CALL FOR ABSTRACTS – Workshop on Ethics & Adaptation

“Environmental Ethics & Policy When the Future Does Not Resemble the Past”
An event to be held 10-11 March 2012 at the University at Buffalo

In light of the changes we can expect to see as a result of climate change, there is a need, recognizable in recent work in policy, law, and ethics, to reconsider both the ethical norms relevant to our changing world and the forms of justification provided for those norms. The Buffalo workshop on Ethics and Adaptation will provide a venue for beginning to address this need. This workshop will bring together philosophers, policy scholars, and others working on issues related to ethics, adaptation, and sustainability in light of a rapidly changing environment.

That we now face a new set of theoretical and practical challenges in ethics, policy, and law is clear. While historically, political change and increased scientific understanding led to significant transformation of our ethical viewpoints, these changes took place within the fairly stable Holocene epoch. If, as many argue, we are now in a less stable, human generated era, the “anthropocene” epoch as some have called it, we have no precedent for understanding how to modify our practical and evaluative standards. What sort of ethical adaptation should we, or must we, make in an anthropocene epoch? How should this lack of precedent influence our ethical norms and values as we adapt to our changing world? While answers to these questions will surely involve profound changes in our current policy, they may also involve the nature of our moral concepts, the purported universality or objectivity of ethical claims, the structure of practical and political reasoning, or the very idea of flourishing and the good.

Confirmed Workshop Attendees Include:

  • Paul Baer (Co-Founder of Ecoequity and Georgia Tech, Public Policy)
  • Jeremy Bendik-Keymer (Case Western Reserve University, Beamer-Schnider Professor in Ethics)
  • J. Baird Callicott (University of North Texas, Philosophy)
  • Ben Hale (Colorado, Philosophy and Environmental Studies)
  • Andrew Light (Center for American Progress and George Mason University, Philosophy)
  • Allen Thompson (Oregon State University, Philosophy and Environmental Humanities)

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  • Capabilities, flourishing, and virtues in a time of climate change
  • Disaster Ethics
  • Whether or not the need for adaptation should have an influence on our ethical, political, or legal norms
  • Ethical considerations appropriate to policy in times of great instability
  • Ethical issues surrounding particular features of adaptation (e.g., does the need to adapt to a changing world influence the duty to provide aid to the distant needy?)
  • Ethical issues surrounding particular political practices (e.g., does the need to adapt to a changing world change the legitimacy of international political institutions?)
  • A framework for balancing the needs of human and non-human interests in addressing climate change and extreme weather.
  • The influence of epistemological or decision-theoretical considerations on ethical norms or policy matters in times of great uncertainty

Submission Procedure, Workshop Format, and Other Particulars:

500 word abstracts or preliminary proposals should be submitted by November 1, 2011 to Kenneth Shockley (  

For those proposals selected, short (1500-2500 word) work-in-progress papers will be due by 15 January 2012. We will discuss these circulated drafts in light of the best available analysis of the world to which we might be adapting. Each workshop participant will have 15 minutes to present or expand upon the work previous circulated. This will be followed by 30 minutes of open discussion. There will be ample time for open discussion and coordinating future projects and common endeavors.

Accommodation will be provided for workshop participants. There will be opportunities to publish the results of this workshop; Ethics, Policy, and Environment has expressed an interest.

The timing of this workshop has been chosen to follow immediately upon an earlier workshop, organized by the Anthropologist Ezra Zubrow, titled, “The Big Thaw: Policy, Governance, and Climate Change in the Circumpolar North”.  “The Big Thaw” is scheduled to run from the 8th to 9th of March. Participants will have the opportunity to participate in this workshop as well.

Any questions should be addressed to Kenneth Shockley at