Environmental Ethics

I.     Course Prefix/Number: PHL 204

       Course Name: Environmental Ethics

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course studies meaning, value, and moral responsibility in relationship to the environment.  Topics include examination of at least four conflicting theories about what constitutes an adequate environmental ethic, and the application of these theories to environmental issues such as climate change, environmental racism, and wilderness preservation.

IV.   Learning Objectives

After completing this course, the student will be able to do the following:

  1. Explain at least four fundamentally different theories of environmental ethics and the problems that these theories address.
  2. Formulate and evaluate criticisms of all the ethical theories that they study.
  3. Apply theories of environmental ethics to concrete situations on the personal level, on the national level, and on the global level.
  4. Adopt positions on contemporary social issues and use the ethical theory with which they agree to defend their positions both orally and in writing.
  5. Evaluate the ways in which theories of environmental ethics address the needs of the diverse populations of our globalized world.
  6. Exhibit values related to teamwork and collaboration, fostered by the pedagogy of shared-inquiry and critical dialogue appropriate to the humanities and philosophy.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

(This is a sample outline of topics. In your outline of topics please specify the dates on which you will cover specific topics and other important dates such as exams and paper deadlines.)

  1. Traditional Western Perspectives Opposing Environmental Ethics….. Selections from Lynn White and Lewis Moncrief
  2. Debates over animal rights
    1. Traditional arguments maintaining that animals don’t have moral standing….Selection from Immanuel Kant
    2. The status of animals
      1. Peter Singer’s utilitarian defense of animals….Selection from Peter Singer
      2. Tom Regan’s deontological defense of animals….Selection from Tom Regan and Mary Ann Warren
      3. Challenges from environmental ethicists
    3. Should plants have moral standing as well?…Selection from Paul Taylor
  3. Film on factory farming
  4. The Land Ethic
    1. Aldo Leopold’s moral vision and rejection of anthropocentrism…selection from Aldo Leopold
    2. Callicott’s systematization of the land ethic based on moral intuitionism….Selections from J. Baird Callicott, Michael Nelson, and Roger Paden
    3. Rolston’s attempted synthesis of a biocentric and an anthropocentrist ethics…Selections from Holmes Rolston and Ned Hettinger
  5. Film on wolf re-introduction at Yellowstone
  6. The Challenge of Deep Ecology
    1. The Eight-Point Manifesto of Naess and Sessions.
    2. Naess’ ethic of self-realization and his rejection of anthropocentrism….Selections from Naess, Sessions, and Devall
    3. The social critique of deep ecology …Selections from Ramachandra Guha and Richard Watson
  7. Film on global warming
  8. Ecology and Social Justice
    1. Social Ecology….Selection from Murray Bookchin
    2. Socialist Ecology…Selections from John Bellamy Foster
    3. Ecofeminism…….. Selections from Vandana Shiva and Maria Mies
  9. Student Presentations: Case Study on Vegetarianism and Food Ethics….Selections from Garrett Hardin, William Murdoch, Mylan Engel, Mae Ho, Tristram Coffin, and Michael Fox
  10. Students Presentations: Case Study on Climate Change and Environmental Racism…..Selections from the Pew Center on Gobal Climate Chiage, Stephen Gardiner, Al Gore, Maria Mies, and Alan Durning
  11. Student Presentations: Case Study on Yellowstone and the Preservation of Wildnerness and Endangered Species…..Selections from Coursepack

VII.  Methods of Instruction

  1. Lectures and discussion
  2. Small group work
  3. Films
  4. Student presentations and debates

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

(Please include information here about all expectations you have for your students regarding behavior, work, etc.  The following are sample topics you may wish to cover.  Please be aware that you must require students in this course to produce at least 15 pages of critical written assignments over the course of the semester.  These may be assigned in a variety of ways including journals, response papers, field trip projects, etc.)

  1. Attendance
  2. Standards for written work
  3. Quizzes/Exams
  4. Participation
  5. Essays
  6. Final Project
  7. Special policies about make-up exams, late papers, or other matters of concern
  8. Here is a sample:
    1. Students must take four quizzes.  I will distribute a brief study guide before each quiz. The quizzes will consist of questions that will require brief answers of several sentences.  If you miss a quiz, you may take a make-up in the Testing Center before the next class. If you cannot make up the quiz at this point, you will need to make special arrangements with me to take an alternative quiz later in the semester. This alternative quiz will be an essay exam. They will be short answer quizzes.
    2. Students must write three 5-7 page papers.  Two of the papers will be on the philosophical debates, and one paper will be on a case study. In these papers, you will need to take positions and to defend these positions with philosophical arguments.  You will also need to demonstrate knowledge of the assigned readings. You will receive a guide to writing philosophy papers before you begin work on your first paper.  Papers must be typewritten and proofread.
    3. Students will work with a group to present an oral presentation on one of the cases.
    4. Participation is very important in this class.  You may earn participation points by attending class.  (If you are late or must leave early, you will receive half credit for the day.)   You will also need to attend at least three outside events related to the class, and you will receive one or two participation points for each of these events.  We will also offer some extra credit opportunities to make up for absences. These opportunities will involve attendance at events relevant to the class such as public forums on environmental issues.  I do not distinguish between excused and unexcused absences. However, if you need to be absent because of something such as religious holidays or family emergency, I will make every effort to insure that you have ways to earn extra credit that will compensate for your absence.  A…34+, B….31-33, C….28-30, D….25-27

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

An anthology such as Environmental Ethics: Readings in Theory and Application edited by Pojman and Pojman.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

(In this section, pleasepresent the percentages or point breakdown of their final grade.  The writing assignments should count for atleast 40% of the final grade.  An examplefollows.)
  1. Quizzes/Exams.................................40 points
  2. Essays.............................................40 points
  3. Final project with oral presentation......10 points
  4. Attendance and participation..............10 points
  5. Grading scale: 90-100, A.......80-89, B.........70-79,C..........60-69........D

XI.   Other Course Information

The Oakton Community College Catalog states:
Oakton Community College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, disability, age, sex, sexual orientation, or marital status in admission to and participation in its educational programs, activities and services, or employment practices.  The College does not tolerate sexual harassment or sexual assault by or of its students or employees.
In keeping with this policy of tolerance and non-discrimination, in this class all of us (myself included) should strive to listen and give careful consideration to all ideas expressed in class, especially those that are different from our own, without attacking or demeaning the people who have those views.  We should also strive to avoid using insulting terms or telling offensive jokes when talking to or about individuals or groups.

Instructor information

Office number and office hours:
Phone number:
Email and website:

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at www.oakton.edu/title9/.

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at www.oakton.edu/lgbtq.

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.