontological point of view shows that both the government and Xstrata violated categorical imperative by allowing excessive lead pollution of environment despite its negative impacts on human health. Hence, the deontological theory of ethics is effective in analyzing ethical issues that people face in the course of life.
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Munksgard, Niels, Taylor, Mark, and Mackay, Alana. “Recognizing and Responding to the Obvious: the Source of the Lead Pollution at Mount Isa the Likely Health Impacts.” Medical Journal of Australia 193.3 (2010): 131-132.