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2021/22 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

IDEA5270M Global Environmental Ethics

15 creditsClass Size: 30

Module manager: Dr Rob Lawlor

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22


IDEA5210MIntroduction to Ethics: Reasons, Motivation, Obligations and
IDEA5220MProfessional Issues 1
IDEA5230MAgents and Professional Responsibility

This module is not approved as an Elective


It is now a widely held view that individuals have some obligation to live in an environmentally-friendly way and that governments and nations ought to be tackling the challenges of environmental degradation and global warming. It is widely but not universally accepted within the business community that businesses have some obligation to limit environmental harm caused by their operations. It is much more rarely investigated why these claims are true (if they are).

Similarly, although at a practical level individuals, organisations and governments are regularly engaged in balancing environmental concerns against other types of concern (convenience, cost, etc), it is very rare for the question of how this balance should properly be struck to receive serious and rigorous consideration.

This module seeks to address just such questions, and enable students to come to a critical assessment of the main strategies for justifying obligations to protect and preserve the environment.

The module will address questions such as:

- What is the moral status of the environment?
That is, do such things as non-human animals, plants, ecosystems, geological formations, species, or ecosystems deserve, simply because of what they are, something like the kind of respect that we typically afford to human persons?

- Which different kinds of reasons can be offered to motivate a respect for the environment?
> It is sometimes said that it is in people's self-interest to protect the environment: Does this claim withstand scrutiny, and if so, what kind of environmentalism could it justify?
> Can environmental policies be justified on the basis of the value of the environment itself?
> Can such policies be justified on the basis of the interests of future generations?
> Are environmental policies required as a matter of justice and fairness between humans and non-humans or between this generation and future generations?

- How should the ethical claims of the environment be weighed against other kinds of considerations?
> On a personal level in achieving a practical workable lifestyle
> For businesses seeking to be profitable
> In the context of developing national policies amid competing political priorities.

- Who bears the responsibility for repairing and restoring environmental damage?
- What is pollution and how does it differ from unpleasant but acceptable environmental side-effects?

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students should have an ability to:
- understand and critically evaluate the main strategies for justifying actions and policies that favour the environment;
- understand and critically evaluate the main proposals for how environmental action on the part of individuals, organisations and nations might be motivated;
- understand and critically evaluate some possible approaches to weighing environmental considerations against other kinds of practical consideration;
- understand and critically evaluate how issues of responsibility apply to cases of environmental damage;
- develop arguments to support their own views of what the obligations of individuals, businesses, and other agents are in relation to the environment.


Topics may include, for example:

A. The moral status of the environment (including eg non-human animals, plants, minerals, species, ecosystems): Is the value of the environment intrinsic? Non-instrumental?
B. Is the environment sacred?
C. Self-Interest and the Environment: the tragedy of the commons. What (if anything) is defensible about the claim that it is in people's interests to protect the environment?
D. Can environmentalism be defended by appeal to the needs and welfare of future generations? Consideration of the non-identity problem.
E. Justice and Fairness considerations: Is environmental destruction unfair to non-human animals, to plants, to future generations, or to no-one?
F. How should environmental considerations be weighed against other considerations?
G. On whom does blame or do duties to make reparations fall when there has been damage to the environment?
H. Sustainability
I. Pollution.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
On-line Learning82.0016.00
Independent online learning hours34.00
Private study hours100.00
Total Contact hours16.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Private study

On-Line Learning: online tutor-led discussion.
Independent Online Learning: working through exercises online

Private Study Time:
Students be assigned set readings, and will be given teaching materials to work through at their own pace. These materials will set the readings in context, at certain points provide prompts for carefully structured online discussions, which will be supported by tutors.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Essay plans (400 words).

Tutors will be involved in students' discussions to monitor their contributions, and provide clarification or answer questions where necessary. Access to teaching materials will also be logged through the VLE, which will give some indication of students' progress in independent learning.

Contribution to online discussions will be assessed (on participation rather than content) to encourage regular, active participation.

There will also be an online personal tutoring system to review progress on completed modules and identify any areas where further support is needed.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 3,000 word90.00
Group DiscussionParticipation in online group discussions10.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 12/11/2021 10:24:50


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