Ethics of Energy? Fragile Lives and Imagined Futures

St Andrews 17-18 March 2016

What are the ethical underpinnings, dilemmas and questions that arise in people’s energy practices? At a time when the global consumption and production of energy is rising at an astonishing rate, this conference will explore the centrality of ethical practice, judgment and questioning in our relationship with energy. We will draw on recent academic debates in anthropology and other disciplines to develop a new approach to energy ethics. Our aim is to move away from the limitations of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) frameworks that are usually applied. These supposedly ‘win-win’ twinnings of the corporate and the social, the market and morality, consider ethics within highly particular value regimes related to marketing, advertising and pricing. We need to have an analytical approach to energy ethics that can exist outside the corporate value regimes of ‘responsible business’ and ‘corporate conscience’. This is because not all energy actors move within or share the values of these corporate domains. We will also challenge assumptions that see ethics as a descriptive label associated first and foremost with renewable energy resources. Ethical sensibility is rooted in people; it is embedded in categories of speech and modes of physical action and central to the potential of human flourishing. Recognizing ethical sensibility as part of the human condition, the conference seeks to think of energy ethics in capacious ways that can encompass the views of any energy actor, whether a windmill engineer, a fracker or a company CEO.