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Humanistic Ecology (Barnhill)

Course Title

Humanistic Ecology
IDS 401/Religion 310

   
Instructor(s)

David Barnhill
Professor of Religious Studies
Guilford College

   
Discipline

Philosophy

   
Subject(s)

Environmental Philosophy; Environmental Ethics; Religion; Science

   
Pedagogical Level

Undergraduate

   
Date

Fall 1998

   
Presentation

Guilford College

   
Overview

Preliminary Remarks

That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics. That land yields a cultural harvest is a fact long known, but latterly often forgotten.
—Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
(London: Oxford University Press, 1949) viii-ix


Nature is a community, but what kind of community? What is our place in that community-and our responsibility to it? What has ultimate value in this community, and how should we live within it? The answers to these questions, and the further questions any answers generate, are crucial to human society. The answers we make fundamentally affect our ethics, economics, social behavior, and politics. All of these questions and answers are influenced by twentieth-century science.

This course is an interdisciplinary examination of major trends in the ways people are addressing these questions. As such we will be discussing ecology, the study of the relations between living organisms and their environment. Ecology can be pursued in several ways. Approached through scientific inquiry, ecology is a branch of biology. Approached through the study of human behavior, ecology is a branch of sociology, anthropology, and psychology. We will pursue the study of nature’s relationships from a humanistic perspective.

Course Description
Humanistic ecology is the study of the general conceptions of nature and of the relationship of humans with nature, as well as the beliefs, attitudes, and values that arise from those conceptions. While the central thrust of the course is humanistic, the issues raised will be social, political, economic, and historical. All of these issues are informed by scientific inquiry. We will critically examine various “schools” in humanistic ecology (e.g., animal rights, deep ecology, social ecology, ecofeminism, and stewardship) as well as two related movements, bioregionalism and Gaia theory. Each of these schools and movements fundamentally challenge our conventional notions about the character of life and way we should live out those lives.

There are no prerequisites for this course, but it is an advanced, senior-level seminar. Students are expected to have already developed expertise in a some liberal arts discipline. This course is an opportunity to apply that expertise and breadth to a topic that impacts all areas of inquiry. The readings are challenging in sophistication and quantity. Students are expected to have read the material thoroughly before coming to class and to take primary responsibility for class discussions. The quality and quantity of discussion, including helping the group function as an interdependent whole, is vital to the success of the course. 30% of the final grade will be based on class participation. This course counts toward the Peace and Conflict Studies concentration and the Environmental Studies concentration.

Purposes of the Course

1. Content: Ecology

  1. To develop the ability to recognize issues and implicit assumptions in discussions of nature and environmental issues.
  2. To introduce humanistic ecology and environmental philosophy: its issues, concepts, general tendencies, and major schools of thought.
  3. To critically analyze and evaluate the major schools of thought.
  4. To develop the student’s own view toward nature and environmental ethics.

2. Methodology: Disciplines and Interdisciplinarity

  1. To introduce interdisciplinarity as a mode of examination and understanding.
  2. To reflect on the student’s major/discipline from the standpoint of humanistic ecology.
  3. To reflect on the student’s major/discipline from the standpoint of interdisciplinarity.

3. Intellectual Virtues

  1. To develop intellectual seriousness, both in general and in relation to nature and to ecological issues. Intellectual serious includes a recognition of the importance of the issues and positions, a recognition of the value and significance of the various positions, a critical perspective toward them, a drive to develop one’s own position, as well as intellectual honesty and humility.
  2. To develop a sense of personal responsibility concerning nature and human society.

4. Skills

  1. To study these subjects in a way that develops the quality of your thinking, especially the ability to think analytically, critically, and constructively.
  2. Through the composition and revision of different types of papers, to develop your ability to write with clarity, correctness, incisiveness, and vigor.
  3. In general class discussion, small discussion groups, peer-editing groups, and oral reports on papers, to develop your ability to speak, listen, and question in an effective way.
  4. In group discussions and peer editing, to develop skills in cooperative learning.
  5. To develop the ability to relate theoretical knowledge to practical experience.
 
Format

This course is divided into eight sections:

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: The Science of Ecology
Part 3: The History of Traditional Ecological Thought in the West
Part 4: Traditional Environmental Ethics
Part 5: Deep Ecology and Other Ecocentric Views
Part 6: Social Ecology and Ecofeminism
Part 7: Stewardship and Bioregionalism
Part 8: The Enactment of Ecological Consciousness

   
Prerequisites

None Required

 
Requirements

Course Assignments

Critical Responses to Schools
15%
Quizzes
10%
Research Paper
35%
Final Exam
10%
Discussion
30%
  1. Critical Responses to Schools
    Each approximately 5% of the final grade.

  2. Quizzes

  3. Research Paper
    A critical analysis of some issue in humanistic ecology in light of the theories and ideals discussed in class. Includes your own position on the issue. Page length: 12–15.

  4. Final Exam

  5. Discussion
    Both preparation and discussion, both quantity and quality of discussion.
 
Evaluation

See “Course Requirements.”

 
Texts

Required Texts

Armstrong, Susan J., and Richard G. Botzler. Environmental
Ethics: Divergence and Convergence
. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1993.

Barnhill, David. “A Brief Introduction to Ecology.”

Barnhill, David. “Handbook for Humanistic Ecology.”

List, Peter C. Radical Environmentalism: Philosophy and
Tactics
. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1993.

Merchant, Carolyn. Radical Ecology: The Search for a Livable World. New York: Routledge, 1992.


Readings on Reserve

Ames, Roger. “Putting the Te Back into Taoism.” In Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought: Essays in Environmental Philosophy, ed. J. Baird Callicott and Roger T. Ames, 113–15. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1989.

Biehl, Janet. “Ecofeminism and Deep Ecology: Unresolvable Conflict?”.

Berry, Wendell. “God and Country.” In What Are People For?, Wendell Berry, 95–102. San Francisco, Calif.: North Point Press, 1990.
_______. Collected Poems: 1957–1982. San Francisco, Calif.: North Point Press, 1984.
_______. “Preserving Wildness.” In Home Economics, Wendell Berry, 137–51. San Francisco, Calif.: North Point Press, 1981.
_______. “Getting Along with Nature.” In Home Economics, Wendell Berry, 6–20. San Francisco, Calif.: North Point Press, 1981.

Callicott, J. Baird, and Roger Ames, “Introduction.” In Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought: Essays in Environmental Philosophy, ed. J. Baird Callicott and Roger T. Ames, 1–6. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1989.

Clark, John. “A Social Ecology.” In Environmental Philosophy: From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology, 2d ed., ed. Michael J. Zimmerman, et al., 416–40. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1998.
_______. “How Wide is Deep Ecology?” Inquiry 39 (1996): 189–201.

Fleming, Pat, and Joanna Macy, “The Council of All Beings,” In Thinking Like a Mountain: Toward a Council of All Beings, ed. John Seed, et al., 79–90. Philadelphia, Penn.: New Society Publishers, 1988.

Fox, Matthew. “The Deep Ecology-Ecofeminism Debate and Its Parallels.” Environmental Ethics 11, no. 1 (Spring 1989): 5–26.

Hall, Donald. “On Seeking a Change of Environment.” In Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought: Essays in Environmental Philosophy, ed. J. Baird Callicott and Roger T. Ames, 99–104. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1989.

Heffernan, James D. “The Land Ethic: A Critical Appraisal.” In Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 1st ed., eds. Susan J. Armstrong and Richard G. Botzler, 398–404. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1993.

Kheel, Marti. “Ecofeminism and Deep Ecology: Reflections on Identity and Difference.” In Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism, eds. Irene Diamond and Gloria Feman Orenstein, 128–37. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1990.

Lovelock, “Gaia: A Model for Planetary and Cellular Dynamics,” 83–97.

Mathews, Freya. “Ecofeminism and Deep Ecology.” Ecology, ed. Carolyn Merchant, 235–47. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1994.

Macy, Joanna. “Our Life as Gaia,” In Thinking Like a Mountain: Toward a Council of All Beings, eds. John Seed, et al., 57–66. Philadelphia, Pa.: New Society Publishers, 1988.

Plumwood, Val. “Nature, Self, and Gender: Feminism, Environmental Philosophy, and the Critique of Rationalism.” In Environmental Philosophy: From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology, 2d ed., eds. Michael Zimmerman, et al., 291–99. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1998.
_______. “Ecosocial Feminism as a General Theory of Oppression.” In Ecology, ed. Carolyn Merchant, 207–19. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1994.

Sagan, Dorion, and Lynn Margulis, “Gaian Views,” In Ecological Prospects: Scientific, Religious, and Aesthetic Perspectives, eds. Christopher Key Chapple, 3–9. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1994.

Spretnak, Charlene. “Toward an Ecofeminist Spirituality.” Healing the Wounds: The Promise of Ecofeminism, ed. Judith Plant, 127–32. Philadelphia. Penn.: New Society Publishers, 1989.
_______. “Radical Nonduality in Ecofeminist Philosophy.” In
Ecofeminism: Women, Culture, Nature, ed. Karen J. Warren, 425–36. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1997.

 
Schedule

Part 1: Introduction

Aug 25

Introduction to Ourselves and the Course

Aug 27

Issues in Ecological Thought and Interdisciplinarity
Letters to the Editor
What kind of issue is global warming? What is the relationship between knowledge and action in such a situation?
Assigned Reading

Merchant, Radical Ecology, 1–14, 17–39.

 

Part 2: The Science of Ecology

Sep 1

The Science of Ecology
Assigned Reading

  • Barnhill, “A Brief Introduction to Ecology.”
  • Armstrong and Boltzer, “The Role of Science,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 9–12.
  • Wilson, “The Little Things That Run the World,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 32–35.
  • Costanza, “Toward an Operational Definition of Ecosystem Health,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 35–42.
 

Part 3: The History of Traditional Ecological Thought in the West

Sep 3

Historical Perspective: Traditional Western Conceptions of Nature
Assigned Reading

  • Merchant, Radical Ecology, 41–60.
  • Armstrong and Boltzer, “Historical Context,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 154–56.
  • White, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 204–10.
Assignments Due
  • Study Questions Due
  • Quiz on Scientific Ecology
Sept 8

Anthropocentrism
Assigned Reading

  • Armstrong and Boltzer, “Anthropocentrism,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 309–11.
  • Kant, “Duties to Animals,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 312–13.
  • Norton, “Environmental Ethics and Weak Anthropocentrism,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 313–16.
  • Murdy, “Anthropocentrism: A Modern Version,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 316–24.
 

Part 4: Traditional Environmental Ethics

Sept 10

Introduction to Environmental Ethics
Assigned Reading

  • Armstrong and Boltzer, “Morality,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 53–57.
  • Regan, “Ethical Thinking and Ethical Theory,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 58–63.
  • Weston, “Before Environmental Ethics,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 63–71.
  • Rolston, “Environmental Ethics,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 71–85.
Sept 15

Biocentric Individualism and Animal Rights
Assigned Reading

  • Merchant, Radical Ecology, 63–81.
  • Armstrong and Boltzer, “Individualism,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 346–50.
  • Regan, “The Case for Animal Rights,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 351–59.
  • Taylor, “Respect for Nature,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 366–80.
  • Birch, “Moral Considerability,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 380–90.
Assignments Due
  • Study Questions Due
Sept 17

Critiques of Environmental Ethics and Environmental Philosophy
Assigned Reading

  • **Plumwood, “Nature, Self, and Gender,” Environmental Philosophy, 291–99.
  • **Hall, “On Seeking a Change of Environment,” Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought, 99–104.
  • **Callicott and Ames, “Introduction,” Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought, 1–6.
  • **Ames, “Putting the Te Back into Taoism,” Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought, 113–15.
 

Part 5: Deep Ecology and Other Biocentric Views

Sept 22

The Land Ethic
Assigned Reading

  • Armstrong and Boltzer, “Ecocentrism,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 408–11.
  • Leopold, “The Land Ethic,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 412–21.
  • Callicott, “The Conceptual Foundations of the Land Ethic,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 422–25.
  • **Heffernan, “The Land Ethic: A Critical Appraisal,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 1st ed., 398–404.
Assignments Due
  • Study Questions Due
  • Responses to Animal Rights Due
Sept 24

Individualism-Holism Debate
Assigned Reading

  • review last section of Regan, “The Case for Animal Rights,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 351–59.
  • Marietta, “Environmental Holism and Individualism,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 454–62.
Sept 29

Deep Ecology
Assigned Reading

  • Merchant, Radical Ecology, 85–110.
  • Naess, “The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movement,” Radical Environmentalism, 19–23.
Assignments Due
  • Study Questions Due
Oct 1

Deep Ecology
Assigned Reading

  • Naess, “The Deep Ecological Movement,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 437–48.
  • Naess, “Identification as a Source of Deep Ecological Attitudes,” Radical Environmentalism, 24–38.
  • Devall and Sessions, “Deep Ecology,” Radical Environmentalism, 38–46.
Assignments Due
  • Study Questions Due
Oct 6 Gaia
Assigned Reading
  • **Lovelock, “Gaia: A Model for Planetary and Cellular Dynamics,” 83–97.
  • **Sagan and Margulis, “Gaian Views,” 3–7.

Assignments Due

  • Response to Deep Ecology Due
Oct 8

Ecospirituality
Assigned Reading

  • Merchant, Radical Ecology, 110–31.
  • Momaday, “A First American’s View,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 252–56.
  • **Macy, “Our Life as Gaia,” Thinking Like a Mountain, 57–66.
  • **Fleming and Macy, “The Council of All Beings,” Thinking Like a Mountain, 79–90.
 

Part 6: Social Ecology and Ecofeminism

Oct 13

Social Ecology
Assigned Reading

  • Merchant, Radical Ecology, 132–56.
  • Bookchin, “What Is Social Ecology?” Radical Environmentalism, 93–107.
Oct 15

Midterm Exam on Environmental Ethics, Animal Rights, and Ecocentrism
Review

Oct 27

Social Ecology and Deep Ecology
Assigned Reading

  • **Clark, “A Social Ecology,” Environmental Philosophy, 416–40.
  • **Clark, “How Wide is Deep Ecology,” Inquiry 39 (1996): 189–201.
Assignments Due
  • Study Questions Due
Oct 29

Ecofeminisms
Assigned Reading

  • Armstrong and Boltzer, “Ecofeminism,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 467–70.
  • Merchant, Radical Ecology, 183–210.
  • Mies and Shiva, “Introduction to Ecofeminism,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 480–89.
Nov 3

Ecofeminist Philosophy and Spirituality
Assigned Reading

  • **Spretnak, “Toward an Ecofeminist Spirituality,” Healing the Wounds, 127–32.
  • Spretnak, “States of Grace,” Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 489–96.
  • Gray, “We Must Re-Myth Genesis,” Radical Environmentalism, 55–69.
Nov 5

Ecofeminism and Deep Ecology
Discussion Groups
Assigned Reading

  • **Marti Kheel, “Ecofeminism and Deep Ecology: Reflections on Identity and Difference,” Reweaving the World, 128–37.
  • **Biehl. “Ecofeminism and Deep Ecology: Unresolvable Conflict?”
  • **Fox, “The Deep Ecology-Ecofeminism Debate and Its Parallels”
Assignments Due
  • Study Questions Due
Nov 11

Ecofeminism and Deep Ecology (continued)
Assigned Reading

  • **Plumwood “Ecosocial Feminism,” Ecology, 207–19.
  • **Mathews, “Ecofeminism and Deep Ecology,” Ecology, 235–47.
  • **Spretnak, “Radical Nonduality in Ecofeminist Philosophy,” Ecofeminism, 425–36.
  • Barnhill, “Relational Holism.”
Assignments Due
  • Prewriting for Research Paper Due
  • Review of Ecofeminism, Social Ecology, and Deep Ecology
 

Part 7: Stewardship and Bioregionalism

Nov 12

Christian Stewardship and Wendell Berry
Assigned Reading

  • Berry, “The Gift of Good Land,” in Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, 489–95.
  • **Berry, “God and Country,” What Are People For?, 95–102.
Assignments Due
  • Study Questions Due
  • Response to Ecofeminism or Social Ecology Due
Nov 17

Wendell Berry: Human and Nature: Domestic and Wild
Student Reports
Assigned Reading

  • **Berry, “Preserving Wildness,” Home Economics, 137–51.
  • **Berry, “Getting Along with Nature,” Home Economics, 6–20.
Assignments Due
  • Study Questions Due
  • Initial Bibliography for Research Paper Due (include topic and issue at top of the page)
Nov 19

Bioregionalism
Assigned Reading

  • Merchant, “Bioregionalism,” Radical Ecology, 217–22.
  • Dodge, “Living By Life,” Radical Environmentalism, 108–17.
  • Sale, “Dwellers in the Land,” Radical Environmentalism, 117–23.
  • Plant, “Revaluing Home,” Radical Environmentalism, 124–27.
  • Berg, “Growing a Life-Place Politics,” Radical Environmentalism, 230–46.
Nov 24

Stewardship: Bioregional Poetry (reflections on poetic expression of ecological ideals)
Assigned Reading

  • **Berry, Collected Poems: students be prepared to discuss three of his poems.
Assignments Due
  • Three Copies of Expanded Prewriting Due
Nov 26

Thanksgiving Break

 

Part 8: The Enactment of Ecological Consciousness

Dec 1

Discussion of Prewriting with Peer Groups

Assignments Due

  • Annotated Bibliography Due (include topic and issue at top of page)
Dec 3

Direct Action: Earth First!
Assigned Reading

  • Abbey and Foreman, Radical Environmentalism, 131–33, 149–66, 185–95.
Assignments Due
  • Study Questions Due
Dec 8

Debating Earth First! Activism
Assigned Reading

  • Abbey, Foreman, Hargrove, and Martin, “Redwood Summer,” Radical Environmentalism, 200–12.
  • Abbey, Foreman, Hargrove, and Martin, Radical Environmentalism, 247–65.
Assignments Due
  • Study Questions Due
  • Three Copies of Research Paper Due (beginning of class)
Dec 10

Peer Editing of Papers

 

Notes
Readings are to be done before coming to class

**Reading on Reserve

Copyright © 1998 David Barnhill.
Reprinted with permission.
The author retains all copyrights for all syllabi materials.
Please contact each author individually for reprint rights.