This course introduces the concept of environmental ethics, a philosophy that extends ethical concepts we traditionally apply to human behavior to address the natural world. We 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.
Environmental ethics has been avidly debated since the 19th century, although many of us consider it to be a fairly new branch of scientific philosophy. From the frontier era of the developing United States to the modern-day environmental movement, we identify and analyze the key pioneers and events in the move to help preserve our planet for future generations and species. We also explore the notion of environmental justice and its impact on certain social groups, particularly in poorer communities throughout the world. Finally, we explore some major environmental laws and world views that support the environmental movement, and examine how our ethics and morals help us shape our environmental regulations for the better.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.