Thinking Globally and Thinking Locally

Ecology, Subsidiarity, and a Multiscalar Environmentalism


  • Kevin O'Brien Pacific Lutheran University



christian environmental ethics, scale, subsidiarity, scientific ecology, environmentalism, environmental degradation


Environmentalism is a movement concerned with both the entirety of planet Earth and the very particular local places and systems of which it is comprised. This article attempts to connect a set of academic perspectives with which to understand and reflect on such scalar issues, tracking differences between the diverse scales and levels of moral attention to environmental problems. The work of ecological researchers and theorists offers a vocabulary for this task, and the writings of environmental philosopher Bryan Norton provide tools for applying such a vocabulary to moral concerns. Another important contribution comes from the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, which stresses the continuing importance of individual persons and local systems in a vast and globalizing world. Drawing on these diverse sources, this article advocates a multiscalar perspective on environmental problems, seeking to acknowledge and discern the ways different issues must be understood and approached at different scales.

Author Biography

  • Kevin O'Brien, Pacific Lutheran University
    Assistant Professor of Religion, Pacific Lutheran University


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How to Cite

O'Brien, K. (2009). Thinking Globally and Thinking Locally: Ecology, Subsidiarity, and a Multiscalar Environmentalism. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 2(2), 218-236.