Sarah E. Fredericks

Faculty Associate Professor of Environmental Ethics; also in the College and Committee on Environment, Geography and Urbanization; Affiliated Faculty Member of The Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality

PhD (Boston University)

Professor Fredericks' research focuses on sustainability, sustainable energy, environmental guilt and shame, environmental justice, and the interaction of religion, science, and philosophy. Her work draws upon pragmatic and comparative religious ethics. 

Fredericks is currently working on a new project about the roles of rest, joy, and action in the time of climate change.

She recently published Environmental Guilt and Shame: Signals of Individual and Collective Responsibility and the Need for Ritual Responses (Oxford University Press, 2021) about the ethical dimensions of experiencing and inducing environmental guilt and shame, particularly about climate change.  She makes three major claims in Environmental Guilt and Shame: First, not only individuals but also collectives, including the diffuse collectives that cause climate change, can have identity, agency, and responsibility and thus guilt and shame. Second, some agents, including some collectives, should feel guilt and shame for environmental degradation including climate change. Here she extends ethical work on environmental emotions that tends to focus on the positive emotions (e.g., biophilia) to consider the propriety and value of experiencing the negative emotions of guilt and shame. Third, she maintains that a number of conditions are required to conceptually, existentially, and practically deal with guilt and shame’s effects on individuals and collectives and the underlying wrongs that lead to them. They can be developed and maintained through rituals. Such rituals are already emerging in online and activist communities, but more intentional ritualization is needed to fully deal with guilt and shame as well as the anthropogenic environmental degradation that may spark them.

Professor Fredericks is the author of Measuring and Evaluating Sustainability: Ethics in Sustainability Indexes (Routledge, 2013), and articles in Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture; International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology; Environmental Justice, and Ethics, Policy, and Environment. 

Previously Professor Fredericks was Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the University of North Texas. She holds a PhD in Science, Philosophy, and Religion from Boston University.