PSU Syllabus
PHL310U Environmental Ethics

Instructor: David Komito, Ph.D.
Phone: 541-663-6264; this is my cell phone, I do not have an office phone. In the summer of 2017 I moved from Oregon to Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is on Mountain Time (one hour ahead of Pacific Time).

Course Philosophy:
Environmental Ethics is a relatively new discipline within the venerable field of Philosophy. Thus the course will begin with a review of the history and main developments in Environmental Ethics and the reading of an important article on The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis. From this foundation the course will continue over the subsequent weeks to explore a number of developments in Environmental Ethics, concluding with a final exam and the creation and submission of a final project.

In past centuries ethical behavior was usually derived from religious systems or political or social (perhaps humanistic) systems. In keeping with recent developments in cognitive science and globalization, this course takes a different view and approach. It takes the general view that the joining of intellectual and affective education and direct experience can produce new insight, and that these insights/experiences can form the basis for deriving individual ethical behavior.

In organizing this course I have been guided by the anthropologist and general systems thinker Gregory Bateson, who believed that "Consciousness is only one way in which to obtain knowledge and without complete knowledge of the entire cybernetic system [environmental] disaster is inevitable. The limited conscious must be combined with the unconscious in complete synthesis. Only when thought and emotion are combined in whole is man able to obtain complete knowledge. .... religion and art are some of the few areas in which a man is acting as a whole individual in complete consciousness."

To phrase this a bit differently, addressing our current ecological crisis (for crisis it is, even if many heads are ostrich-like"buried in the sand") requires the mobilization of more of us than just our intellectual/cognitive faculties. Clear thought cannot be achieved when we are unconscious of our feelings, so this course also aims at not just intellectual education but also at affective education. To achieve this affective education the course is highly interactive, with students being divided into small discussion groups which will share the results of exercises from the Macy and Johnstone book (see below). These discussions amount to a considerable proportion of the final course grade.

About the Instructor:
I am a scholar of Asian Philosophy and Religion and the Psychology of Religion. My interest in environmental ethics goes back to the early 1980s, first as a result of my exposure to Gregory Bateson and Systems Theory and later when my wife Kayla, who is an artist, gardner and floral designer, introduced me to Ecofeminism and the pioneering work of Joanna Macy. Bateson, Macy, Kayla and the spirit of Green Gulch Farm Zen Center have inspired my teaching and publishing on ecological thought and ethics and thus the organization of this course. But if real roots are to be named, they would be the mountains and forests of the west which woke me up from my urban Los Angeles childhood slumber. More about me.

Required Textbook:
There is a single required textbook for this course: Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone; Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in without Going Crazy, New World Library, Novato, CA, 2012. ISBN 978-1-57731-972-6. All other readings, audio lectures, web sites or videos are linked off this syllabus, or are available in digital form at PSU Library Reserves, and all are available at no cost to you.

Grades are determined as follows:

  • Eight discussion board postings = 32 points
  • Final project =20 points
  • Four quizzes = 24 points
  • Final exam = 24 points
  • Maximum points possible = 100 points

90% = A-; 80% = B-, 70% = C-, 60% = D-, 59% and below = F

There is no "extra credit."

Course Materials and Assignments:
It is important that you read or listen to these materials in the sequence presented in this syllabus, below.


  1. Audio Lecture: How the Course is Organized and What You Should be Reading this Week.
  2. Audio Lecture: Ethical Behavior Derived from Insight/Wisdom rather than Theology or Morals
  3. Audio Lecture: The Textbook Active Hope and Course Discussions.
  4. What do we mean by environmental ethics? Read the following, in sequence:
    1. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Environmental Ethics
    2. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Biodiversity Preservation
    3. Lynn White: "The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis"
    4. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Pathologies of Environmental Crisis - Theories and Empirical Research
  5. Audio Lecture: The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis and Alternatives to Christian Anthropocentrism


  1. Read Macy and Johnstone: Active Hope, p 1 - 81.
  2. Audio Lecture: Christianity, Evolution and the New Story
  3. Tiellard de Chardin: The Phenomenon of Man
  4. Thomas Berry – The New Story
  5. Tiellard's Influence on Berry and Fox: Tiellard's Influence on Berry
  6. Living the New Story
  7. Brian Swimme video: Cosmological Perspective on the Present
  8. Mathew Fox video: "Recovering the Sacredness of the Earth"
  9. E.O.Wilson: The Epic of the Universe and Non-anthropcentric Christianity
  10. Audio Lecture: Fundamentalism
  11. Quiz on week 1 and 2 material available Saturday and Sunday of this week.


  1. Read Macy and Johnstone: Active Hope, p 85 - 103.
  2. Audio Lecture: Deep Ecology and Systems Theory
  3. Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown, "The Basic Miracle: Our True Nature and Power"
  4. About Gregory Bateson and Systems Theory (aka cybernetics), Ecological anthropology and cybernetics
  5. Gregory Bateson: Form, Substance and Difference
  6. Nora Bateson: symmathesy
  7. Audio Lecture: On Salmon in the Columbia/Snake Watershead


  1. Audio Lecture: From Deep Ecology and Systems Theory to Eco-feminism
  2. "Power with" vs. "power over." Read Macy and Johnstone: Active Hope, p 105 - 120
  3. Tsultrim Alione: Wisdom Rising
  4. Eco-feminine activism:
  5. Quiz on week 3 and 4 material available Saturday and Sunday of this week.


  1. Audio Lecture: From Deep Ecology and Systems Theory to the Ecological Ethics in Daoism and Buddhism
  2. Truth in Nature (note that the older transliteration of "Dao" is "Tao")
  3. Nature and Reality in East Asia
  4. Audio Lecture: About the Hinton article
  5. Audio Lecture: Naess, Bateson, Buddhism
  6. The Questions of King Milinda
  7. Joanna Macy video: The Prison Cell of a Separate Self
  8. Joanna Macy, World as Self, World as Lover, Part 1, Section 2 and Section 4
  9. Stephanie Kaza "How Much is Enough? Buddhist Perspectives on Consumerism", in How Much is Enough
  10. Malcolm David Eckel, "Is 'Buddhist Environmentalism' a Contradiction in Terms?", in How Much is Enough


  1. Read Macy and Johnstone: Active Hope, p 121 - 160.
  2. Audio Lecture: "Ecology, Ethics and Interdependence" -- The Mind and Life Dialogs, meeting XXIII
  3. Required "Dialog" viewings
  4. Audio Lecture: The New Story, Non-anthropcentric Christianity and the Buddhist Bodhisattva
  5. Quiz on week 5 & 6 material available Saturday and Sunday of this week.


  1. Read Macy and Johnstone: Active Hope, p 163 - 200.
  2. The contours of the crashing system: The Wisdom to Survive
  3. Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, NY Times, October 7, 2018
  4. Where we are now; an honest scientific appraisal of the situation: World Scientists's Warning of a Climate Emergency
  5. Audio Lecture: In a Complex System its a Matter of Choices: Clothing
  6. Audio Lecture: In a Complex System its a Matter of Choices: Energy
  7. Audio Lecture: Climate Refugees
  8. Audio Lecture: The geological, social and mythic Anthropocene
  9. Audio Lecture: Voluntary Simplicity, Imposed Simplicity, Homeostasis and Choice


  1. Audio Lecture
  2. Losing Earth: The decade we almost stopped climate change.
  3. Commentary on "Losing Earth"
    • Emily Atkin: Who’s to Blame for Global Warming?
    • Robinson Meyer: The Problem With The New York Times’ Big Story on Climate Change
    • Rebecca Leber: The New York Times Fails to Name and Shame Climate Villains
    • Alexander C. Kaufman: 2018 Would Still Be A Climate Hellscape If We Acted 30 Years Ago (and) The Real Missing Villain In The New York Times Magazine’s 31,000-Word Climate Opus
    • Naomi Klein : Capitalism Killed Our Climate Momentum, Not “Human Nature”
  4. Transforming the economy: in the United Nations' draft Global Sustainable Development Report 2019
  5. Quiz on week 7 and 8 material available Saturday and Sunday of this week.


  1. Read Macy and Johnstone: Active Hope, p 201 - 238.
  2. Audio Lecture: Ecofeminism, Disenchantment, The New Animism and Re-enchantment.
  3. Food:
  4. Audio Lecture: Gardening and Re-enchantment
  5. Audio Lecture: Taking Care of the Bees
  6. Audio Lecture: The New Animism and Reconnecting to the Wild World: The Tracking Project
  7. Ecology and the Arts
  8. Enchanted Science


  1. The main activity of this week is reading and commenting on student projects. See the course D2L site for more information. Post projects to the discussion board (ideally) by Thursday of this week so there is adequate time for discussion.
  2. Audio Lecture: How we See and What we Know
  3. Climate Change in Cosmic Perspective
  4. Audio Lecture: A Systems View of the Rights, Ethical Treatment and Intrinsic Value of Flora, Flauna and the Planet.
  5. Audio Lecture: A Religious/Spiritual View of the Rights, Ethical Treatment and Intrinsic Value of Flora, Flauna and the Planet.
  6. Taking actionin the midst of uncertainty.
    1. Sisters Bonded in Action - Joanna Macy, Kailea Sonrisa & Morgan Curtis video on Keeping Sane & Active Amid Mass Psychosis
    2. World-wide grass roots action against climate change.
    3. Video: Session 10: Summing Up; "Ecology, Ethics and Interdependence", The Mind and Life Dialogs - meeting XXIII
    4. Green New Deal
  7. Postscript


  1. The final exam for the course will be available during the 48 hours of Monday and Tuesday of this week. See the course D2L site for more information.


PSU values diversity and inclusion; we are committed to fostering mutual respect and full participation for all students. My goal is to create a learning environment that is equitable, useable, inclusive, and welcoming. If any aspects of instruction or course design result in barriers to your inclusion or learning, please notify me. The Disability  Resource Center (DRC) provides reasonable accommodations for students who encounter barriers in the learning environment.

If you have, or think you may have, a disability that may affect your work in this class and feel you need accommodations, contact the Disability Resource Center to schedule an appointment and initiate a conversation about reasonable accommodations. The DRC is located in 116 Smith Memorial Student Union, 503-725-4150, drc@pdx.edu

  • If you already have accommodations, please contact me to make sure that I have received a faculty notification letter and discuss your accommodations.
  • Per the DRC, students who need accommodations for tests are expected to schedule their tests to overlap with the time the class is taking the test. Tests are offered during a 48 hour period, so I should be able to meet your needs during that period. I need to know well in advance of scheduled assessments that you need an accomodation in order to make the necessary technical changes in the D2L environment. Advance and timely notification benefits everyone. There is no need for accomodations for discussion postings, as these are required at any point during a full week, which should be adequate time.