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Environmental Ethics

Volume 33, Issue 2, Summer 2011

Jessica Christie Ludescher
Pages 197-218
DOI: 10.5840/enviroethics201133221

Sustainable Development and the Destruction of the Amazon
A Call for Universal Responsibility

Petroleum extraction in the Amazon rain forest has left grave human rights violations in its wake, creating myriad ethics and sustainability challenges. Framing sustainability ethics in terms of collective responsibility, there are four conceptions of responsibility: aggregated complicit individual responsibility, the responsibility of a unitary corporate person, a social connection model of shared responsibility, and universal social responsibility. Each conception of collective responsibility expands the scope of responsible actors, from selective stakeholders, to institutions, to systems, and finally to all parties. Only universal social responsibility is sufficiently comprehensive to encompass all actors responsible for environmental problems such as the Amazon crisis. Moreover, its proponents take a spiritual turn that emphasizes compassion with and a sense of solidarity requisite for motivating activism. Universal social responsibility has the greatest potential to stimulate a paradigm shift that could lead to improved solutions to sustainability challenges. Ultimately, environmental activism needs to be rooted in love.