Environmental Ethics and Science | Philosophy & Religion

Environmental Ethics and Science

This Graduate Academic Certificate is primarily intended for two groups of students:

  • Graduate students in Environmental Science, Biology, Geography, Anthropology, and related scientific fields who wish to develop a competency in the ethical and philosophical dimensions of environmental issues.
  • Graduate students in Philosophy and related humanities fields who wish to develop a competency in the scientific and technical dimensions of environmental issues.

Who Needs this Certificate?

Potential and practicing professionals who are or foresee being in a position to integrate science and ethics in the environmental sector broadly conceived across education, policy, research, and more.


There are no particular prerequisites for this GAC. However, courses listed under the GAC may have prerequisites that need to be satisfied. Students should consult the instructors prior to taking the individual courses.

Course Requirements

This is a 12-credit hour certificate. Courses listed in each category are examples; other options can be chosen with approval of the student's adviser and the GAC coordinator.

Four courses in total are required: two courses are required from the philosophy category and two courses are required from the science category.

PHILOSOPHY. Choose two of the following:

  • PHIL 5000. Environmental Ethics. 3 hours. An examination of the philosophical origins of environmental philosophy and the basic positions in the field of environmental ethics. Key authors in environmental philosophy are surveyed, as well as topical considerations of a variety of schools of thought with emphasis on theories of environmental value, legal and moral rights for nature, animal liberation and Western philosophical and religious traditions.
  • PHIL 5700. Environmental Philosophy. 3 hours. An intensive analysis of new positions in environmental philosophy with special emphasis on their theoretical value as a contribution to contemporary philosophy and their practical value with regard to environmental policy and decision making.
  • PHIL 5010. Philosophy of Ecology. 3 hours. Traces the evolution of ecology from its roots in 19th-century natural history to the present with an emphasis on the prominent paradigms and conceptual trends, such as organicism, community ecology, ecosystem ecology, disturbance and flux . Also explores the sociocultural contexts in which ecology emerged and now exists, including the so-called second scientific revolution and the two-culture split.
  • PHIL 5800. Climate Change. 3 hours. Critical examination of the philosophical, social-political, cultural and ethical dimensions of climate change through the use of normative and conceptual theories. Explores interdisciplinary issues such as climate justice, uncertainty and risk, individual and collective responsibilities, and the role of science, technology, and policy.
  • PHIL 6650. Philosophy of Water Issues. 3 hours.
    An examination of water issues at the interface of science, policy, philosophy, art and culture. Philosophical approaches include ethics, aesthetics and ontology of water, epistemological analyses of water conflicts, local and global governance theories.
  • PHIL 6710. Ecofeminism. 3 hours. Examines the merger of feminism with environmental ethics and its subsequent evolution. Subject matter includes the analysis of patriarchy, gender issues and multicultural perspectives within the larger framework of ethical and philosophical responses to ecocrises.
  • PHIL 6720. Religion and Ecology. 3 hours. An exploration of resources for environmental philosophy in non-Western traditions, focusing on South and East Asian traditions.
  • PHIL 6740. Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. 3 hours. This course will investigate the policy turn in environmental philosophy, exploring ways to make environmental ethics/philosophy more relevant to decision-makers, public agencies, and stakeholders groups.
  • PHIL 6750. Environmental Justice. 3 hours. This course represents an effort to critically engage the Environmental Justice Movement (broadly construed) by studying its histories, the terms and concepts evolving from the movement, the philosophical implications of the movement, and the struggles of people shaping the movement. Examines the underlying notions of environmental goods and harms, the perspectives of environmental law and policy, and the politics of environmental identities.

SCIENCE. Choose two of the following

  • ANTH 5300 Migrants and Refugees. 3 hours. Focuses on the factors embedded in people's displacement, either through migration or refugee movements. Aims at identifying the cultural processes that promote displacement and those emanating from the consequences of displacement. Emphasizes the human factor encapsulated in the phenomenon of displacement.
  • ANTH 5400 Environmental Anthropology. 3 hours. Emphasis on theory, major environmental questions, problems, issues, and possible solutions illustrated by case studies from different parts of the world. Examination of environmental issues pertaining to land/sea and natural resources, food production systems, deforestation, population problems, poverty and environmental justice, natural hazards and risks, resource conflicts and warfare, over-fishing, economic development, globalization and transnationalism, mineral and oil extraction, landscapes, biodiversity conservation, the commons, ecofeminism, and valuation of nature. Course goals are to provide a global sample of the literature in environmental anthropology; a survey of concepts, issues, theories, methods and practices in environmental anthropology; and an in-depth acquaintance with a particular topic in environmental anthropology through an individual research project.
  • BIOL 5005. 1-3 hours. Contemporary Topics in the Biological Sciences. Topics may vary from semester to semester and may include topics such as human development, epidemiology or plant physiology.
  • BIOL 5040. 1-3 hours. Contemporary Topics and Issues in Environmental Science and Ecology. Topical themes include global climate change, biodiversity, wetlands, population and aquatic, terrestrial or plant ecology.
  • BIOL 5050. 3 hours. Foundations of Ecological Theory. Background and concepts of ecological theory are reviewed through the survey of both original and current literature.
  • BIOL 5051 (lecture) and 5052 (lab). 4 hours. Community Ecology. Structure, dynamics and diversity of biotic communities and ecosystems. Focus on population interactions, niche relationships and processing of matter and energy. Will require consent from instructor if 6 hours of biology including a course in Ecology have not been taken prior to enrollment.
  • BIOL 5053 Subantarctic Biocultural Conservation. 3 hours. In-depth study of the relationship between subantarctic ecosystems and cultures of southern South America including geography, climate, ethnography, history and ecology, which exposes students to both the practical and theoretical aspects of biocultural conservation, including its interdisciplinary character integrating the sciences and humanities.
  • GEOG 5160 Foundations of Geographic Thought. 3 hours. Explores epistemological developments in the discipline of geography, including the origins, development and diffusion of predominant ideas that form the foundation of geography. Provides a grounding in contemporary geographic thought, focusing on diverse ways that geographers go about explaining, interpreting and understanding the world (i.e., epistemologies).
  • GEOG 5210 Seminar in Urban Geography. 3 hours. Study of current perspectives on geographic inquiry as they relate to metropolitan development and change; the economic, social and political production of space; economic restructuring; segregated spaces; spatial conflicts; corporate and urban hierarchy; urban physical environment.
  • GEOG 5245 International Development. 3 hours. Critical engagement with classical, neo-classical, Marxist, post-structural, post-colonial and feminist theories of development and their policy implications in the Global North and South.
  • GEOG 5300 Globalization, Conflict and Resistance. 3 hours. Engagement with cultural, economic and political theories of globalization and its policy implication in the Global North and South. Exploration of case studies of conflicts arising from, and social movements in response to, globalization.
  • GEOG 5420 Critical Resource Geography. 3 hours. Advanced examination of issues associated with conservation and management of natural resources. Includes case studies in a variety of geographical scales: global, regional and especially local. Requires completion of an individual project and advanced readings in topics related to conservation.
  • GEOG 5350 Geomorphology. 3 hours. Processes of land form analysis. Glacial, desert, fluvial and other settings are reviewed along with basic processes of construction, erosion and weathering.
  • GEOG 5750 Surface Water Hydrology. 3 hours. Study of hydrological processes with emphasis on the hydrological cycle; soil moisture and infiltration; watersheds and drainage systems; flow mechanics, sediment transportation and deposition; and river response to climatic change and other impacts of human activity. Requires completion of an individual research project on a topic in surface water hydrology.
  • GEOG 5960 Geography Institute when taught as "Ecosystems". 3 hrs. Examines interactions between organisms and the physical environment as an integrated system and the factors that regulate the quantity and flow of materials and energy through ecosystems. Covers the history and use of the ecosystem concept, factors governing the distribution and structure of ecosystems, relationships between ecosystem structure and function, and the influence of natural and human processes on ecosystem dynamics. Discusses current topics and methods in ecosystem science.
  • GEOL 5850 Introduction to Groundwater Hydrology. 3 hours. Topics include principles of groundwater flow; aquifer properties and characteristics; geology of groundwater occurrence; groundwater development and methods of assessing and remediating ground water contamination. Students independently acquire, evaluate and interpret hydrogeological data and report the results in a research paper.