Ed Barbanell: Using An Ecosystem Services Approach to Water Resources in Environmental Ethics at University of Utah
About this CourseThis is a 3000-level course that serves a variety of purposes and audiences. For philosophy majors and minors, it satisfies an area requirement in ethical theory, and it satisfies a similar area requirement for environmental and sustainability studies majors. It is also designated as a humanities general education course, so it also regularly attracts students from all levels and from across the curriculum.
Syllabus for Environmental Ethics (Phil 3530) (Acrobat (PDF) 950kB Jun23 16)
Provocative Expansion of the Typical Environmental Ethics Course
The narrative of environmental ethics is currently in flux, inexorably shifting away from an almost exclusive emphasis on justifying the protection of "nature," understood primarily as "wilderness," to exploring a broader range of human/nature relationships. With discussion of the Anthropocene quickly gaining traction and momentum across the curriculum, conceptualizing nature as just so many discrete services supporting and sustaining human life and well being is fast emerging as the dominant viewpoint. In such a state of affairs, the main ethical questions concern what, if any, limits we might have in altering "nature" in the name of improving its services to us. Accordingly, introducing this module in an environmental ethics course is a timely and necessary expansion of the discussion.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate MaterialsI was able to use module effectively just as we designed it. I did not administer some of the formative assessments, and in a few places I combined PowerPoints because we designed the module for nine 50-minute class sessions but I taught it in six 80-minute ones.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
This was a standard 16-week spring semester course, and I implemented the module during weeks 11–13, right after spring break. Prior to introducing the module, we had worked progressively through a serious of ethical viewpoints, starting from eco-centric ones and moving inexorably toward more eco-humanist and anthropocentric ones. The module served as a useful bridge leading to an end-of-semester discussion of an emerging eco-modernist ethic. Since eco-modernism evaluates nature primarily through a ecosystem services lens, it was quite useful to have actually gone through an ecosystem services modeling exercise.
AssessmentsI used/graded the Unit 1.1 Before-class Preparation Assessment to make sure they had gone through the module introductory PowerPoint, so that we could start off the first day of the module with a working knowledge of ecosystem services. I used/graded the Unit 2.2 Assessment to "reward" the students for all of their in-class hard work on using and mastering the EPA Stormwater Calculator. I used the pre- and post-Unit 2 wrapper to gauge the students' knowledge of campus features related to water generation and mitigation before and after our discussion on the topic. Regarding the module summative assessment, the reflective piece was of more interest to me than the presentation piece, in terms of gauging how the students were doing via-a-vis the learning outcomes for the course.
My intent was to expose the students to an anthropocentric, quantitative approach to environmental ethical decision-making, as opposed to the non-anthropocentric, qualitative approaches typically discussed in environmental ethics courses. I wanted them to be able to weigh the pros and cons of these two different approaches, and to consider which seemed a more promising approach to such matters. Based on the tenor of the classroom discussions and the content of their responses to assessments, particularly the reflective piece of the summative assessment, this vision was borne out to great effect.