Extending "The Land Ethic" and The Golden Rule to the Whole Biotic Community
This is a component in a four-credit Introduction to ethics course (Phil. 103) which involves a group collaboration / report on a sustainability issue viewed in light of Aldo Leopold's The Land Ethic and various ethics of reciprocity anticipatory of and reflective of the "Golden Rule" ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you") Both the Leopold text and the various formulations of the "Golden Rule" are available online:
The learning goals for this teaching-and-learning activity are:
- Learning about pluralism, and focusing on Leopold's The Land Ethic and diverse formulations of The Golden Rule; and learning about pluralism in ethics by using the text by Lawrence Hinman, Ethics: A Pluralistic Approach to Moral Theory.
- Viewing http://www.storyofstuff.com;
- Researching a specific sustainability issue (eg. diminishing animal habitat, pollution of streams and oceans, etc.); and,
- Giving a 10 to 11 minute presentation to the class (role-playing, quiz show format or whatever creative mode students decides within their group) helping the rest of the class understand how the issue they have chosen helps them think freshly about extending the "land ethic" and the "Golden Rule" to the whole biotic community.
The "big idea" of the group exploration is respect for the rights of nature and of future generations to be sustained by humankind.
Context for Use
The assignment takes place about three-and-a-half weeks into the quarter. Students have four classes to prepare their presentation and one class to present. Thus the assignment takes exactly one percent of the course time, but the sustainability themes reverberate through the final six weeks of the course.
Possible Use in Other Courses:I have done similar assignments in Argumentation and Research (English 102) classes, and I believe this assignment could be adapted in other venues.
Description and Teaching Materials
The AssignmentPrior to this assignment, students view Annie Leonard's video clip, http://www.storyofstuff.com.
Our text is Lawrence Hinman's Ethics: A Pluralistic Approach to Moral Theory); and, Aldo Leopold's The Land Ethic
For Students - Your assignment Involves the following activities: Taking into account the "big idea" of the course, pluralism, and focusing on Leopold's The Land Ethic and diverse formulations of The Golden Rule; Viewing www.storyofstuff.com; Researching a specific sustainability issue (eg. diminishing animal habitat, pollution of streams and oceans, etc.); and, giving a 10 to 11 minute presentation to the class (role-playing, quiz show format or whatever creative mode you decide in your group) helping us all understand how the issue you have chosen helps you think freshly about extending the "land ethic" and "The Golden Rule" to the whole biotic community. The "big idea" of the group exploration is respect for the rights of nature and of future generations to be sustained by humankind.
The Learning Activities- Each group will choose both a unique focus and a "vehicle" (role-play, TV show, jail cell conversation, etc.) to bring to life fresh thinking.
Teaching Notes and Tips
Examples of Student Work - The topics chosen by the groups which embarked on this assignment on April 27, 2009 were:
Mistreatment of animals (caging and feed lots vs. free-range practices);
Deforestation (focus: lemurs in Madagascar);
Decreasing water-quality and toxic runoff and pollution problems caused by industrialization;
Over-fishing, and fish/water contamination affecting quality and quantity of fish in Puget Sound;
Carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide pollution from automobile emission and the impact on global warming;
Pollution of the air from sources other than automobiles (eg. fossil fuel pollution and jet contrails); and,
The link between consumerism, overbuilding, loss of green space.
Thirty-four students participated in seven groups. Two groups used role-playing, two used Jeopardy-like quiz show formats, three used PowerPoint with visuals.
There is no formal assessment rubric beyond "Prove your familiarity with texts and class activities." and "Organize your answers."
Informal assessments: I note that I hear sustainability issues raised in the subsequent six weeks of the course. That indeed occurred this spring, my trial run for this assignment.