Environmental Philosophy


How should human beings relate to the natural world? And what do we owe to other human beings, including future generations, when it comes to the environment? Environmental philosophy addresses such questions by seeking to understand nature and its value, and using ethical and political theories to reflect on environmental challenges. Topics and approaches within the field include conservation and restoration, environmental justice and environmental racism, ecofeminism, climate change, green political theory, the ethics of technology, and environmental activism. 

Sheffield has particular strengths environmental political philosophy and climate justice. Undergraduates and MA students may take our module on The Political Philosophy of Climate Change; or a Workplace Learning module, on which they can arrange a volunteer placement with an environmental organisation, writing essays about the philosophical issues that arise within this sector. Our Centre for Engaged Philosophy promotes philosophy that engages with the problems of our time, including environmental challenges. Department events have included public talks on climate justice and the school strikes for climate; and a workshop series on land rights in a changing climate. The department also has links with the Leverhulme Centre for Climate Mitigation, with one of our current PhD students contributing to this project. We have adopted the British Philosophical Association’s guidelines on environmentally responsible university business travel, which aim to reduce air travel within the profession.

Climate justice and environmental rights

Megan Blomfield works on climate justice and natural resource rights. In her 2019 book, Global Justice, Natural Resources, and Climate Change, she discusses what the world would look like if natural resources were shared fairly, explaining how this can help us to better understand what kind of problem climate change presents, and what a just response to it would look like. Megan’s current research focuses on land justice: considering how land should be used, shared, controlled, valued and understood, at the global and the local level.

Representative publications:

  • Blomfield, M. (2015). “Climate change and the moral significance of historical injustice in natural resource governance”. In A. Maltais & C. McKinnon (eds.), The Ethics of Climate Governance. Rowman & Littlefield. 
  • Blomfield, M. (2016). “Historical use of the climate sink”. Res Publica
  • Blomfield, M. (2017). “Climate justice in global perspective”. Justice Everywhere blog.
  • Blomfield, M. (2019). Global Justice, Natural Resources, and Climate Change. Oxford University Press. 

Environmental action: democracy, education, and science

Joshua Forstenzer is currently working on a project which asks what the purpose of education should be in the face of foreseeable catastrophes. He also works on the democratic requirements for a green and just environmental transition, having previously published on the educational dimension of democratic efforts to tackle climate change. Megan Blomfield has written about political issues that are raised by scientific research into climate engineering technologies.

Representative publications:

  • Blomfield, M. (2015). “Geoengineering in a climate of uncertainty”. In J. Moss (ed.), Climate Change and Justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Blomfield, M. (2016). “The ethics of teaching climate ethics”. Justice Everywhere blog.
  • Blomfield, M. (2019). “Environmental direct action and civil disobedience”. Centre for Engaged Philosophy blog.
  • Forstenzer, J. (2012). “Education, active citizenship and applied social intelligence: Some democratic tools to meet the threat of climate change”. In P. Almlund, P. H. Jesperesen & S. Riis S (eds.), Rethinking Climate Change Research Clean Technology, Culture and Communication. Ashgate.
  • Forstenzer, J. (2020). “Transformation or barbarism: Pragmatist education in the face of catastrophe”. Education in the Face of Existential Threat blog.
  • Olson, E. (2019) “Apollo 11 made us believe we could do anything – the truth is it could hasten our downfall”. The Conversation.