One Environment vs. Radical Freedom

On the Fragility of Sustainable Balance & the Meaning of Shared Responsibility
Date: February 17, 2011 @ 2:30 pm
Location: First Floor Lounge, Falvey Memorial Library

We often treat “the environment” as if it were an alien entity, something that surrounds us, and with which we may at times interact, but which is, somehow, separate from us. Environment does mean “surrounding medium”, or the like, but what surrounds us is also, in terms of transfer of energy, surrounded by, i.e. affected by, each of us. We are individuals, but who rely for all our contacts and engagements, on the surrounding medium. There is, in effect, no closed system, and there is but one environment.

How, then, do we square this scientifically demonstrable truth with the fact of our separateness, our unique inner life, our rights as human individuals, our desire to embrace existence from a standpoint of radical freedom? Existentialism has grappled with this problem: if we are what we do, if we determine our experience by way of perceptions, drives and choices, which are all actions toward a reality we construct, then why should there be any commitment to the Other?

Can we retain something like a fundamentally existential freedom, even as we recognize the fact of one continuously complex, evolving and interactive environment? Must we set up boundaries that somehow delimit the borders between Self and Other, so that the continuous open system of our environment can be compartmentalized, and the ethical obligations that fall upon us reduced to a manageable weight? Or do we need to find a more honest way of accounting for what we do?

Can we, ultimately, in the uncontainable mix of influences in which we hope to carve out a niche for human civilization, find more honest ways to describe our role, and assess the true impact of unconstrained action, which may, in effect, be less free than we profess it to be? Can we find ways to measure the complexity of our impacts in the continuous environment, and understand the fact of our intellectual liberty as opposed to the bound state of following raw reflex, urge and impulse?

In the third of Villanova’s Climate Talks series:

Dr. Chara Armon will discuss mutual flourishing, and new ways to come to grips with the environment problem, through the lens of historical conceptions and biases;

Joseph Robertson will present a vision of generative economics, which aims to highlight the capacity of specific activities to generate more resources than they deplete, so that energy and water usage do not waste or erode our ecological balance, and human interest is not cast aside in favor of nearsighted bottom-line calculations;

Matt Roney will discuss the work of the Earth Policy Institute, including the new book by Lester Brown, World on the Edge, which details key statistical data and potential solutions, which taken together can help our civilization outrun impending environmental disaster…

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Please explore below some key links relating to the speakers and their work, and to Villanova’s nationally recognized sustainability efforts:

Villanova Climate & Sustainability Efforts:

Chara Armon

Joseph Robertson

Matt Roney

The event is co-sponsored by:

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