a blog about philosophy in public affairs

Category: Environment

Driving for Values

Smart cities are full of sensors and collect large amounts of data. One reason for doing so is to get real-time information about traffic flows. A next step is to steer the traffic in a way that contributes to the realisation of values such as safety and sustainability. Think of steering cars around schools to improve the safety of children, or of keeping certain areas car-free to improve air quality. Is it legitimate for cities to nudge their citizens to make moral choices when participating in traffic? Would a system that limits a person’s options for the sake of improving quality of life in the city come at the cost of restricting that person’s autonomy? In a transdisciplinary research project, we (i.e., members of the ESDiT programme and the Responsible Sensing Lab) explored how a navigation app that suggests routes based on shared values, would affect users’ experiences of autonomy. We did so by letting people try out speculative prototypes of such an app on a mobile phone and ask them questions about how they experienced different features of the app. During several interviews and a focus group, we gained insights about the conditions under which people find such an app acceptable and about the features that increase or decrease their feeling of autonomy.

How the animal industry undermines consumers’ autonomy

In this post, Rubén Marciel (UPF and UB) and Pablo Magaña (UPF) discuss their article recently published in the Journal of Applied Philosophy on the ethical legitimacy of misleading commercial speech for ‘green’ or ‘ethically produced’ animal products.

Photo by Mae Mu with Unsplash Licence.

What is next for the environmental movement in the UK?

Almost 5 years ago today, on the 31st of October 2018, Extinction Rebellion was publicly launched outside the UK Parliament. Since then, it has been one of the most influential environmental movements in the UK and in other parts of the world, instrumental in changing the public conversation and in leading to the declaration of a climate emergency by the UK parliament in 2019. Using non-violent civil disobedience and mass arrests as the main tactics, in its first few years the movement organised a number of often theatrical actions which included blocking roads and bridges, with activists gluing and locking themselves in public spaces. The question of whether public disruption was indeed the right tactic for Extinction Rebellion, and the environmental movement more broadly, has dominated conversations inside and outside the movement ever since.

Why We Should ‘Environmentalise’ the Curriculum

A photograph of a group of people sitting on a frosty hillside. One person is standing up and talking to the others.
Outdoor Philosophy Session by the Critique Environmental Working Group: Place-Based Ecological Reflection Exercise in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh. Photo supplied by authors.

This is a guestpost in Justice Everywhere’s Teaching Philosophy series. It is written by Talia Shoval, Grace Garland and Joseph Conrad, of the Environmental Working Group of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Ethics and Critical Thought (Critique).

In this blogpost, we share insights from the exploratory journey we undertook into ‘environmentalising’ the curriculum: a project aimed at bringing the environment to the fore of learning and teaching in higher education. After briefly explaining the guiding rationale, we sketch the contours of the environmentalising project and suggest trajectories for moving forward.

As political theorists working on issues concerning the environment, we start from the working observation that environmental issues tend to be downplayed—or worse, altogether overlooked—in the context of academic learning and teaching, as well as in scholarly research. The environment, when it is mentioned, is often treated as a miscellaneous category, an ‘Other’ that falls outside the remit of and constitutes the backdrop to human affairs. This tendency is exemplified by the lack of environmental materials in syllabi across the social sciences and humanities. Even when environmental issues are present, they are discussed, more often than not, in human-centred ways. Juxtaposed with the evidence of environmental degradation all around, this felt odd, and somewhat disquieting. Our initial intuition told us that the environment should take up much more space in academic curricula and common research, learning, and teaching practices—even in the social sciences, including politics and ethics.

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