Climate Ethics

Spring 2018
W 3:30 - 5:20pm
Area V
Permission Not Required
Limited Enrollment
Course Description: 

How do religious persons and communities conceive and practice moral responsibility in an age of anthropocene powers?  When moral agency is exercised throughout Earth’s systems, how is responsibility assigned? What is its relation to the past (e.g., the Doctrine of Discovery, the legacy of slavery and capitalism, Truth & Reconciliation and reparations processes) and to the future (the future welfare of human and other-than-human life)? How does social justice also become creation justice? Numerous issues in climate ethics will all focus on a constructive theory of responsibility.

The course objectives are: 1) To sharpen the meaning of “ethics” and “moral agency” at a time when their past meanings are imperiled by the human imprint throughout planetary systems. (E.g., society/nature and humanity/nature are untenable binaries still embedded in most moral systems.)  2) To probe past moral struggles to see what can be adopted and adapted for a theory of responsibility that encompasses creation justice. 3) To consider what concrete policies enact responsibility fitted for an Age of Human Dominance. 4) To make explicit all of the above as work in theological and religious social ethics.

Background Expected: 

Students who have not had a basic ethics course are asked to read either Jenkins, The Future of Ethics, or Rasmussen, Earth-honoring Faith, prior to the first session of the class.

Course Requirements: 

See Basis for Evaluation for the required papers and participation. Attendance: more than two absences will mean failure for the seminar. Postings are not a requirement but students will have the opportunity to revise their 3 reflection papers in response to the instructor’s comments to their initial drafts.  Required reading: See the week-by-week course schedule. While this is the reading required of all, the instructor will supplement this with suggested related reading and will work with students on bibliography appropriate to their chosen research topic. 

Basis of Evaluation: 

This is a research, reflection and discussion seminar. Accordingly, the chief attention will be the quality of research and reflection in a research paper (20 - 25pps.), in three reflection papers (3 – 5 pps each) on assigned readings, and in class discussion.  While students will choose their subjects, all students will have at least one appointment with the instructor to discuss the research and writing process. The research paper will be 50% of the grade. 30% will be based on the three reflection papers (students choose the readings they wish to discuss). And 20% will be the instructor’s evaluation of student contribution to seminar discussions. (This includes student teams assigned to initiate discussion on assigned reading and/or issue. This initial statement should not exceed 15 minutes.)