Sport and the Environment: Considering Sustainable Thoughts

  • Ron Welters
Part of the Library of Ethics and Applied Philosophy book series (LOET, volume 37)


In recent years there has been much attention for environmental matters in actual sport practices, ranging from greening the Olympics to reducing the ecological footprint of mass running events. In itself these adaptive developments are praiseworthy. At the same time they raise philosophical discomfort, because they do not fully address the issue of how to mitigate the effects of our over-consuming and polluting life-style in a more profound way.

This Chapter provides a rendition of a still tender and tentative philosophical and ethical debate by iteratively attempting to bridge the gap between ‘shallow’ adaptive green sport practices and ‘deep’ eco-philosophical thinking. It does so with a special focus on Sigmund Loland’s work on the ‘ecosophy’ (a portmanteau of ecology and philosophy) of sport. Notwithstanding the problematic relation between excluding and ‘agonistic’ competition on the razor’s edge and including and peaceful ‘ecological naturalism’, based on the work of Arne Naess, Loland develops a set of hypotheses and norms that gives philosophical evidence for the idea that sport can be ecologically justified. Key terms in this interactive system of fundamental normative questions and answers are ‘Self-realization!’ through engaging in sporting activities on the one hand, and the idea of ‘biospheric egalitarianism’ and ‘the democracy of all life forms’, on the other. Or: how to find the right mean between the pleasure of sporting in nature and sustainability?

After analysing and criticising Loland’s sensitive Outline of an Ecosophy of Sport (1996), I will critically access two consecutive ‘sport-ecosophical’ articles by Loland: Record Sports: An Ecological Critique and a Reconstruction (2001) and Olympic Sport and the Ideal of Sustainable Development (2006). Whereas Loland concentrates on developing a robust sport-ecosophical mindset and leaving the idea of sport records, since these represent the logic of unlimited growth in limited systems, I rather suggest perhaps ‘shallow’ but nevertheless concrete acts that actually result in a change for the ecosophical better.


Environmental issues Self-realization Nature Sustainable sport 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ron Welters
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Science in Society, Faculty of ScienceRadboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands

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