Environmental Ethics is the study of the values and moral status of human-environment interactions. Ethicists in the field have several goals; a)to challenge human-centered ways of thinking; b)to explore eco-feminism and social ecology; c)to integrate traditional philosophical models with current environmental issues; and d)to promote an ethical (or at least thoughtful) approach to the environment.
Environmental Ethics is a relatively young field. Since around the 1930's, scientists and other observant people began to seriously worry about the impacts of human activities on the Earth. Interest in these issues became widespread in the 1960's, and in the '70's, Environmental Ethics emerged as an academic field. This is why it's relatively difficult to find an academic program devoted exclusively to Environmental Ethics. Many environmental degree programs, however, offer (or require) classes in the field.
Environmental Ethics is important because its study forces people to consider how their actions affect others and the environment. When people realize their effect, they are more likely to take steps to change uncomfortable behaviors; for instance, they may decide to recycle, to be compassionate towards animals, or to be an advocate for wilderness preservation.
The Academic Requirements
Environmental Ethics is usually a certificate or study area within another academic program, rather than a stand-alone degree. It is usually interdisciplinary in nature, seeking to unify a diversity of viewpoints about environmental issues that involve competing values. An important aspect of your studies would be devoted to defining and defending these values. Students also learn to create solutions that are agreeable to people with different values.
Graduates of Ethics programs should be able to identify and succinctly argue topics in Environmental Ethics; to interpret and criticize the arguments of others; and to analyze problems in the environmental field and be able to propose solutions. Programs in Environmental Ethics usually involve a good deal of writing, editing and reading. Good communications skills are important, as are mediation skills.
Here are some courses that we've seen:
- Introduction to Environmental Philosophy
- Ecofeminism: Women's Studies and Environmental Ethics
- Comparative Environmental Ethics
- Western Religion and the Environment
- Ecological Values
- Environmental Economics
- Environmental and Public Health Law
- Cultural Ecology
- Ecological Basis of Environmental Issues
- Environmental Policy
- Environmental Dispute Resolution
- Conservation Ecology and Resource Management
- American Environmental History
Knowledge of environmental ethics issues can be useful in many fields. Academia is one area where it is especially useful. Other job possibilities include being an author, an editor, a journalist, or an activist. Environmental ethics is important for planners, scientists, and politicians, too. Anyone who influences environmental policy or the implementation of environmental programs should have an understanding of the field.
Here are some job titles that we've seen, including some of the organizations that offer them, all of which included a requirement for experience in Environmental Ethics:
- Environmental Education Grants Manager (The Environmental Education Fund)
- Natural Areas Director (Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest)
- Director of Conservation (The Appalachian Trail Confrence)
- Development Coordinator (The Center for Food Safety)
- Environment Now (Coastal Program Director)
- Associate International Counsel (Defenders of Wildlife)
- Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy (Dalhouse University)
- Brennan, Andrew and Yeuk-Sze Lo. "Environmental Ethics," The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2002.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jobs in Postsecondary Education
- Center for Environmental Philosophy, "Environmental Ethics"
- Eco Jobs
- Ecospheric Ethics
- EnviroLink, "Environmental Ethics"
- Harvard Divinity School, Environmental Ethics & Public Policy Program
- International Association for Environmental Policy
- International Society for Environmental Ethics
- Lancaster University, MA in Values and the Environment
- University of Georgia, Environmental Ethics Certificate Program
- University of North Texas, Graduate Program in Environmental Ethics