EGU23-11580, updated on 26 Feb 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Geoethics: hammering out an interdisciplinary conversation 

Bethany Fox1, Kate Dawson2, Vicki Trowler3, Sophie Briggs4, Ruth Massey1, Alexandra Fitzsimmons5, Tania Marshall6, Christina Riesselman4,7, and Anna Davidson1
Bethany Fox et al.
  • 1Department of Biological and Geographical Sciences, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK (
  • 2Department of Geography, University College London,  London, UK
  • 3Department of Chemical Sciences, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK
  • 4Department of Geology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  • 5Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication, Imperial College, London, UK
  • 6School of Mining Engineering, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 7Department of Marine Science, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Geoethics is not just a matter of geoscience, but involves complex transdisciplinary concerns with social, economic and cultural implications. Because of this, both geoethicists within geosciences and those working in social sciences and humanities are increasingly calling for dialogue across disciplinary silos. Drawing from our work on the British Academy funded interdisciplinary project, ‘Mining for Meaning: the Geoethics of Extractive Industries,’ we trace out what an interdisciplinary engagement with Geoethics might look like. As an earthly ethics that necessarily stretches beyond geological considerations to consider the socio-natural, cultural-spiritual and political-economic, any engagement with Geoethics demands conversations that bring geoscientific understandings into more explicit dialogue with ideas from the social sciences and the geohumanities (though not exclusively). Acknowledging the very real challenges of doing interdisciplinary work - from distinct understandings about research, knowledge and results, to disciplinary-specific technical terminology - we set out the core ideas underpinning Geoethical approaches in these domains. This lays important groundwork for crafting meaningful and indeed ethical conversations that stretch across these disciplines, but crucially, avoids the mining of other disciplines for useful concepts and metaphors, without due regard for their context, history and technical meaning – a form of disciplinary extractivism in itself. Animated by this anti-extractivism, the paper presents a reading of how the earth, ethics, knowledge and practices are understood from within the geosciences, social sciences and geohumanities respectively, charting out what we hope to be a useful frame of reference for working across these disciplines. We then use this analysis as the bedrock for discussing the potential of cross-disciplinary conversation. By critically responding to the relative strengths, limitations and offerings of each discipline’s conceptualisation of geoethics, we bring to the fore important interdisciplinary frictions, overlaps and potential collaborative directions. Taken together, we suggest that this two-part analysis offers scope for crafting meaningful conversations necessary for an interdisciplinary Geoethics. 

How to cite: Fox, B., Dawson, K., Trowler, V., Briggs, S., Massey, R., Fitzsimmons, A., Marshall, T., Riesselman, C., and Davidson, A.: Geoethics: hammering out an interdisciplinary conversation , EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-11580,, 2023.