Trained as a philosopher and economist, I am a sustainability scholar whose interdisciplinary research focuses on the relation between sustainability and human well-being. In general, I approach this topic as a philosophically informed social scientist. My research consists of an independent project on sustainability and well-being and several collaborative projects on cognate topics, such as health & well-being, energy & well-being, food & well-being, environmental philosophy, and the nature of interdisciplinary science during the Anthropocene. My collaborators - at ASU and beyond - come from a wide range of disciplines, including ecology, engineering, mathematics, environmental history, history and philosophy of science, and environmental philosophy.
Currently, I am writing a book (monograph) on human well-being, sustainability, and consumption. The title of my proposed book is Sustainability without Sacrifice: A Philosophical Analysis of Human Well-Being and Consumption. The received view among philosophers and economists is to construe sustainability as a problem of justice or ethics. In both cases, a commitment to sustainability entails that some people must make a sacrifice by reducing their welfare-enhancing consumption. My book casts sustainability as a problem of prudence, which is a person’s concern for his or her own well-being. With the help of empirical evidence from positive psychology and happiness economics, my book will show that there is no necessary and positive connection between consumption and well-being. And, because sustainability requires a reduction in consumption, and some reductions in consumption have no adverse welfare effects, significant advances towards sustainability can be achieved without sacrifice. The major claim of my book is that, when properly understood, prudence in the sphere of consumption is far more consistent with sustainability than is ordinarily recognized.
I'm also co-editing a book on Canadian environmental philosophy. This project began when a group of us founded the Canadian Society for Environmental Philosophy in October, 2015. The volume, entitled New Directions in Canadian Environmental Philosophy, consists of thirteen chapters by leading environmental philosophers. My authored chapter argues for moral limits to buying and selling water, particularly as they relate to the human right to water.
Another exciting project that I am working on these days is with my co-author, Paul Bartha (UBC). We are using non-standard decision theory to develop a new model of the precautionary principle under risk. This work builds-off our previous article published in the Australasian Journal of Philosophy, which showed that a relative (rather than absolute) concept of infinite value can be meaningfully defined, and provides a good model for securing the priority of the natural environment while avoiding the failures noted by skeptics about infinite value. Our main claim in this article is not that our relative infinity utility model gets every detail correct, but that it provides a new and rigorous philosophical framework for thinking about decisions affecting the environment.