Sunday, July 14, 2019

DG RTD Lunchtime conference on geoethics

Martin Bohle
Martin Bohle (IAPG Board of Experts) gives a Lunchtime Talk on geoethics at the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation of the European Union in Brussels (Belgium) on 18 July 2019. His talk is entitled "Exploring Societal Frameworks of the Geosciences"

Mainly using examples, the presentation illustrates the following line of thoughts:

Geosciences help to build human niches of twinned natural and cultural landscapes. Bundled by global supply chains, human activities (engineering, production, consumption) restlessly alter them (Ellis et al. 2016, Dong et al. 2017, Rosol et al. 2017). Taking a systems perspective, the human niche is a network of complex-adaptive social-ecological systems. Often, such systems entangle human agents in operations that involve uncertainty, counter-intuitive system behaviour, irreversible path-dependency and multi-facet values and interests (Kowarsch et al. 2016, Preiser et al. 2018). A mutually accepted common cultural substrate would nurture favourably skills of actors and operational circumstances. Geoethical thinking explores how to develop such a substrate. Geoethics has emerged as a virtue ethics for responsibly acting geoscientists. Subsequently, it evolved into an ‘epistemic moral hybrid’ (Potthast 2015) that supports professionals and citizens when interacting with the Earth system (Bohle et al. 2019). Reliable operational guidance (a ‘geoethical rationale’) emerges when geoethics is combined with Kohlberg’s hierarchy of moral adequacy (Kohlberg 1981) and Jonas’s imperative of responsibility (Jonas 1984). It advises to be ‘actor-centric, virtue-ethics focused, responsibility focused, knowledge-based, all-actor-inclusive, and universal rights-based’. Such a ‘geoethical rationale’ help ‘to navigate the human niche’.

Bohle, M. (Ed.), Peppoloni, S., Di Capua, G., Bilham, N., Marone, E., Preiser, R. (2019). Exploring Geoethics - Ethical Implications, Societal Contexts, and Professional Obligations of the Geosciences. Cham: Springer International Publishing,

Donges, J.F., Lucht, W., Müller-Hansen, F., & Steffen, W. (2017). The technosphere in Earth System analysis: A coevolutionary perspective. The Anthropocene Review, 4(1), 23–33,

Ellis, E.C., Richerson, P.J., Mesoudi, A., Svenning, J.-C., Odling-Smee, J., & Burnside, W.R. (2016). Evolving the human niche. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(31), E4436–E4436,

Jonas, H. (1984). The Imperative of Responsibility. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Kohlberg, L. (1981). Essays in Moral Development and the Idea of Justice. San Francisco: Harber & Row.

Kowarsch, M., Garard, J., Riousset, P., Lenzi, D., Dorsch, M. J., Knopf, B., … Edenhofer, O. (2016). Scientific assessments to facilitate deliberative policy learning. Palgrave Communications, 2, 16092, 

Potthast, T. (2015). Toward an Inclusive Geoethics - Commonalities of Ethics in Technology, Science, Business, and Environment. In Geoethics (pp. 49–56). Elsevier,

Preiser, R., Biggs, R., De Vos, A., & Folke, C. (2018). Social-ecological systems as complex adaptive systems: organizing principles for advancing research methods and approaches. Ecology and Society, 23(4), art. 46,

Rosol, C., Nelson, S., & Renn, J. (2017). Introduction: In the machine room of the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene Review, 4(1), 2–8.

Other IAPG events on geoethics:


IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics: