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2014 研究助成 Research Grant Program   [ B 個人研究助成   ]

Exploring Public Moral Values of Intergenerational Environmental Justice


Abstract of Project Proposal

     Intergenerational environmental justice IEJ between current and future peoples is an issue of critical concern to environmental politics. Climate change, biodiversity loss and energy use all require us to consider multigenerational timescales and multiple, conflicting moral values whilst making immediate decisions. What is needed are tools to assist this process, decision support methodologies that encourage stakeholder deliberative engagement with complex social and moral values implicit in long term environmental management processes. This project presents a novel deliberative tool to explore public moral values of IEJ and to provide decision support to policy makers. The proposed ethical tool combines two approaches. First is John Dewey's concept of dramatic rehearsal, an empathetic and imaginative ethical deliberation process. The second is the methodology of participatory backcasting, in this case using visual materials such as pictures, drawings and other visioning techniques to develop a creative process of devising scenarios of potentially desirable futures, with practical evaluation of the technical, social and political networks necessary to make such futures happen. By experimenting with this novel model of deliberative engagement I aim to provide a fruitful means for elucidating complex new moral values around IEJ and find the means to incorporate these into environmental policy processes.


Summary of Final Report

    The project "Exploring public moral values of intergenerational environmental justice" was an inter-disciplinary exercise in what philosophers call environmental pragmatism. At it's heart was a concern with the plight of future generations. Since the Brundtland Commission report on sustainable development, environmental policies have been oriented towards ""development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." The issue of global anthropogenic climate change presents a difficult challenge to this core principle of fairness between current and future generations of humankind. With global temperatures set to rise above the supposedly 'safe' two degree Celsius level based upon current projections, this will inevitably lead to biodiversity loss, crop failures, increased incidence of extreme weather events and sea level rise, among a host of other negative impacts that will harm future people's ability to meet their own welfare needs for safe shelter, stable food and other resource access, and avoid the risks associated with natural disasters such as flood and drought. 
    Though it widely recognized in policy circles that care for the future should be a priority in climate change negotiations, the question of who future people are (given that no specific future person can be identified), what their future needs will be, or how best to provide for them, remains unresolved. Moreover, the short-term thinking of policy-makers based upon short election cycles and urgent domestic policy concerns, mean that future people are commonly 'discounted': future lives and future wellbeing are valued as less than those of current people. This is fundamentally a problem of morel imagination  that we lack the sufficient social and psychological resources to imagine future people, to empathise with their needs and concerns and to act accordingly. The underlying rationale for the project was thus based upon the pragmatist philosopher John Dewey's concept of 'dramatic rehearsal': the premise that to make a moral decision, one must first imagine the needs of another, and then mentally 'rehearse' the futures that are created for that other, by our own actions.
    It is in this way that project is a form of environmental pragmatism, because it is based upon the notion that we can better explore these issues of moral imagination and rehearsed futures around inter-generational interests in a practical way. I present here that the main objective was the development of an 'ethical tool': a device that encourages reflection, moral deliberation and input to our understanding of an ethical problem. It is therefore both a form of practical ethics (a way of making decisions) and empirical ethics (a way of empirically examining individuals' moral reflections social scientifically). In practice, I developed a workshop to explore these issues. Methodologically, I worked with a group of 56 university students in the social sciences and humanities across a period of 4 days to build this process of dramatic rehearsal of future generational interests in climate change.
    Half of these groups explored a 2 degree warming scenario, and the other half a dangerous 4 degree warming scenario. They then underwent a series of tasks to explore the future worlds that might emerge. They used a variety of artistic techniques under the guidance of a community artist  including collage, drawing and model making to design scenarios encompassing biodiversity, habitation and resource production. They then put these 'artefacts' into self-made maps of future worlds, exploring different impacts under different scenarios.
    Participants also took part in recorded focus group sessions to reflect upon their understanding of environmental futures, their experience of the process of moral reflection and upon specific moral judgements that they made about the intergenerational equity issue. Finally, they produced a series of 'artefacts' to conclude their evaluation. These included posters, a Facebook group, a diary written from the perspective of a 'future person', and a design schematic for a new 'Noah's Ark'. 
    The results reveal first, a universal anthropocentric bias in participant perspectives, the second was the importance of critical species (such as bees) in the mental models of future generational interests; and the third is a tendency to shift towards either utopian or dystopian visions of environmental futures informed by grand technological visions, or biblical imagery of flood and disaster. These results have had a profund effect upon the participants' understanding of environmental issues, and their personal stake in collective action on climate change.
    Initial outputs included a gallery space of artistic 'artefact' presentation at the Interdiscipinary Centre of the Social Sciences in Sheffield. Photographs were made available to the public through the Achieve More programme website. All outputs were photographed and audio transcribed for qualitative analysis. Initial analysis was presented in a conference paper at the IAFOR Energy, Sustainability and Society conference, and has been presented at the planning research forum at Sheffield University and Environment and Society research group at York University. A journal article manuscript is near completion and will be sent for internal peer review in December, with submission for external peer review in the Global Environmental Change in early 2017. 



2014 研究助成 Research Grant Program   【B 個人研究助成  】
助成番号(Grant Number)
題目(Project Title)
Exploring Public Moral Values of Intergenerational Environmental Justice
マシュー・コットン / Matthew Cotton
Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Sheffield
助成金額(Grant Amount)