Behavioral Economics Seminar: Weiziran and Aloha ʻAina: Place, Identity and Ethics of the Environment

The Behavioral Economics group at IFRO invite to open seminars with a range of subjects within Behavioral Economics.

Andrew Soh, visiting PhD fellow at Department of Food and Resouce Economics, will present his dissertation: Weiziran and Aloha ʻAina: Place, Identity and
Ethics of the Environment


“Human beings emulate the earth, the earth emulates the heavens, the heavens emulate way-making (dao), and way-making emulates what is spontaneously so (ziran).”
Daodejing 25

“The limits of our land and ocean are clearer than ever before. Taking our cues from nature is more relevant now than we could have ever imagined…”
Nainoa Thompson, President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

Nainoa Thompson, modern-day master of the traditional Polynesian art of non-instrument navigating, recently led a worldwide voyage of the traditional Hawaiian vessel, Hōkūleʻa, on the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage (the voyage to care for our Island Earth). The purpose of the voyage was, in his own words, to “find and share stories of hope for our ocean, Earth and communities” (Nainoa Thompson, “Traditional knowledge for today’s obstacles,” IUCN World Conservation Congress Hawaii 2016). On the surface, this voyage may come across as a nice way to spread Hawaiian aloha and friendship around the world. But the voyage represents much more than that. Nainoa and Hōkūleʻa stand as symbols of hope for humanity’s search for a solution to the crisis of environmental destruction. This search must involve a genuine search for an enduring ethics of the environment, one that addresses the root and core of the environmental crisis.

I believe that our environmental problems stem from a loss of our rootedness from our natural world. At the heart of this loss of rootedness is a particular understanding of our place in the world. The passage from Daodejing above illustrates the relation between the human being and earth, heaven and the “self-so-ing” of dao. This dissertation presents an argument for an enduring environmental ethics through a dialogue of Daoist and Hawaiian wisdom traditions. This dialogue will help us rediscover and recover our relation with, and hence our place in, the natural world. By reflecting on place and identity, and drawing on the Daoist environmental ethic of weiziran and the Hawaiian environmental ethic of aloha ʻaina, we arrive at a role ethics of the environment.

For further information, contact:
Catrine Jacobsen,