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Exploring Societal Intersections of Geoethical Thinking


This chapter explores geoethical thinking as a means for offering alternative modes of living in a world where humans and natural systems are inextricably linked. Real-world examples demonstrate the societal relevance of geoethics. Four essays illustrate different aspects and specific contexts. The first explores the societal significance of geoscience as a ‘stewardship-science’ and elicits the often hidden influence of geoscience in contemporary societies. The second describes an adaptive and collaborative governance approach affording more sustainable futures for small-scale fisheries. This approach combines universal values with contextual practices to inform geoethics-inspired governance approaches. The third argues that more rigorous engagement with citizen science would demonstrate the societal relevance of geoethics. The final essay explores how ‘society–Earth-centric’ narratives can help citizens better understand their (inter)actions within the Earth system.


  • Geoethics
  • Earth system
  • Stewardship
  • Planetary human niche
  • Citizens’ narratives

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    United Nations, 2014:

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  4. 4., Vol. E/2016/65, p. 18.

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    See, for example,

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    The draft programme for 2019 includes 11 session that mention ‘citizen science ’.

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    The bioeconomy encompasses various economic sectors, such as health, the biochemical industry, agriculture, forestry and bioenergy (see Bugge et al. 2016).

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    The concepts of ‘sacred’ and ‘sacralization’ have been used, for example, and among others, by Durkheim, Caillois, Eliade, Lévi-Strauss and Ries (see Fabietti and Remotti, 1997, and references therein) as having a specific meaning. Therefore it is cautiously proposed to use the term ‘sacrum’, which does not correspond to a specific definition used in anthropology nor ethnography but is related to the above and to the concept of the ‘supernatural’. The latter is used as an additional element mediating the opposition between nature and culture, i.e., the three-term relation of culture/human–nature–supernatural. When inquiring into the relationships between culture and environment, the available technology may instead be considered as a third element. More recently Philippe Descola (1986, 2011) developed the teaching of Lévi-Strauss to overcome the traditional western dualism between culture and nature, stating:

    To the question ‘who owns nature?’ the answer in the present case is indeed ‘to each and every one of the species that make it up’, but, as none of them, excepting our own, has made its feeling known on the matter, it is some of its members’ point of view which is bound to prevail. It should, therefore, be stated that any ethics of nature is by definition anthropogenic and that it necessarily articulates values propounded by humans. (2008, interview with Philippe Descola).

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    United Nations, 2014:


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Correspondence to Martin Bohle .

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Bohle, M., Preiser, R. (2019). Exploring Societal Intersections of Geoethical Thinking. In: Bohle, M. (eds) Exploring Geoethics. Palgrave Pivot, Cham.

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