2020 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of Ethics & the Environment. Founded at the University of Georgia in 1995 by Victoria Davion, the journal remains at UGA under the guidance of Piers H. Stephens, who assumed editorship in the wake of Davion's untimely passing in 2017. Below are Stephens' reflections on the evolution of Ethics & the Environment and its important role in the ever-growing field of environmental philosophy.
At the time that Vicky Davion conceived of and launched Ethics and the Environment twenty-five years ago, environmental philosophy was still struggling for acceptance and respectability as a philosophical subdiscipline. For most of the period since 1979 just one journal, Environmental Ethics, had been the primary beacon of the field, and a second, the UK-based Environmental Values, had only started up in 1992. Much of the surrounding professional atmosphere at the time was less than congenial, especially in relation to any attempt to engage in philosophical radicalism via environmental thought, with much institutional pressure pushing towards seeing all the concerns of our nascent field as questions to be shuffled off into a subsection of applied ethics. As someone who was beginning my doctoral studies in Britain around that time, I well recall the pressures and the struggle for respectability that was involved, and such conditions made the bar for success in launching a new journal that much higher. Vicky’s actions in beginning the journal thus required not only imagination and creativity, but a significant amount of intellectual courage.
This courage manifested itself most obviously in the new ground that Ethics and the Environment set out to break. Whilst “Environmental Ethics” had tended to take much of its inspiration from the American conservation and preservation movements as well as debates over intrinsic value, while “Environmental Values” took a perspective that bridged these concerns to predominantly British political and economic theory, “Ethics and the Environment” responded to the institutional challenges facing the new field by broadening the range of voices and critique that environmental philosophy articulated. From the earliest stages, radical perspectives that were unrepresented or underrepresented in the other journals – especially ecofeminism, deep ecology, indigenous and non-Western thought – were central to the identity and mission of “Ethics and the Environment,” and gave it a distinctive place and appeal. It was a risky strategy to take in the mid 1990s, yet it proved to be not only the right thing to do, broadening the debate and adding new protagonists, but also a path to produce a highly successful journal over time.
Ethics and the Environment is today one of the top journals in environmental philosophy, still growing in its subscriptions and influence, and a living tribute to the quality of Vicky Davion’s vision. As editor, I am often astounded at the range, diversity and quality of the manuscript submissions we receive from a global audience, and though I remain saddened at the circumstances under which I took over the editorship, I am proud and grateful to be in charge of such a publication, and holding fast as best I can to its founding vision as the journal nears its 25th anniversary. Within the field of environmental philosophy “Ethics and the Environment” is deeply associated with our department and with the University of Georgia, and I hope that it may continue to be so for many a long year yet.