Concentration in Ethics and the Environment

Why ethics?

Concern for nature and the world around us means that more of us are concerned about environmental ethics. Our interactions with the natural environment, through farming, construction, resource extraction and more, impact more than just our immediate surroundings, neighbours and families. Environmental decisions can have far-reaching effects to impact future generations as well as species and habitats.

This stream is intended for students in the Faculty of Environment or students majoring in biological sciences or economics who wish to add a concentration in ethics to their studies. The SA and GSWS courses also opens this stream to Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences students and the broader university community.

Ethics and the Environment in the news

  • Should environmental concerns be put aside for national resource extraction and movement? The proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will carry oil products from Alberta to the Burrard Inlet in BC for shipping, but does the increase in volume justify potential risks to the environment?
  • With pipeline expansion, comes an increase in tanker traffic. Is this ethical in waterways with critically endangered marine mammals such as the Southern Resident orcas, or in fragile environments such as the rare glass sponge beds in Howe Sound?
  • Aquaculture or fish farming could alleviate pressure on wild fish stocks. Is it ethical though to continue farming in net pens when studies show high levels of sea lice and other disease as potential risks to wild populations? 
  • Renewable energy is a sustainable way to combat climate change and reduce reliance on fossil fuel. however, what are the ethics behind setting up wind farms on bird migration routes, where fatalities from turbine collision is becoming more common?

Elective Courses

In addition to three core courses in ethical theory (9-10 units), students complete three elective courses drawn from a stream in their subject interest (9-12 units). Elective courses often include courses already in their subject major.

Note: courses may change - for a complete list of the certificate requirements and the approved courses, please consult the calendar entry.

Students complete three of (click + to show courses):

ARCH 365 - Archaeological Perspectives on Human Ecology (3)
ARCH 386 - Archaeological Resource Management (3)
BISC 204 - Introduction to Ecology (3)
BISC 309 - Conservation Biology (3)
BISC 419 - Wildlife Biology (3)
BISC 440 - Biodiversity (3)
ECON 260 - Environmental Economics (3)
ECON 362 - Economics of Natural Resources (3)
ENV 321 - Ecological Economics (4) or REM 321 - Ecological Economics (4)
FNST 433 – Indigenous Environmental Justice and Activisim (4) 
GEOG 322 - World Resources (4)
GEOG 325 - Geographies of Consumption (4)
GEOG 381 - Territory, Power, State (4)
GEOG 386 - Health Geography (4) 
GEOG 389W - Nature and Society (4)
GEOG 440 - Property, Land, Society (4)
HSCI 304 - Perspectives on Human Health and the Environment (3) 
REM 311 - Applied Ecology and Sustainable Environments (3)
REM 356 - Institutional Arrangements for Sustainable Environmental Management (3)
REM 445 - Environmental Risk Assessment (3)
REM 471 - Forest Ecosystem Management (3)
SA 326 - Ecology and Social Thought (S) (4)
SA 371 - The Environment and Society (SA) (4)

Read more?

“The Reilly Center explores conceptual, ethical, and policy issues where science and technology intersect with society from different disciplinary perspectives. Its goal is to promote the advancement of science and technology for the common good.”

“The social and global aspects of sustainable development remains in the recently launched UNESCO Roadmap for Implementing the Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO, 2014). , wherein it is stated that: ‘Sustainable development challenges have acquired even more urgency since the beginning of the Decade and new concerns have come to the fore, such as the need to promote global citizenship’” ”

“The field of environmental ethics concerns human beings’ ethical relationship with the natural environment. While numerous philosophers have written on this topic throughout history, environmental ethics only developed into a specific philosophical discipline in the 1970s. This emergence was no doubt due to the increasing awareness in the 1960s of the effects that technology, industry, economic expansion and population growth were having on the environment. The development of such awareness was aided by the publication of two important books at this time. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, first published in 1962, alerted readers to how the widespread use of chemical pesticides was posing a serious threat to public health and leading to the destruction of wildlife. Of similar significance was Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 book, The Population Bomb, which warned of the devastating effects the spiraling human population has on the planet’s resources.”

Essays on environmental ethics from Nature:

“Environmental decision making by governments, businesses and individuals cannot be separated from ethics. For example, consider the issue of climate change. Decisions that we make today—at the policy level and as individual consumers of energy and natural resources—will affect all of humankind for generations to come. As pressures upon the Earth’s natural systems increase, more and more people, young and old alike, are realizing that environmental issues concern everyone and that they cannot be resolved by technical means only. They understand that environmental management also rests on questions of ethics.”  ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION, ETHICS AND ACTION: A WORKBOOK TO GET STARTED United Nations Environment Programme (2006)

“What is our ethical responsibility to take action against climate change, as individuals and as a university? As we grapple with different points of view, what are the distinctions between healthy skepticism and dangerous denial, and what is our responsibility to defend science against disinformation?”

“Climate change presents a severe ethical challenge, forcing us to confront difficult questions as individual moral agents, and even more so as members of larger political systems. It is genuinely global and seriously intergenerational, and crosses species boundaries. It also takes place in a setting where existing institutions and theories are weak, proving little ethical guidance.”

More curated content in Ethical Dilemmas on Flipboard

Image attributions:
i. icon created by Atif Arshad for The Noun Project CC-BY