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Environmental Values

The Multidimensionality of Environmental Problems: The GMO Controversy and the Limits of Scientific Materialism

Michael S. Carolan

Environmental Values 17(2008): 67-82. doi: 10.3197/096327108X271950


This paper argues for a broader understanding of complexity; an understanding that speaks to the multidimensionality of environmental problems. As argued, environmental problems rest upon ontological, epistemological, and moral claims; they rest, in other words, upon statements about what is, knowledge, and what ought to be, respectively. To develop and illustrate this argument, the GMO (genetically modified organism) controversy is broken down according to these three dimensions. Dissecting environmental problems in this manner reveals why we cannot look solely toward the natural sciences for resolution: because these problems beg questions that cannot be answered with references to materiality alone.


Complexity, science, values, ethics, biotechnology, risk, uncertainty

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

A Perfect Moral Storm: Climate Change, Intergenerational Ethics and the Problem of Moral Corruption. Stephen M. Gardiner

Incorporating Value Trade-offs into Community-Based Environmental Risk Decisions Robin S. Gregory

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