J. Baird Callicott

“From the Land Ethic to the Earth Ethic:

Aldo Leopold in a Time of Climate Change”

Thursday, Feb 12, 2009
Ed. Ctr. 118, 3:15-4:45

Sponsored by
The Philosophy Department, the Masters in Environmental Studies Program, and the Environmental Studies Minor


About the talk: Aldo Leopold’s “The Land Ethic,” published in 1949, is the seminal source for the subsequent development of environmental ethics as a subdiscipline of philosophy, beginning in the 1970s and growing exponentially ever since. The Leopold land ethic is also the environmental ethic of choice among natural resource managers, conservation biologists, and other applied environmental sciences. The land ethic, however, is scaled to local biotic communities and regional ecosystems: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”—wrote Leopold. The over-riding environmental concern of the present century, however, is global climate change. The land ethic cannot be coherently scaled up to a planetary scale—which is unfortunate, because of the enormous cache of the Leopold brand. Fortunately, however, Leopold sketched an “earth ethic” based on an anticipation of the Gaia Hypothesis in 1923, urging respect for the whole Earth as a living being. Like the land ethic, the earth ethic is holistic and nonanthropocentric, although Leopold also expresses concern for “unknown posterity” (future human generations). Its scientific foundation is biogeochemistry, not community ecology. Its philosophical foundation is more Kantian than Humean.

About the speaker. J. Baird Callicott is Regents Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of North Texas. Professor Callicott is one of the two founding fathers (grandfathers!) of the discipline of environmental philosophy, having worked in the field for almost 40 years, originating many of its central debates, and teaching the first course in environmental ethics in 1971. He chairs a department that is the leading center for graduate study in environmental philosophy in North America. Professor Callicott has received numerous honors including a visiting professorship at Yale University where he won the Outstanding Teaching and Leadership Award. He’s been an investigator on grants totaling over a million dollars, has written or edited a dozen books, and has published well over 100 papers. He has served on the editorial advisory board of virtually every important journal related to environmental studies, including Conservation Biology, Ecological Economics, Environmental History, Philosophy and Geography, Environmental Values, Society and Natural Resources, Agriculture and Human Values, and the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture. For more on Professor Callicott, see http://www.phil.unt.edu/faculty/bios/vjbc.php

Reception to follow talk in 14 Glebe
You are also welcome to attend a Friday, Feb 13, 2-3:15 (Maybank 206) visit by Prof. Callicott with an Env. Philosophy Class