The Moral Austerity of Environmental Decision Making

Sustainability, Democracy, and Normative Argument in Policy and Law

The Moral Austerity of Environmental Decision Making

Book Pages: 400 Illustrations: 5 tables, 1 map Published: June 2002

Environmental Studies, Politics > Public Policy

In The Moral Austerity of Environmental Decision Making a group of prominent environmental ethicists, policy analysts, political theorists, and legal experts challenges the dominating influence of market principles and assumptions on the formulation of environmental policy. Emphasizing the concept of sustainability and the centrality of moral deliberation to democracy, they examine the possibilities for a wider variety of moral principles to play an active role in defining “good” environmental decisions. If environmental policy is to be responsible to humanity and to nature in the twenty-first century, they argue, it is imperative that the discourse acknowledge and integrate additional normative assumptions and principles other than those endorsed by the market paradigm.
The contributors search for these assumptions and principles in short arguments and debates over the role of science, social justice, instrumental value, and intrinsic value in contemporary environmental policy. In their discussion of moral alternatives to enrich environmental decision making and in their search for a less austere and more robust role for normative discourse in practical policy making, they analyze a series of original case studies that deal with environmental sustainability and natural resources policy including pollution, land use, environmental law, globalism, and public lands. The unique structure of the book—which features the core contributors responding in a discourse format to the central chapters’ essays and debates—helps to highlight the role personal and public values play in democratic decision making generally and in the field of environmental politics specifically.

Contributors. Joe Bowersox, David Brower, Susan Buck, Celia Campbell-Mohn, John Martin Gillroy, Joel Kassiola, Jan Laitos, William Lowry, Bryan Norton, Robert Paehlke, Barry G. Rabe, Mark Sagoff, Anna K. Schwab, Bob Pepperman Taylor, Jonathan Wiener


"The book is concerned with general issues in environmental policy, yet it maintains a focus on practical concerns. Environmental professionals will find that reading this book is time well spent. . . . This book is highly recommended reading for any environmental professional with a personal or professional interest in the place of moral principles in political debates about environmental policy." — Stephen L. Beck , Environmental Practice

“The best quality of this volume is the lively and engaging discussion among prominent environmental philosophers and political theorists. These contributors make evident how little serious attention is paid to moral principles by policy analysts and how these principles might foster more democratic practices.” — John Meyer, author of Political Nature: Environmentalism and the Interpretation of Western Thought

“The concept of ‘sustainability’ in environmental policy making certainly benefits from the kind of serious philosophical and political analysis it receives in this excellent collection.” — Steven Kelman, Harvard University

“This is an extremely important, in-depth normative discussion among leaders in environmental theory on the values influencing environmental decision making.” — Matthew Cahn, California State University, Northridge


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

John Martin Gillroy is MacArthur Professor of Environmental Policy and Law at Bucknell University.

Joe Bowersox is Associate Professor of Politics at Willamette University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Figures and Tables


Introduction: The Roots of Moral Austerity in Environmental Policy Discourse

Part I. Moral Principles and Environmental Policy: Basic Issues and Dilemmas

Issue 1: Science as a Substitute for Moral Principles?

Science as a Substitute for Moral Principle / Susan Buck

Science Is No Substitute for Moral Principle / Robert Paehlke

Issue 2: Environmental Justice without Social Justice?

Why Environmental Thought and Action Must Include Considerations of Social Justice / Joel J. Kassiola

Environmental Justice: Private Preference or Public Necessity? / Joe Bowersox

Issue 3: Nature Has Only an Instrumental Value

Sustainability: Descriptive or Performative? / Bryan Norton

Are Environmental Values All Instrumental? / Mark Sagoff

Issue 4: Intrinsic Value Implies No Use and a Threat to Democratic Governance

A Practical Concept of Nature’s Intrinsic Value / John Martin Gillroy

On Intrinsic Value and Environmental Ethics / Bob Pepperman Taylor

Part II: Case Studies in Sustainable Environmental Policy and Law


The Subnational Role in Sustainable Development: Lessons from American States and Canadian Provinces / Barry G. Rabe

Sustainable Development and Natural Hazards Mitigation / Anna K. Schwab and David J. Brower

Sustainable Governance / Jonathan Baert Wiener

Sustainability in the United States: Legal Tools and Initiatives / Celia Campbell-Mohn

Sustainable Development and the Use of Public Lands / Jan G. Laitos

The Impact of Political Institutions on Preservation of the U.S. and Canadian National Parks / William Lowry

Global Environmental Accountability: The Missing Link in the Pursuit of Sustainable Development? / Robert V. Percival

Part III: Moral Principles and Sustainable Environmental Policy: An Analysis of Ends and Means


Issue I: Science and Sustainability

Sustainability, Sustainable Development, and Values / Robert Paehlke

Saving All the Parts: Science and Sustainability / Susan Buck


Issue 3: A Sustainable Environment as an Instrumental Value?

The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Environment / Mark Sagoff

Why Not Foxy Hedgehogs? / Bryan Norton


Issue 4: A Sustainable Environment as an Intrinsic Value?

Sustainability: Restricting the Policy Debate / John Martin Gillroy

Comments on Sustainability / Bob Pepperman Taylor


Conclusion: Democratic Competence, Accountability, and Education in the Twenty-first Century




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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2865-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2850-6
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