In defence of bad science and irrational policies: An alternative account of the precautionary principle [Book Review]

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 13 (1):3 - 18 (2010)
In the first part of the paper, three objections to the precautionary principle are outlined: the principle requires some account of how to balance risks of significant harms; the principle focuses on action and ignores the costs of inaction; and the principle threatens epistemic anarchy. I argue that these objections may overlook two distinctive features of precautionary thought: a suspicion of the value of “full scientific certainty”; and a desire to distinguish environmental doings from allowings. In Section 2, I argue that any simple distinction between environmental doings and allowings is untenable. However, I argue that the appeal of such a distinction can be captured within a relational account of environmental equity. In Section 3 I show how the proposed account of environmental justice can generate a justification for distinctively “precautionary” policy-making.
Keywords Precautionary principle  Environmental ethics  Relational conceptions of justice  Risk  Equity
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