Journal of Medical Ethics
Published online in March 2023
Abstract: Humans and other species depend on the planet’s well-being to survive and flourish. The health of the planet and its ecosystems is under threat from anthropogenic climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss. The promotion of planetary health against entrenched degradation of nature urgently requires ethical guidance. Using an ecocentric virtue jurisprudence approach, this article argues that the highest end of safeguarding planetary health is to secure the flourishing of the Earth community, of which the flourishing of humanity is but one component. The article demonstrates how law, despite its historic role in facilitating our present planetary crisis, has an untapped potential to redeem itself by promoting planetary flourishing through the creation of conditions conducive to the practice of moral virtues, which can help meet the challenges of the Anthropocene. Once given an ecocentric interpretation, the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, courage and moderation, as well as their subvirtues, can justify or produce legal structures that address everything from the human right to a healthy environment to the rights of nature.