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Environmental Values

Policy Decisions on Shale Gas Development ('Fracking'): The Insufficiency of Science and Necessity of Moral Thought

Darrick Trent Evensen

Environmental Values 24 (2015): 511-534. doi: 10.3197/096327115X14345368709989


A constant refrain in both public discourse and academic research on shale gas development has been the necessity for 'sound science' to govern policy decisions. Rare, however, is the recommendation that effective policy on this topic also include 'sound moral thought'. I argue that: (1) philosophy (particularly moral thought and ethical reasoning) and science must work in tandem for making good policy decisions related to shale gas development, and (2) this realisation is essential for policy-makers, journalists, researchers, educators and the public. By examining the range of normative claims offered within academic and public discourse, the variation in claims across contexts and the degree to which the normative arguments are well-supported, I illustrate the important role increased attention to moral thought could play in forwarding policy construction on shale gas development. Finally, I offer recommendations for how policy-makers, journalists, researchers and educators can more actively acknowledge the importance of both science and moral thought in policy-making related to shale gas development.


Hydraulic fracturing, shale gas, cryptonormativism, energy policy

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Editorial: Tackling Climate Change, Breaking the Frame of Modernity. Clive L. Spash

Disturbed Earth: Conceptions of the Deep Underground in Shale Extraction Deliberations in the US and UK. Tristan Partridge, Merryn Thomas, Nick Pidgeon, Barbara Harthorn

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