Land Ethic Through a Retrospective Lens: Focusing and Refocusing Moral Community

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Joseph E. Bush


Aldo Leopold proposed in 1949 that the community of moral concern would expand to include the land.  Such a vision of the expansion of moral community has continued to find echoes among contemporary thinkers with a variety of perspectives. This paper suggests five foci as a typology for characterizing this expansive conversation about ecotheology and ecological ethics: (1) a localized focus on particular place, (2) a revisioning focus on scripture, (3) a re-centering focus on the putative ‘center’ of value, (4) ecocentrism or a de-centering focus on value within ecological relationship, and (5) an expansive focus on the cosmos.  Both human power and human vulnerability within the natural world become salient in this conversation.  Ironically, however, even in seeking to determine value in nature, it is human agency that is tacitly empowered to act in accord with that perceived ecological value.

Article Details

Climate, Creation, Common Good
Author Biography

Joseph E. Bush, Wesley Theological Seminary

Professor Joseph E. Bush is the Director of the Practice in Ministry and Mission Program at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. Previously he taught at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, the Presbyterian School of Ministry in New Zealand, and the ecumenical Pacific Theological College in the Republic of Fiji. He is ordained to Word and Sacrament in the United Methodist Church and has served churches in the United States, New Zealand and Fiji.  His Ph.D. is from Drew University in the area of Religion and Society.  His dissertation was titled, “Social Justice and the Natural Environment in the Study Program of the World Council of Churches, 1966-1990."  His book in pastoral ethics, Gentle Shepherding, places the ethics of Christian ministry in society within the context of creation’s calling to glorify God.