Journal of Human Rights and the Environment

Ecological responsibilities: which trees? Where? Why?

Lorraine Code *

Keywords: ecological thinking, epistemic location, epistemology, Haraway, situatedness, Vandana Shiva, subjectivity, trees


The author offers a provocative engagement with the implicit epistemological framework of Stone's famous question ‘should trees have standing?’, arguing for an epistemological remapping of the issues invoked by and implicit in it. Specifically, the author argues that the question of whether ‘trees’ do or should have standing is best understood as being ‘answerable situationally, locally, with reference to a specific society, ethos, and social-epistemic imaginary’ – for the question bears epistemological, moral-political and factual elements rendering it best understood as a ‘situated question’ – hence: ‘Which trees? Where? And to what ends?’ Answering Stone's question (thus reformulated) requires ‘knowing responsibly and well, ecologically – horizontally and not just vertically – the specific situations and meanings of the trees in question’. The author concludes that the emergence and effects of ecological thinking, with its ‘various and variously situtuated modalities’ suggests that ‘trees in diverse parts of the world in the early twenty-first are not the same trees Christopher Stone was writing about’.

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