Ethics is defined as the moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity. As a study it is the discipline that deals with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation (Merriam Webster Online Dictionary). That is a mouth full, isn’t it? Here you get to the argument of what is is! Or what some people think is good or bad may differ from other people.
There is a whole branch of philosophy devoted to ethics so it is not something I can contribute to; I am just a naturalist, biologist and trainer. But I can try to live ethical or at least as ethical as possible. This is what ethics studies: "What would a person do or how would she/he react under a specific circumstance?"
But I want to get back to environmental ethics and my job. An argument can be made that I helped my clients check that box either on an application for a permit or maybe in the back of their conscious saying: "Yes, they have done their environmental due diligence." I am not even talking about the best thing for the environment. Like with Mike in that example above, I may have saved a few wetlands, but that subdivision still got build, birds, snakes, and turtles lost their home, the environment was still impacted. As a consultant with sincere love for the environment the Serenity prayer was my escape hatch:
Often this is what we in the environmental movement need to look for. No, we cannot stop a project but we can make reduce or minimize the environmental impact of these projects. Those are our small ethical victories, save the world one turtle at a time.