Christianity and Environmental Ethics

In my first semester of college at the University of Toledo this past Fall, I took PHIL 3180–a philosophy course on Environmental Ethics. This was somewhat by accident. I was the sole Freshman in the class of about 30, with all the others being Juniors and Seniors. Aside from the basic work load readiness, the others in the class were also mainly environmental science majors. I’m a History major, specializing in analysis and concepts, not science. This made the large volume of reading material a challenge to say the least. But I have to say, I loved the class. The professor was excellent. If you’re at UT and have the opportunity to take Dr. Ben Grazzini, you absolutely should. He seems to have a genuine concern for the well being of his students. I was really excited to hear back from him in an email last week where he told me that my term paper, “Concerning Christianity and Environmental Ethics” was one of the “most intellectually-curious non-obvious pieces of work” he had ever received from a student. Semester=made. Here is a PDF of my paper below! If you have any feedback or questions please comment! I’d love to flesh this out as much as possible. So much more to be said on this issue, but here’s a start:



3 thoughts on “Christianity and Environmental Ethics

  1. Hey AJ,
    I’ve read most of your paper and have some suggestions and comments.

    First, good for you tackling a higher level philosophy class. The subject of ethics regarding the environment is something I’m very concerned with and interested in. (I thought about majoring in philosophy among many other things.)

    Here are some things you need to consider when writing a paper at the college level. Consider your audience. When writing any kind of term paper you need to get to the point. Your paper beats around the bush and your argument seems to dance around the subject of how Christians view the environment and environmental issues.

    If you follow this structure, you can pretty much get a B or higher with any college term paper without even trying.
    1. Create an opening statement of what you are writing about. Be clear and direct. Explain how you will support your argument.
    2. Show and give examples that support your claim. Show examples that counter your claim and point how how those things are either valid or invalid to your initial opening statement.
    3. Write your conclusion. This is a summary of the points you made and how they support your claim. Also, it’s a summary of the counterpoints and counter arguments you’ve made in your paper. Finish with a conclusive statement.

    In essence, your paper makes the case that for Christians, dealing with nature isn’t just a material concern, but a moral one. Argue from that perspective, and you’re paper will flow much easier.

    There are some stylistic things you need to consider as well. Don’t overuse big words. It’s good to show professors you know big vocabulary words, but it’s more important that you can write clearly and persuasively. Specifically, you overuse certain words like exegesis. Use it once. Explain what it is to the reader. (Never assume your readers know vocabulary words off the bat, and in this day and age, assume people will be too lazy to look up definitions.)

    Hope that helps.

    1. Dave,
      Thanks for your response. I definitely feel the tension of “audience”, as you mentioned. In a way, I wanted the paper to be less for my class and more a conversation starter that I could hand to the Christians, scholarly and less so, that I know. I think admittedly it takes me a while to “get off the ground” as it were with the real meat of the argument. This is put cheaply, but part of my problem with “beating around the bush” as you put it flows from the fact that my conclusions drawn from what I deem to be theology relevant to environmental ethics are completely original. Granted I did borrow from some concepts in recent Christian scholarship, but the trajectory and claims that I make are virtually unexplored. There wasn’t an existing model for me to borrow structure from. So I think I’m saying that since the work was completely original to me, that it follows parts would seem crude, either underdeveloped or excessive.
      I am glad you located the heart of the argument. On another note, I wrote the paper mainly for a Christian audience, but I think it also contributes to humanist conversations as well–and this was by design. During the semester I felt the struggle of my professor, and the authors of various articles we read, to find a strong foundation for moral obligation as the basis for environmental ethics. I think this is largely because there isn’t one, which is an entirely different conversation, but I hope that my argument at least introduced something that I have a whole lot more to write and say about–that Christianity is a transformative lens through which most of modernism’s and post-modernism’s questions can be answered.
      But thanks again for your comments on format and style, this is helpful stuff. Always glad to receive help from English majors. It is definitely the concepts, not the expression of them, that I’m better at. But better things will come in time and practice. I do wonder, do you have any follow up comments or thoughts on the substance of the paper?

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