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Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP)

Ethics for Environment and Development

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It is difficult to deny the seriousness and urgency of the environmental and development issues that we now face. But what is the root cause of these problems? Environmental philosophers believe that we need to take a critical look at our relationships both with other humans and with the non-human world and to ask some searching questions. What do we owe to other people who may live in very different circumstances, and whom we may never meet? Can we reasonably extend the concern we may have for other human beings to non-human nature? Do we have responsibilities to provide a clean, safe environment for as yet unborn and unknown future generations, or should we be more concerned with environmental justice for the present generation? At what point does our use of, and interaction with, nature become abuse? These questions are far from being merely academic. The way we view other societies and the physical world – and the moral frameworks that we use to make decisions – have real impacts on other people and on the non-human world. This module aims to consider and examine those views and frameworks by exploring the fields of environmental ethics, development ethics and corporate governance.

The module considers environmental and development values in relation to ethical theory and principles, including the main concepts and theories underlying ideas of social and environmental justice and responsibility. It covers a wide range of applications relevant to policy and practice in the fields of both environmental and development management, as well as issues related to corporate governance. The module aims to present frameworks for understanding a range of ethical arguments, thereby assisting students to think more clearly about their attitudes and behaviours in relation to a range of environmental and development issues. It will also help students to understand better the arguments that others, who may hold very different views, sometimes put forward. The module demonstrates how an understanding of a range of ethical frameworks can aid in the analysis of environmental and development issues and in forming clear arguments about those issues. It also considers the limitations of ethical frameworks in relation to those issues.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

Students will be able:

  • to discuss with confidence the ethical dimensions of key issues relating to sustainable development, poverty reduction, environmental management and corporate responsibility.
  • to make connections between issues of environmental, development and corporate ethics.
  • to recognise and identify the underlying ethical arguments used by a range of commentators on a particular issue.
  • to understand issues of ethical pluralism, and to be able to make informed comments about the quality of some arguments as compared to others.
  • to construct clear, reasoned and consistent arguments based on sound ethical principles, whilst understanding the limitations of ethical frameworks.

Scope and syllabus

Unit 1: Introduction to ethics
Unit 2: Development ethics
Unit 3: Environmental ethics
Unit 4: Valuing nature: exploring the possibilities
Unit 5: Utilitarianism and consequentialist decision-making
Unit 6: Duties, rights and justice
Unit 7: Virtues, character and relationships
Unit 8: Ethics and sustainable development
Unit 9: Ethics for environmental management
Unit 10: Corporate social responsibility

Module sample

P563 module uses a core text which is specially written and will take you through your self-directed study. Exercises, assignments and other activities, such as self-assessment questions, film clips and animations are included to help you with learning. Most module study guides are now provided in electronic format on a USB flash memory stick, but can also be downloaded from the online learning environment. Click the linked image below to view a sample of our e-study guide: