Author Archives: greenfutureethics

Flying for the Environment, One Last Time

Announcement: This blog will now not be actively updated anymore. We hope you enjoyed the writings on this page over the past months and years!

However, if you do have any interesting further thoughts on the ethics of conference air travel — or, of course, in line with the focus of this blog: on any other green/future/ethics-oriented topic — that you would like to see go live on this blog, feel free to send them our way and we will consider it.

On a final note, let us remark that there is not too much writing on the ethics of (conference) air travel. But we thought, we’d mention that it appears in Anthony Weston’s “Mobilizing the Green Imagination” on p. 58/9 (thanks to William Grove-Fanning for the pointer). It also gets a small mention in the opening paragraph of an editorial by Clive Spash in Environmental Values. Philip Cafaro has written a whole paper on “Reducing consumption to avert catastrophic global climate change: The case of aviation“. 
P.S.: There’s also a Twitter profile called “Stop Flying” for frequent critical updates on air travel.

Flying for the Environment, Again

On this blog, we have examined the question whether green folks & philosophers should refrain from flying to conferences (see for example here).

Some time ago, Ian Christie (University of Surrey) responded to our request and sent in some personal thoughts on the topic:

This is a tough issue for environmentally aware and responsible scholars. I made the commitment to give up flights for holidays back in 1999, and have not gone back on it. For work, I made the same decision in 2000 on the way back to London from a two-day trip to a conference in New York – I was dismayed to reflect on the ratio of GHG emissions to achievements for the event. I had to take a last-minute flight – to Berlin – in 2004; other than that, I’ve kept to the commitment.
The problems it poses are large. For one thing, my holiday travels are more expensive and more restricted, as I use trains and ships and stay within Europe. For another, my academic career is constrained quite considerably. And finally, the commitment – as part of an effort to ‘walk the talk ‘ and reduce my eco-footprint – receives little or no social approval and encouragement. I also see almost no peer support even from environmentalists: I know hardly any who have given up flying for work, though I do come across some who have stopped all holiday flights.
I would break my personal pledge for two reasons: first, to visit a friend or relative in need ; and second, to do some work in a distant place that I felt was so valuable as to justify the flight, which I would also offset. But I don’t see that my giving a conference paper in person is work of such value as to justify a flight. Maybe giving policy advice to a committed government or business or community would be.
At all events, I think any academic committed to sustainable development must make some personal stand that demonstrates the possibility of living more lightly and responsibly on the Earth. And since flights have a large impact, they must come into question unless they can be argued to be a small price to pay for a greater good.

Zen and the Art of Airplane Travel

At some point, we were collecting statements from environmental philosophers on whether they are willing to fly or not. A perceptive and stimulating statement comes from Lucy Weir:

Using any kind of energy other than that derived directly from a simple vegan diet to propel ourselves from place to place might be an ideal position. But I’m interested in showing that there are serious problems with ideals, with ideologies, and in particular, with imposing ideologies on others. Therefore I have to conclude that I cannot advise others on a right or wrong way to live and that includes no right and wrong in the context even of deeply damaging activities, like flying in aeroplanes propelled by fossil fuels.

What would an ecologically aware Zen practitioner do?

There are no guidelines in Zen. But there is the constant demand to pay attention, to wake up to what is going on, to a reality that is evident, observable, when the attention is kept focussed on each moment. The practice of seeing oneself see opens one to the full implications of the impact of ones actions. And yet one may not always be able to avoid causing suffering. This is the tragedy. We may still, even without principles, be bound to a course of action that condemns us to exacerbate harm, right until the end. Yet we can only respond from the particular set of circumstances, from the context. And if raising the question causes more of us to shift uneasily in our aeroplane seats, or to forego the joyous whoosh of take off, then perhaps the loosening of our attachment even to this wonderful luxury can be brought into focus.

There is no perfect relationship with the world. The relationship with the world that we would have if we were to hope to live more in accordance with natural laws would demand so much of us that we would have to give up every luxury, everything but the most simple materials to meet our needs, even challenging our natural drive to procreate. But there is no perfect relationship. There is only the work to see ourselves as impartially as possible, as impermanent connections that unfold into one another. We inevitably create suffering. We can, however, see ourselves seeing what is going on, both in our relationships with ourselves, in our relationships with other humans, and even in how we relate to the non-human, living and non-living, systems within which we’re embedded. We cannot expect perfection from ourselves and setting ourselves up with idealistic expectations causes ever more rigidity in our reactions which is entirely counter productive. But we can be compassionately aware of that suffering, and even when we fail to relieve it, we can use that failure as an opportunity to observe, impartially, to forgive, and reflect on what could happen differently. When we succeed, to relieve suffering, that is enlightenment.

Would I willingly fly to conferences? I want not to want to. I watch my moment by moment response and I feel wry relief when the possibility is closed to me, through poverty. When I can afford to travel at all, I consciously seek out alternatives to flying, and if I can, I take them. However, like wine, I find the rush of take-off utterly seductive and I regret that I can’t indulge myself more often. In spite of the stark sterility of airports, the heart-thumping anxiety of security checks and final calls, the sheer exotic pleasure of being whisked from one time zone to another is thrilling. I would fly unwillingly, then, feeling the huge weight of what suffering that action supports. But I’d probably find myself smiling as the plane lifts off.

Flying for the Environment

On this blog, we have examined the question whether green folks & philosophers should refrain from flying to conferences (see for example here).

Some time ago, Dr. Rupert Read wrote a very perceptive piece for the Philosopher’s Magazine (4th issue of 2010)  which we repost in full below.

Can one justify, as an environmentally-minded philosopher, flying to conferences on environmental philosophy?

First, let me make clear that the issue of whether or not one takes individual actions, such as not flying, to ‘do one’s bit’ to help stop dangerous climate change, is of secondary importance. The primary issue is political: collective action is what is really needed if we are to do enough to stop manmade climate change. If I choose not to fly,  the actual positive impact on the climate resulting from my decision may be less than small: it may even be zero (if it sends a tiny price signal, by reducing demand for fuel, that others then burn up more readily because it is slightly cheaper than it would otherwise have been). Whereas, if I get involved in a successful collective effort to rein in emissions (e.g. a successful international climate treaty), that effort will have a very large impact, a guaranteed impact that cannot be bypassed by others’ short-term self-interested economic behaviour.

The issue of whether or not one takes individual actions, such as not flying, to ‘do one’s bit’ to stop dangerous climate change, is then of secondary importance; but secondary importance is still a kind of importance. Furthermore, as an environmentally-minded philosopher, one needs to take a lead.   Just as it was nauseating and self-defeating to see the world’s leaders flying into Copenhagen last December, so the credibility of environmental philosophers is just inevitably somewhat tarnished if they turn up to their conferences by air.

Which brings us back, and now directly, to the question that prompts this article: To fly, or not to fly?

One starting point for me, in relation to this difficult question, is to recall the Latin phrase Primum non nocere, “First, do no harm”, associated with the Hippocratic Oath. This dictum, as well as the moral prescriptions behind it, is taught to many doctors in medical school. The injunction of course does not bar them from (say) doing surgery.  It certainly does bar them from doing unnecessary surgery. The thing that environmental philosophers need to ask themselves, if they are serious about fighting the war on dangerous climate change, is this: Is your journey really necessary?

There is a tremendous risk of self-deception here. It is so easy for human beings to think that what they are doing is very important, more so than what others are doing.  One needs to ask oneself whether one can really be an environmental leader, and a morally self-respecting person, if one sends enough CO2 into the atmosphere to potentially injure or kill a present or future person. I am thinking here of the ground-breaking study by Craig Simmons et al laid out in the early chapters of The Zed Book, a study which should be much better-known than it is. It indicates that for every person currently living a high-carbon lifestyle, including flights etc, on average about 10 future people will suffer from manmade ‘natural’ disasters.

Environmental philosophy might change the world. The choices we as a civilization make really could depend on what wisdom we manage to achieve about ourselves and our place in the world.  Does the end justify the means? Well, it certainly doesn’t if there is virtually no prospect of wisdom being achieved.

So those of us contemplating jetting off to a philosophy conference abroad really do need to ask ourselves how much good we would really be doing by going, and whether we can justify the harm that we are certainly responsible for if we go.

I do not say any of this lightly. I love conferences.  I can’t do my job as a philosopher properly without going to some, even occasionally by air, although not as many and not as often as in the past.  Conferences on climate and the environment could be of huge importance to our dwindling chances of saving ourselves as a civilisation. What’s needed is wisdom, and if philosophers lack the wisdom to help sustain our civilisation, then who has it?

But it does seem to me an extraordinary sign of the level of denial in relation to the climate crisis that hardly anyone seems to take the question of flying to conferences seriously

Let me give some examples. A few years ago, I said to the organisers of a conference in Florida on ‘Climate Philosophy’ that I wasn’t willing to fly to it. I hoped that we could organise my ‘giving’ my talk there via video-conference. They couldn’t manage this.  To their credit, they did set up an audio-link for me to take questions, after someone else read my paper out.

This summer I have had a more discouraging experience. A Scandinavian environmental philosophy event later this year, ‘Climate Existence,’ was not even willing to consider my attending by remote means. It is depressing, when the organisers of a conference designed to look explicitly at how to stop ourselves climatically obliterating ourselves is not willing to consider how to minimise its own destructive impacts.

On the plus side, I will (I hope) soon be ‘attending’ by video-conferencing facilities a conference in Australia on ‘Changing the climate: Utopia, dystopia and catastrophe’.

The most surprising experience I had recently was arranging my attendance this autumn at an EU event in Brussels on intellectual perspectives on biodiversity.  The travel form assumed that I would be coming by plane! Of course, I am planning to go to that event by Eurostar. (If one can conveniently go to an environmental philosophy conference by train, then there is no excuse for plane-ing it.) What hope is there, if the organisers of an event on biodiversity – massively threatened by rising, dangerous emissions – do not even consider the possibility that international participants will come by means other than plane?

There is hope. Through technologies such as Skype and Oovoo, more and more people are getting used to video-conferencing as an effective way of interacting. I am hopeful that within a few years conference-organisers will be thinking of this, and it won’t be an awkward bolt from the blue when I say to them that I am keen to be there but preferably in electronic form.

To sum up, then. There are, of course, real losses if one chooses not to attend international conferences. Even if one does attend an event by means of new technology, there is no way of recreating by videoconference the feel, the informality, the networking opportunities that come from people being together in a place. As Jeremy Rifkin argues in his recent book, The Empathic Civilisation, the unprecedented dilemma that we face as a civilisation is how to expand our mutual empathy and concern, while reducing our entropic and environmentally-catastrophic impacts.

But certainly I think at least this: If philosophers do not ask themselves whether they can justify travelling to conferences by air, then who will?

My purpose in writing this piece would be served, if each reader were to ask themselves seriously the various questions that I have raised in the course of it. I close by briefly indicating the way that I try to answer them.

Aware of the above-mentioned tendency to self-deception, I endeavour to ask myself whether the benefit – I mean, a foreseen benefit in terms of philosophical advancement that may itself help people — for me and others of my attending a given conference by air are worth the down-side of the possible negative effect on future people of my doing so. I perform, in other words, a crude and rather imprecise utilitarian calculation, using the study by Simmons et al as an aide-memoire for the reality of the stakes. As noted above, the result of this is that I have drastically reduced my flying. Rather than being a habit and a norm, it has become a rare exception.

Dr. Rupert Read is Reader in the UEA School of Philosophy, Chair of the Green House thinktank, and Green Party Politican.

2014 Yaounde Seminar on Theories of Justice – Call for Papers

The Chaire Hoover of the Catholic University of Louvain and the Catholic University of Central Africa are organizing the Yaounde Seminar on Theories of Justice between 18 and 24 August 2014.

This international,  interdisciplinary and bilingual seminar is addressed to PhD students, MA students in their second year of study, as well as professionals from various fields and representatives of civil society interested in theoretical and practical issues of justice. At the end of the seminar, participants are invited to discover Cameroun on a touristic weekend.

Contributions are expected by 31.03.2014.

For details about the invited participants, application process, fees and venue, please check the website of the Catholic University of Louvain la Neuve:



Hotel Industry and Environmental Ethics


By Sam Marquit*


 Travelers are seeing a revolution these days. The green movement has officially gone worldwide. Hotels in the industry are changing their practices as well as what they buy. They are all trying to achieve the much-coveted LEED certificationThe increase in environmental ethics is a refreshing and welcome change.

One city in particular at the forefront of this environmental ethics movement is actually Las Vegas. Currently there are a number of buildings going up within the city itself. These new buildings are all being built with eco friendly materials and even being purchased locally to reduce the emissions from trucks during transportation. Other hotels in Las Vegas are changing their practices to be more environmentally friendly. None has done it better than the Palazzo Hotel and Resort. Recently the hotel was named the “Most Eco Friendly Hotel in America”.

As a commercial contractor, it is great to see the buildings I have worked on make a positive impact on the planet. However, there are others who are behind and many are highly rated in the public eye. Hotels occupy and expend a large amount of natural resources during daily operation. As a result, they produce large amounts of waste being thrown into landfills. These organizations need to realize emphasize the environmental benefits while pursuing social and economical benefits.  The Environmental Ethic of Hotels is the ethic regulations and more practice concerned with the environment during hotels operations.

It is 2013 and organizations as well as people must pay attention to the environment. It is important to protect and maintain stabilization, permanence and beauty of our planet for future generations to follow. While the Palazzo provides a great blueprint to mimic in order to achieve sustainability, not enough businesses have followed suit. Ink48 in New York City is taking steps to correct this with their Earthcare program. This program allows members to come together and discuss different ways in which they can go green.





*Sam Marquit is an independent ‘green’ contractor  and a guest contributor to this blog.

Call for Papers: Intergenerational Justice and Natural Resources

Moral Philosophy & Politics (MOPP)

Call for Papers on „Intergenerational Justice and Natural Resources”, Special Issue 2014/01

Editors: Pranay Sanklecha and Alexa Zellentin (together with Lukas H. Meyer)

Through their use of natural resources, presently living people will affect the conditions under which future people will live. This raises questions of intergenerational justice: What do presently living people owe future generations, in particular, which natural resources, with the policy options they allow, should remain available to future generations (and to what extent)? Further, it is particularly the industrialized countries of the global North who have caused the problem of climate change, in part because of the fact that the process of industrialization came with increasing levels of emissions. At the same time, the harmful effects of climate change will be felt disproportionately by developing countries (particularly those in the global South), who have benefited far less from industrialization. Do OECD countries therefore stand under special duties towards the victims of climate change in the global South?

Deadline for submission: August 31, 2013


The journal’s manuscript submission site can be found under:


Information on the Moral Philosophy and Politics (MOPP)

Founding Editors: 

Lukas Meyer [] (Graz University, Austria)

Mark Peacock [] (York University, Canada)

Peter Schaber [] (Zürich University, Switzerland)

Michael Schefczyk [] (Leuphana University, Germany / Editor-in-Chief)


Aims & Scope: 

Moral Philosophy and Politics (MPP) is an international, peer-reviewed journal which invites the submission of original philosophical articles on issues of public relevance. ‘Public relevance’ is to be understood in a broad sense. Of particular interest to the journal are the philosophical assessment of policy and its normative basis, analyses of the philosophical underpinnings or implications of political debate and reflection on the justice or injustice of the social and political structures which regulate human action.

MPP is committed to the ideal of clarity, evidence-based thinking and intellectual openness; interdisciplinary work and historical approaches will be considered as long as they are relevant to contemporary issues. MPP will consider publishing both theoretical and meta-ethical work as well as work concerned with conceptual problems, if such work sheds light on political, moral, economic and social issues of contemporary societies. Contributors are expected to make clear how their work relates to these issues.


Editorial Board 

Elizabeth Anderson (University of Michigan)

Arthur Applbaum (Harvard University)

Dieter Birnbacher (Düsseldorf University)

Rüdiger Bittner (Bielefeld University)

Idil Boran (York University)

John Broome (Oxford University)

Simon Caney (Oxford University)

Paula Casal (ICREA/Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona)

Stephen Darwall (Yale University)

Andreas Føllesdal (Oslo University)

Rainer Forst (Frankfurt University)

Stephen Gardiner (University of Washington)

Stefan Gosepath (Frankfurt University)

David Heyd (Hebrew University)

Wilfried Hinsch (Cologne University)

Duncan Ivison (Sydney University)

Rahel Jaeggi (Humboldt University Berlin)

Matt Matravers (University of York)

Kirsten Meyer (Humboldt University Berlin)

David Miller (Oxford University)

Nenad Miscevic (Maribor University)

Susan Neiman (Einstein Forum)

Elif Özmen (Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich)

Nigel Pleasants (University of Exeter)

Thomas Pogge (Yale University)

Mathias Risse (Harvard University)

Sam Scheffler (New York University)

Ralf Stoecker (Potsdam University)

Adam Swift (University of Warwick)

John Tasioulas (University College London)

Leif Wenar (King’s College London)

Andrew Williams (ICREA/Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona)

Lea Ypi (London School of Economics)


General Information on Publisher & Journal: 

Journal Structure: 

Articles (5.000-10.000 words), Discussions, Critical Studies, Book Reviews


Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co., Berlin and New York

Publication Frequency: 

Twice a year, starting in spring 2014



Online Journal & Peer Review Tool: 

ScholarOne Manuscripts,


The journal’s manuscript submission site can be found under:


Online Access:

Free online access to the first issue for up to 60 days; online access via IP address to university libraries & other customers for subsequent issues; MPP can be packaged with other De Gruyter journals, for instance Kant StudienNietzsche-Studien and Wittgenstein-Studien.


Communication via De Gruyter Subject Newsletter, De Gruyter Library Newsletter, De Gruyter Library Supplier Newsletter, Social Media; De Gruyter is represented at about seventy specialist conferences; De Gruyter actively cooperates with abstracting & indexing services worldwide

Call for Applicants: The Yaoundé Seminar on Theories of Justice, 26.08-01.09.2013

Below you will find a copy of the call for applicants to the Yaoundé seminar, organized by the Centre of Study and Research on Political and Social Justice -CERJUSP – (Catholic University of Central Africa), and the Hoover Chair of Economic and Social Ethics (Catholic University of Louvain).

Justice and Agents of Justice


If political and moral philosophers have worked to define the principles of justice by identifying the fundamental rights and correlative obligations, there is however less interest on questions pertaining to agents of justice which if well-constructed will include both moral agents and individuals or institutions who can be attached certain obligations of justice. In other words, the issue of ‘what we owe to each other’ (Scanlon, 1998) has attracted more attention than reflections on who actually owes what to whom? Or who should be obligated once a moral imperative has been identified (O’Neill, 1999). This blurring situation on the identification of agents of justice is often confronted when examining global problems such as hunger. If we recognize this situation as ‘unacceptable’ and a violation of the fundamental rights of the less privileged, we must also accept that many scholars are more divided when it comes to identifying the actors who have the obligation to rectify this. If the issue of agents to implement the principles of justice is less explicit, it is probably because of the contention that the State, as a source of law and stakeholder in international human rights agreements, is immediately in charge of the obligations related to these rights.

If any theory of justice therefore aims to identify principles that should regulate the coexistence and cooperation between various individuals recognized as free and equal, it therefore implies that the State, as an organized group of free and equal people living in a given territory, is the principal agent of justice. It is because the state has power that theorists of justice assume she is the principal agent of justice. And because other actors of the society would be deprived of the same power that they are regarded as secondary agents of justice. However, considering the state as the main agent of justice may seem problematic for the protection of fundamental rights if one takes seriously into consideration some social facts: What becomes of the protection of fundamental rights when the State practices injustice, either through violation of her own citizens’ fundamental rights, or just because she is not democratic? What happens to the protection of fundamental rights when the state becomes weak due to lack of resources –political and financially. Such weaknesses can lead to a power or authority vacuum thus the privatization of many state prerogatives to private actors or agents. How then identify potential agents of justice in these contexts?

After devoting its first edition to the theories of global justice, the second edition of The Yaoundé Phd Seminar – “Theories of Justice” attempts to address the criteria enabling the identification of different agents of justice at the global and national, through three main segments: lectures, project presentations and feedbacks.

The Application Process

The organizing committee welcomes applications from doctorate students – African PhD students (max. 10) and the other half non-African PhD students (max. 10) who are interested in this subject. Applicants will be selected according to their projects or ongoing theses on aspects related to theories of justice in general and other related fields (philosophy, law, theology, canon law, sociology, anthropology, economics, political science, history, human rights, etc. However priority will be given to those which are directly related to this theme as well as female candidates. Non-doctoral candidates may also be considered based on the substance of their application.

Applications are expected by 28 February 2013 in French and / or English and include:

1) a project (max. 2 pages) in a pdf format.

2) One letter of recommendation from the supervisor sent to: or,

3) One brief CV highlighting the University to which the candidate is affiliated, his research interests and scientific publications if possible.

The entire file must be sent to or
Successful applicants will be notified by 31st March 2013 at the latest.

They should undertake to:

1) Pay 150 Euros participation fee (for African PhD students) and 300 euros (for doctoral non-African) no later than 30 June 2013 and

2) Their travel costs to Yaoundé (Cameroon).
Once in Cameroon, accommodation, transportation and catering will be fully taken care of by CERJUSP. (NB: there are opportunities to reduce costs of participation for African PhD students, but they are very limited).

In addition to the scientific aspect of this event (26/08/13 to 31/08/13), this second edition will offer a touristic weekend for interested participants (31/08/2013 to 01/09/13).

Lecturers Invited:

Prof. Philippe Van Parijs, Philosophy & Sociology (UCLouvain, Belgium and Oxford, UK)
Prof. Florian Wettstein, Law (St. Gallen, Switzerland)
Prof. Ernest-Marie Mbonda, Philosophy (UCAC, Cameroon & CREUM, Canada)
Prof. Godfrey Tangwa, Philosophy (Yaoundé I, Cameroon)
Prof. Jonathan Wolff, Philosophy (UCLondon, United Kingdom)
Prof. Thierry Amougou, Economy (UCLouvain, Belgium)
Prof. Georges Pavlakos, Law (Antwerp, Belgium) (to be confirmed)

Scientific Committee

Ernest-Marie Mbonda (UCAC, Yaoundé)
Mikael Petitjean (UCLouvain, Belgium)
Geert Demiujnck (UCLille, France)
Axel Gosseries (UCLouvain, Belgium)
DanyRondeau (UQAR, Canada)
Ryoa Chung (UdM, Canada)
Emmanuel Babissagana (Saint Louis, Belgium)

Organizing Committee

Ernest-Marie Mbonda
Thierry Ngosso
Atabong Tamo

Call for Papers: The Ethics of Consumption (January 1, 2013)

The Ethics of Consumption: The Citizen, The Market, and The Law

EurSafe, Uppsala, Sweden, September 11-14, 2013

Confirmed Keynote Speakers

Philip Cafaro, Colorado State University, USA
Dorothea Kleine, University of London, UK
Mara Miele, Cardiff University, UK
Ian Robertson, International Animal Law, New Zealand

EurSafe 2013 is a forum for discussion of ethical issues at the intersection between social, economic and legal aspects of consumption of food and agricultural products. The congress has three main sub themes connected to the overall issue of ethical consumption. However, general contributions to agricultural and food ethics are also welcome.

You are invited to submit abstracts for oral or poster presentation. We welcome contributions on these themes as well as general themes on food and agricultural ethics from a range of fields, such as ethics and philosophy, anthrozoology, social and historical sciences, education and pedagogics, political philosophy, law, animal welfare science, applied ethology, laboratory animals, veterinary medicine, biology, environment, rural development, and recreation. Please refer to the congress website for detailed instructions.

We encourage new scholars to participate! Therefore, there is a limited number of bursaries for students (including PhD students) whose papers are accepted. The bursaries include a waiver of the conference fee plus budget accommodation (no travel costs covered). Recipients will be selected by the organizing committee. If you think you are eliglible, please indicate so when submitting your abstract.

Important dates

Nov 2012 2nd announcement and call for papers
1 Jan 2013 Deadline for submission of abstracts for oral or poster presentation. Extended!
11 Feb 2013 Notification of abstracts to authors
2 April 2013 Deadline for submission of full papers
2 May 2013 Notification of full papers to authors
3 June 2013 Deadline for suggestion of workshops
3 June 2013 Deadline for early bird registration

For more information, see

Neoliberalism and Climate Change

Here you can find a collection of interesting thoughts on climate change by George Monbiot, published on his personal blog: