The Human Glance, the Experience of Environmental Distress and the “Affordance” of Nature: Toward a Phenomenology of the Ecological Crisis

Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 28 (5):925-938 (2015)
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The problem we face today is that there is a huge gap between our ethical judgments about the ecological crisis on the one hand and our ethical behavior according to these judgments on the other. In this article, we ask to what extent a phenomenology of the ecological crisis enables us to bridge this gap and display more ethical or pro-environmental behavior. To answer this question, our point of departure is the affordance theory of the American psychologist and founding father of ecological psychology, James Gibson. There are two reasons for taking this approach. First of all, an ontological reading of Gibson’s affordance theory provides a concept of nature which is non-dualistic, non-anthropocentric and eco-centric, but is not seen as an ‘intrinsic value’ or product of ‘human valuation’. Secondly, the affordance ontology provides us with a concept of nature which in itself calls for certain action and behavior. If we indeed face a gap between ethical judgment and ethical behavior with regard to the current ecological crisis, an affordance of nature could bridge this gap. Based on our ontological reading of Gibson’s affordance theory, we open a radically new perspective on the current ecological crisis and the responsibility of mankind with regard to this crisis

Author's Profile

Vincent Blok
Wageningen University and Research


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