EGU24-2053, updated on 08 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Oral | Tuesday, 16 Apr, 09:55–10:05 (CEST)
Room 1.34

Perceiving Cape-Town-Geoethics (CTG) through Symbolic Universes (SU)

Martin Bohle1, Rika Preiser2, and Eduardo Marone3
Martin Bohle et al.
  • 1Ronin Institute, Montclair, NJ, USA (
  • 2Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, RSA
  • 3Federal University of Paraná (CEM/UFPR), Pontal do Paraná, Brazil

Cultural milieus determine the worldviews and practices of individuals and groups, including the reception of norms that guide them. Semiotic Cultural Psychological Theory (SCPT) methods, such as Symbolic Universes (SU), describe relationships of reception, worldviews and practice, which also applies to geo-philosophical matters [1]. This essay outlines how geoethics, for example, the Cape Town Geoethics (CTG), might be received in different cultural milieus.

The Cape Town Statement on Geoethics was proposed in 2016 at the 36th IGC [2] and is the most accessible resource on geoethics. It bundles various concepts in a Kantian/Aristotelian virtue ethics framework, illustrated, for example, by the Geoethical Promise [3].

The SU method describes the understanding, insights, and behaviour of groups of people expressing their respective cultural milieus. Extensive fieldwork identified five SU for people of European (Western) cultures [4]. The SUs called "Ordered Universe", "Interpersonal Bond", "Caring Society", "Niche of Belongingness", and "Others' World" categorise milieus, for example, in terms of relation to power and institutions or sources of trust. They corroborated with the Kohlberg hierarchy of the level of societal coordination [5] that is applicable to associate CTG and the worldviews of individuals and groups [6].

Comparing CTG and SU indicates: (1) CTG resonates most positively with people of the cultural milieu “Ordered Universe” (highest Kollberg level); (2) in other milieus, the reception of the CTG will be “measured”; (3) reception will be adverse for the milieu “Others' World” (lowest Kohlberg level). Hence, considering the quantitative distribution of SUs (in Europe), European citizens' reception of CTG is likely restrained.

Given complex-adaptive social-ecological systems of the World and Nature couple world views, human practices, and societal and natural systems [7] (see example: [8]), whether variants of CTG “fitted to different milieus” should be developed is of practical relevance. The perception of norms and their acceptance or rejection is a system feature, of which geoethics should not be agnostic.

[1] Bohle M (2019) “Homo Semioticus” Migrating Out of Area? In: Salvatore S, et al. (eds) Symbolic Universes in Time of (Post)Crisis. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, Cham, pp 295–307

[2] Di Capua G, et al. (2017) The Cape Town Statement on Geoethics. Ann Geophys 60:1–6.

[3] Matteucci R, et al. (2014) The “Geoethical Promise”: A Proposal. Episodes 37:190–191.

[4] Salvatore S, et al (2019) The Cultural Milieu and the Symbolic Universes of European Societies. In: Salvatore S, et al. (eds) Symbolic Universes in Time of (Post)crisis. Springer, Cham, pp 53–133

[5] Kohlberg L (1981) The Philosophy of Moral Development: Moral Stages and the Idea of Justice. Harber & Row, San Francisco

[6] Bohle M, Marone E (2022) Phronesis at the Human-Earth Nexus: Managed Retreat. Front Polit Sci 4:1–13.

[7] Preiser R, Woermann M (2019) Complexity, philosophy and ethics. In: Galaz V (ed) Global Challenges, Governance, and Complexity. Edward Elgar Publishing., Cheltenham, pp 38–62

[8] Talukder B, et al. (2023) Complex Adaptive Systems-Based Conceptual Framework for Modeling the Health Impacts of Climate Change. J Clim Chang Heal 100292.

How to cite: Bohle, M., Preiser, R., and Marone, E.: Perceiving Cape-Town-Geoethics (CTG) through Symbolic Universes (SU), EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-2053,, 2024.

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