Objectives & Background

Cary Conference 2011

Deeper and broader understanding of environmental ethics, as the study of values, can serve both science and environmental decision making. First, ethical analysis exposes the values involved in generating key features of the unfolding global environmental crisis. Second, philosophy can expose the epistemological assumptions and values behind important ecological approaches used in environmental problem solving. Two scientific pillars encompass the range of environmental problem-solving approaches: the ecosystem and evolution. Benefits of exposing values embodied in scientific knowledge include, on the one hand, a fair assessment of biases, and on the other hand, a method to harmonize ecological messages with societal concerns that emerge from or reflect human values. Understanding the values that link scientific knowledge with ecologically motivated action can help evaluate and communicate those plans.

Perhaps more practically, understanding ethics helps guide collaborative decision making, which is becoming a more common approach to solving environmental problems at all levels of governance. Ethical analysis can help promote the involvement of local and traditional ecological knowledge and environmental practices into collaborative decision making. Furthermore, ethics helps understand and avoid lapses of environmental justice in the course of applying ecological knowledge. It is crucial that environmentally beneficial decisions not result in inequities for disenfranchised and marginalized groups.


The 2011 Cary Conference will promote communication among ethicists, philosophers, and ecologists by sharing key foundations and the cutting edge concerns of their disciplines. As a shared starting point, we will exploit the work of Aldo Leopold as a widely recognized pioneer of the ethics-ecology connection. From that powerful beginning, the group will be identify new insights in the fields of environmental philosophy and environmental ethics.

Publication products

Products from the Conference will communicate the insights to a broad audience of environmental scholars and practitioners across disciplines. In particular, we will identify the research questions needed to better link ecology and environmental ethics. We will summarize these insights and the scholarly frontiers in publications and web based outlets.

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies | Millbrook, New York 12545 | Tel (845) 677-5343

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