The Ethical Necessity of Taking Brownfields Seriously

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Abstract

We live in an epoch called the Anthropocene, meaning the destruction we have brought upon the earth is literally inscribed in our environment. I argue it is our ethical responsibility to acknowledge our destructiveness and move toward reversing that. To that end, I will focus on space as a limited resource. I understand space as that which is always produced, historically, by human urbanity. After the Enlightenment, the process of human urbanity’s destructiveness has taken an accelerated speed. The concept of infinite growth, however, clashes with the finite resources of the earth. In this article, I argue for our ethical responsibility in the face of this finite resource. Brownfields are paradigms of our history of destructive making. They are also part of the limited resource of space on this planet. One way we can act ethically in the face of this limited resource is to work toward remediating brownfields, which will take us one step closer toward environmental and social justice.