Rod C. McKenzie
Environment and Ethics
SOS B-15F, 213-740-7770 (ENST) or -0057 (RCM’s office) Fall, 2012
Fax 213-740-8566; 626-345-1425
Office Hours: MW 12:15 -12:45 (SOS B-15),
2:30-3:30 (Café 84) and by appt.
TA: Nicholas Dahmann (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Quite often, environmental issues are discussed in terms of economic, political and/or social implications. Ethical issues, fundamental to the topic, are usually ignored. Failure to consider these issues is often understandable when the nature of pragmatic politics and economics is understood. Ethical positions are most often phrased as questions asking how we, as humans, relate to other humans individually, to other humans as groups, to other humans still to be born, to other forms of life and/or to entire sets ranging from ecosystems to the entire planet. Questions as to humans’ relations with nature are often raised as well as the relationship between technology and progress – for example, are gains from technological innovations mainly accrued by the wealthy and often at the expense of poor or dispossessed peoples? To what extent do technological innovations generate serious social and ecological problems? Is progress in meeting human needs always at the expense of nature? Is the biotechnology revolution in agriculture in the best interest of both humanity and nature? Questions such as these will be dealt with as our course proceeds during the semester.
The course is organized around four themes: 1) population, 2) pollution, 3) resources and 4) wildlife and ecosystems. Within each thematic block we will consider our individual and collective rights and responsibilities to others ranging from individuals to groups, nations and other impacted interests. Population usually leads the thematic approach in that we must inquire as to the interrelationship between population growth and environmental degradation. Is rapid population growth a reality and, if so, to what extent must that growth be curbed even at the expense of individual freedom of choice as to the appropriate family size? Is lowered population growth a panacea for environmental issues or are there likely to be anticipated and unanticipated responses? What are the short and long term social consequences if lowered population growth is attributable to national policy rather than economic maturity – by what manner is lowered population growth achieved in a society (sanctions for too many or incentives for fewer children, and are the sanctions/incentives to be applied to the breeders or the progeny)? What are the implications for Europe if its nation states are characterized by population implosions and resistance to immigration? Both Spain and Italy are expected to see their populations shrink by 50% during the coming half century. Not only are these often difficult questions, but many have long term implications impacting future generations to come well into this new century and beyond.
The textbooks for the course are:
Burdick, OUT OF EDEN
Lederer, UGLY AMERICAN
Cronon, UNCOMMON GROUND
Easton, TAKING SIDES (14TH expanded edition)
Lester, WRITING RESEARCH PAPERS
Robbins, ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY
Terrill, UNNATURAL LANDSCAPES
*Population Reference Bureau, WORLD POPULATION DATA SHEET
*this title is available in the bookstore or can be downloaded at the Population Reference Bureau web site. It appears more useful if you have a color printer.
In addition to the textbooks, you are expected to keep abreast of current environmental/ethical issues that appear/develop during the term – the easiest method of staying on top of these issues is through a daily newspaper. You are encouraged to subscribe to the Los Angeles Times. Another excellent newspaper would be the New York Times. You may also find one or more of the standard textbooks on the environment helpful...
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