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Environmental Ethics

The study of environmental ethics mainly points to the philosophical study of the relationship between humans and non-human existence. It is important to point out that “the environment”, given here as “non-human”, is not limited to the natural environment. In recent years environments which are not “genuinely” natural due to human manipulation such as agricultural land and satoyama, and built environments such as cities, have become objects of environmental ethics research.

The question of our “relationship with non-human existence” carries a wide range of issues, and non-human animals, robots and other artificial structures, as well as how to engage with environments outside the Earth’s ecosystem, such as those of other planets, can be seen as extensions of this question. These problem areas are called animal ethics, robot ethics and space ethics respectively.

In contrast with the above, there is a tendency to use the term “environmental ethics” to point to studies that deal with more specific and practical cases such as environmental conservation and resource management. Consequently there is a lot of research that cannot be clearly distinguished between environmental ethics and environmental sociology. For studies leaning towards ethics, there have been in recent years many environmental conservation projects in which specialists and local residents co-operate and engage in environmental conservation. One of the important tasks in such a situation would be to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the specialist engaged in such activities. This can also be seen as the environmental-science version of the ethical issues known as responsibilities of the specialist and research ethics. For a university that is dedicated to nurture specialists and researchers, not only the study of research ethics but how to reflect that in the education of students who are to become those specialists and researchers, is a vital task.

We will carry out studies of both these aspects in this project.

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