Liberal Theory’s Neglect of Environmentalism

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It is no exaggeration to say that climate change is the most pressing issue facing the world today. This is a strong claim to make, but the scientific evidence is more or less incontrovertible.[1] Barring the emergence of an imminent nuclear war, an alien invasion, or a deadly coronavirus mutation, climate change will remain the biggest challenge that humanity faces. Climate change is also, of course, intricately bound up with politics – practical politics, political science, and political theory are all having to come to terms with humanity’s impact on the planet.

It is a highly regrettable fact that the political sphere has not been particularly successful at dealing with the issue of global warming. This is especially true in the world of practical politics: environmentalists and green parties have often been – to put it mildly – less than effective at getting their message across to the population as a whole.[2] At the same time, populists who have participated in climate change denial have gained support across the world. Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, Boris Johnson, Andrej Babiš, Vladimir Putin, and Viktor Orbán are just some of those who have engaged in climate change denial, attempted to stifle efforts to combat global warming, or both.[3] The state of affairs in political theory is also imperfect. Although environmental ethics is a branch of philosophy that has gained prominence in recent years,[4] ideas about ecology are still a sideline in much contemporary theorizing. Or, at least, the attention given to this topic does not reflect the seriousness of the situation.[5]

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