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Unpublished Paper
Solidarity and Subsidiarity in a Changing Climate: Green Building as Legal and Moral Obligation
  • Jamison E. Colburn
This essay grew out of a symposium on Catholic social thought. It makes the case for solidarity and subsidiarity as principles of applied (secular) ethics by injecting them into what must be their most challenging context: catastrophic global climate disruption. It argues that the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity hold tremendous potential within our liberal constitutional tradition by exploring the developing trend toward "green building" in the United States. Part I describes what we know about greenhouse gases and climate disruption while Part II frames the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity. Part III explores the phenomenal growth of green building in the U.S. and the moves by many cities and towns to encourage and, in some cases, require green building within their borders. Part IV situates this context within our land use planning traditions and the coming battle for building standards in our changing climate. Finally, Part V compares building green as a moral and as a legal obligation in a world of uncertain possibilities and unintended consequences. The overall argument is that fighting for legally binding obligations at the fullest scale necessary to address problems like climate disruption before first taking more local, cooperative actions possible today probably entails prohibitive opportunity costs.
  • green building,
  • climate change,
  • subsidiarity
Publication Date
Citation Information
Jamison E. Colburn. "Solidarity and Subsidiarity in a Changing Climate: Green Building as Legal and Moral Obligation" (2008)
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