Review of Bryan Norton, Sustainable Values, Sustainable Change

Environmental Ethics 38 (4):499-502 (2016)
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Sustainable Values, Sustainable Change is a culminating work written for a general audience of environmental professionals. In keeping with what he has long urged for environmental philosophers, Norton focuses on ameliorative processes for resolving disagreements, on making decisions, while sidestepping the monistic quest for the right general principles to think about and govern human relationships with nature. Norton presupposes his “convergence hypothesis” familiar to readers of this journal: multi-scalar anthropocentric arguments, he holds, usually justify the same policies as ecocentric arguments; hence, it is not essential to convince doubters that parts of nature have intrinsic value. Norton’s principal aim in this new work is to spell out his “heuristic proceduralism” while showing that Adaptive Ecosystem Management’s pluralistic model of sustainability works better for real decision making than the narrow focus on economic welfare in mainstream environmental economics. Environmental philosophers will also rightly read the book as, in part, Norton’s seasoned response to a familiar accusation: that pragmatic pluralism is too mushy to guide action, hence ethicists must fall back on defense of antecedent principles.

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Steven Fesmire
Radford University


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