Introduction to part three


Working out just where responsibilities lie in relation to our environment can be challenging. Who is accountable for environmental harms such as pollution of our air or water, destruction of habitats for wildlife or what some would consider abuse of natural resources? Who cares for our environment and ensures that we 'do the right thing', both for now and in terms of our obligations to future generations? What constitutes environmentally responsible behaviour? Addressing such questions requires an understanding of how individual and collective responsibilities work together. The chapters in this part offer a range of different perspectives on individual and collective responsibility and the relationship between them. Different kinds of responsibilities are considered, operating at different levels and in contexts ranging from human groups and human behaviour to future generations, 'the commons', corporations and different kinds of communities, environmental policies and science. Some of the chapters focus on rights, contracts and duties, thus contributing to a deontological view, but others take a broader perspective in considering obligations, thinking, learning and behaviour, which draw on a range of other theories and practices.

The first two readings focus on individuals in their contexts. Sir Geoffrey Vickers looks at the relationship between autonomy and responsibility, arguing that they can be complementary. His focus is on the nature of individuals' obligations and how these relate to culture and standards. Michael Maniates, on the other hand, is concerned with how responsibility for environmental problems has become individualized, limiting our collective imagination in terms of engaging meaningfully with doing things differently in order to address issues of consumption. He asks how this trend might be reversed.

Next, Martin P. Golding addresses our obligations to future generations, considering also both rights and duties. He challenges assumptions about whom we have obligations to and the nature of those obligations. Extracts from Garrett Hardin's influential article on 'the tragedy of the commons' then provide an example of how people act in relation to each other, in this case in situations of using and managing shared resources ('commons'). Thomas Dietz, Elinor Ostrom and Paul Stern's

J more recent perspective on commons such as climate and oceans focuses £ on multilevel governance and adaptive institutions. Corporations are a jj part of this picture, and some of the issues relating to their social and jj" environmental responsibilities and how others should engage with them £ are covered in Jonathon Porritt and Claire Fauset's debate.

The last two readings of this part focus on collective processes, speci-jj fically on social learning as a means of enabling different groups of 2 stakeholders to work together to take responsibility for the effects of their - actions on their environment. Chris Blackmore considers some of the principles and practices of social learning, such as the kind of multilevel, multi-stakeholder interaction that can lead to effective 'concerted action' in managing our natural resources. Social learning can work alongside other mechanisms to enable engagement in practice, which she argues can lead to environmental responsibility. Finally, Robin Grove-White charts the course of environmental issues and policies and the changing role of science. He identifies an urgent need for new learning capacities in environmental and technological policy- and decision-making, and he calls for a better understanding of how social learning relates to action in the face of uncertainty.

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