Ethics, Environment and Society

Course content

Arguing for the preservation of biodiversity or promoting sustainable development evidently builds on insights from biology and maybe economics, but it is at the core a value-based argument. Environmental ethics is about reasoned arguments regarding our handling of, dealing with, and behaviour towards nature and the environment.

Many of you are at university with the intent of pursuing a career in environmental science, policy, planning, management, research, or advocacy. As an applied field, environmental ethics acts as the bridge between practical problems and conceptual critical analysis analyzing the presuppositions of different kinds of arguments being used in environmental discourses.

The environment matters to us as society and individuals, yet it is place where different values clash. This is important as it means that as professionals studying and working with nature and environment you will often be faced with disagreement and dilemmas instead of clear-cut decision between e.g. protection of the natural environment in relation to the realization of human interests – or the interests of some humans at least. The aim of this course is bring the values embedded in discussions of nature to light by offering an introduction to environmental ethics: from theory to practice.

The course introduces concrete analysis ‘tools’ emerging from classical ethical theories and environmental philosophy; focusing on anthropocentrism and the various alternatives; the notions of nature and the natural, risk, equality and justice, value pluralism and the different needs for relating through nature in physical, aesthetical and existential ways. Using environmental ethical issues of contemporary concern as cases (e.g. climate change, animal production, biodiversity conservation, sustainability and human well-being, wildlife management, GM crops and ecological restoration) in a Euro-American as well as developing countries context, you are trained in uncovering, understanding and structuring relevant knowledge and ethical issues for addressing professional challenges related to environments viz a viz society.


The course examines sustainability looking at what it is, and what kind of value issues are embedded in advancing a more sustainable development.


MSc Programme in Climate Change
MSc Programme in Forest and Nature Management
MSc Programme in Nature Management

Learning outcome


  • Understanding of the relationship between ethics and science

  • Understanding of different environmental ethical theories and concepts

  • Understanding of the complexity of relevant concepts such as value, nature, sustainability, naturalness, and integrity.


  • Analyzing a given decision and discourses relating to the environment for implicit ethical aspects

  • Assessing dilemmas of ethics, environment and society and suggest ways to embed them in the decision process

  • Being able to use knowledge of ethics in relation to your other curricular activities, including your MSc thesis.


  • Developing more fully a personal/as professional ethical perspective regarding environmental issues, and practice

  • Reflect on different views/discources on the use/preservation of, relation to environments

  • Being able to constructively participate in and structure discussions between different value perspectives related to environmental issues.


The course uses an integrated mix of lectures, exercises and discussion, including quizzes, votes, panel debates, student presentations, guest lecturers and films. Through exercises, discussions and assignment work the students can try various approaches to identifying, assessing and approaching ethical dilemmas in relation to environmental decision-making.


Hourdequin, M. 2015. Environmental Ethics. London and New York: Bloomsbury

Haq, G. & Paul, A. 2012. Environmentalism since 1945. London and New York: Routledge

O'Neill, J., Holland, A. & Light, A. 2008. Environmental Values. London and New York: Routledge


Exact literature choice will be announced at Absalon at the beginning of the course.

None besides interest in the intersection between environment, society and ethics

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 min
Type of assessment details
Oral examination, 20 min. No time for preparation. Individual oral examination based on pre-released questions and the written assignments. The student is tested in relation to the syllabus and the core areas of competence of the course. Further, the student is tested in the specific themes and topics related to the student’s own assignment. Questions are broad and discussion oriented.
Exam registration requirements

2 written assigments during the course must be approved in order to go to exam.

Only certain aids allowed

Only certain aids allowed. For each examination question one A4 page with notes is allowed.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
one internal examiner

As ordinary exam

If the written assignments are not approved before the ordinary exam, then the student has to hand in two written assigments three weeks prior to the re-exam. They must be approved before the exam.


Criteria for exam assessment

See Learning Outcome

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 40
  • Preparation
  • 87
  • Theory exercises
  • 18
  • Practical exercises
  • 6
  • Project work
  • 50
  • Guidance
  • 4
  • Exam
  • 1
  • English
  • 206


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

Block 1
The number of seats may be reduced in the late registration period
Study Board of Natural Resources, Environment and Animal Science
Contracting department
  • Department of Food and Resource Economics
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinators
  • Christian Gamborg   (3-676c6b446d6a7673326f7932686f)
  • Mickey Gjerris   (3-716b6e446d6a7673326f7932686f)

Christian Gamborg
Mickey Gjerris

Saved on the 28-02-2023

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