Ethical Thinking and Environmental Responsibility: A Contradiction in Terms

By Sue Cornforth.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In this paper I take the position that global warming is the most urgent issue affecting the future of life, as we know it, on our planet. Furthermore, it is a moral concern in that our actions today stand to impact negatively on others. What responsibility do educators have to respond to this challenge? I begin by noting the difficulties in getting this issue put on the educational agenda. There does not appear to be any guiding ethic that extends the concept of responsible relationship beyond the human to include the natural world, although several writers have theorized the necessity for a new principle. There is, however, a growing interest in ‘place-based learning’ and a developing body of literature that connects wellbeing to our inter-relationship with the natural world. The paper uses a critical Foucauldian approach to consider ways in which current ethical thinking, as represented in several academic documents, may inhibit rather than encourage any commitment to environmental responsibility. Some suggestions are made for a different, more inclusive ethical approach.

Keywords: Ethics, Global Warming, Education, Environmental Responsibility

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp.283-294. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.190MB).

Dr. Sue Cornforth

Senior Lecturer, School of Education Studies, Faculty of Education, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

I co-ordinate the counsellings studies courses at Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand. I have a background in both education and clinical therapeutic practice. In my teaching I emphasis the contribution made by the discursive therapies and work to engage students in environmental awareness. I co-chair the Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Education and am involved in providing support services for refugee background students and students with impairments. My interests are in ecopsychology, counseling, ethical philosophy, critical psychology and Foucaldian discourse analysis.

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