(Rel 2104), FALL 2015

Wind powerLectures Mondays, Periods 7 & 8 (1:55-3:50), in Leigh Hall Room 207

Section 12AG: Wednesday Discussion Period 7 (1:55--2:45), Matherly Hall, Room 015

Section 12BG: Wednesday Discussion Period 8 (3:00-3:50), Matherly Hall, Room 105
Professor Bron Taylor (Ph.D.)
Email: bron@religion.ufl.edu 
Office: Anderson 121
Office hours: Monday 4:00-5:00 and by appointment, Monday 12:45-1:45

Amanda Nichols (Teaching Assistant)
Email: amnv22@ufl.edu
Office: Anderson 119
Office hours: Monday: 12:00-1:00; Wednesday: 4:00 - 5:00, and by appointment
Brief Course Description (in UF Catalogue)
Clearcut OregonExploration of competing secular and religious views regarding human impacts on and moral responsibilities toward nature and of the key thinkers and social movements in contention over them.
Role in Curriculum
This course serves as an elective for Religion majors and minors, and provides credit for the department’s ethics emphasis. It also meets the ethics requirement in UF’s Sustainability minor and for SNRE students, and provides Humanities General Education, and Gordon Rule Writing credit (E2/2000 words or more).
As concern over the well-being of the planet spreads, people frequently find themselves in conflict over how to balance conservation with the use of natural resources, about visions for our common future, and the wisdom of development. Such conflict stems in important ways from varying understandings of values and responsibilities, of what is good and right. In this course we will examine a wide range of intellectual efforts to address the problem of our obligations to Earth and its living systems. Although we will focus on contemporary philosophical environmental ethics we will also introduce religious environmental ethics, examine ideas about nature prevalent in American culture and history, and examine how individuals involved in contemporary environmental movements express and endeavor to implement their environmental values.
Teaching Objectives
  1. To understand the historical emergence and development of environmental philosophy and environmental ethics in Western societies, as well as the ways such ethics become entwined with and influenced by developments in religion, literature, and the arts, as illuminated by the Humanities.
  2. To understand the range of perspectives on human responsibility to the environment and enable critical thinking and writing about them, including by arbitrating among competing views of environmental facts.
  3. To understand the epistemological bases (philosophical, scientific, religious, aesthetic) for different ethical orientations as well as the various methodological approaches to making individual and public environment-related decisions.
  4. To introduce the contribution of diverse humanities disciplines, especially art history, literary criticism, philosophy, and religious studies, to illuminating environmental ethics and practice.
  5. To communicate effectively and logically one’s own moral perspective and views of environmental facts and trends orally and in writing.
Wind power

Many of the course readings are directly downloadable under the assignments found in the course's Shedule section. Required readings for the course not available via this website are available from the University of Florida bookstore and elsewhere, and students are expected to purchase or otherwise gain access to these readings:

Joseph DesJardins, Environmental Ethics: An Introduction to Environmental Philosophy (Thompson/Wadsworth, 4th edition); note: this book is widely available,used and inexpensively, online. I will also make it available on reserve at the library.

Daniel Quinn, Ishmael (Bantam, 1992)
The Writing Requirement (Gordon Rule) promotes students fluency in writing and is reflected in the following course assignments (see 1, 3, and 4, below), and includes written work in which the instructor will evaluate and provide feedback on the student's written assignments with respect to grammar, punctuation, clarity, coherence, and organization. Feedback and evaluation of written work will be returned to students before the end of the semester, and normally no more than one week after they are due. For due dates see the course schedule.
  • Study Guides & Reading Analysis. Students are expected to read carefully the Environmental Ethics textbook. Study guides related to it are downloadable as either a word (docx) or rich text document: 
    http://www.brontaylor.com/courses/ee/DesJardines-StudyGuide.rtf. During weeks when the readings are not drawn from the main text it is strongly recommended that you prepare an analysis of the readings. These are the sorts of questions you will need to be able to answer about all of the perspectives presented in the course if you are to participate effectively in classroom discussions as well as to perform well on exams and in your critical analysis papers: What are the central argument(s)? How do the author(s) build their argument(s)? What evidence do they cite? What do the authors think is at stake? With whom are the authors in contention and why? Additionally, think about the key presuppositions, strengths or weaknesses of the articles. 
  • Examinations. There will be three exams. The final will be cumulative. These exams will typically have multiple-choice questions and fill-in sections, as well as short essay and/or take-home essay question(s). Study your study guides and classroom notes carefully in preparation for these exams. Everything that has occurred in class or that is assigned may appear on these exams. 
  • Essay Review. You will write a 500-1000 word essay review of Ishmael (count words using your word processor's word counting feature). Analyze the book, describing its overall moral perspective and the kind of evidence provided related to this perspective. Make an argument about what you take to be the strengths and/or weaknesses in the book’s assertions.
  • Critical Essay. Students will write a 1,500-2,000 word critical ethical analysis of an environment-related issue. For details, see the links under the course schedule, week 6.
  • Attendance and participation. Students are expected to attend and participate in class -- this is part of the learning process. Students who miss the equivalent of three weeks of class will suffer a one-grade reduction; those missing more than this will fail the course. Students who distinguish themselves by contributing significantly to classroom discussions may receive extra points for doing so. Course instructors will be looking for the following: Do you demonstrate that you have read and understood the course readings and can you engage in discussions in an informed and civil manner? Do you regularly commit “fallacies of moral reasoning” as discussed early in the course? How well do you integrate what you are learning in this course with information gathered elsewhere? 
  • Extra credit. There will normally be extra credit oportunities announced in class or via the class email list serve. These usually involve attending an event on campus or in Gainesville that engages environmental ethics. Students then will write 250-500 word essay analyzing the following: What are the central argument(s) that were being advanced? How did the individuals or groups build their argument(s)? What evidence did they cite? What do they think is at stake? With whom are those involved in contention, and why? These extra credit write ups must be turned in to the teaching assistant no later than the final exam. The points used often help students raise their grade a notch or two, e.g., from a C+ to a B- or even a B.
  • We will regularly arrange forums and debates and hold them in class. Although we will not award points based on the quantity of participation, regular participation will insure that we have enough experience of you to evaluate. Do not miss class. 

Monitoring email and participation in email discussions
Routine course logistics will be updated through email, via a list serve established for this purpose. These email messages will be sent to your official university email address, which you are responsible to monitor every day or two. Course instructors will also send you short supplementary materials to read and about which you may be questioned on exams. A list serve has been established for the class and students may communicate with each other and the course instructors through it. Students may ask questions via email and instructors will respond either privately or to the class, as appropriate. It is critical to check your email because, as the course progresses, the list of assignments and the readings are subject to modification. Always consult the latest version of the readings online.
Points Possible for Required Assignments
This chart shows the points it is possible to earn for each assignment:
Assignment Points per Assignment Total Possible Points
Exams (first two) 100 points each 200
Final Exam 150 points 150
Essay/Review of Ishmael 500 minimum, 750 maximum words 50
 Critical Analysis 1500 minimum, 2000 maximum words 100
  Total Possible Points: 500
Calculating Grades
For both the midterm and final exams, the total number of points earned by each student will be divided by the total number earned by the highest-scoring student. The resulting percentage will be used to calculate each student’s grade for the course. Put in a formula, it looks like this:
the score of each individual student (your score)
(divided by) the highest score earned by a student
The percentage arrived at by means of this formula will be evaluated according to the following scale:
93% A
90% A-
87% B+
83% B
80% B-
77% C+
67% C
60% D
59% F
This kind of scoring is fairer than many other forms of grading because: (1) It is based on what students actually achieve rather than some preconceived standard held by the professor; (2) Each student can receive a high grade; (3) Hard-working students will not be penalized for staying in a demanding course full of industrious students. With a traditional curve, demanding courses that “weed out” less industrious students, leaving hard-working ones, can unintentionally harm good students putting them in competition with each other. This will not occur in this course. To further insure fairness, any extra credit points will be added to the individual student’s score, only after the highest score earned by a student has been established. This ensures that the extra credit earned will not increase the difficulty of the grading scale.

Course instructor reserves the right to lower or raise course grades based on classroom contributions or upon absences. Instructor also reserves the right to change course requirements. 
Late or Missing Assignments
Students who do not turn in study guides or reading analyses on the days they are collected will not receive points. The total number of points possible for the review essay will be reduced by 20% for each day it is late.
Returned Assignments
Assignments will usually be returned to students no later than one week after they were due. At the end of the semester, unreturned course work will be available for pickup in the Religion Department office in Anderson 107 for 30 days after the official date that grades are posted by the registrar. After this time, they will be shredded to ensure privacy, and then recycled.
Academic Dishonesty
Students engaged in any form of academic dishonesty, as defined under the “Academic Misconduct” section of the Student Discipline Code, may fail the course and will be subject to other disciplinary measures.
Note: All readings are to be completed before the class date/week under which they are listed. This schedule is subject to change so rather than printing it, I recommend bookmarking this online syllabus and consulting it regularly.
(Week 1) 24 & 26 August


We will begin the course with an introduction to environmental philosophy and ethics, and John Rawls' notion of the the necessity of ‘basic facts’ in ethical reasoning.

In subsequent weeks will take up our State of the Planet Report (beginning with the Limits to Growh and Planetary Boundaries analyses).
Readings: Introducing Environmental Ethics and the notion of Carrying Capacity.
Readings (required)
Powerpoint Lectures (delivered in class first three weeks; available here with audio narration)
Readings & Website (recommended)
(Week 2) 31August & 1 September

Presentation: The State of the World Report ~ On limits to Growth & Planetary Boundaries.

Readings on the types of environmental ethics, with a focus on rights and utilitarian theories.
Readings (required)
  • DesJardines, Chapter 2, “Ethical Theory & The Environment,” 17-39, and Chapter 5, “Responsibilities to the Natural World,” 94-118
Websites to Review
  • Ecological Footprint Network (Peruse the site and familiarize yourself with it. Then go to the “personal footprint” link and do the analysis there – be ready to provide (confidentially) your footprint (‘how many planets needed’) in class on Thursday.
Readings & Websites (recommended)
  • Southbound (1996)
(Week 3) 9 & 14, September
(no class Labor Day, 7 September)

Presentation: The State of the World Report (Part Two: focus on biodiversity)

Readings on Aesthetics, holism and environmental ethics.
Readings (required)
Powerpoint Lecture (with audio narration)
Reports to peruse (required) 
  • United Nations Environmentlal Program, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This initiative of the United Nations was the co-recipient with former U.S. President Al Gore of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Take some time to peruse the website. Find and read the especially useful Summaries for Policymakers. Next, search 'global warming hoax' or 'skeptics' and such words to get an idea of the contempt directed at the IPPC by its detractors
Reports to peruse (recommended) 
Readings (recommended)
  • An Inconvenient Truth (1995) (Al Gore), UF Library (and this may be shown in class)
(Week 4) 16 & 21 September

Presentation: State of the world Report, Part 3 toxics, climate change, and deforestation (concludes week 5).

Readings on Aesthetics, holism and environmental ethics.

Discussion: Individualism v. holism: Who is morally considerable? Does individualism provide a basis for "hard cases" in environmental ethics? What are the weaknesses and strengths of holistic environmental ethics?
Readings (required)
  • DesJardines, Chapter 8, “The Land Ethic, ” 176-199
  • Leopold, Aldo, (biography)
  • Aldo Leopold, from A Sand County Almanac Foreword, Arizona and New Mexico (especially sub-section, “Thinking like a Mountain”), “The Round River,” “Goose Music,” and The Land Ethic. (Note: The Oxford University Press edition (1949/1968) does not have “Part III”, which includes the Thinking like a Mountain, Round River, and Goose Music essays. For these, see the Ballentine Books (1970) paperback edition. Also strongly recommended from the Ballentine paperback edition, read widely, esp. “A Sand County Almanac” and “Wilderness” and “Conservation Aesthetic.”
Powerpoint Lecture
  • Coming soon (slideshow; download and review using powerpoint or keynote)
  • Coming soon (movie; download and view with VLC, Quicktime, or other media players)
  • Greenfire (2011) and/or Holmes Rolston on reconsidering Leopld's Green Fire (2013)
(Week 5) 23 & 28 September

Exam One– In Class – Wednesday 30 September Short answer, matching, & multiple choice exam. Closed book, no computer.

Note: Exam subject matter will be drawn exclusively from information conveyed in required readings and classroom presentations through week five.

Presentation: State of the World Report (Part III, concluded).

Readings: Pioneer-elders in environmental ethics (continued)
Readings (required)
  • Battle for Wilderness (1989)
(Week 6) 30 September & 5 October
Determine the subject of your critical essay. Here are resources for them: 
Critical Essay Guidelines, and Critical Essay Topics; and Fallacies of Moral Reasoning.

Ethics presentations over the next several weeks include: "The Discipline of Ethics", "Principles of Ethics: Rights, Justice, and Beneficence", "Key Conundrums in Environmental Ethics" (with powerpoint presentations) and "Fallacies of Moral Reasoning" (with hyperlinked summary)

Readings in Anti-Hierarchal Environmental Ethics: Anarchism, Social Ecology, and Ecofeminism
Readings (required)
  • DesJardines, Chapter 10, “Social Justice & Social Ecology,” 224-240, Chapter 11, “Ecofeminism,” 243-258.
  • Anarchism and Social Ecology by John Clark in the ERN
  • Ecofeminism by Laura Hobgood-Oster in the ERN
Additional Resources 
Powerpoint Lectures
Readings (recommended)
  • Wild By Law (1991)
(Week 7) 7 & 12 October
Ethics presentations over the next several weeks include: "The Discipline of Ethics", "Principles of Ethics: Rights, Justice, and Beneficence", "Key Conundrums in Environmental Ethics" (with powerpoint presentations) and "Fallacies of Moral Reasoning" (with hyperlinked summary)
Readings (required)
  • DesJardines, Chapter 9, “Deep Ecology,” 202-221
  • Bron Taylor & Michael Zimmerman, Deep Ecology from the Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature
  • Bron Taylor, Religion and Environmental Ethics from the Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature
  • Earth First! (60 Minutes)
11 October: Last date to provide title, abstract, and sources for Critical Essays (see critical essay guidelines under week 6)
(Week 8) 14 & 19 October
Readings and discussions on Radical Environmentalism.
Readings (required)
  • Dave Foreman Lecture at UW Oshkosh (1990)
(Week 9) 21 & 26 October
Presentations and debates on radical and grassroots environmentalism.
Readings (required)
Documentary (required viewing)
  • Blackfish (2013), which is about Killer Whales in captivity), CNN, Thursday night, 24 October, at 9 p.m.
  • Take a look at Sea World Cares, where the corporation features its "caring and passion for wildlife", and the New York Times article, Smart, Social and Erratic in Captivity.
  • Ben Minteer and Leah Gerber, Buying Whales to Save Them, Issues in science and technology, Spring 2013 (online). Be prepared to discuss the film and the ethical debates surrounding it anytime this week.
Note: you are to present a summary of your sources by 15 November and should be regularly working on your critical essays.
(Week 10) 28 October & 1 November
Exam Two– In Class – 4 November.  Short answer, matching, & multiple choice exam. Closed book, no computers.
Readings and discussions on Pragmatism and Public Lands Management.
Readings (required)
  • Yellowstone to Yukon (1997)
(Week 11) 4 & 9 November (no class 11 November due to Veterans Day)
Carrying Capacity and the ethics of procreation and consumption
Readings (required)
Sources to peruse (required)
11 November: Essay on Ishmael due, send by email to Amanda Nichols by midnight. Ishmael essays returned 20 November
(Week 12) 16 & 18 November
Readings (required)
  • Thinking Like a Watershed (1998)
Readings (recommended) 
20 November: Last chance to present to your instructors a summary of the arguments and sources for critical essays. MANDATORY
(Week 13) 23 & 25 November
Global Issues: Triage Ethics and the Tragedy and Battle for the Commons; and Grassroots Ecological Resistance Movements
This week be prepared to debate Hardin’s views from this week’s reading in contrast to those expressed by Feeney et. al., and a third and fourth from Gedick’s and Akula’s articles.
Readings (required)
Readings (recommended) 
Podcast and websites on Climate Change (recommended) 
  • Lacandona: The Zapatistas and the rainforest of Chiapas, Mexico (26m/bt)
(Week 14) 25 & 27 November; note, no classes 28-29 November (Thanksgiving holiday)
Critical Essay due 25 November, in class, paper copies (see the critical essay guidelines in the schedule, above, week 6. Do not forget to include the title, abstract, and sources assignments, which were due earlier and returned to you).
The Great Debate: Which Environmental Philosophy Makes the most Sense?
Readings (required)
Readings (recommended) 
  • Robert Paehlke's Environmentalism and the Future of Progressive Politics (Yale U.P, 1989), 273-283 (on reserve)
  • Martin Lewis, Green Delusions (Duke U.P., 1992), p. 150-90 & 242-51
(Week 15) 7 & 9 December (9th is last day of class)
Critical Essays Returned 4 December, in class
Social Philosophy and Environmental Futures: How should we structure livelihoods, communities, nations, and international relations? Is religion the solution or one of the key problems?
This week be prepared to discuss Taylor’s 'parting shots' in these artcles, constrasting it with other perspectives in the class
Readings (required)
Lecture (required)
  • Listen to Sam Harris's Ted Talk, Science Can Answer Moral Values, in which he argues, contrary to those who argue one cannot get a value from a fact, that objective moral truth can be deduced from facts, including those derived from science. His ethical benchmark is that of concern for the well being of conscious living beings, and he contends that we can know from the facts what the well being for conscious beings entails, and when we are closer or further from the conditions in which conscious beings can and will flourish. Listen to his talk and consider its implications for environmental ethics, and possible social and environmental futures.
The Final, Cumulative Exam will be
Wednesday 16 December
3:00-5:00 pm
Location to be announced
Writing Well
Outline Articles
  • Environmental Ethics (by Andrew Brennan and Yeuk-Sze Lo) in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  • The East (2013)
  • If a Tree Falls: A story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011)
  • Edward Abbey: A Voice in the Wilderness (1993)
  • Dave Foreman, Radical Environmentalism talk, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (1990)
  • Earth First!, on 60 Minutes (1990)
  • Holmes Rolston Lecture on Leopold, Greenfire, and Earth Ethics (2013)
  • Greenfire (2011) [Aldo Leopold]
  • American Values / American Wilderness (2006)
  • Lessons from the Rainforest (ca. 1993) [Lou Gold]
  • The Faithkeeper [Oren Lyons with Bill Moyers]
  • Gaia-Goddess of the Earth (1986) PBS|Nova
  • Mother: Caring for Seven Billion (2013)
  • I am (2011)
  • Truck Farm (2011)
  • Thinking like a Watershed (1998)
  • Yellowstone to Yukon (1997) [The Wildlands Project]
  • Green Plans (1995)
  • Ecopsychology-Restoring the Earth | Healing the Self (1995)
Additional resources, such as links to podcasts, music, slideshows, video, music, and websites, will be made available here during the course. Students are encouraged to send their own ideas for resources to the course instructors.