Seeing the Light: UM Professor Wins Prestigious Philosophy Award

A picture of Preston holding his award.
Christopher Preston, a UM philosophy professor, recently was awarded the Andrew Light Award for Public Philosophy. (UM photo by Tommy Martino)

MISSOULA – Christopher Preston, a University of Montana professor of philosophy, recently was honored with a national award for his work to enlighten the world on emerging topics such as synthetic biology, climate ethics, geoengineering and the resilience of wildlife in this human-dominated time.

The author of four books, Preston was awarded the 2022 Andrew Light Award for Public Philosophy. The award was presented last month by the International Society for Environmental Ethics.

“The public-facing aspects of environmental philosophy are very important to me,” said Dr. Preston, a native of England who has worked at UM since 2005. “The academic debates are interesting precisely because they have relevance to public issues. I see it as my job to show exactly what this relevance is.”

The award recognizes philosophers working in environmental ethics who bring unique insights or methods that broaden the reach, interaction and engagement of philosophy with the wider public.

For over a decade, Preston has focused on reaching broad audiences through books, popular articles, media interviews, public talks, podcasts and a blog. He has a passion for wildlife and how it is influenced by the Anthropocene, the current epoch in which human influence on the planet is everywhere.

Preston is the author of “The Synthetic Age,” which won a silver medal in the ecology category of the 2018 Nautilus Awards. The book grapples with new technologies and their implications for human relations with the natural world.

MIT Press is set to publish his latest book, “Tenacious Beasts: Wildlife Recoveries That Change How We Think About Animals,” this month. Examining wildlife recovery success stories like American bison and Italian wolves, the book has been described as “an inspiring look at wildlife species that are defying the odds and teaching important lessons about how to share a planet.”

“My work is now focused on restoration and rewilding,” Preston said, “which I see as an antidote to the claustrophobia of a synthetic age.”

In announcing the award, the ISEE said Preston’s books were notable for their “lucid and engaging prose” and “distinguished by their ability to provoke philosophical reflection on issues that matter to human lives and to the diverse creatures with whom we share the planet.”

In addition to his public-facing books, Preston has contributed articles to The Atlantic,

Aeon, BBC Science Focus, The Conversation, Ensia, Smithsonian Magazine, Philosophical Salon, the Wall Street Journal,, Discover and Slate. He teaches UM courses such as Issues in the Anthropocene, Environmental Philosophy and Introduction to Ethics and the Environment.

The Andrew Light Award for Public Philosophy is named for Light, a distinguished university professor of philosophy, public policy and atmospheric sciences at George Mason University. He currently serves as assistant secretary of energy for international affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy.


Contact: Christopher Preston, UM professor of philosophy, 406-243-2937,