Educational Literacy in the Context of Environmental Ethics

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Educational Literacy in the Context of Environmental Ethics

ABSTRACT: I explore the concept of literacy and the role it might play in environmental ethics. One of the goals of environmental ethics is to describe and contribute to the creation of an ecologically responsible culture. The creation of such a culture requires the development of knowledge and abilities that will help sustain such a culture. Since education is one of the key institutions for instilling values and world views, it is important for environmental philosophers to think about the institutionalization of environmental theories in terms of their implications for the environmentally literate person. I argue that attention to literacy is significant for two reasons. First, it provides one way of evaluating the differences between competing environmental philosophies. Second, it raises the important question of what kind of person is required to carry out a particular vision of environmental responsibility. By addressing the issue of education and literacy, philosophers interested in environmental ethics can help create a vision of citizens who have democratically internalized and integrated environmental values and priorities rather than having them imposed from above.

Environmental ethics presents us with a plurality of different theoretical positions, from sophisticated forms of anthropocentrism to competing views of ecofeminism and social ecology to various versions of biocentrism. The ethical discussions these positions have prompted reveal how difficult it is to extend or revise existing moral traditions in a manner that appears both plausible and socially legitimate to mainstream audiences. Traditional human-centered world views have a strong hold o...

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...rz, Ecology as Politics (Boston: South End Press, 1980), p. 17.

(2) Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, with Essays from Round River, A Sierra Club/Ballantine Book (Oxford University Press, 1966), p. 246.

(3) Lawrence Blum, "Moral Perception and Particularity" in Moral Perception and Particularity (Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 30-56.

(4) cf. Justus Buchler, Nature and Judgment (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1955); and Toward a General Theory of Human Judgment, 2nd ed. (New York: Dover Publications, 1951).

(5) Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, translated by Myra Bergman Ramus (New York: Continuum, 1983), pp. 27-56.

(6) Holmes Rolston III, "Environmental Values in and Duties to the Natural World" in Ecology, Economics, Ethics: The Broken Circle, eds. Herbert Bormann and Stephen Kellert (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991), pp. 82-96.

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