Get access

Artificial persons against nature: environmental governmentality, economic corporations, and ecological ethics


M. S. Northcott New College, Edinburgh EH1 2LX, UK.


Despite the 194 nation-state signatories to the global Convention on Biological Diversity, the conservation effort is failing to halt an ongoing spiral of decline in most habitats and ecological communities on land and ocean. Environmental ethicists argue that the failure to halt the unsustainable predation on the ecosystems that sustain industrial civilization is indicative of a moral as well as a scientific crisis. Principal ethical interventions in ecology include the ascription of value to species and ecosystems, wilderness ethics, and ecological virtue. Ecological virtue ethics identifies agency, character, institutions, and practices as crucial to moral formation and outcomes. However, the dominant role of the economic corporation in ecological destruction subverts a virtues approach. Corporations as fictive persons will not learn ecological virtue absent of legal and regulatory reform and the ecological education of business leaders and owners.