The urban, rural and wild:
human-nature relations in the North
‘Summer’ Sessions 2021
of NSU study circle 6: Nordic Environmental Ethics
14-15 October 2021 (online)
About this study circle:
Nordic countries enjoy a reputation of having ethically high standards and progressive environmental policies. Yet, the average contribution of a Nordic person to anthropogenic climate change and biodiversity degradation is well above the global average, and Nordic economies have relied heavily on exploiting their natural resources. Nordic countries are famous for their welfare states, but the present material well-being may threaten securing a safe environment for the future generations. These paradoxes raise many environmental ethical questions. How should we see our human-nature relationship? How to fit together the different aspects of sustainability (environmental, social, and economic), and do it in an ethically sound way? What are the responsibilities of Nordic citizens and Nordic welfare states to respond to global environmental crises, and are there grounds for attributing some special responsibilities or freedoms to Nordic countries? Are there particular historical and cultural features that could contribute to shaping a Nordic idea of sustainability and environmental responsibilities?
The study circle addresses these questions, focusing on environmental ethical aspects and outlining the possibilities of a Nordic Environmental Ethic for sustainable future. Simultaneously, it aims to establish a community of Nordic environmental ethicists and people interested in environmental ethics, laying the groundwork for a more permanent network. Environmental ethics is here understood inclusively: it contains ‘classic environmental ethics’ and questions of valuation, animal ethics, and environmentally oriented food and agricultural ethics, as well as more political-philosophical inquiries to environmental challenges.
Environmental ethics comprises a subfield of studies in ethics in philosophy. While its origins as a distinct field date back to the 1970s, the societal relevance of the field has increased enormously during the 2000s due to the global environmental crises that have entered public discussion and political agendas. This both elicits applied ethical questions, like questions of the acceptable social side impacts of effective climate policies, and increases the importance of deeply theoretical questions about the values, naturalness, the place of humans in the world, and morality and good life. In Nordic countries, environmental ethics was born with the canonical work of Norwegian deep ecologist Arne Naess, but has since broadened its scope vastly. Nordic research on environmental ethics has gained increasing international interest since that but, nevertheless, the collaboration between the Nordic researchers and the attempts to search for shared themes and grounds for Nordic environmental ethics have remained scant.
The methodological standpoint for the study circle combines classic descriptive and normative theorising, characteristic of environmental ethics, with applied and multidisciplinary openings. The methodological orientation is inclusive in purpose, as one of the themes of the symposia will be the question of methods in environmental ethics.