The discussion questions will be the focus of the discussion sections for that week, the four short (one-page, single-spaced) papers, and will be the basis for the questions on the midterm and final examinations. In formulating your answers draw specifically on the lectures, assigned readings, and discussions for that particular week. A major goal of the course is to formulate your own environmental ethic using the course materials (due Week 15 at the final meeting of the course, see assignments).
Week 1The Global Ecological Crisis
Week 2Population & Environmental Economics
- Is the concept of economic growth fundamentally flawed? What kinds of crises result from economic growth? Draw on Chapter 1 of Radical Ecology and the readings for weeks 2 and 3.
- Is the root "cause" of environmental problems due to overpopulation? Draw on Chapter 1 of Radical Ecology and the articles in Ecology, Part II, chapters 6-10.
Week 3Premodern Culture
- What is/are the meanings of "premodern"? In what ways are "premodern" ideas similar to or different from those of today? Please give examples from the lectures, discussions, and readings for weeks 2 and 3.
- What can we learn from premodern cultures for our own environmental ethic? How can we avoid problems of appropriating other cultures' ideas and practices? Draw on the lectures, discussions, and readings for weeks 2 and 3.
Week 4Modern Culture
- In what ways has "modern science" contributed to the ecological problems we are facing? Draw on Chapter 2 of Radical Ecology and the articles in Ecology, Part I, chapters 2-5.
- How did the "disenchantment of nature" take place and can it be undone? Draw the articles in Ecology, Part I, chapters 2-5.
Week 5Environmental Ethics
- "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, beauty, and stability of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." (Radical Ecology, p. 76) What does Aldo Leopold mean by this statement? What features of Leopold’s ethic are relevant for your own environmental ethic? Draw on Chapter 3 of Radical Ecology and the lectures and discussions for week 5.
- How is it possible for a system of ethics developed and enforced by humans to be anything but egocentric or homocentric? Draw on the ethical frameworks presented in Chapter 3 of Radical Ecology and the lectures and discussions for week 5.
Week 6American Culture and Wilderness Preservation
- What is wilderness? What is "wild"? Where, in your view, are each located? Explain your answer. Draw on the lectures, discussions, and readings for week 6.
- According to William Cronon's article, what is "The Trouble with Wilderness"? Do you agree or disagree with Cronon's argument. Why or why not? Draw on the lectures, readings, and discussions for week 6.
Week 7Midterm Examination.
The midterm questions will be based on the lectures, readings, discussions, and essay questions for weeks 1-6. They will be in essay form. There will be a choice.
Week 8Deep Ecology
- What do Deep Ecologists mean by "dominant paradigm," "paradigm shift," and "new paradigm"? Is this a valid way to construct a problem? Draw on Chapter 4 of Radical Ecology and the articles in Ecology, Part III, chapters 11-13.
- Are there limitations and/or flaws with Deep Ecology's approach/analysis? Explain your answer. Draw on Chapter 4 of Radical Ecology and the articles in Ecology, Part III, chapters 11-13.
Week 9Ethics of Biotechnology; Eastern Philosophy
- What limits, if any, should be placed on biotechnology research? Defend your view, drawing on the course readings and on Radical Ecology, pp. 56-61.
- How do eastern philosophies contribute to a reconsideration of the idea of the domination of nature? Which ideas are consistent with an ethic of care for nature? Draw on the course readings and on Radical Ecology, pp. 107-108.
Week 10Spiritual Ecology
- How has Judeo-Christian religion played a role in subordinating women to men and nature to humans? Would a spiritual ecology change these relationships? Draw on the articles in Part VI of Ecology and Chapter 5 of Radical Ecology.
- What does Joanna Macy mean by the ecological self? (See Ecology, p. 332) How is her concept related to Charlene Spretnak's "interrelatedness of all creation" (p. 340), Whitehead's "philosophy of organism" (Cobb, p. 350), and Winona LaDuke's "recovering the sacred" (p. 355)? Draw on Radical Ecology, Chapter 5 and Ecology, Part VI.
- On what grounds do ecofeminists forge a connection between ecology/nature and women/feminism? Draw on Chapter 8 of Radical Ecology and the articles in Part IV of Ecology.
- What do ecofeminists want in place of patriarchy? Is there a male counterpart to ecofeminism? Draw on Chapters 5 and 8 of Radical Ecology.
Week 12Environmental Justice
- How are racism, colonialism, and First and Third World views of development connected to our current environmental crisis? Draw on Ecology, Part V and Radical Ecology, pp. 169-176.
- What are the sources of tension between mainstream
environmental groups and environmental justice organizations active at the community level? Are their differing methods and political agendas irreconcilable? Draw on Wenz in Part V of Ecology and Radical Ecology, pp. 169-176.
Week 13Social Ecology
- Why do social ecologists emphasize dialectics, domination, and hierarchy? How does this approach affect their understanding of both nature and society? Draw from Bookchin in Part III of Ecology and Chapter 6 of Radical Ecology.
- How do socialist ecologists explain the destructive nature of both capitalism and state socialism? Draw from O'Connor in Part III of Ecology and Chapter 6 of Radical Ecology.
Week 14Postmodern Science
- "What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning." (Heisenberg quoted in Capra, Ecology, p. 368) Drawing on the articles in Part VII of Ecology and pp. 99-107 in Radical Ecology, explain the meaning of this statement and discuss the shifts in the perception of nature that lead to the possibility of a "postmodern" science.
- Drawing on the articles in Part VII of Ecology and pp. 99-107 in Radical Ecology, explain why predictability is now a vulnerable concept in science. What consequences, in your view, might this have for environmental ethics?
Week 15Sustainable Development
- Does sustainable development necessarily require economic growth? Why or why not? Draw on Chapter 9 of Radical Ecology.
- How do we determine which practices are sustainable and which are not? How can efforts toward sustainability in agriculture, energy production, and restoration ecology be introduced into the mainstream? Draw on chapter 9 of Radical Ecology.
Everyone must attend the final examination. No incompletes will be given unless accompanied by a medical excuse and arranged in advance. All grades are final and cannot be changed except in the event of a clerical error.
The final examination will consist of a choice of essay questions based on the discussion questions since the midterm (i.e. Weeks 8-15).
Write your name and section day and time on the cover of your bluebooks.