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Deciphering the lay ethics of terminal risks: local terminal risks as PRoxiEs For Existential Risks

Project description

Opening the debate on existential risk to empirical enquiry

The ERC-funded PREFER project will open the scientific debate on existential risk – i.e. risk that threatens humanity as a whole – to empirical enquiry. The PREFER team will identify how the ethics of ordinary people manifest themselves in non-Western communities faced with extreme threat. Local terminal risks due to the collapse of regional ecosystems will serve as proxies for global existential risks. This pioneering project will obtain, for the first time, empirical evidence on how ordinary humans evaluate and cope with real-life terminal situations – i.e. situations that threaten their way of being in the world, and thus may threaten humanity’s way of being in the world. Fieldwork will be conducted in Greenland, Vietnam and Colombia.

Objective

The main objective of the PREFER project is to open the scientific debate on existential risk to empirical enquiry. The PREFER team will identify how lay ethics (the ethics of ordinary people) manifest themselves in non-Western communities faced with extreme threat. Local terminal risks due to the collapse of regional ecosystems will serve as proxies for existential risks. Thus, this pioneering project will obtain, for the first time, empirical evidence on how ordinary humans evaluate and cope with real-life terminal situations. Existential risks concern humanity as a whole: it is essential to add to the variety and number of voices heard in scientific deliberations. A broader discourse on existential risk will contribute to better governance and decision-making around existential risks. The PREFER team will conduct field work in two diverse geographical areas whose inhabitants are experiencing the collapse of life-sustaining ecosystems: the Arctic and the Mekong Delta. Three communities in each area will serve as case studies. Preparatory fieldwork has revealed that members are aware of the terminal threat and have expressed fears that they are facing the end of the life they know. Community transdisciplinary research (the co-production of knowledge with and for local communities) will be accompanied by ethnographic work. Data will be collected in the form of narratives which will be analyzed as sources of information on how local communities appraise the multiple dimensions of local terminal risk, including descriptions, the meanings drawn from these and involvement in impact mitigation actions. These results will then be applied to existential risks, all the while analyzing the appositeness of the PREFER proxy-based approach. Finally, although the main focus is on widening the discourse on existential risks, PREFER will also contribute to the urgent empirical analysis of terminality in the face of collapsing regional ecosystems.

Host institution

UNIVERSITE DE VERSAILLES SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES.
Net EU contribution
€ 2 485 314,00
Address
AVENUE DE PARIS 55
78035 VERSAILLES
France

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Region
Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Yvelines
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
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Total cost
€ 2 485 314,00

Beneficiaries (1)