Green Political Thought

How should human beings relate to the natural world? Do we have moral obligations to non-human animals? What about plants, rocks, eco-systems, or future human generations? Do we owe the environment moral consideration because it has value for us, or because it is valuable in itself? This course introduces students to the study of moral philosophy through a sustained engagement with issues of environmental concern. In addition to major theoretical approaches to the study of environmental ethics we will consider the ethical dimensions of a range of practical issues, including climate change, fossil fuel extraction/consumption, animal rights, biodiversity, land degradation, water, waste, air pollution, wilderness preservation, environmental racism, and environmental justice. The two overarching goals of this course are to provide students with a more sophisticated conceptual vocabulary to render moral judgement across domains and to engage students’ ethical reasoning and reflection on environmental issues in particular.

The Land Ethic

      • Aldo Leopold, “The Land Ethic,” 237-247.

Deep Ecology

        • Arne Naess, “Ecosophy T: Deep Versus Shallow Ecology,” 222-231.
        • Bill Devall and George Sessions, “Deep Ecology,” 231-237.

Social Ecology

        • Murray Bookchin, “What Is Social Ecology?,” in Environmental Ethics, Second edition, ed. Michael Boylan (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), 46-58.

Social Ecology

        • Robyn Eckersley, “Divining Evolution: The Ecological Ethics of Murray Bookchin,” in Social Ecology After Bookchin, ed. Andrew Light (New York: The Guilford Press, 1998), 58-78.


        • Karen Warren, “The Power and Promise of Ecological Feminism,” 389-406.
        • Vandana Shiva, “Women’s Indigenous Knowledge and Biodiversity,” 383-389.


        • Val Plumwood, “Deep Ecology and the Denial of Difference,” in Feminism and the Mastery of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1993), 165-89.


        • Holmes Rolston, III, “Naturalizing Values: Organisms and Species,” 130-143.
        • Ned Hettinger, “Comments on Holmes Rolston’s ‘Naturalizing Values’,” 144-147.

Climate Change: No Hoax

        • Naomi Oreskes, “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change: How Do We Know We’re Not Wrong?,” 608-627.
        • Merchants of Doubt (2015)

Climate Change: Ethical Dimensions

Climate Change: Precautionary Ethics

      • Catriona McKinnon, “Runaway Climate Change: A Justice-Based Case for Precautions,” Journal of Social Philosophy 40, no. 2 (2009): 187-203.


        • David K. Keith, “Engineering the Planet,” 690-696.
        • Christopher J. Preston, “Re-Thinking the Unthinkable: Environmental Ethics and the Presumptive Argument Against Geoengineering,” 697-710.

Extreme Weather


      • Bill McKibben, “A Special Moment in History: The Challenge of Overpopulation and Overconsumption,” 716-727.
      • The Population Bomb? (2015)

The Tragedy of the Commons

      • Garrett Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” 728-738.
      • Elinor Ostrom, Joanna Burger, Christopher B. Field, Richard B. Norgaard, and David Policansky, “Revisiting the Commons: Local Lessons, Global Challenges,” 739-748.



        • Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster, “What Every Environmentalist Needs To Know About Capitalism,” 464-485.

Environmental Racism

        • Robert Bullard, “Overcoming Racism in Environmental Decision-Making,” 315-331.
        • AWAKE: A Dream From Standing Rock (2017)



        • Hilary French, “You Are What You Breath,” 781-788.
        • William F. Baxter, “People or Penguins: The Case of Optimal Pollution,” 793-798.


        • Rajendra Pradhan and Ruth Meinzen-Dick, “Which Rights Are Right? Water Rights, Culture, and Underlying Values,” in Water Ethics: Foundational Readings for Students and Professionals, eds. Peter Brown and Jerry Schmidt (Washington: Island Press, 2010), 39-58.
        • Leasing the Rain (2008)


      • Peter Singer, “A Utilitarian Defense of Animal Liberation,” 96-105.
      • Eating Animals (2018)


      • Immanuel Kant, “Rational Beings Alone Have Moral Worth,” 85-87.
      • Tom Regan, “The Radical Egalitarian Case for Animal Rights,” 106-114.


        • Harley Cahen, “Against the Moral Considerability of Ecosystems.” 276-286.


Future Generations

        • Annette Baier, “The Rights of Past and Future Persons,” 60-69.
        • Richard B. Howarth, “Intergenerational Justice,” 70-82.


        • Edward Abbey, “Freedom and Wilderness, Wilderness and Freedom,” from The Journey Home.
        • Ramachandra Guha, “Radical Environmentalism and Wilderness Preservation: A Third-World Critique,” 307-314.

Environmental Justice


      • Michael Martin, “Ecosabotage and Civil Disobedience” Environmental Ethics, 12, no. 4 (1990): 291-310.
      • WATCH: If a Tree Falls (2011)