Elizabeth Cripps – Justice, Integrity and the Green Parenting Duty

Political Theory Research Group series 2016/17: 12 October

Source: Vinoth Chandar (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Source: Vinoth Chandar (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This week we had the pleasure of discussing Dr Elizabeth Cripps’ paper, which introduced the idea of a “green parenting duty” as a requirement of climate justice and of respecting one’s child as a future moral agent. The work is to be presented later this month at the Aristotelian Society.

In this paper, Dr Cripps argues that children should be educated about climate justice and raised in such a way that ensures they have the moral capacity to respond to this matter as they grow into morally competent adults. The paper further stipulates that parents have a duty to involve their children in their ethical projects, such as taking action against climate injustice. This is not only due to the moral importance of these projects, but to the nature of the parent-child relationship as a valuable project in itself.

One of the opening premises of the paper was that individual duties as part of collective action against climate change are taken as given; as such, contributions from participants tended to steer away from the precise nature of such duties. Instead, discussion fruitfully centred around several other broad areas. The question of whether the government and schools might have a role to educate children about climate change was raised, and the special nature of the parent’s duty to involve their child in ethical projects was discussed in greater depth. It was considered whether there is a special duty to educate children about climate change, or whether a general moral education is adequate to equip them with the moral capacities necessary for ethical responsibility in adulthood.

The pertinent issue of class and income barriers to participation in climate change activism was also broached and participants had the opportunity to reflect on how lower income may entail a lower carbon lifestyle, or a reduced capacity to decrease the family’s carbon footprint. There was a lively discussion on the matter of autonomy and how to raise a child with a sense of morality and autonomy without determining the substantive morals of that child. The discussion touched upon whether educating a child about climate justice bears any resemblance to raising a child within the confines of a particular faith or religion. Participants for the most part agreed on this point that parents ought to aim to raise children with the ability to think critically about the ethical challenges their generation faces as they mature.

On behalf of the PTRG I would like to wish Dr Cripps luck with her presentation to the Aristotelian Society and to thank her for sharing her work with the group.

Written by Cat Wayland


Elizabeth Cripps is Senior Lecturer in Political Theory at the University of Edinburgh.