• Course Introduction

        • Time: 55 hours
        • Free Certificate
        In this course, we introduce the concept of environmental ethics, a philosophy that extends the ethical concepts we traditionally apply to human behavior to the natural world. We will study the history of environmental ethics, the concept of environmental justice, and explore how our views about the natural world have changed over time.

        Philosophers have debated the concept of environmental ethics since the 1800s, although many consider it to be a relatively new discipline. In this course, we identify key pioneers and events that have helped shape the global effort to help preserve our planet for future generations and species. We explore the notion of environmental justice and witness how a disregard for the environment can negatively impact entire communities. Finally, we explore political efforts that have promoted environmental sustainability in the United States and Europe. We see how our ethical beliefs and moral worldview can help shape the laws and regulations we create, in terms of our sense of ethical responsibility, social justice, and environmental sustainability.

        First, read the course syllabus. Then, enroll in the course by clicking "Enroll me in this course". Click Unit 1 to read its introduction and learning outcomes. You will then see the learning materials and instructions on how to use them.

      • Unit 1: Ethics and the Environment

        Our ethics and morals provide a basis for how we respond to, and act toward, the world around us. Our peers, society, religion, and those who teach us influence what we consider "right" and "wrong". 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 our sense of ethical conduct to the environment and to the idea of sustaining the world in which we live. We are aware of the long history of environmental mismanagement. A growing environmental movement seeks to change attitudes and prevent further degradation. In this unit we 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.

      • Unit 2: Environmental Ethics Approaches and World Views

        In this unit, we discuss some major approaches to environmental ethics and how they seek to balance human prosperity and environmental sustainability. We explore a spectrum of views from utilitarian conservation (the value of our natural resources for human consumption) through biocentric preservation (how to protect nature because all life deserves respect). We also explore the Gaia hypothesis and how self-regulation of the earth's climate may impact the world around us. We examine several different religious views toward our environment and how they have developed throughout history.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 14 hours.

      • Unit 3: Environmental Ethics History and Its Pioneers

        Throughout the history of the United States, various individuals have helped us shape our moral attitudes toward the environment. In this unit we identify several of these pioneers and explore some key turning points that have advanced change and how we think about, and behave toward, the natural world.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 10 hours.

      • Unit 4: Environmental Justice

        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.

      • Unit 5: Environmental Law

        While our moral and ethical codes form the foundation for our attitude toward our environment, many of us forget these prescriptions when economics come into play. We need to create environmental laws to help us protect what we value most. Since the 1960s, the environmental movement has successfully pushed for ever-increasing changes to our environmental laws. In this unit we explore how introducing laws to protect the environment has altered and benefited our world. We consider major environmental laws in the United States and European Union (arguably the most advanced environmental law application).

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 7 hours.

      • Study Guide

        This study guide will help you get ready for the final exam. It discusses the key topics in each unit, walks through the learning outcomes, and lists important vocabulary. It is not meant to replace the course materials!

      • Course Feedback Survey

        Please take a few minutes to give us feedback about this course. We appreciate your feedback, whether you completed the whole course or even just a few resources. Your feedback will help us make our courses better, and we use your feedback each time we make updates to our courses.

        If you come across any urgent problems, email contact@saylor.org or post in our discussion forum.

      • Certificate Final Exam

        Take this exam if you want to earn a free Course Completion Certificate.

        To receive a free Course Completion Certificate, you will need to earn a grade of 70% or higher on this final exam. Your grade for the exam will be calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you can take it again as many times as you want, with a 7-day waiting period between each attempt.

        Once you pass this final exam, you will be awarded a free Course Completion Certificate.

      • Saylor Direct Credit

        Take this exam if you want to earn college credit for this course. This course is eligible for college credit through Saylor Academy's Saylor Direct Credit Program.

        The Saylor Direct Credit Final Exam requires a proctoring fee of $5. To pass this course and earn a Proctor-Verified Course Certificate and official transcript, you will need to earn a grade of 70% or higher on the Saylor Direct Credit Final Exam. Your grade for this exam will be calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you can take it again a maximum of 3 times, with a 14-day waiting period between each attempt.

        We are partnering with SmarterProctoring to help make the proctoring fee more affordable. We will be recording you, your screen, and the audio in your room during the exam. This is an automated proctoring service, but no decisions are automated; recordings are only viewed by our staff with the purpose of making sure it is you taking the exam and verifying any questions about exam integrity. We understand that there are challenges with learning at home - we won't invalidate your exam just because your child ran into the room!


        1. Desktop Computer
        2. Chrome (v74+)
        3. Webcam + Microphone
        4. 1mbps+ Internet Connection

        Once you pass this final exam, you will be awarded a Credit-Recommended Course Completion Certificate and can request an official transcript.