The Importance of Participatory Virtues in the Future of Environmental Education



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?


Environmental virtue Deliberative virtues Intellectual virtues Wicked problems Environmental education Environmental values Deliberative democracy Environmental ethics education Environmental politics What virtues really matter 



Research for this essay is funded by a grant from the Spencer Foundation. The authors wish also to thank Paul Thompson and two anonymous referees of this journal for helpful comments on an earlier draft.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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