This course will introduce the concept of environmental ethics, a philosophy that extends the ethical concepts traditionally applied to human behavior to address the entire natural world. The course will outline the history of environmental ethics, discuss the idea of environmental justice, and explore how our views about the natural world have changed over time.
Though environmental ethics is considered a fairly new branch of scientific philosophy, it has actually been debated avidly since the 19th century. From the frontier era of the developing United States through to the modern-day environmental movement, you will identify and analyze the key pioneers and events in the move to help preserve our planet for future generations and species. You will also explore the notion of environmental justice and how this impacts certain social groups, particularly in poorer communities throughout the world. Finally, you will familiarize yourself with the major environmental laws and world views that support the environmental movement, and examine how our ethics and morals help to shape our environmental regulations for the better.
Our ethics and morals are the basis for how we respond to and act towards the world around us. What we define as right and wrong is influenced by many factors: our peers, our society, our religion, and those who teach us. Historically, we have typically applied the concept of ethical behavior to our interactions with fellow human beings. In recent years, however, we have begun to apply this sense of ethical conduct to the environment and to the idea of sustaining the world in which we live. We have become aware, in recent decades, of a long history of environmental mismanagement, and a growing environmental movement seeks to change attitudes and prevent further degradation. This unit will explore how we define ethical behavior, take a detailed look at the major branches of ethics, and explore its application to our environment.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 15 hours.
This unit will discuss the major approaches to environmental ethics and how they seek a balance between human prosperity and environmental sustainability. The unit will explore the spectrum of views from utilitarian conservation (looking at the value of our natural resources for human consumption) through biocentric preservation (the protection of nature because all life deserves respect). The unit will also explore the Gaia hypothesis, and study how perceived self-regulation of the earth's climate may impact the world around us. We will also take a look at religious views towards our environment and how these have developed throughout history.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 14 hours.
Throughout the history of the United States, various key influential individuals have helped to shape our moral attitudes towards our environment. This unit will identify several of these individuals and will also explore some key turning points that have led to a change or advance in how we think about and behave towards the natural world.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 10 hours.
This unit will discuss how prejudice throughout the world can form the basis for environmental injustice. In all walks of life, environmental justice strives to provide equal and fair treatment for all people regardless of race, color, sex, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 9 hours.
While moral codes and ethics are considered the foundations of our attitudes towards our environment, these positions are often forgotten when economics come into play. It is therefore important to establish environmental laws for us to abide by. Since the 1960s, the environmental movement has pushed for ever-increasing changes to our laws, and has often secured great success. This unit will explore how the introduction of laws to protect our environment has altered and benefited the world in which we live. We will also consider major environmental laws within both the United States and the European Union (arguably the most advanced in environmental law application).
Completing this unit should take you approximately 7 hours.