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Which Ethic
<Scott Cullen>
I've had a number of discussions of late, prompted by real world situations but even more by some of the threads on this and other boards.

As professionals (either small "p" meaning a responsible and competent commercial contractor / businessperson or a capital "P" meaning a consultant or planner or landscape architect - see an earlier thread about the difference) I think we often need to distinguish and separate our own personal preferences and belief systems - biases - from the professional advice we offer or how we conduct our businesses or practices.

EXAMPLES: An appraisal. Owner likes this tree. Cherishes it. Derives great enjoyment from it. And everyone that has looked at the property which is for sale thinks the tree is charming and adds to the character of the setting. The tree is not hazardous. But on some arbitrary scale it's a less than ideal species and has an atypical form. You would not want it in your yard. Or flip it around. You're a plant ID specialist and you know this tree is quite rare. You'd love to have it in your yard. But the town needs to build a new entrance to the hospital emergency room and the tree is in the way. What is the value of the tree to the town? In ether case what YOU think about it for your use does not matter. Value to the owner or the market does matter. Those are the objective facts you MUST consider.

A tree care client. Large, mature tree. Will require ongoing maintenance to keep safe and provide appropraite light on the lawn and garden. Not hazardous otherwise. YOU believe all these big trees should be cut down in favor of the "right tree in the right place." "What a dumb use of resources, that tree will be gone it 30 years, why not plant a fastigiate variety now that will be pretty good size in 30 years but NEVER shade the garden, I've read the books and I know about this stuff!" OWNER again likes the tree and its large form. Has just retired and wants to enjoy it for the next 30 years. Has lots of money to pay for proper care... it's not a hardship nor is it likely that the requested cultural management will be cut off mid-stream and create a hazard. So you have your personal environmental or arboricultural ethic and that's not the same as what the owner wants. You can do what the owner wants safely, within the bounds of accepted practice (A300 or whatever standards are applicable) and it would not take advantage of or place a hardship on the owner. If you take your personal ethic seriously enough you may decline to do the work and that's your privilege. But that does not mean some other contractor that does accept the work and performs it in an accepted, standard standard fashion is unethical.

General Case. YOU don't like shearing. You think it's an abuse of plants' rights. Further you have written extensively about how it shortens the lifespan of the plant material. Owner is elderly on a fixed income and trusts you completely ("such a resume and he dresses so neatly"). With shearing these plants will last another 10 years safely and in reasonably good vigor. Owner is 97 years old and not likely to outlive the plants. But YOU think it's your responsibility to the environment to stop this plant abuse now and "put the right plant in the right place" and they will last 50 years without shearing. YOU convince the owner to rip out all the old material and plant new stuff at 10x the cost of annual shearing for 10 years. YOU follwed you envirnomental ethic but did you behave ethically toward this client?

These are somewhat absurd examples but serve to illustrate that while ethics are of course underlaid by belief systems there are different sets of ethics and we need to know the difference in order to guide our actions.
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