Environmental Ethics & Sustainability


Indigenous Environmental Movements and the Function of Governance Institutions

Whyte, K. (2016). Indigenous environmental movements and the function of governance institutions. Oxford Handbook of Environmental Political Theory. Edited by T. Gabrielson, C. Hall, J. Meyer & D. Schlosberg, 563-580. Oxford University Press.

Indigenous environmental movements have been important actors in twentieth- and twenty-first-century global environmental politics and environmental justice. Their foci range from the protection of indigenous environmental stewardship systems to upholding and expanding treaty responsibilities to securing indigenous rights in law and policy. This chapter suggests that these movements open important intellectual spaces for thinking about the function of environmental governance institutions in addressing complex environmental issues such as clean water and forest conservation. Indigenous environmentalists suggest that institutions should function to convene reciprocal responsibilities across relatives as diverse as humans, non-human beings such as plants, entities such as water, and collectives such as forests.

Ethics of Caring in Environmental Ethics: Indigenous and Feminist Philosophies

Powys Whyte, K., & Cuomo, C. (2016). Ethics of Caring in Environmental Ethics: Indigenous and Feminist Philosophies. The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Ethics. DOI, 10.

Indigenous ethics and feminist care ethics offer a range of related ideas and tools for environmental ethics. Indigenous ethics highlight attentive caring for the intertwined needs of humans and nonhumans within interdependent communities. Feminist environmental care ethics emphasize the importance of empowering communities to care for themselves and the social and ecological communities in which their lives and interests are interwoven. The gendered, feminist, historical, and anticolonial dimensions of care ethics, indigenous ethics, and other related approaches provide rich ground for rethinking and reclaiming the nature and depth of diverse relationships as the fabric of social and ecological being.

How Similar are Indigenous North American and Leopoldian Environmental Ethics?

Whyte, K. (2017). How similar are Indigenous North American and Leopoldian environmental ethics? Revisiting Also Leopold’s Land Ethic: Emerging Cultures of Sustainability. Eds Teressa Trusty, William Forbes. Stephen F. Austin University Press.

Aldo Leopold’s land ethic is often compared to the ethics of many North American Indigenous communities, like Tribes and First Nations. At the heart of Leopold’s land ethic are the ideas that humans should consider themselves as “plain citizens” of the biotic community and that “a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community.” Leopold’s centering value on the harmony of the biotic community and qualifying human status as relational serve as sources for such a comparison with Indigenous ethics. Indeed, North American Indigenous elders, scholars and writers argue for ethics based on reciprocal moral responsibilities among humans, other living beings (animals, plants, etc.), and natural interconnected collectives (like forests and water cycles). In many Indigenous ethics, humans are understood as relatives of these beings and collectives. It seems to be quite plausible, then, that there is something similar between the notions of “plain citizens” (Leopold) and “relatives” (Indigenous) and notions like the “integrity of the biotic community” (Leopold) and the “reciprocal relations” (Indigenous) among beings and collectives called for in some Indigenous ethics.

Indigenous Lessons about Sustainability are not just for 'All Humanity'

Whyte, K., Caldwell, C., & Schaefer, M. (2017). Situating Sustainability: Sciences/Arts/Societies, Scales and Social Justice. Ed Julie Sze. NYU. Forthcoming

Indigenous peoples are widely recognized as holding lessons about how the rest of humanity can live sustainably. Yet it is rarely acknowledged that for Indigenous peoples living in the context of settler states, our efforts to sustain our peoples rest on our capacities to resist settler colonial oppression. Indigenous planning refers to a set of concepts and practices through which many Indigenous peoples reflect critically on sustainability to derive lessons about what actions reinforce Indigenous self-determination and resist settler colonial oppression. The work of the Sustainable Development Institute of the College of Menominee Nation (SDI) is one case of Indigenous planning. In the context of SDI, we discuss Indigenous planning as a process of interpreting lessons from our own pasts and making practical plans for staging our own futures in the face of oppression.