Environment, Economy, and Christian Ethics

Environment, Economy, and Christian Ethics: Alternative Views on Christians and Markets

Alistair Young
Copyright Date: 2015
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  • Book Info
    Environment, Economy, and Christian Ethics
    Book Description:

    What is to be done about the damaging impact of economic activity on the environment? In recent years, there has been growing debate over this question. This book, by an economist, urges Christians to support strong governmental and intergovernmental action to improve the workings of existing global economic systems so as to provide adequate environmental protection. As such, it draws on the tradition of mainstream environmental economics and on recent developments in “ecological economics.” But it acknowledges that environmental policy raises important ethical and theological issues often briefly or inadequately covered within economic literature: ethically responsible attitudes to uncertainty, inequality within and between generations, the rights of traditional communities, and the obligation to respect nonhuman elements within creation. To such issues, theologians of various persuasions have in the past paid more attention than economists. At the same time, theologians have not always shown awareness of the likely economic consequences of their own proposals. In particular, some have been reluctant to acknowledge the role of market failure in causing environmental problems, while others are too eager to get rid of markets altogether. This book tries to develop sound ethical foundations for environmental policy, while providing concrete perspective on economic realities.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-9418-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    The impact of human economic activity on the natural environment and what, if anything, governments should do about it have become matters of frequently bitter controversy among advocacy groups. Many Christians have joined in the controversy with enthusiasm. But they have not spoken with one voice; rather, their contributions have covered nearly the full range of ideological positions and (sometimes regrettably) debating styles.

    In the United States, the diversity of opinion among Christians was clearly demonstrated by a Pew Research Center survey published in 2009.¹ The survey focused on “global warming,” currently perhaps the most controversial environmental issue (though by...

  5. 2 Alternative Discourses
    (pp. 9-48)

    Beginners in the study of economics are often introduced to a list of questions all societies must answer. These might include some or all of the following: What should we produce with our scarce resources? How should these goods be produced—using which methods of production, or “technologies”? Where should these goods be produced—in which locations within a particular country and in which regions of the world? Who benefits from the outcomes of these economic processes—that is, how should the output be distributed among members of society? Soon the novices come to understand that there is another, overarching...

  6. 3 Economics, Ethics, and the Environment A Beginner’s Guide
    (pp. 49-90)

    In this chapter the economist’s explanation of the environmental problem is set out. As with all explanatory models, certain issues are played down while others are highlighted. In the later part of this chapter, therefore, the implications of reintroducing some of these issues, in particular those relating to ethical questions, to assumptions about technology and also about human behavior, will be explored.

    I begin with a model to which novice economists are generally introduced at a very early stage in their studies: the circular flow. This gives a simplified picture of how resources are coordinated to create income in a...

  7. 4 Sustainability
    (pp. 91-132)

    We came across the notion of sustainability in the previous chapter when considering the limitations of the gross domestic product as a measure of economic progress. There, we saw that any such measure ought to take into account the need to replace both artificially produced resources, such as equipment and buildings, and natural resources used up in the process of output creation. Presumably, then, economic activities are only sustainable if they do not allow the world’s stocks of natural and produced capital to diminish over time. This, however, is not as simple a statement as it looks, and not everyone...

  8. 5 Ethical Decision Making
    (pp. 133-176)

    How should policymakers approach the kinds of problems outlined in chapter 4? I will begin this chapter by proposing some guiding general principles that develop in part from earlier discussions in chapters 2 and 3. The second part of the chapter will consider how these principles should be made operational for planners deciding on particular environmental projects. Here, I shall consider the use and limitations of the economist’s technique of cost-benefit analysis and will describe how it has been developed by some economists to take account of the ethical issues raised so far.

    While theological writers have often been particularly...

  9. 6 Ethical Environmental Polices
    (pp. 177-220)

    The previous chapter was about how to remedy the failure of the market, left to itself, to provide decision makers with satisfactoryinformationabout the environment. The present chapter is concerned with policies to remedy the market’s failure to provide adequateincentivesto persuade private decision makers, whether in companies or in households, to use environmental resources in a socially desirable way.

    In much traditional welfare economics, the remedy for market failure is assumed to be intervention by the state. The role of the state in environmental matters is indeed very important, and much of this chapter will assess the...

  10. 7 Christian Environmental Activism Opportunities and Dangers
    (pp. 221-246)

    We have seen that there are urgent, serious, and worsening problems that have arisen from human interaction with the environment. There are also ways of dealing with these problems, but these solutions are not yet being adopted on a sufficient scale.

    What, then, are the implications of all this for Christians who have a concern for the environment? For some, the implications will be confined to personal behavior, and many books advise us about how to measure our environmental footprints or how to reduce them.¹ While such books have their value, this book is not one of them, for reasons...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 247-262)
  12. Index of Names and Subjects
    (pp. 263-278)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 279-279)