The International Society for Environmental Ethics (ISEE) is pleased to announce publicly the winner of the 2022 Andrew Light Award for Public Philosophy is Dr. Christopher Preston of the University of Montana (USA). ISEE established the award to promote work in public philosophy and honor contributions to the field by Dr. Andrew Light, who was recognized for his distinctive work in public environmental philosophy at ISEE’s 2017 annual summer meeting.
With this award, ISEE strives to recognize public philosophers working in environmental ethics and philosophy, broadly construed, and who bring unique insights or methods that broaden the reach, interaction, and engagement of philosophy with the wider public. This may be exemplified in published work or engagement in environmental issues of public importance.
This year’s Light Award winner is Dr. Christopher Preston of the University of Montana (USA). Dr. Preston has made significant contributions to public environmental philosophy over the course of his career, writing on topics as diverse as the Anthropocene, climate ethics, synthetic biology, geoengineering, and the resilience of wildlife. For over a decade, Dr. Preston has focused on reaching broad audiences through books, popular articles, media interviews, public talks, podcasts, and a blog. Three of Professor Preston’s books – Saving Creation, The Synthetic Age, and Tenacious Beasts – are particularly notable for their lucid and engaging prose, and for their accessibility to broad audiences. These books address issues that are both timely and enduring. Saving Creation (2009), a biography of environmental philosopher Holmes Rolston III, explores the relationship between nature and faith in Rolston’s life and work. The Synthetic Age, winner of a 2018 Nautilus award silver medal, describes and reflects on emerging technologies of the Anthropocene – including synthetic biology, geoengineering, and de-extinction – and their implications for human relations with the natural world. Lastly, the forthcoming Tenacious Beasts strikes a hopeful note, documenting the resilience and recovery of wildlife species throughout the world. Christopher Preston’s books are distinguished by their ability to provoke philosophical reflection on issues that matter to human lives and to the diverse creatures with whom we share the planet.
In addition to his public-facing books, Professor Preston has contributed articles to The Atlantic, Aeon, BBC Science Focus, The Conversation, Ensia, Smithsonian Magazine, Discover, Slate, the World Economic Forum’s Agenda, and the Center for Humans and Nature. He has led “philosophy walks” in Montana, spoken about his work in numerous interviews and podcasts, and offered public readings and lectures regularly throughout his career.
Dr. Preston also regularly works with interdisciplinary teams on socially significant topics such as climate geoengineering and gene drives. He has edited two books on ethics and geoengineering, co-authored a chapter on gene drives and ethics for Gene Drives: A Report on their Science, Applications, Social Aspects, Ethics and Regulations (Critical Scientists Switzerland, European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility, Federation of German Scientists, 2019), and served as an invited expert in discussions with the European Parliament about synthetic biology.
The Andrew Light Award recognizes Dr. Preston’s sustained contributions to public environmental philosophy. Specifically, the award recognizes: 1) Professor Preston’s work to foster broader public conversations about climate ethics and justice, technology and the environment, and wildlife and biodiversity in the Anthropocene, and 2) his ongoing engagement in interdisciplinary analyses of the ethical and policy dimensions of emerging climate and bio- technologies.