Ishmael was one of two required texts for the course. The other was After Nature’s Revolt: Eco-Justice and Theology, a collection of essays dealing with various aspects of the Judeo-Christian understanding of stewardship and environmental ethics. (Students found Ishmael much more readable and engaging than the more theoretical essays contained in the reader.) The basic questions addressed in the course concerned the link between economics and ecology and the ethical ramifications of our behavior, around the globe and into the future: Who has a right to grow, a right to prosperity and resource use? Who pays the price for progress and growth? What criteria do we apply to evaluate these questions?
We started by exploring ecological versus economic concepts and issues, then went on to explore concepts of ethics, both social and ecological, that have shaped our human/ecological interactions. A main focus was to question how our religious traditions influence and shape our ethical concepts, both with respect to an ecological and a social ethic. Guest speakers shared with the class their own traditions’ perspective on a socio-ecological ethic.
Finally, in order to keep an applied focus, we looked at the most pressing ecological questions of different continents and/or nations to distinguish between religious and cultural ethical values and their influence on human behavior.
In addition to reading assignments and class discussion, students had a written research assignment, which was a group project for presentation to the class and counted for 30% of the course grade.