Engineering the Earth: towards geoethics?
The 8th International Conference on Applied Ethics: Applied Ethics in an Era of Emerging Technologies, Université de Hokkaido, Sapporo, Japon, 1-3 novembre 2013
The deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment to counteract anthropogenic global environmental change (aka geoengineering) invites important normative issues. For instance, the so-called "Oxford Principles" offer a set of procedural guiding principles for the governance of emerging climate engineering. In this paper, we engage further, and in a more substantive way, with this issue, namely the possibility, necessity and pertinence of moral rules or principles serving as decision guide with regard to the prospects of engineering the earth. In particular, drawing upon medical ethics, we explore the potential of principles of a "geoethics" and their limits, including the principle of respect for the autonomy of nature; the two principles of non-maleficence and beneficence towards the biosphere, respectively; and a principle of cardinal virtue with regard to spontaneous and universal mechanisms around us. Based on these ideas, we finally suggest building a whole alternative to the current anthropological type, which could be consistent with a re-embedding of the economy in our environment.