In many environmental concerns, the consequentialistic theory is almost always applied to evaluate certain actions and policies. Holbrook (1997, p 18) argues that there are two environmental ethics principles - the self-realization and the environmental preservation, which are two logically independent principles. The self-realization principle holds that the best action is that which ultimately provides for the individual to survive and continue to live well, while the environment preservation principle posits that it is the best or morally sound action that which consequentially preserves the environment (Ibid.).
In the ongoing controversy about which kind of wine bottle stopper gives the most benefits to humankind - the natural cork or the synthetic stoppers - the arguments to both sides have presented equally sensible and reasonable logic. While the advocates for synthetic wine stoppers provide economic as well as health benefits as the good consequences of using synthetic wine stoppers, the advocates for the natural corks have likewise presented environmental preservation and sustainability as the good consequences to their argument.
In the case of the Ancient Cork Forest of Portugal, around which an issue of whether it is for the best that the wine industry, which has been deriving its cork from the forest, shift now to the use of metal screw tops, it is noteworthy to explore the various consequentialistic ethical arguments to the issue from the different perspectives, that of the wine producers and that of the consumer groups.
Cork vs. synthetic wine stoppers from a consequentialistic perspective
I - The wine producers' argument
In the consequentialistic ethics, the good consequences of the act serve as the barometer or the very basis in judging whether the act is right or wrong. The shift to the use of synthetic or metal wine stoppers by the wine producers is mainly anchored on providing more benefits to the consumers, as well as doubling the economic benefits of the industry through further efficiency in order to sustain the industry that employs about three million workers worldwide. To clearly put across the producers' arguments, each consequence will be detailed and expounded on, as follows:
1. Synthetic wine stoppers are more hygienic and safe, thus keeping the consumers healthy and away from possible ailments or health problems.
In the 1980s, wine drinking started to become popular among a wide population across the globe, which doubled the demand for cork bark. This was something new to the cork stopper producers, thus in keeping with the doubled demand's pace, the quality of cork was compromised as many cork stopper factories could not keep with the standards on quality and cleanliness, resulting to the contamination of cork stoppers with the trichloroanisol (TCA).
TCA is a naturally occurring chemical found on wood and vegetation, as well