Environment and Society in a Changing World

Written Assignment 1: Understanding the Role of Ethics in Human-Environment Geography


This Written Assignment requires you to  write  a clear, well-organized paper which answers the questions provided below and demonstrates you have read the material in the modules.

First and foremost, I am grading your comprehension of the course material. If you do not demonstrate that you have read and understood the content from the modules, you will not receive a good grade. To get a good grade, you must show me that you have read and understood the content in the modules we have looked at so far.

Second, I am grading for critical thinking and analysis. How well do you form and support your arguments with evidence from the course material or external sources?

Third, I am grading for the mechanics - proper grammar, well-written paragraphs, answering all the questions, correct formatting of sources (if you use external sources, please use the Chicago Style to cite).

Learning Activity Directions

For this learning activity, you are going to analyze a human-environment scenario from the list below, discuss components of the human-environment system at work in the scenario, and then make an argument for or against a specific action based on an ethical position you have chosen. 

Below is a list of human-environment scenarios. Choose one of the scenarios and assume it is taking place in your hometown. 

Write a paper that is 500-750 words responding to the following questions.

  1. State your chosen scenario in  bold type  at the beginning of your paper. Using your chosen scenario,  briefly describe the  coupled human-environment system  to which the scenario relates. What human and environmental components make up the system? How are they affecting one another?
  2. Identify an ethical viewpoint from Module 3 with which you identify and explain its basic tenets. 
  3. Make an argument for or against the proposed action in your scenario and give an ethical justification for your argument based on the ethical viewpoint which you chose. It does not matter if you are for or against the action. What I want to see is that you  recognize how your ethical framework led you to that decision.

Here are the scenarios:

  1. During an economic recession, a plastics company proposes to construct a production facility in your town, providing employment for dozens of unemployed residents. This company has also made a pledge to plant 100,000 trees a year to mitigate global carbon emissions, but wastewater from their production facilities is known to have a negative impact on marine life in nearby rivers and streams.
  2. In an effort to shift toward renewable energy sources, your home city considers building a new solar power plant. This solar plant would eliminate all reliance on non-renewable energy for your city. To finance the plant construction, a temporary tax increase is proposed, which would force some lower-income residents to leave.
  3. A new airport to serve a nearby large city is proposed to be built in your town. The airport would provide hundreds of new jobs and give a major boost to the town’s economy, with travelers utilizing local restaurants and hotels. The only possible location to construct the new airport would be along a key migratory bird corridor, displacing bird populations.
  4. A small number of elk are introduced to your town, after having been hunted out several decades before. To encourage the development of a new elk herd, any intensive human activity on public lands is prohibited, including hunting for other game such as deer. Many residents rely on meat from hunting as a food source through the winter months.

You  must engage at least three course concepts  in your paper. Remember engaging a course concept means defining that concept and explaining how it helps you think about the theme of your paper.  Please bold the concepts you engage in your response. 

Review the grading rubric before completing your assignment. If you need help getting started, please email me!