Macquarie University
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The environmental high ground: an environmental ideal type for informing decision making

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posted on 2022-03-28, 09:11 authored by Ian Ronald Erickson
This thesis is intended to be a contribution to environmental pragmatism. It contributes to environmental practice by developing an analytical tool for assisting environmental decision making. Specifically, it helps with the problem of inefficiency in certain types of environmental decision making. I develop and refine an ideal type that is useful for looking at environment decision making, which I call the 'environmental high ground'. The environmental high ground, inspired by ideal-types useful in military decision making, does not tell us what we should think or do. The environmental high ground gets its power from the widely-held and commonsense desire to do, know, or consider 'what is best for the environment' - at least at sometimes and in some situations. The environmental high ground is a one-sided accentuation of an environmental perspective to assist with thinking clearly about environmental decision making. I argue that there is promise for this desire to meaningfully inform decision making, despite its over simplistic appearance. -- My overall argument is that my refined environmental high ground is a useful concept for informing environmental decision making. I first argue that 'what is best for the environment' is widely used in informing decision making. Throughout the thesis, I work to refine the concept of the environmental high ground. To show that the refined environmental high ground is useful, I use it to comment on several decision-making scenarios, to create tenets of the environmental high ground, and comment on current discussions. I use the refined environmental high ground to comment on such things as the convergence hypothesis, promoting environmentalism, and local environmentalism. I also discuss decision making scenarios such as the choice between equal things. The refined environmental high ground plays an essential role in these contributions. Theses contributions are intended to act as evidence that the refine environmental high ground is useful. I utilize many different methods to extract this useful information. Derek Parfit's ideal types from Reasons and Persons have a major role. Predominantly, I do three things: 1) I examine possible interpretations of 'what is best for the environment' for consistency; 2) I look for inconsistence in general decision making scenarios; and 3) compare and contrast consistent and inconsistent decision making approaches to draw out important themes. I have done this with the hope that it could be duplicated, and that the environmental high ground can be used for informing decision making in many other ways.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction - Pragmatic questions and contribution, ideal types, and the 'environmental high ground' -- 2. 'Wanting what is best for the environment' in practice -- 3. The pure environmentalist: on 'compatibility' and promoting environmentalism -- 4. On the choice between equal things -- 5. On maximizing contribution -- 6. Synthesis, conclusions, and implications.


Bibliography: pages 193-249

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Science, Department of Environment and Geography, Graduate School of the Environment

Department, Centre or School

Department of Environment and Geography

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Gregory Walkerden

Additional Supervisor 1

Ken Cussen

Additional Supervisor 2

John Merrick


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Ian Ronald Erickson 2013.




1 online resource (xxii, 249 pages) illustrations

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mq:30960 2119864