Congratulations to Drew Holden, winner of the Philosophy Department's
2013 Essay Competition. Drew’s "Climate Change, Environmental Ethics,
and the Notion of Permissible Harm" was selected as the winner from a
number of excellent submissions.
In his paper, Mr. Holden draws on the notion of "permissible harm,"
where one can harm another if and only if the harm is an aspect of the
greatest good, to frame his discussion of what to do about climate
change and our dependency on fossil fuels. Mr. Holden realizes that
transitioning from fossil fuels to more sustainable energy sources will
cause some degree of financial and economic harm. In the end, however,
Mr. Holden concludes that causing this harm is morally permissible, as
failing to address climate change and limit our fossil fuel use will
cause even more serious economic, ecological, and ethical concerns.
Supporting this conclusion, Mr. Holden notes that harms caused by
climate change will disproportionately affect the world’s poor. This
bears directly on the ethics of climate change, as the sheer number of
poor weigh heavily in utilitarian decision making. Additionally, Mr.
Holden argues that the world’s poor did not contribute much at all to
the problem of climate change, and thus apart from purely
consequentialist concerns, having the poor bear the brunt of associated
harms is decidedly unjust.
Mr. Holden is currently a senior in the Seton Hall Honors Program and
is majoring in Philosophy and Political Science. Drew also has
interests in the Environmental Studies program and endeavors to do
graduate work in Environmental Law.
For more information please contact: