Glossary – C

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Carbon sequestration

The process of removing and storing atmospheric carbon in forests, oceans, or fossil fuel reservoirs. Efforts are underway to develop technologies that can capture CO2 emissions and sequester them underground under pressure where they cannot be reemitted into the atmosphere.

Carrying capacity

The maximum population size that a given environment can sustain without degradation.

Charismatic megafauna

see flagship species

(Human) chauvinism

The exaggerated belief in and devotion to the supremacy of the human species over all other species. See also anthropocentrism.


An umbrella term centered on notions of the community, shared living, public ownership, and so on.


A biological process whereby two or more species evolve in response to one another. Such a process includes predator-prey and various mutualistic and parasitic relationships.


Any ethical approach that understands the moral rightness of an action as determined solely by its results. Roughly, if the consequences of an act are good, the act is right; if they are bad, the act is wrong. For the consequentialist, the character and motives of an actor, as well as any formal characteristics of an act itself, are irrelevant to its moral status.

(Ethical) constructivism

In metaethics, the antirealist view that moral facts exist insofar as they are the result of an actual or hypothetical constructive process. Hence, prior to the constructive process, there are no moral standards or moral facts.

Contractarianism (contractualism)

Any theory that justifies moral principles or political arrangements by appealing to a voluntarily-accepted social contract that is committed to under ideal conditions—no ignorance of relevant facts and no personal biases, power inequalities, or malicious ambitions.


The pro-technology view that material resources are less important than resources of the mind. Necessity, the mother of invention, will see to it that once a problem becomes sufficiently acute—be it pollution, resource depletion, or global climate change—creative minds, motivated by the promise of wealth, will find appropriate solutions. Such an approach implies that there is little reason to conserve resources as they will be replaced by alternatives, that toxic waste is an opportunity to develop waste disposal technologies, and so forth.

Cradle-to-cradle design

A burgeoning design and production approach that not only seeks to reduce but to eliminate all waste from the manufacturing process. Much like a food chain, the goal is for all products and byproducts to feed into production systems thereby wasting nothing. The cradle-to-cradle approach is generally pro-technology and pro-consumerist: sustainability is not about consuming less, but about consuming differently.


The study of the control and communication processes in living organisms and artificial systems, especially the comparison between the two. A key feature of cybernetics is a system’s use of feedback to steer it towards a goal: when the feedback causes changes in the system itself, it appears to be self-organizing.


Short for “cybernetic organism,” a self-regulating organism, part-human and part-machine. The proportion of human to machine qualities in cyborgs ranges from humans with synthetic implants (artificial hearts and pacemakers) to futuristic visions of sentient computers that can think thoughts and feel emotions.

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