Environmental Ethics and Uncertainty : Wrestling with Wicked Problems book cover
1st Edition

Environmental Ethics and Uncertainty
Wrestling with Wicked Problems

ISBN 9780367259112
Published August 19, 2019 by Routledge
160 Pages

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Book Description

This book offers a multidisciplinary environmental approach to ethics in response to the contemporary challenge of climate change caused by globalized economics and consumption. This book synthesizes the incredible complexity of the problem and the necessity of action in response, highlighting the unambiguous problem facing humanity in the 21st century, but arguing that it is essential to develop an ethics housed in ambiguity in response.

Environmental Ethics and Uncertainty is divided into theoretical and applied chapters, with the theoretical sections engaging in dialogue with scholars from a variety of disciplines, while the applied chapters offer insight from 20th century activists who demonstrate and/or illuminate the theory, including Martin Luther King, Rachel Carson, and Frank Lloyd Wright.

This book is written for scholars and students in the interdisciplinary field of environmental studies and the environmental humanities, and will appeal to courses in religion, philosophy, ethics, politics, and social theory.

Table of Contents


The problem with knowing the answer

Chapter 1

Ethical action in an ambiguous world

Chapter 2

The depths of ambiguity: Ethical pluralism and wonder in Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Rachel Carson

Chapter 3

Good and evil without progress

Chapter 4

Complexity in action: The challenging uncertainties of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X

Chapter 5

Loving the world without certainty

Chapter 6

The dangers of building without ambiguity: Spirituality and utopianism in Frank Lloyd Wright

Chapter 7

Concluding ideas on ambiguous time

Chapter 8

Concluding practices for an uncertain stand: Fracking, Protesting, and engineering the climate

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Whitney A. Bauman is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Florida International University, USA. His books include Religion and Ecology: Developing a Planetary Ethic (2014) and, with Kevin O’Brien and Richard Bohannon, Grounding Religion: A Field Guide to the Study of Religion and Ecology, 2nd Revised Edition (2018).

Kevin J. O'Brien is Professor of Religion and Dean of Humanities at Pacific Lutheran University, USA. His books include The Violence of Climate Change: Lessons of Resistance from Nonviolent Activists and, with Whitney Bauman and Richard Bohannon, Inherited Land: The Changing Grounds of Religion and Ecology.


"This welcome collaboration between two key scholars of environmental culture explains why embracing complexity, pluralism, difficulty, and uncertainty leads to better, deeper responses to environmental troubles. In clear prose with wide intellectual reference, Bauman and O’Brien argue that 'radical change is possible only at the pace of ambiguity.'" 
Willis Jenkins, Professor of Religious Studies & Environmental Humanities at the University of Virginia, USA


"Environmental Ethics and Uncertainty is original, engaging, and important. It offers students and other readers an entry into some of the very complex and challenging moral and theoretical issues related to climate change in a way that is smart and well-grounded without being overly dry, dense, or inaccessible. It does so by focusing on exactly the themes we need to be discussing in regards to environmental ethics and climate change today:  ambiguity, uncertainty, pluralism, and hope. The authors show how uncertainty is not only theoretically but also practically helpful, as they think through concrete ethical problems such as fracking and pipeline protests. Further, their use of eclectic sources and thinkers both shows the wide range of issues and ideas we need to address in thinking about climate change and invites conversation with readers outside the field."
Anna Peterson, Professor, Department of Religion, University of Florida, USA 


"Environmental Ethics and Uncertainty offers a timely intervention in polarized debates surrounding issues like climate change or fracking, and who or what we should believe. Drawing on the wisdom of activists and thinkers ranging from Rachel Carson to Martin Luther King, Jr., the book underscores the value of questioning. Bauman and O'Brien show us that excessive certainty and willful ignorance—both prominent stances in modern American culture—fail to capture the complexity of knowledge and its relationship to moral action."
Professor Lisa Sideris, Department of Religious Studies, Indiana University, USA


"The distinctiveness of Bauman and O’Brien’s text comes through its unique combination of theoretical and applied chapters, drawing upon an impressive array of interdisciplinary sources and examples … Employing the familiar frame of ‘wicked problems’, Bauman and O’Brien argue that approaches to environmental issues must inevitably appreciate complexity and uncertainty while emphasising the multiple positions and perspectives surrounding specific … Bauman and O’Brien’s work offers an important perspective to be considered by any scholars and activists interested in applied environmental ethics in the twenty-first century." 
Joseph D. Witt, Mississippi State University in ‘Environmental Values’, 2020