Why be cautious with advocating private environmental duties? Towards a cooperative ethos and expressive reasons

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This article start from two opposing intuitions in the environmental duties debate. On the one hand, if our lifestyle causes environmental harm, then we have a duty to reduce that impact through lifestyle changes (lifestyle-matters intuition). On the other hand, many people share the intuition that environmental duties cannot demand to alter our lifestyle radically for environmental reasons. These two intuitions underlie the current dualism in the environmental duties debate: those arguing for lifestyle changes (private duties) and those arguing that our duties are limited to promoting just environmental institutions (promotional duties). The paper has two goals: first, to grasp the underlying reasons for the two intuitions, and, second, to provide a proposal that integrates both intuitions. The paper consists of two main parts. The first part examines the 'our-duties-should-be-limited' intuition. Two interpretations are discussed, one under the title 'what I do make no difference', dealing with causality and collective action, and one under the title 'my duty cannot be to change my lifestyle completely', which discusses demandingness, fairness and value conflict. The second part shows how the 'lifestyle-matters' intuition can still play an important role. This part consists of two sections, one on 'how to make a difference', which deals with the idea of a cooperative ethos, and the other with 'why lifestyle matters', discussing expressive rationality and integrity. These ideas allow giving an important place to lifestyle duties, while avoiding the possible counterproductive effect of a private duties account.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-568
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics
Issue number4
Early online date2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Collective-action problems
  • Cooperation
  • Environmental duties
  • Expressive rationality
  • Green lifestyle
  • Public support


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