Freedom and Environment: Autonomy, Human Flourishing and the Political Philosophy of Sustainability, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Freedom and Environment

Autonomy, Human Flourishing and the Political Philosophy of Sustainability, 1st Edition

By Michael Hannis


202 pages | 2 B/W Illus.

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Must freedom be sacrificed to achieve ecological sustainability - or vice versa? Can we be genuinely free and live in sustainable societies? This book argues that we can, if we recognise and celebrate our ecological embeddedness, rather than seeking to transcend it.

But this does not mean freedom can simply be redefined to fit within ecological limits. Addressing current unsustainability will involve significant restrictions, and hence will require political justification, not just scientific evidence.

Drawing on material from perfectionist liberalism, capabilities approaches, human rights, relational ethics and virtue theory, Michael Hannis explores the relationship between freedom and sustainability, considering how each contributes to human flourishing. He argues that a substantive and ecologically literate conception of human flourishing can underpin both capability-based environmental rights and a eudaimonist ecological virtue ethics. With such a foundation in place, public authorities can act both to facilitate ecological virtue, and to remove structural incentives to ecological vice.

Freedom and Environment is a lucid addition to existing literature in environmental politics and virtue ethics, and will be an excellent resource to those studying debates about freedom with debates about ecological sustainability.


'Michael Hannis’ new book represents a valuable addition to the literatures on capabilities and justice, on the one hand, and environmental virtue ethics, on the other. In addition, it provides a sustained and penetrating account of the relationship between human freedom and ecological sustainability—two sometimes conflicting goals that must be reconciled if humanity is to have a decent future on Earth.'—Philip Cafaro, Colorado State University

'This book aptly examines how ecological sustainability and freedom - both required for the possibility of human flourishing - can be understood as mutually compatible. Employing theoretic resources from the capabilities approach and environmental virtue ethics, Hannis presents an important, compelling, and pragmatic conception of the political change, institutional reorientation, and ethical adaptation called for as we enter the Anthropocene.'—Allen Thompson, Oregon State University

'Imagine we didn't face the most serious environmental crisis in our history: wouldn't we still want to live in a human society characterised by respect for human freedom and where acting as a virtuous citizen was rewarded? Those resisting effective action to address unsustainability often claim to be protecting the sacred cow of freedom. Mike Hannis offers a detailed, life-affirming and much-needed rebuttal of such claims, revealing them to be conceptually as well as practically incoherent. He demonstrates that the aims of saving the planet and creating a free and flourishing human society are not only compatible but mutually reinforcing.— Molly Scott Cato, Professor of Green Economics, Roehampton University; Green MEP for South West England, UK

'This is a book that covers a lot of ground very intelligently, and advances an unsually well integreated set of arguments to pull together several current areas of environmental scholarship in a stimulating, cohesive way.' - Piers H.G. Stephen, The White Horse Press

Table of Contents

Selected Contents: Introduction Chapter 1: Sustainability of What? Chapter 2: Neutrality or Sustainability? Chapter 3: Freedom and Flourishing Chapter 4: Capabilities, Consumption and Environmental Rights Chapter 5: Autonomy, Interdependence and Virtue Chapter 6: The Virtues of Acknowledged Ecological Dependence Chapter 7: Facilitating Ecological Virtue Index

About the Author

Mike Hannis is Lecturer in Environmental Humanities at Bath Spa University, UK. He works at the intersection of ethics, politics and philosophy, exploring conceptions of sustainability, land use issues and environmental virtue ethics.

About the Series

Environmental Politics

Over recent years environmental politics has moved from a peripheral interest to a central concern within the discipline of politics. This series aims to reinforce this trend through the publication of books that investigate the nature of contemporary environmental politics and show the centrality of environmental politics to the study of politics per se. The series understands politics in a broad sense and books will focus on mainstream issues such as the policy process and new social movements as well as emerging areas such as cultural politics and political economy. Books in the series will analyse contemporary political practices with regards to the environment and/or explore possible future directions for the ‘greening’ of contemporary politics. The series will be of interest not only to academics and students working in the environmental field, but will also demand to be read within the broader discipline.

The series consists of two strands:

Environmental Politics addresses the needs of students and teachers, and the titles are published in paperback and hardback.

Routledge Research in Environmental Politics presents innovative new research intended for high-level specialist readership. These titles are published in hardback only.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy