Course Syllabus

Welcome to ENVS203: Environmental Ethics, Justice, and World Views

Specific information about this course and its requirements can be found below. For more general information about taking Saylor Academy courses, including information about Community and Academic Codes of Conduct, please read the Student Handbook.


Course Description

Get an introduction to environmental ethics, a philosophy that extends the ethical concepts traditionally applied to human behavior to address the entire natural world.


Course Introduction

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.

This course includes the following units:

  • Unit 1: Ethics and the Environment
  • Unit 2: Environmental Ethics Approaches and World Views
  • Unit 3: Environmental Ethics History and Its Pioneers
  • Unit 4: Environmental Justice
  • Unit 5: Environmental Law


Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • define environmental ethics and describe the key concepts on which it is based;
  • list the main environmental ethics approaches and viewpoints;
  • relate concepts in environmental ethics to various religious teachings and beliefs throughout the world;
  • explain how moral attitudes towards the natural world have changed over time;
  • identify key events in the history of the environmental ethics movement;
  • identify important pioneers in the environmental ethics movement;
  • discuss environmental justice and explain why certain social groups are at greater risk of experiencing the effects of environmental injustice; and
  • identify and evaluate the major environmental laws passed throughout the world, in particular those implemented in the United States and the European Union.

Throughout this course, you will also see learning outcomes in each unit. You can use those learning outcomes to help organize your studies and gauge your progress.


Course Materials

The primary learning materials for this course are articles, lectures, and videos.

All course materials are free to access and can be found in each unit of the course. Pay close attention to the notes that accompany these course materials, as they will tell you what to focus on in each resource, and will help you to understand how the learning materials fit into the course as a whole. You can also see a list of all the learning materials in this course by clicking on Resources in the navigation bar.


Evaluation and Minimum Passing Score

Only the final exam is considered when awarding you a grade for this course. In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the final exam. Your score on the exam will be calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you may take it again as many times as you want, with a 7-day waiting period between each attempt. Once you have successfully passed the final exam you will be awarded a free Course Completion Certificate.

There are also end-of-unit assessments in this course. Knowledge checks are at the end of many resources as well. By completing these, you can check if you fully understand the key ideas and concepts in the resource. These are designed to help you study, and do not factor into your final course grade. You can take these as many times as you want until you understand the concepts and material covered. You can see all of these assessments, except knowledge checks, by clicking on Quizzes in the course's navigation bar.


Tips for Success

ENVS203: Environmental Ethics, Justice, and World Views is a self-paced course, which means that you can decide when you will start and when you will complete the course. There is no instructor or an assigned schedule to follow. We estimate that the "average" student will take 55 hours to complete this course. We recommend that you work through the course at a pace that is comfortable for you and allows you to make regular progress. It's a good idea to also schedule your study time in advance and try as best as you can to stick to that schedule.

Learning new material can be challenging, so we've compiled a few study strategies to help you succeed:

  • Take notes on the various terms, practices, and theories that you come across. This can help you put each concept into context, and will create a refresher that you can use as you study later on.
  • As you work through the materials, take some time to test yourself on what you remember and how well you understand the concepts. Reflecting on what you've learned is important for your long-term memory, and will make you more likely to retain information over time.


Technical Requirements

This course is delivered entirely online. You will be required to have access to a computer or web-capable mobile device and have consistent access to the internet to either view or download the necessary course resources and to attempt any auto-graded course assessments and the final exam.

  • To access the full course including assessments and the final exam, you will need to be logged into your Saylor Academy account and enrolled in the course. If you do not already have an account, you may create one for free here. Although you can access some of the course without logging in to your account, you should log in to maximize your course experience. For example, you cannot take assessments or track your progress unless you are logged in.

For additional guidance, check out Saylor Academy's FAQ.



This course is entirely free to enroll in and to access. Everything linked in the course, including textbooks, videos, webpages, and activities, is available for no charge. This course also contains a free final exam and course completion certificate.

Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2021, 3:00 PM