Saturday, March 29, 2014

Environmental Ethics and Sustainability

Coming to MTSU, Fall 2014-

Beyond Activism: Environmental Ethics and Sustainability

(PHIL 3340-001, Environmental Ethics MW 02:20 – 03:45 JUB 202)

The modern environmental movement has been with us in one form or another at least since the first Earth Day in 1970, if not longer. (Rachel Carson's Silent Spring1962, is another significant modern marker.) It has achieved undoubted success in elevating the awareness of many to our profound obligation (in Carl Sagan's memorable words) to "preserve and protect the Pale Blue Dot, the only home we've ever known." 

And yet, many "friends of the Earth" find themselves deeply frustrated by encounters in the wider culture with apathy, indifference, ignorance, misinformation, and hostility concerning environmental issues, and dire reports like that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):
Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans, and the problem is likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control... ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct... 
In this course, we'll ask what it may take to move the conversation beyond passionate but still-relatively-marginal activism, towards a more widely shared understanding that everyone has a vital stake in fashioning truly sustainable ways of living on Earth.

One answer: work to enlist community leaders and campus power-brokers, including university presidents, as allies in the public battle for hearts and minds. We'll look for practical ways to "think globally and act locally" on our own campus, and beyond. 

In this rare image taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn's rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame.

Texts include:

  • Bill McKibben, Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist - "Sometime in the course of the past decade I figured out that I needed to do more than write—if this fight was about power, then we who wanted change had to assemble some. Environmentalists clearly weren't going to outspend the fossil fuel industry, so we'd need to find other currencies: the currencies of movement. Instead of money, passion; instead of money, numbers; instead of money, creativity... But if you've built a movement, you've eventually got to put it to work. And now 'eventually' had come. Education needed to yield to action..."
  • Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History - If extinction is a morbid topic, mass extinction is, well, massively so. It's also a fascinating one. In the pages that follow, I try to convey both sides: the excitement of what's being learned as well as the horror of it. My hope is that readers of this book will come away with an appreciation of the truly extraordinary moment in which we live."
  • John Ehrenfield, Flourishing: A Frank Conversation about Sustainability - "Present-day efforts at sustainability, and indeed society's foundational values themselves, have been corrupted and subverted by utilitarian values that turn them into a marketing pitch. In drifting toward unsustainability we have lost our vision... 'Sustainability still has not entered our consciousness, in spite of the torrent of its use and that of its distant cousin, green'..."
For more info, contact Dr. Phil Oliver -

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