Department of Philosophy



site header

Mick Smith

Associate Professor
B.Sc. (York, UK) , M.A.(Thames Polytechnic, UK), M.Phil. (North Staffordshire Polytechnic, UK), Ph.D. (Stirling, UK)

Specialization: Environmental ethics, social constructions of nature, environmental sociology, the ethics and emotions of place, Gadamer, social theory and hermeneutics, theories of modernism and postmodernism 
Office: Biosciences Complex, Room 3123
Office Hours: N/A
Phone: (613) 533.6000 ext. 78634


I originally trained as an ecologist, inspired by the upsurge in environmental consciousness from the 1970's onwards. I have a long-standing interest in the experiential, social, and political reasons why people do (or don't) value differing aspects of ecological communities with a particular interest in environmental ethics, politics and phenomenology. My research seeks to develop theoretical understandings of the complex intersections of nature and culture as they affect our evaluations and experiences of environments. It engages directly with a number of current debates that are of vital significance for environmental politics which might be classified under 6 specific but overlapping headings:

1) Environmental phenomenology and hermeneutics - understanding how and why we come to interpret environments in particular ways, for example, as wilderness, natural, or brown-field sites, and how these interpretations inform our understandings of those environments' roles, values and sustainability. In brief - what do we mean by 'nature', how do we experience it, and how does it become meaningful to us?

2) Environmental ethics - the nature of ethical values and the ethical value of nature.

3) Social-theoretical understandings of nature and environmentalism - including the role of nature in sociological, political and philosophical traditions, current debates about the social construction of nature, theoretical understandings of space and place e.g. Henri Lefebvre, and different ways of thinking about nature-society interactions, for example, 'risk society'.

4) The emotional mediation of environmental responses - including emotional geographies, emotional attachments to place, bio-philias and bio-phobias. I am particularly interested in phenomenological approaches to these questions.

5) Environmental politics - the place of nature in political theory especially in terms of the relations between ideas of nature, freedom, and citizenship, sustainable development, ecological activism, ecofeminism, radical and deep ecology and questions of posthumanism and ecological sovereignty.

6) Tourism ethics - the many ethical issues that arise at the intersections of cultures and ecologies due to tourism developments and recent attempts to ameliorate some of the more deleterious aspects of these developments through, for example eco-tourism, community tourism etc.

I am jointly appointed between the School of Environmental Studies and the Department of Philosophy and have just completed on a book entitledAgainst\> Ecological Sovereigntytogether with a second co-edited collection on emotional geographies entitledEmotion, Space and Culture– to be published by Ashgate in 2009. I am joint editor of the Elsevier journal Emotion, Space and Society( and am currently working on an SSHRC funded project on ‘Environmental Responsibility’.

For details of my publications please see the School of Environmental Studies website.\>