June 2019 Philosophy Walk: Envrionment, Ethics & Stewardship

How we relate to nature is complicated and ever-evolving.  Our group — led by co-philosophers-on-trail Christopher Preston and Patrick Kelly — enjoyed a morning & afternoon walk up the  steep slopes of the 1906/Prairie trail to the summit of Mt. Helena, and explored a number of topics related to environment, ethics, and stewardship, including:

  • Conservation — Public Trust Doctrine (what is it and what are some of the philosophical underpinnings/questions/values that inspired its creation?), What are some of its challenges (is it expansive enough? Does it leave anything out? Are there practical issues?).  Does the public trust doctrine simply reflect our collective values or does it also shape our values? If it shapes our values, how so and what does this mean/implications for current and future generations?
  • Environmental Ethics — Traditional approaches and considerations, traditional approaches and considerations, past issues and current issues
  • Synthetic Nature — What is it? What sort of questions does it raise? Challenges? Concerns?
  • The Conservation & Technology Relationship — Does or can conservation efforts fit in with technology? Is technology “opposed” to nature or part of nature?
  • Expanding the Public Trust Doctrine — What might this look like? Philosophically? Practically? What sort of advantages would doing this provide?
  • The Public Trust Doctrine & Synthetic Nature -Would an expanded public trust doctrine have to also cover/apply to whatever constructions of synthetic nature might be in place? Is this desirable? Would this problematic, philosophically and practically? What would the implications of doing so be?


Patrick Kelly (The Public Trust Doctrine)


Christopher Preston (Environmental Ethics & PTD – Social Contract Theory & Intrinsic Value)


Christopher Preston (Untouched Nature, Intrinsic Value & Human Integration)


Patrick Kelly & Christopher Preston (Technology, Science & Expanding the PTD)


About Our Walk Guides

Christopher Preston, PhD is a professor of philosophy at The University of Montana. His areas of specialty include environmental philosophy, climate ethics, the ethics of emerging technologies, and feminist philosophy. A native of England – who has studied and worked in Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington DC, and South Carolina – his life in the US is oriented in many ways around the power of wild landscapes. In addition to being a professor, he has worked as a commercial fisherman, a tool librarian, and a backcountry Park Service Ranger. Christopher has published extensively on climate engineering, synthetic biology, and the new epoch of the Anthropocene and finds significance in both the new, and the traditional, wild. 

Patrick Kelly, PhD (Philosopher & Conservationist, University of Montana).  Patrick earned his M.A. in Philosophy from the University of New Mexico, with a focus on environmental ethics, and his PhD in Forestry and Conservation from the University of Montana, where he partnered with the US Forest Service on wilderness ethics and management.  Patrick works at the confluence of philosophy and environmental policy and has a strong interest in applying critical thinking to the many pressing ecological issues facing our species and the rest of life on our planet.  He believes the most important task ahead for philosophy is to contribute to the formation of effective policy and to the clear articulation of environmental values. As a lifelong backpacker, fly fisherman, and lover of all things riparian, Patrick has a strong personal and emotional connection to the land and to all of the processes that sustain it.  This connection is, in turn, what sustains and motivates him to work however he can to contribute to a vision of respectful stewardship for the only planet we have.

Thank You’s

Thank you to P.L.A.T.O. (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization), Montana Internet, BWP Helena Great Northern Hotel, and the American Philosophical Association for helping support our philosophy in the community programs and making events like this possible!  Thank you to our Guest Speakers/Co-Philosophers-on-Trail: Christopher Preston and Patrick Kelly.  Thank you also to our audio recording editor Ross P. Nelson.

Comments are closed.