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Environmental Ethics

Volume 26, Issue 1, Spring 2004

Robert Kirkman
Pages 77-95

Reasons to Dwell on (if Not Necessarily in) the Suburbs

Environmental philosophers should look beyond stereotypes to consider American suburbs as an environment worthy of serious philosophical scrutiny for three reasons. First, for better or worse, the suburbs are the environment of primary concern to most Americans, and suburban patterns of development have caught on elsewhere in the industrialized world. Second, the suburbs are much more of a problem than many environmental theorists suppose, in part because suburban patterns of development are entrenched and difficult to change, and in part because they pose an important challenge to the very idea of an environmental ethic. Third, the search for sound policies and practices for metropolitan growth involves two crucial tasks for which philosophers may be particularly well suited: grappling with the ethical complexity of the suburbs, and fostering a robust and nuanced normative debate about the future of the built environment.

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