Bioethics - Purdue Lectures in Ethics, Policy, and Science

Raymond Anthony: Am I really responsible for ensuring a sustainable food future?

April 13 @ 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM - MRGN 121

There is a presumption (or at least an intuition) that conscientious people have a moral duty to ensure a sustainable food future, namely, that they adopt a sustainable pattern of eating that not only promotes their own health and well-being but which is also mindful of their impact on ecological processes, the dwindling supply of water, land, and energy for agricultural production, the welfare of agricultural animals and future generations to “meet their own needs.”  Being responsible for ensuring a sustainable food future involves personal choices that are either aimed at limiting unsustainable activities or promoting sustainable activities. I argue that we are NOT morally obligated to restrict our personal food choices in order to ensure a sustainable food future, even when we are implicated in causing an unsustainable outcome.  The doubts I have about the moral relevance of our personal food choices towards sustainability hinges on our impacts as individuals on the global food system, which are seemingly both insignificant and diffuse that it would be essentially impossible to attribute any difference in the sustainability outcomes to our personal food choices. Given the imperceptibility of individuals’ actions towards a sustainable food future, anyone committed to it should calibrate carefully their pursuit of it against other important personal goals and be cautious about making significant sacrifices. Genuine solutions to problems related to ensuring a sustainable food future involve institutional changes instead of personal ones.

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