Fall 2015

The Ethics of Food, Fuel & Feed

Brian G. Henning

As the collective impact of human activity approaches Earth's biophysical limits, the ethics of food become increasingly important. Hundreds of millions of people remain undernourished, yet only 60 percent of the global harvest is consumed by humans, while 35 percent is fed to livestock and 5 percent is used for biofuels and other industrial products. This essay considers the ethics of such use of edible nutrition for feedstock and biofuel. How humanity uses Earth's land is a reflection of its values. The current land-use arrangements, which divert 40 percent of all food to feed animals or create fuels, suggest that dietary and transportation preferences of wealthier individuals are considered more important than feeding undernourished people, or the stability of the wider biotic community.

BRIAN G. HENNING is Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies at Gonzaga University. His book The Ethics of Creativity: Beauty, Morality, and Nature in a Processive Cosmos (2005) won the John N. Findlay Book Prize from the Metaphysical Society of America. His most recent book is Riders in the Storm: Ethics in An Age of Climate Change (2015).

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