Sustainability, virtue ethics, and the virtue of harmony with nature

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20 Citations (Scopus)


This article argues that the dominant sustainable development approach fails to acknowledge the interconnectedness and interrelatedness of social and environmental issues, and that sustainability requires a ‘transformational’ approach, involving a fundamental change in how humans relate to each other and to nature. The authors propose that virtue ethics, grounded in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, provides a framework with which to tackle such a transformation; to redress the human-nature relationship and help foster a more ecological perspective; to facilitate a more holistic and integrative view of sustainability; and to explore questions of how to live and flourish within a more sustainable world. Beginning with an overview of virtue ethics and critique of current approaches in environmental virtue ethics, this article proposes a new virtue, ‘harmony with nature’, that addresses the interconnectedness of our relationship with nature. This is followed by a proposal for the re-visioning of human flourishing as being necessarily situated within nature. The article concludes with some of the implications of a virtue ethics approach to sustainability, and the new virtue, for both sustainability education and moral education.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Education Research
Early online date9 Mar 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Mar 2016


  • sustainability
  • environmental virtue ethics
  • sustainability education
  • education for sustainable development
  • character education


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