Environmental Ethics recongized by the UNT office of Research and Economic Development | Philosophy & Religion
March 8, 2013

Environmental Ethics recongized by the UNT office of Research and Economic Development

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Journal publishing is a cornerstone practice in the exchange of research and scholarly works, and universities and other academic institutions have historically facilitated these efforts as publishers. Over the years, the University of North Texas has produced journals in a wide range of disciplines, many of which are recognized as being significant resources in the field.

Environmental Ethics - A Journal of the UNT Center for Environmental Philosophy

In 1977, Eugene Hargrove was on an elevator at the annual Western Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association. Somewhere between the 10th and 15th floors his eyes suddenly brightened, as all the experiences and advice he'd been given culminated into one great idea. "Bing!" the elevator bell sounded. "Why don't I just start an Environmental Ethics journal!"

Hargrove had been an active cave explorer while pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Missouri, Columbia. When his favorite cave, Devils' Ice Box, became threatened by water pollution, he found himself involved in a political battle over the environment. As he wrote his dissertation, his mind flooded with questions about the battle for the cave site.

"I started thinking about why we say what we do in environmental conflicts, and why the other side uses the arguments they use," Hargrove said. "There really wasn't a language at that time for answering these questions - no dialogue about environmental ethics existed."

Hargrove later served as a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow of Enviro­­nmental Affairs, tracing land use attitudes to their roots in history. During a meeting with the officials of the National Endowment for the Humanities, he asked why they didn't put money into environmental ethics as they did in science and technology. Hargrove observed that there was virtually nothing written on the subject, and they agreed: there was no body of knowledge, no dialogue or existing environmental ethics institute. "You should get some people together to write a book on the subject, to establish a basis for such a field," he was told. The advice stuck with him.

Instead of writing or editing a book, Hargrove opened the environmental ethics conversation to the community with a call for writings on the subject. Submissions received from across the country confirmed the need for ongoing dialogue in this area, and in 1979 he launched the Environmental Ethics journal, aiming to build a new scholarly field and provide a place for people to publish environmental ethics issues in a peer-reviewed atmosphere. He also established Environmental Philosophy Inc., a non-profit organization that later created the Center for Environmental Philosophy (CEP) to manage publication of the journal and related activities.

Environmental Ethics is published four times a year, with an issue released each season. It was the first journal of its kind and continues to be the leading journal in the field. The inaugural issue included an article authored by Holmes Rolston, III, who in 1975 brought environmental ethics to the attention of mainstream philosophy with the publication of his paper "Is There an Ecological Ethic?" in the journal Ethics. UNT Regents Professor, and co-editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy, J. Baird Callicott, also authored an original Environmental Ethics article, "Elements of an Environmental Ethic: Moral Considerability and the Biotic Community." The second issue of the journal included an unpublished article by Aldo Leopold, "Some Fundamentals of Conservation in the Southwest."

Engaged with innovative thinkers, Hargrove's journal has served for 34 years as a vessel for environmental ethics conversations. His strong vision and ideas have won him a reputation as one of the most influential philosophers in the field. "Environmental Ethics is philosophy's chance to rectify its greatest error, the rejection of the natural world as it is experienced concretely in real life," he wrote in his 1989 book. "To fail to do so would be to deny its own past, to give up its historic intellectual role in Western society, and to allow the study of philosophy to become archaic, irrelevant, and silly" (Foundations of Environmental Ethics).

When UNT needed to hire someone who could both serve as philosophy department chair and establish an environmental ethics program, they called the Environmental Ethics journal to place an ad for the position. A conversation with Hargrove proved beneficial to both parties, given the depth of his investment in the field. Hargrove was invited to fill the position, and it wasn't long before he moved to north Texas, bringing with him the flagship journal of the Center for Environmental Philosophy (CEP). The Center was officially adopted as an affiliated organization in 1991 by the UNT Council of Deans, making UNT home to a growing number of activities in the field.

Alexandria Poole, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies, is associate director of CEP and also serves as editorial assistant for the journal. Poole said she accepted Hargrove's invitation to work with the journal and CEP because it was an opportunity to join forces with an organization that prioritized supporting philosophical problems that were otherwise considered peripheral in popular discourse.

"I am proud to be part of an infrastructure that creates an intellectual space for ethical discourse through the journal, as well as a creative space for collaboration through the center," she said. Submitting authors, many of whom are new to the field or write from the vantage of other disciplines, greatly benefit from the professional feedback built into the journal's editorial practices.

Alexandria Poole, CEP associate director & Eugene Hargrove, CEP Director and founder of Environmental Ethics (right)

The process of high-quality, peer reviewed research is time consuming, but for Alex, "it is this care that captures the spirit of the journal - the effort to maintain a forum for diverse perspectives and to support an expansion of what topics are considered legitimate within the philosophical discourse."

One important consideration is how the journal assists dialogue in other, non-Western regions. "The values that guide Western philosophy do not necessarily address concerns for other cultures," Poole said. "There is an imperative to understand the ethical and economic issues in the context of many other cultures."

Hargrove's goal of building a new scholarly field in environmental ethics and philosophy now extends around the globe. In 1991 the CEP created the Visiting Scholars Program, which has hosted 32 scholars from Finland, Brazil, Guatemala, Germany, Sweden, South Africa, China, Belgium, France and many other countries. Visiting scholars stay for one year, attend classes, and give presentations while facilitating the Center's effort to establish a global discourse for environmental ethics.

The Center coordinates with national organizations, such as the International Society for Environmental Ethics (ISEE) and the International Association of Environmental Philosophy (IAEP), as well as foreign centers. Hargrove has a relationship with the Nanjing Forestry University in China, which periodically translates and publishes Environmental Ethics articles. Since 2010, CEP has hosted annual conferences together with the University of Lagos, Akoka, Nigeria, and a special issue on African environmental ethics is forthcoming Winter 2013. Hargrove is also a proponent of ethics and the solar system and has produced conference events over the years in collaboration with researchers at NASA using grants from the National Science Foundation.

When Hargrove's attention turned to South American environmental philosophy, he found a promising cohort in Chilean native Ricardo Rozzi, an ecologist and researcher for the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity (IEB) at the University of Chile, and professor of Philosophy and Religion Studies at The Universidad de Magellenas (UMAG), the southernmost university in the Western Hemisphere. Rozzi participated in CEP's Visiting Scholar Program in 1997 and was hired to UNT in 2004 as professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies, forging a valuable link to South American environmental ethics conversations.

Making South American connections has been an intense process, Hargrove said. It has also been highly successful. Rozzi and James Kennedy, UNT Regents Professor of Biological Sciences and Elm Fork Education Center Director, created UNT's Sub-Antarctic Biocultural Conservation Program. The SBCP program is a partnership between UNT, CEP, UMAG, IEB, and the Omora Ethnobotanical Park (co-founded by Rozzi) at the UNESCO Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve in Chile.

Ricardo Rozzi, center, teaching at the Omora Ethnobotanical Park in Chile. Also pictured: James Kennedy, right. The two co-founded the Sub-Antarctic Biocultural Conservation Program. Photo courtesty SBCP.

Rozzi served as guest-editor of the 2008 Environmental Ethics special issue "Integrating Ecological Sciences and Environmental Ethics," which related to conserving frontier ecosystems and South American issues. The winter 2012 issue released February 2013 is the second in the South American series and is published in both Spanish and English in an effort to bridge the dialogue between North and South America.

"In the sciences you look at the numbers, the tables, and the quantitative data, so it may be fine to have one communication in the English language," Rozzi said. "But in philosophy, especially when dealing with interdisciplinary themes, the nuances of the language and the translation become very important." The work of translating is also valuable methodologically, as it brings teams of US and South American students together to understand one another's ideas through the delicate process of translation.

On March 15, 2013 Rozzi, Hargrove, and Poole will meet in Puerto Natales, Chile for the Fifth Latin American (Inter-American) Environmental Philosophy Conference together with students, article authors, and editors of the Spanish language special issue of Environmental Ethics. The event is hosted by five different organizations in Chile and UNT.

"On the one hand, this network solves the problem of a geographical gap between North and South America," Rozzi said. "But more broadly it solves the problem of an interdisciplinary gap that is worldwide, where UNT is a leader in this effort."

Photographs by Amelia Jaycen. Banner photo by Gary Payne.

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