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Geo-Rational – Ethics in/for the Geosciences

Geosciences co-shape the human niche, that is, the planetary network of twinned natural and cultural landscapes. Bundled by global supply chains, human agents (individuals, groups, institutions, corporations) alter the human niche through engineering, production processes and consumption patterns [1]. The resulting [planetary] social-ecological systems exhibit complex-adaptive dynamics. In turn, human agents face system features like counter-intuitive behaviour, irreversible path-dependency and multi-facet values and interests. Geoethical thinking explores cultural substrates that nurture human agents' skills and operational circumstances when facing suchlike ["wicked"] system features. Geoethics is about responsible geosciences. Initially, geoscientists conceived geoethics for geoscientists, that is, their professional functions in various societal contexts [2]. Subsequently, geoethics evolved and diversified, including a plurality of value systems. For example, incorporating Kohlberg's hierarchy of moral adequacy and Jonas's imperative of responsibility into geoethics leads to formulating a 'geo-rationale', namely, to act with: 'agent-centricity, virtue-focus, responsibility focus, knowledge-based, all-actor-inclusiveness, and universal-rights based'. Irrespectively of different settings, geoethics offers (philosophical) work-horses when handling geoscience challenges in their societal contexts; for example, [nuclear] repositories. Geoethics takes the shape of an epistemic, moral hybrid for citizens interacting with the Earth system [3]. 1. Rosol C, Nelson S, Renn J (2017) Introduction: In the machine room of the Anthropocene. Anthr Rev 4:2–8. 2. Peppoloni S, Di Capua G (2015) Geoethics, the role and responsibility of geoscientists, Lyell Coll. Geological Society of London, London 3. Bohle M, Marone E (2021) Geoethics, a Branding for Sustainable Practices. Sustainability 13:895.


Martin Bohle1,2,3
1Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship, Montclair, NJ, USA; 2International Association for Promoting Geoethics (IAPG), Rome, Italy; 3Edgeryders, Brussels, Belgium
GeoKarlsruhe 2021