The importance of participatory virtues in the future of environmental education

Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 25 (3):419-434 (2012)
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Abstract

Participatory approaches to environmental decision making and assessment continue to grow in academic and policy circles. Improving how we understand the structure of deliberative activities is especially important for addressing problems in natural resources, climate change, and food systems that have wicked dimensions, such as deep value disagreements, high degrees of uncertainty, catastrophic risks, and high costs associated with errors. Yet getting the structure right is not the only important task at hand. Indeed, participatory activities can break down and fail to achieve their specific goals when some of the deliberators lack what we will call participatory virtues. We will argue for the importance of future research on how environmental education can incorporate participatory virtues to equip future citizens with the virtues they will need to deliberate about wicked, environmental problems. What is the role of education for deliberative skills and virtues relative to other aspects of environmental education, such as facts and values education? How important is it relative to careful design of the deliberative process? What virtues really matter?

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Matt Ferkany
Michigan State University