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Richard Sťahel

Richard Sťahel

Title: Self-limitation as the principle of environmental democracy: towards the starting points of the political system of the demographic and climatic regime of the Anthropocene

Abstract: The presentation is based on the concept of environmental political philosophy and from its perspective it points out the weaknesses and contradictions of contemporary real democracies. These are based on concepts of human, society, and economy that do not consider the finitude of natural resources as well as the limited capacity of the planetary system to absorb the pollution caused by all human activities (planetary boundaries). Real constitutional democracies, determined by industrialism and the imperial way of life, are, therefore, unable to ensure the long-term sustainability of the socio-economic, let alone environmental, preconditions for their existence. They are unable to subordinate economic and technological power to effective democratic control. Moreover, the deteriorating social and environmental conditions of life on the planet in the climatic, demographic, and economic regime of the Anthropocene are increasingly forcing them into situations in which they must circumvent or directly violate even the fundamental constitutional principles on which their legitimacy rests. An alternative conception of constitutional government could be environmental democracy, which on the one hand would preserve the basic constitutional principles of current constitutional regimes, and on the other hand, would reconcile them with the current knowledge of the Earth system sciences about the vulnerability of the planetary system. The practical consequence would be the establishment of societal boundaries, or the political procedure of establishing societal boundaries. It means, that self-limitation could be understood as one of the political or even constitutional principles of environmental democracy. The social and societal acceptance of such a form of self-limitation should also have to meet the criterion of a solidarity mode of living referred to as sufficiency. The concept of environmental democracy, as well as the principle of self-limitation (societal boundaries and sufficiency), are based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the resolution of the UN General Assembly, which declares access to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment as a universal human right.

Keywords: Anthropocene, Environmental Political Philosophy, Imperial Mode of Living, Environmental democracy, Solidarity Mode of Living, Self-limitation.

Bio: Assoc. Prof. Richard Sťahel, PhD. is a researcher fellow at the Institute of Philosophy of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava, where he holds the position of director of the institute and the head of the Department of Environmental Philosophy. He specializes in environmental and political philosophy and the philosophy of human rights. He focuses on examining the causes of the global industrial civilization crisis and the philosophical, social, and political consequences of climate change and the mass extinction of plant and animal species. He pays special attention to the philosophical aspects of the Anthropocene, ecological civilization, and environmental democracy concepts. In addition to several scientific articles and studies, he is the author of a monograph Pojem krízy v environmentálnom myslení [The  Concept of Crisis in Environmental Thinking] (Bratislava: Iris, 2019) and co-author of books Environmentální devastace a sociální destrukce [Environmental Devastation and Social Destruction] (Praha: Filosofia, 2016) and Človek, sloboda a vlastníctvo vo filozofii raného novoveku [Man, Freedom and Ownership in the Philosophy of the Early Modern Philosophy] (Bratislava: Iris, 2015).

Institute of Philosophy, Slovak Academy of Sciences, v.v.i.
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