Saving the planet is necessary and will actually make us happy, right?
So, the good news is that we’re already using ethics to define how we can and should do the right thing in relation to the natural world. In fact, all ethics in the western tradition have used “nature” and “natural” as foundational definitions—we’re more than halfway there! But, obviously, we need to be conscious that we’re using those definitions and we must decide which of them to correct or reject. (Ethics from western philosophy have an outsized place in global debates over policy and science, for instance, but should this continue to be the case?)
And we’ll need to be more disciplined in how or when we use these ethical definitions, in a calm and rational way, even during panic-inducing states of emergency, such as the climate crisis. (Or a pandemic.) This class is designed to give you, as a human being with rights and as a global citizen with obligations, an intellectual, verbal, and ethical toolkit for dealing with the debates over imperiled natural resources and competing human needs that have become urgent. To learn to do that, you’ll read classic texts in western ethics, analyze recent statements on the human-nature interface to see how those ethics continue to be used, and write some ethical statements of your own.