Bearing the Weight of the World: On the Extent of an Individual's Environmental Responsibility
AbstractTo what extent is any individual morally obligated to live environmentally sustainably? In answering this, I reject views I see as constituting two extremes. On one, it depends entirely on whether there exists a collective agreement; and if no such agreement exists, no one is obligated to reduce her/his consumption or pollution unilaterally. On the other, the lack of a collective agreement is morally irrelevant, and regardless of what others are doing, each person is obligated to limit her/his pollution and consumption to a level that would be sustainable if everyone were to act in this way. I argue that the truth is somewhere between these, but that a very precise specification of the extent of one's responsibility is impossible. Roughly, what can be said is that each individual ought constantly to strive to do more than she/he does currently and to push her/himself into new, uncomfortable territory, though no one is obligated to martyr her/himself for an environmental cause.
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Bibliographic InfoArticle provided by White Horse Press in its journal Environmental Values.
Volume (Year): 21 (2012)
Issue (Month): 4 (November)
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Web page: http://www.erica.demon.co.uk
Tragedy of the commons; collective action; individual responsibility; ecological footprint; sustainable consumption;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
- Q01 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - Sustainable Development
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Baylor L. Johnson, 2003. "Ethical Obligations in a Tragedy of the Commons," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 12(3), pages 271-287, August.
- Lucie Middlemiss, 2010. "Reframing Individual Responsibility for Sustainable Consumption: Lessons from Environmental Justice and Ecological Citizenship," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 19(2), pages 147-167, May.
- Marion Hourdequin, 2010. "Climate, Collective Action and Individual Ethical Obligations," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 19(4), pages 423-464, November.
- Clive L. Spash, 2012. "Response and Responsibility," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 21(4), pages 391-376, November.
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