2020 Andrew Light Award for Public Philosophy

Featured

The International Society for Environmental Ethics (ISEE) is pleased to announce publicly the winner and finalists for the Andrew Light Award for Public Philosophy.  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 honorees have made important contributions and provide distinctive examples of the work in public environmental philosophy that is happening today.

This year’s winner is Professor Paul Thompson of Michigan State University.  Professor Thompson’s work in public philosophy spans multiple decades, and he has made distinctive contributions to agricultural and environmental ethics over the course of his career.  He began working collaboratively with farmers in the 1980s to develop industry reforms that benefited both animals and the environment.  Throughout his career, Professor Thompson’s research has informed and been informed by cross-disciplinary collaborations and community engagement.  He is the author of numerous books, including books aimed for broad audiences, such as From Field to Fork: Food Ethics for Everyone (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).  Professor Thompson has served on National Resource Council committees and with the National Academy of Engineering’s Center for Engineering Ethics and Society, and he’s played a key role in developing ethical food standards such as American Humane Certified.  In addition, he has helped to build the field of public philosophy and has mentored others developing careers in this field.  As two of his colleagues wrote in their nomination letter, “Many environmental philosophers have come to value public engagement by observing how Paul Thompson incorporated insights from his public work into his more traditionally philosophical articles and books, and we have come to better understand how to become publicly engaged ourselves through his mentoring. Paul, we believe, is an exemplary public environmental philosopher who has made significant contributions at various levels and with various groups, from policymakers, researchers and academic colleagues, to farmers, consumers and environmentalists.”

This year’s finalists are Associate Professor Adam Briggle of University of North Texas, Professor Christopher Preston of University of Montana, and Dr. Gwynne Taraska, Climate Program Director at Ocean Conservancy in Washington, D.C.

Adam Briggle, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at University of North Texas, describes himself as a “field philosopher.”  In his book, A Field Philosopher’s Guide to Fracking, he argues that “the role of a field philosopher is to excavate and examine the ethical, aesthetic, and even metaphysical presumptions that are inevitably packed into the black box of expert discourse and political messaging.”  Briggle has centered his career around publicly engaged philosophy.  In addition to his academic writing, he has published work in Slate, Salon, and The New York Times, and he is highly active in his community.  His work as founder and President of the Denton Drilling Advisory Group led to a successful campaign to ban hydraulic fracturing in Denton, Texas.  Professor Briggle also serves on the Governing Board for the Public Philosophy Network, and is a member of the Human Rights Campaign’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council.

Christopher Preston, Professor of Philosophy at University of Montana made a distinctive contribution to public philosophy with his recently published a book, The Synthetic Age: Outdesigning Evolution, Resurrecting Species, and Reengineering Our World (MIT Press, 2018). The book, which won a 2019 Nautilus award, aims to spark discussion about the technologies that are reshaping human relations with the broader world.  Preston also runs a related blog – The Plastocene – that aims to generate broader public dialogue about “the big decisions about how to approach a world that has already been impacted so greatly,” because “[d]ecisions about the world we want to create belong to everyone.”  Professor Preston’s public philosophical work has included writing for the BBC, Aeon, The Conversation, and the Center for Humans and Nature, and he has been featured in interviews for numerous news sources, including the BBC, LA Times, and The Guardian.

Gwynne Taraska earned her PhD in philosophy at University of Washington, and shortly thereafter, began to apply her philosophical acumen in the policy arena.  She is currently Climate Program Director at Ocean Conservancy in Washington, D.C.  Dr. Taraska previously served as Director of Policy and Research at Climate Advisers, and as Director of International Climate Policy at the Center for American Progress.  She has worked on a wide range of issues, including climate diplomacy, international climate finance, international ocean diplomacy, the Paris Agreement, and climate loss and damage.  Her work and expertise have been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, The Hill, Vox, and Energy & Environment.  As one colleague noted: “Gwynne clearly represents the kind of pioneer that we need in public philosophy: someone who has used core philosophical skills to break new ground in the policy community.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

ISEE Sessions at APA Central

Featured

ISEE will be hosting 2 affiliated group sessions at the 2020 Central Division Meeting of the APA:

Friday, February 28  7:00pm – 10:00pm

Climate Justice

Chair:

Ben Almassi

Speakers:

William Littlefield (Case Western Reserve University) – “Utility Gains in Climate Justice”

Marcus Hedahl (US Naval Academy) – “Climate Justice & Moral Psychology: Surprising Stoic Solutions”

Kizito Michael George (Kyambogo University) – “Linking Climate Change to Human Rights and Social Justice: A Critique of the Ethics and Epistemologies of Climate Change Science”

Rachel Fredericks (Ball State University) – “Climate Legacy: A New(ish) Concept for the Climate Crisis”

Saturday, February 29  2:00pm – 5:00pm

Understanding Community

Chair: Megs Gendreau (Centre College)

Speakers:

Connor Kianpour (Georgia State University) – “Dolphin Ownerhood: Nonhuman Persons and Habitative Noninterference”

Sade Hormio (UC Berkeley) – “Climate Change and Responsibility as Members of Collective Agents”

Justin Donhauser (Bowling Green State University) – “Robot Pollinator Ethics”

Zachary Vereb (University of South Florida) – “A Kantian Perspective on Climate Ethics: History and Global Community” 

ISEE Sessions at APA Pacific

Featured

The 2020 Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association will be April 8th to 11th at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco, CA. 

ISEE will be hosting two affiliated group sessions.

Session 1: Wednesday April 8th from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Teaching Environmental Philosophy: Engaged and Inclusive Pedagogies

Chairs: Simona Capisani (University of California, Irvine)
Marion Hourdenquin (Colorado College)
Panelists: Chris Cuomo (University of Georgia)
Rebeka Ferreira (Green River College)
Benjamin Hole (Pacific University)
Clair Morrissey (Occidental College)

Session 2: Saturday April 11th from 6:00 to 8:00

Environmental Ethics: Ethics for a Changing World

Speakers:

Arthur Obst (University of Washington) – “Demandingness from Despair”

Daniel Callies (University of California, San Diego) and Yasha Rohwer (Oregon Institute of Technology) – “Intentionally Eradicating a Species: Examining the Case against and the Value of Anopheles Gambiae”

Blake Francis (University of Maryland Baltimore County) – “Middle Emissions: Climate Ethics and the Global Middle Class”

ISEE Sessions at APA Eastern

Featured

Workshop on Sustainability in Philosophy

Friday, January 10, 2020, 9-11 am

This session will open with a special announcement of this year’s finalists and winner of ISEE’s Andrew Light Award in Public Philosophy.  Professor Light will present the award.  

Following the award presentation, the workshop will be led by co-founders of Philosophers for Sustainability (PfS), Eugene Chislenko of Temple University and Rebecca Millsop of University of Rhode Island.  Professors Millsop and Chislenko will describe several recent initiatives of Philosophers for Sustainability and lead a discussion of effective ways to integrate sustainability into teaching, research, and service. The workshop will include discussion of a proposed set of Guidelines for Sustainable Practices in Philosophy, developed by PfS and under consideration by the APA for inclusion in its Good Practices Guide.

Environmental Ethics in Social Context:

Robots, Gene Drives, and Water Management

Saturday, January 11, 2020, 11:15 am-1:15 pm

 

Chair: Marion Hourdequin

Speakers:

Justin Donhauser (Bowling Green University) “Environmental Robot Virtues?”

Zahra Meghani (University of Rhode Island), “An Approach for Evaluating Arguments for the Environmental Release of Genetically Engineered Animals with Gene Drives”

Gehad Abdelal (University of Georgia) “Water Ethics: The Problem of Uncertainty and Colonial Implication on the Nile River Conflict”

Adapting Environmental Ethics to Rapid, Anthropogenic, and Global Ecological Change

Adapting Environmental Ethics to Rapid, Anthropogenic, and Global Ecological Change

H.J. Andrews Forest Research Station

Blue River, Oregon

JULY 10-13, 2019

Conference report by Emma Marris

This July, environmental ethicists from around the world gathered under 500-year-old Douglas-firs and hemlocks at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon to share their work. The 16th annual ISEE Summer Meeting featured several papers touching on environmental policy, environmental psychology, and the role of the philosopher in the ongoing climate and biodiversity crisis—a practical bent that perhaps reflects an increased sense of urgency and momentum in the world of environmental activism. In that vein, the meeting closed with a strategy session, led by Eugene Chislenko of Temple University, in which the assembled philosophers shared insights on how they could fold climate activism into their work. 

Over the course of three days, the group worked through 18 draft papers on topics ranging from bees as symbols of neoliberal environmental thought to the role of gene drives in conservation to legal strategies for holding climate emitters responsible for losses and damages resulting from their actions. The keynote address, by Katie McShane of Colorado State University, took up perhaps the most central of all environmental ethics questions: how are we to value the natural world? McShane argued for a value system that goes beyond welfarism—what is good for an entity—and embraces values derived from appreciative attitudes like “respect, awe, wonder, admiration, interest, attachment, and aesthetics.” She gave as an example the wonder she feels when contemplating a neutron star—the collapsed core of a giant sun—despite the fact that the unimaginably distant object can be of no practical benefit to her.

Between papers, conference-goers chatted over delicious meals cooked up by two chefs who noted that the group had the most vegans they had ever cooked for. The chefs rose to the challenge, and one vegan attendee remarked that he wasn’t used to having so many choices! One evening, conversation continued after dinner at a cheerfully crackling campfire. Two children notably polished off almost an entire bag of marshmallows, with just a little help from the philosophers gathered around the fire. 

Attendees were also treated to a personal tour of the experimental forest by the principal investigator, Micheal Nelson of Oregon State University, himself a philosopher, and Fred Swanson, a geologist and ecosystem scientist with the US Forest Service who has studied the forest for decades. Together, the two sketched out the research conducted at the site and the food web of an old-growth forest, highlighting the surprising role of nitrogen-fixing lichen, which make the nutrient available to the trees after they fall from the canopy and rot into the soil. As the philosophers listened, mosquitoes flitted among them, weaving them into the food web by sucking their blood. The circle was completed when the humans nibbled on the red huckleberries that thrive in the understory. 

Another highlight was a lecture by owl expert Tim Fox, an archaeologist for the U.S. Forest Service who studied spotted owls earlier in his career. Fox shared stories from his time in the field, owl calls, and his thoughts on the current strategy for protecting the spotted owl, which includes shooting barred owls that have been making their way from the east coast and out-competing the smaller endangered owl for territories. It is the kind of ethical puzzle that cried out for analysis by environmental ethicists—a case study just waiting under the trees for the philosophers to take a crack at. 

The ethicists left the meeting with new knowledge, new ideas, new professional relationships, new mosquito bites, and the pleasant odor of campfire-smoke woven into their clothes.