Geographic Perspectives on Sustainability and Human-Environment Systems

Learning Activity: Arguing Environmental Ethics


In this activity, you're going to identify and assume an ethical position that we've discussed and make an argument for or against a specific action related to human uses of the environment. The specific actions will be chosen from the list provided below. You are free to choose any ethical position you like as long as it was identified in the module - remember, there are good arguments to be made on all sides of these questions. The important thing is that you clearly articulate your argument in ethical terms.

Learning Activity Directions

Part I: Create your entry

Below is a list of human-environment scenarios. In your post, assume that the scenario you choose is taking place in your hometown.

Your answer should be given in two paragraphs of 200-250 words each. Make sure that you use complete sentences and correct grammar. It is OK if your explanations push your paragraphs beyond 250 words, but do not go significantly beyond. Instead, find a way to keep your remarks concise.

In the first paragraph, identify your ethical viewpoint, and then detail the major ethical issues that are at play. Be sure to consider issues like procedural and distributive justice, and the moral standing of the non-human environment. Remember that this scenario is taking place in your hometown, so you will need to educate us on the particular geography of your home.

In the second paragraph make your case. Tell us whether you are for or against the proposed action and give an ethical justification. It doesn't matter if you are for or against the action, just that you make a clear ethical argument that is in line with your chosen viewpoint.

Here are the scenarios:

  1. A new trash disposal site will be created that will increase recycling and also incinerate trash to create a new source of energy. This facility will need to be located very close to the population center and may increase emissions of some harmful chemicals.
  2. A new law proposes to stop construction of new buildings in a greenbelt that extends for five miles around your hometown. This greenbelt would allow for regrowth of forests, new parks, and allow for more local agriculture. The law would also limit available housing and likely force many poorer residents to leave in search of affordable housing.
  3. A grocery store chain is seeking to source more meat locally and has proposed a project to build several buildings around town to raise livestock in confinement. The animals would live indoor in close quarters, but it would spare land for nature, and save on fuel for shipping the meat into town from someplace farther away.
  4. An oil and gas exploration company has approached your town about buying or leasing the rights to drill for and extract fuels from underneath your town. This will create income, some jobs, and potentially lower the cost of heating and electricity. It will also significantly change the local landscape for years to come.

This is not an easy assignment, in part because there is no clear right or wrong answer. Do your best and try to keep your argument within the bounds of your ethical position.

Remember to review our expectations regarding how you engage course concepts in your post!

Post your response

To post your Learning Activity response, go to the Module 3 Learning Activity: Arguing Environmental Ethics Forum in Canvas.

  • Select Reply from the instructor's original post.
  • Copy/paste your initial/original response to the Learning Activity into the text box from a saved Word document (to prevent losing work if the page refreshes, etc.).
  • Select Post Reply. Your response is now visible to your classmates and your instructor. Check in to the discussion forum often throughout the week to post and respond to comments and questions.

Part II: Read and comment on other students' entries

Read other students' entries

After Part I has been completed, module 3 entries from all students will be available to view. Read through about 20 other students' posts. Pick two of these students to write comments on their entries. Pick students whose entries do not already have a comment on them. If all of the entries already have comments, then pick students whose entries only have one comment on them. Also, pick students whose entries are interesting to you for any reason. You are encouraged to choose entries that have selected a different scenario than you selected for your post.

Post a comment

Post a comment on the two entries you have chosen. Briefly, introduce yourself. Then respond to their entry by either expanding or challenging their ethical position. Be sure that you are not attacking or mocking each other - this will cost you points. Your response should be made in ethical terms that relate to the scenario. Be sure to identify which ethical position you are writing from in your comment, and to use terms and concepts from the module. 

The comment should be 4-6 sentences long. Below is a reminder on how to post your comment...

To post a comment on TWO of your classmates' Learning Activities, go to the Module 3 Learning Activity: Your Ethics Views Forum in Canvas and follow these steps with TWO Learning Activity posts:

  • Select Reply from a student’s Learning Activity post.
  • Copy/paste your response into the text box from a saved Word document (to prevent losing work if the page refreshes, etc.).
  • Select Post Reply. Your response is now visible to your classmates and your instructor. Check in to the discussion forum often throughout the week to post and respond to comments and questions.

Grading Criteria

You will be graded on the quality of your participation. See the Grading Rubric for specifics on how this assignment will be graded.