TRN140Y1: Ethics, Humans, & Nature


This course introduces students to ethical issues arising from the way humans interact with nature. Students will study some theoretical approaches for evaluating how human society affects the planet, ecosystems and other animals. Theories will be drawn from philosophy, theology and ecology, and will include Western and non-Western approaches to living in harmony with one’s environment. Key themes may include speciesism – the idea that human needs are the most important – as well as overpopulation, extinction, vegetarianism and responsible resource management. The course will also look at how social policy shapes human choices and whether sustainability initiatives should be pursued through the public or private sector. The course will also discuss the spiritual connection between humans and the environment and how society can be organized to promote access to nature in urban communities.

Breadth Requirement: 0.5 FCE 2) Thought, Belief and Behaviour + 0.5 FCE 3) Society and Its Institutions


  • Mock Debate
  • Reflections
  • Book Report
  • Reading Discussions
  • Presentation
  • Participation

Note: assignments can vary from year to year


  • Analyzing readings and curating your perspectives on varying topics
  • A broad understanding of a human relationship with nature
  • Reading academic research papers
  • Writing technical papers and reports
  • Interpersonal skills


How should I prepare for this course?

You are not expected to have any prior knowledge of the course. You may, however, conduct research into topics of your interest. You can refer to the course syllabus once it is available for a description of the course and topics, course structure, and important deadlines.

How is the course structured?

This full-year course encompasses frequent guest speakers and outdoor excursions. You will be able to meet professionals from different backgrounds and careers, through which you can explore your interests. You will be expected to prepare for class discussions by completing the readings and preparing your thoughts on the topics.



Stephen ScharperStephen Scharper, PhD

Director, Trinity Integrated Sustainability Initiative


Research Interests: Past research concerns the involvement of religion in environmental concerns, and the type of rethinking within religious traditions the ecological challenge has spawned, especially in the areas of cosmology, ontology, religious anthropology, and ethics, with a specialization on the possibilities, prospects, and challenges of Christian involvement in this emerging conversation. Current research builds on my previous investigation into the ontological questions of the human role brought into question by ecological concerns and examines issues of poverty and social justice in connection to ecological approaches. I am continuing to probe the implications of the preferential option for the poor and a liberationist perspective for environmental studies. My research explores the question to what extent the “ecological crisis” runs along the same fault lines as economic, political, racial and gendered oppression, and the challenges raised by religious juxtaposition of social justice perspectives and cosmological perspectives in an environmental context.

Interesting fact: Stephen is a supporter of many environmental initiatives, such as the annual Ecologos Water Docs Film Festival.


Contact Us:

Susan He
Program Coordinator, Margaret MacMillan Trinity One


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