‘Ethics & Public Policy’ course in Fall ’18

For the Fall semester of 2018, I’m planning an upper level course here at the University of Kentucky in ‘Ethics and Public Policy,’ PHI 531, Section 1, which will run on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 – 4:45 pm. The course will begin with an examination of major moral traditions as well as ethical problems that are special challenges for leadership in the policy sphere. We will then survey a variety of policy areas and documents in which moral consideration is deeply important and needed.

The Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

A stack of newspapers.Areas of interest and application for the course will include:

  • Educational Aims & Policies
  • Mass lncarceration
  • Healthcare Ethics
  • Economic Development Policies
  • Climate Change
  • Human Rights
  • Research Ethics
  • Animal Rights
Image of a flyer for the course, featuring the information described on the present page.

Flyer for the course.

My former students who have studied ethics and public policy with me have gone on to work in the White House, under both the present and previous administrations, the House of Representatives and the Senate, the State Department, the F.B.I., the Heritage Foundation, the Center for American Progress, and numerous think-tanks, as well as a variety of offices in state government. There is need for study of the kind addressed in this course also for countless advocacy groups and organizations, as well as in current events journalism.

For those interested, here is the University of Kentucky’s page with information about how to register for courses for the Fall of 2018.

For those interested in more information now, you can check out my books on ethics and public policy, including:

Cover for 'Morality, Leadership, and Public Policy.'

 

Morality, Leadership, & Public Policy (London: Bloomsbury, 2010)

 

Photo of the paperback and hardback editions of 'Democracy and Leadership.'Democracy and Leadership: On Pragmatism and Virtue (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013)

and

Paperback editions featuring the cover of 'Uniting Mississippi.'Uniting Mississippi: Democracy and Leadership in the South (Jackson, MS: The University Press of Mississippi, 2015)

 

The logo for Philosophy Bakes Bread, which involves to slices of bread with tails, making them look like dialogue bubbles.In addition, for those who are unfamiliar, I co-host the Philosophy Bakes Bread radio show & podcast that airs on WRFL Lexington, 88.1 FM and in the show we cover a number of public policy topics. Give it a listen!

New Video, “Re-imagine the Future”

When faced with the massive crises of our time, the most logical response is paralysis.  What can an individual possibly do about something so massive and complex?

But what if people could manage to imagine changes that matter within their own lives, and then to grow and federate them? My colleague Anna Grear, a law professor at Cardiff University, and I wanted to focus on some of the positive, practical steps that anyone can take in dealing with the terrible challenges of our time.  

One result is a six-minute video that we are releasing today. The video is based on a series of interviews with participants in a June workshop called “Operationalising Green Governance.”  Held at a lovely retreat center north of Paris, a handful of participants – international law professors, human rights advocates, activists – were interviewed on camera by Ibby Stockdale, Director of a British film production company, Five Foot Four.  Ibby brilliantly distilled hours of interview footage and crafted a succinct, beautifully produced message. 

The short film, “Re-imagine the Future,” is now posted online and can be watched here.

In six minutes, it’s difficult to cover too much ground – so in the closing frames of the film, we provide links to two dedicated webpages – Anna’s  and mine -- to provide resources, organizations, essays, books, etc. for those interested in exploring the film’s themes more deeply. 

We hope you like the film – and would welcome whatever pass-along visibility you can give it.

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Transnational Republics of Commoning

I am often asked what the commons has to contribute to solving our climate change problems.  Since most commons are rather small scale and local, there is a presumption that such commons cannot possibly deal with a problem as massive and literally global as climate change. I think this view is mistaken.

The nation-state as now constituted, in its close alliance with capital and markets, is largely incapable of transcending its core commitments to economic growth, consumerism, and the rights of capital and corporations -- arguably the core structural drivers of climate change. But these allegiances artificially limit our options, if not dismiss the kinds of interventions we must entertain. The market/state simply command and coerce its way to success in arresting with climate change; it will require the active, enthusiastic contributions of everyone, and it must command social respect and political legitimacy.

A new vision and popular energy from the outside must arise.  But how?  And how could it possibly expand to a meaningful size rapidly enough?  I think that the Internet and other digital networks offer a fertile vector in which to develop new answers. I explore the speculative possibilities in this essay written for Friends of the Earth UK, published as part of its "Big Think" essay series.  Because the piece -- "Transnational Republics of Commoning:  Reinventing Governance Through Emergent Networking" -- is nearly 14,000 words long, I am separating it into three parts.  You can download the full essay as a pdf file here.

 

Four days after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the pilot on United Airlines Flight 564, going from Denver to Washington, D.C., came on the intercom:      

The doors are now closed and we have no help from the outside for any problems that might occur inside this plane.  As you could tell when you checked in, the government has made some changes to increase security in the airports.  They have not, however, made any rules about what happens after those doors close.  Until they do, we have made our own rules and I want to share them with you …

Here is our plan and our rules.  If someone or several people stand up and say they are hijacking this plane, I want you all to stand up together.  Then take whatever you have available to you and throw it at them … There are usually only a few of them, and we are two-hundred-plus strong.  We will not allow them to take over this plane.  I find it interesting that the U.S. Constitution begins with the words, “We the people.”  That’s who we are, the people, and we will not be defeated.

As recounted by journalist David Remnick, passengers “were asked to turn to their neighbors on either side and introduce themselves, and to tell one another something about themselves and their families.  ‘For today, we consider you family,’ they were told.  ‘We will treat you as such and ask that you do the same with us.’”[1]

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Climate Choices: How Should We Meet the Challenges of a Warming Planet? (NIFI Issue Guide)

The 25-page issue guide, Climate Choices: How Should We Meet the Challenges of a Warming Planet?, was published April 2016 from National Issues Forums Institute and Kettering Foundation, in collaboration with, North American Association for Environmental Education. Climate change is undeniable, this issue guide offers participants three options to use during deliberation on how to address our warming world. The issue guide is available to download for free on NIFI’s site here, where you can also find: the moderator’s guide, an options chart, and a post-forum questionnaire.

NIFI_Climate ChoicesFrom NIFI…

The Environment and Society Series is designed to promote meaningful, productive deliberation, convened locally and online, about difficult issues that affect the environment and communities.

All around is evidence that the climate is changing. Summers are starting earlier and lasting longer. Heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense. Dry regions are getting drier and wet regions are seeing heavier rains. Record cold and snowfalls blanket some parts of the country, while record fires ravage forests across the West.

The effects are being felt across many parts of the United States. Farmworkers in California’s Central Valley, snow-weary New England business owners, crab fishermen in Alaska, and cattle ranchers across the Great Plains have all seen uncommon and extreme weather. Occasional odd weather and weather cycles are nothing unusual.

But the more extreme and unpredictable weather being experienced around the world points to dramatic changes in climate— the conditions that take place over years, decades, and longer.

Climate disruptions have some people worried about their health, their children, their homes, their livelihoods, their communities, and even their personal safety. They wonder about the future of the natural areas they enjoy and the wild animals and plants that live there. In addition, there are growing concerns about our national security and how climate change might affect scarce resources around the planet and increase global tensions.

This issue guide presents three options for deliberation:

Option One: “Sharply Reduce Carbon Emissions”
We can no longer rely on piecemeal, voluntary efforts to reduce carbon emissions. The only way to protect ourselves and the planet is to tackle climate change at its source by taking coordinated, aggressive action to reduce the CO2 we put into the atmosphere—enforced by strict laws and regulations, and supported by significant investment. If we don’t make averting further climate change our top priority, warming of the land and oceans will accelerate, increasing the frequency of droughts, fires, floods, and other extreme weather events, and damaging the environment for generations to come.

Option Two: “Prepare and Protect Our Communities”
Preparing for and coping with changing conditions must be our top priority. We should work together now to secure our communities and strengthen our resilience in the face of climate-related impacts. That includes protecting our infrastructure—roads, bridges, and shorelines—and ensuring that the most vulnerable members of society have the support they need to adapt to the effects of a warming planet.

Option Three: “Accelerate Innovation”
Across the country and around the world, many private enterprises are already responding to climate change by seeing opportunity. Agricultural biotech companies Monsanto and Syngenta, for example, are poised to profit from newly patented drought-resistant crops. The water giant Veolia, which manages pipes and builds desalination plants, has expanded its operations to 74 countries on five continents. Lucid Energy, a startup in Portland, Oregon, generates electric power from the city’s domestic water pipes.

NIF-Logo2014About NIFI Issue Guides
NIFI’s Issue Guides introduce participants to several choices or approaches to consider. Rather than conforming to any single public proposal, each choice reflects widely held concerns and principles. Panels of experts review manuscripts to make sure the choices are presented accurately and fairly. By intention, Issue Guides do not identify individuals or organizations with partisan labels, such as Democratic, Republican, conservative, or liberal. The goal is to present ideas in a fresh way that encourages readers to judge them on their merit.

Follow on Twitter: @NIForums

Resource Link: www.nifi.org/en/issue-guide/climate-choices

Forcing Government Action on Climate Change: Two Noteworthy Legal Initiatives

While much of the momentum to fight climate change is focused on political channels, there are parallel efforts using law to force government to take specific, enforceable actions to reduce carbon emissions. It’s a difficult battle, but in recent weeks two notable initiatives have gained further momentum – a court ruling relying on the public trust doctrine and a new human rights declaration that has broad international support.

The court ruling is related to a series of lawsuits brought by young people invoking the public trust doctrine to force governments to protect the atmosphere. Orchestrated by the advocacy organization Our Children’s Trust, the Atmospheric Trust Litigation suits have been filed in all state courts and in federal courts.

On November 19, one of those lawsuits succeeded. A superior court judge in Seattle issued a ruling that strongly recognizes the public trust doctrine as a applying to the atmosphere.  The case sought to uphold science-based plans for carbon emissions reductions developed by Washington State’s Department of Ecology, as a way to protect the atmosphere for eight young people (the plaintiffs) and future generations. 

The ruling is especially significant because it echoes a recent ruling by a New Mexico court that also strongly upholds the constitutional principle that the public trust doctrine applies to the atmosphere.

COP21 negotiators, are you listening?

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Rethinking Complexity Blog

We live in a time of growing complexity, a time that calls for new thinking, new conversations, new ways of working together and new forms of organization that support continuous learning and innovation. Finding new ways to work within and across organizations and communities is critical to address current needs for climate change, resource use, social innovation and social justice.

Rethinking Complexity is a forum to explore these issues, examine best practices, and share critical research at the cutting edge of how organizations behave, systems change, and complexity can be managed for the good of humanity.

Rethinking Complexity BlogProduced by the Organizational Systems program of Saybrook University, Rethinking Complexity holds a system must be sustainable and support the human potential of the people it touches before it can be considered effective.

About Saybrook University
Saybrook University is the world’s premier institution for humanistic studies. It is a rigorous and unique learner-centered educational institution offering advanced degrees in psychology, mind-body medicine, organizational systems, and human science. Saybrook’s programs are deeply rooted in the humanistic tradition and a commitment to help students develop as whole people – mind, body, and spirit – in order to achieve their full potential. Experiential learning and professional training are integral components of the transformative education offered through Saybrook’s programs.

Our global community of scholars and practitioners is dedicated to advancing human potential to create a humane and sustainable world. We accomplish this by providing our students with the skills to achieve and make a difference, empowering them to pursue their passions and their life’s work. Our scholars and practitioners are creative, compassionate innovators pursuing new ways of thinking and doing for their professions, organizations, and communities.

Follow on Twitter: @SaybrookU.

Resource Link: www.saybrook.edu/rethinkingcomplexity/

This resource was submitted by Marty Jacobs, a student at Saybrook University, via the Add-a-Resource form.

From Dialogue to Action: Climate Dialogues and Climate Action Labs

This 2008 article by Phil Mitchell shows how a global issue like climate change can be handled gracefully at the local level with little funds by working in collaboration with the existing infrastructure provided by local environmental organizations. (Vol 2 Issue 2 of the International Journal of Public Participation, December 2008)

Abstract:
The Greater Seattle Climate Dialogues is a climate change education and advocacy project with its roots in dialogue and deliberation. Using an adapted study circles model, the purpose of its Climate Action Labs is to change grassroots politics in such a way that people can bridge the ubiquitous gap between dialogue and action. In overview form, this is the story of the project, intended to share the thinking that motivated it and the activities, design principles, and actual process designs that shaped its implementation and outcomes. The story is not complete without articulating lessons learned to date, and these are shared to benefit others, as is the major political challenge we believe we all face. For others’ projects based in similar motivation, the design principles and lessons learned may be a useful, transportable resource.

Excerpt from the introduction:
Practitioners of dialogue and deliberation (D&D) are keenly interested in two of the facets of public participation that remain underexplored: action and scale (Levine, Fung, & Gastil, 2005). We need action, especially in the many situations where our motivation for applying D&D techniques is to solve real world problems that require action outcomes, often political ones. Too often, however, in otherwise excellent deliberative processes, the links between talk and action are tenuous. Secondly, we need scale, because while most applications of D&D techniques have been on a local scale, it is clear that many larger, even global scale challenges could benefit from such approaches. Climate change is a perfect example.

Climate change—that is, the human-caused disruption of the Earth’s climate system—is arguably the most pressing global challenge society faces (CNA, 2007; Stern, 2005). Yet despite a broad scientific consensus on the facts, the very existence of the problem remains bitterly contested in the public sphere. The use of obfuscation and uncertainty as a political tactic cries out to be addressed by the wisdom inherent in D&D approaches.

Some attempts have been made to do so, as for example, the Empowerment Institute’s Global Warming Cafe (World Cafe), the Northwest Earth Institute’s Changing Course (discussion circle), the National Conversation on Climate Action (21st Century town hall), Deliberative Democracy and Climate Change (World Cafe, then next steps forthcoming), and the Greater Seattle Climate Dialogues and Action Labs (study circles/hybrid/experimental).

The Climate Dialogues/Labs are the subject of this report. The Greater Seattle Climate Dialogues is a climate change education and advocacy project with its roots in dialogue and deliberation. From its inception, we attempted to bridge the gap between dialogue and action. The Climate Action Labs model is our response to challenges we found in using study circles to support participant action. Here, I offer an overview of the programs: how we prepared for launch, how we approached design, what happened in terms of implementation and outcomes, and finally, the lessons we have learned to date.

The question at the center of Climate Dialogues was, How can we build a mandate for strong global warming policy when there is no public consensus and when public discussion is frozen into camps and undermined by disinformation? Our answer: (a) Start with well-designed dialogue; (b) take people through a learning and community-building process that gets past the obfuscations; and (c) use that as a launching point for collective political action. Our premise was that if we could create an opening for the public to actually hear and understand what the scientists are telling us, that members of the public would be moved to act.

Resource Link: www.ncdd.org/rc/wp-content/uploads/Mitchell-ClimateDialoguesToAction.pdf (free download)