Handbook of Environmental and Resource Economics
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Handbook of Environmental and Resource Economics

Edited by Jeroen C.J.M. van den Bergh

This major reference book comprises specially commissioned surveys in environmental and resource economics written by an international team of experts. Authoritative yet accessible, each entry provides a state-of-the-art summary of key areas that will be invaluable to researchers, practitioners and advanced students.
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Chapter 66: Ethical Perspectives and Environmental Policy Analysis

H. Glasser


Harold Glasser’ 1. Introduction Philosophical ethics is concerned with generating and analysing standards for valuing entities and states of affairs. These standards are used by individuals and communities to characterize what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and to regulate human behaviour. As a discipline that promotes systematic reflection on moral ideas and ideals, ethics can help us define our commitments and reconcile these with our aspirations. As concrete manifestations of social values, ethical principles furnish the normative backbone, the grand social or meta-objectives, upon which our tools for making collective choices are constructed. In this survey, I review the ethical bases for environmental concern. I also discuss how a special set of moral ideas is embedded in environmental economic theory. More generally, I consider how any generic process for making and justifying collective choice decisions about environmental ‘goods’ must be undergirded by some set of ethical principles and value judgements. Unravelling these principles allows the moral implications of a decision framework to be considered and a search for disparities between people’s stated value commitments and the potential of a given tool or method to reflect these value commitments to be initiated. This chapter is not intended to survey ethics (Frankena, 1973; Hospers, 1996; Beauchamp, 199I), survey environmental ethics (Zimmerman, 1998; Des Jardins, 1997; Pojman, 1994), or even overview the development of ethical attitudes toward the environment (Nash, 1989; Hargrove, 1989). It is simply meant to clarify the role of ethics in forming rational decision strategies for incorporating environmental considerations into public...

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