Tolstoy's question: The Ecological preconditions of global justice

14 January 2015, 4.30 PM - 14 January 2015, 6.00 PM

Room OA1, 12 Priory Rd, Bristol

A talk by Professor Simon Caney, of the University of Oxford.  The talk is part of the Bristol Political Philosophy Seminar series, but may be of interest to Global Insecurities Centre and Cabot Institute affiliates too. 


Many of the activities human beings engage in and value have harmful impacts on the environment.  At the same time, many of the activities humans engage in and value also have environmental preconditions.  This creates a potential problem, namely that we might be acting in ways that result in such environmental harm that they undermine the environmental preconditions of the kind of society we value.  Put otherwise: Our current behaviour might be (indeed seems likely to be) unsustainable, and we, as a species, might be living ‘beyond our means’?  But, what would living ‘within our means’ entail?  Tolstoy once asked: ‘How much land does a man need?’.  My question here is: What is a fair level of use of the natural world? And, how should we respond to current concerns about sustainability? With reductions in consumption? Limits to population growth? Technological innovation? Or, something else?  Addressing these questions is essential - no theory of justice, I claim, can avoid them - but doing so requires us to confront several complex normative questions.  In this paper, I (i) criticise some existing responses to these questions; and, (ii), outline a normative framework grounded in egalitarian liberal principles that can give us guidance on how to answer them.
No booking required, open to all.

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