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Introduction to the Special Issue on Individual Environmental Responsibility

Human beings are the cause of many current environmental problems. This poses the question of how to respond to these problems at the national and international level. However, many people ask themselves whether they should personally contribute to solving these problems and how they could (best) do so. This is the focus of this Special Issue on Individual Environmental Responsibility. The introduction proposes a way to structure this complex debate by distinguishing three broad clusters of arguments. The first cluster tackles the kind of ethical theory we need to properly address different aspects of individual responsibility. The second cluster asks what individuals should do from an ethical point of view. The third cluster investigates the role of contextual factors and the limits of demandingness in individual obligations. This introduction presents the papers of the Special Issue and the interrelations between them using those clusters of arguments as reference.

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  1. While this argument hinges on the acceptance of claims to promote institutions, in a footnote, Hourdequin (2010) also envisions a freestanding Aristotelian virtue ethics approach that specifies “the virtue expressed by moderating one’s emissions (and the vices expressed by failing to do so) and places this virtue in larger theoretical context (e.g., explaining the virtue’s relation to a broader theory of the good)” (Hourdequin 2010, 461–462).


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Correspondence to Lieske Voget-Kleschin.

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Voget-Kleschin, L., Baatz, C. & Garcia-Portela, L. Introduction to the Special Issue on Individual Environmental Responsibility. J Agric Environ Ethics 32, 493–504 (2019).

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  • Responsibility
  • Individual duties
  • Environmental problems
  • Ethical theories
  • Demandingness
  • Climate change