PHIL-073/ ENVS-073: Climate Change and Global Justice
CWiC Critical Speaking Seminar, Fall 2009
Russell Lee, 1903-, photographer. Scrap and salvage depot, Butte, Mont. 1942 Oct.
Course and Contact Information
Monday/ Wednesday, 2-3:30
Office hours: 10-12 Tuesday, Weigle Information Commons/ also by appointment.
This course explores themes in consumer culture and climate change. The central
argument we examine in the course is the claim that American consumer culture is
detrimental to environmental health and that Americans ought, therefore, to consume less
or pay the full price for consuming as much as we do. Consumption is not typically taken
up in philosophy classes. But it has everything to do with seminal philosophical
questions: How should we live? What material circumstances are required for a good
life? Our inquiry will take us into a wide range of topics. These include: green
consumerism, recycling, e-waste (see picture above), culture jamming and planned
obsolesence. As the reader might gather, these are topics that bring us to the edge of
philosophy and to the beginning of popular culture. During the final portion of the
course, we will consider climate change. Our inquiry will be especially charged in light
of the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. We will attempt to
understand various positions on the international agreement regarding climate change,
some of which require that developed countries like the US cut back or compensate for
their high consumption rates.
As a CWiC course, this class is designed to help you improve as a public speaker.
You should use the course as an arena in which to explore your strengths and weaknesses
as a communicator, as an advocate or critic of a position, and as a place in which to try
new approaches to speaking in public. To those ends, you will work with a CWiC
advisor; we will frequently discuss topics related to public speaking; and all of the class
assignments will involve public speaking in some capacity. Previous experience in
public speaking and/or philosophy courses is not required.
To become well-informed about the ethical dimensions of consumer culture and
To improve communication skills including, for example, one‟s ability to listen,
to present ideas, and to critique other ideas constructively.
To enhance the ability to make cogent and compelling arguments to real, live
To arrive at well-informed and intellectually complex understanding of issues
(even if it only complicates one‟s ability to make an argument for the view!).
To identify controversial questions in readings and to reconstruct debates
surrounding those questions.
To design a rhetorically effective defense of a position.
Course Requirements and Grading
Participation (25%): the participation grade reflects class attendance and participation
and meetings with CWiC advisors. I will be taking attendance every day, and failure to
attend class will negatively impact your grade. Please notify me at least a day in advance
if you plan to be late for class. Being prepared for class requires that you will have
completed the assigned readings, that you actively listen to your peers, and that you
participate in discussions. We will discuss the expectations and ground rules regarding
participation in more detail in one of our early classes.
**Finally, during the course of the semester, you must meet with a CWiC advisor at least
twice outside of class. These meetings should be scheduled in advance of and in
preparation for any speaking assignments. During the meeting, your presentation will be
recorded, and you will watch and discuss the presentation with the advisor. You are
responsible for scheduling the meeting. Note that meetings cannot be scheduled without
48 hours of advance notice. One of the meetings must be scheduled in preparation for the
final project. The other should be scheduled in preparation for the Oct. 22 speech.
Assignments (55%): During the course, students will complete five speaking-related
assignments. Each counts for 10% of the student‟s grade, with the exception of the
debate, which counts for 15% of the grade.
Sept. 22: Presentation. You will present and discuss images of your choosing.
These images will illustrate accounts of aesthetic value that we will encounter in
the readings from the first section of class.
Oct. 8: Debate. You will engage in a debate on the benefits and drawbacks of
Oct. 22: Speech. You will make a speech about personal virtue and the
Oct. 13-Nov. 3: Discussion Leader. You will lead the class discussion of one of
Nov. 19-Dec.1: Panel Presentation. Student groups will give a presentation on one
proposal for an international agreement on climate change.
** Some of these assignments will require peer review – i.e. a process in which you will
constructively critique your peer‟s performance. Your completion of the peer review will
be reflected in your grade. Details on peer review and the way it will be used in each
assignment will be discussed in more detail in class prior to each assignment.
Final Project (20%): the final project is a YouTube video in which students will make a
speech on behalf on one proposal for an international agreement on climate change to a
sizeable audience. The speech will be recorded and posted on YouTube. The readings in
the final third of the class and a panel presentation (described above) will prepare
students to compose this speech. You must meet with your CWiC advisor to prepare for
CWiC Contact Information
The CWiC Speaking Center is in the Weigle Information Commons in Van Pelt Library,
Room 129. However, our class has its very own CWiC advisor. To schedule meetings
with your advisor, use the online scheduler on the left side of the CWiC home page
(under „schedule a session‟). Note that the CWiC advisor is not a TA for the course. Just
as a writing tutor advises on writing and not the content of one‟s paper, the CWiC advisor
is trained to advise on issues related to public speaking, but not on course content.
For more information about CWiC and other affiliate courses, see:
All course readings are on Blackboard: http://courseweb.library.upenn.edu.
1 Please come to class prepared and on time. Inform me at least a day in advance if
you plan to be late.
2 Late assignments will not be accepted. Extensions will be granted for extenuating
circumstances. Contact me at least a week in advance for an extension.
3 Computers are permitted in class for discussion of the articles and for notetaking.
DO NOT use your computers to surf the web or IM during class. You will be
marked as absent for the class if you do this.
4 Cell phone use is not permitted during class. „Use‟ includes text-messaging. You
will be marked as absent for the class if you do this.
5 I will not be Facebook friends with any students until the course has been
6 Expect responses to email no sooner than 24 hours after the email is sent.
7 For the final grade, no incompletes will be given unless student has a documented
family or personal emergency and has already substantially and satisfactorily
completed the coursework.
8 Plagiarism is a serious violation. If you plagiarize, you will receive an “F” for
9 Adhere to the Penn Code of Academic Integrity:
10 Feel free to express confusion or ignorance about any point. After all, this is
precisely the act that Socrates took to be the first step towards wisdom!
Schedule of Assignments
(subject to change)
Sept. 10 Introduction to the course
Aesthetics and the Natural Environment
Sept. 15 Henry David Thoreau, “Walking”
Allen Carlson, “Aesthetic Appreciation of the Natural Environment”
Sept. 17 Stan Godlovitch, “Icebreaker: Environmentalism and Natural Aesthetics.”
In-class activity: we will watch and discuss a speech on environmental values.
Sept. 22 Aesthetics presentations. Instructions to follow on Monday, Sept. 15.
In this section of the course, we will consider consumer culture (i.e. high-consumption lifestyle).
Developing countries like China, India and Brazil are poised to adopt more aspects of consumer
culture in the near future. But should or can we all seek this lifestyle? It may be the case that,
though consumer culture is part of the good life, it is inconsistent with the demands of
Sept. 24 Consumer culture
In class discussion: what factors do you take into consideration when buying an
IPod or other electronic devices for personal entertainment? For example, do
you consider: sound, convenience, or style?
Video: Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff
Short lecture: the spread of consumer culture to developing nations,
carrying capacity, sustainability, carbon footprint
Sept. 29 Arguments against consumer culture
John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society, selections. “The Imperative of
Consumer Demand; “Dependence Effect.”
Juliet Schor, “New Politics of Consumption,” Do Americans Shop Too Much?
Mark Sagoff, “Do We Consume Too Much?”
Oct. 6 Arguments in favor of consumer culture
Colin Campbell, “Consuming Goods and the Good of Consuming,” Critical
Review 8 (Fall 1994), 503-520.
James Twitchell, Two Cheers for Capitalism, Wilson Quarterly Spring 1999.
James Twitchell, “The Stone Age.” Do Americans Shop Too Much? Ed. Juliet
Michael Schudson, “Delectable Materialism: Second Thoughts on Consumer
Oct. 8 Consumer culture debate
Technology, Values and Lifestyle
Suppose that a change in consumption patterns in the US is needed. What form ought this change
to take? Some argue that a change of values and lifestyle is needed. Others claim that only
government regulation and the development of technology can change consumption patterns.
Still others act as if we can continue to consume in the same way, so long as we “buy green”
Oct. 13 Government regulation and technology
Field trip: PECO Green Roof. In lieu of the Oct. 13th class, we will visit the
PECO Green Roof on 23rd and Market. Date and time for visit to be scheduled
with students during the first or second class.
A green roof is a roof covered with a layer of vegetation. At approximately one
acre, PECO‟s green roof is the largest in the Philadelphia area and is a good
example of the kind of innovative technology solutions to problems associated
with global warming.
Preparation: Steven Peck and Jordan Richie, “Green Roofs and the Urban Heat
Oct. 15 Government regulation and technology
Michael Specter, “Big Foot,” New Yorker Feb. 25, 2008
Thomas Friedman, Hot, Flat and Crowded, selections.
Review of cap and trade and US economic policy on climate change
Both Specter and Friedman argue that the only effective way to address global
warming is through government regulation and technology. What arguments
does each provide?
Oct. 22 Lifestyle and Values
Dale Jamieson, “Ethics and Public Policy”
Michael Pollan, “Why Bother?” NYTimes.
In class-activity: we will view and discuss a speech on global warming.
Both Jamieson and Pollan argue that government regulation and technology
provide an insufficient response to global warming. What arguments does each
Assignment: prepare a short speech in which you argue for or against the
sufficiency of policy responses to global warming. Do not forget to schedule a
meeting with your CWiC advisor in preparation for this speech.
Oct. 27 Lifestyle and Values
Field trip: Blue Mountain Recycling Facility. Date and time for visit to be
scheduled with students during the first or second class.
Many of us recycle, but perhaps we do not really know why we recycle.
Recycling raises a host of criticisms and questions: Does it really help the
environment? Perhaps it even harms the environment! Why should I recycle if it
makes such a small contribution to a huge problem? Am I recycling simply to
feel good about myself? As part of our effort to tackle these questions, we will
visit the Blue Mountain Recycling Facility, which is less than a mile from Cohen
The following readings also address criticisms of recycling:
Frank Ackerman, Why Do We Recycle: Markets, Values and Public Policy 8
John Tierney, “Recycling is Garbage” NYTimes Magazine, June 30 1996
Richard Dennison and John Ruston, “Anti-Recycling Myths: Commentary on
„Recycling is Garbage‟,” Environmental Defense Fund, July 18, 1996. See
Optional: Kris Hardin, “Symbols” Sacred Trust, ed. Michael Katchin, 1993,
selections. Hardin addresses the claim that we recycle to feel better about
ourselves, but that recycling has little more than a symbolic value.
Oct. 29 Anti-consumerism
Some people believe that we should consume less – indeed, that we have a moral
obligation to consume less. This line of argument has a long history. We will
start with a selection from Roman physician of the 2nd century, Galen, and work
our way up to the present day expression to anti-consumerism.
Galen, Affections and Errors of the Soul, selections
Thoreau, Walden, selections
As part of your homework, peruse the Adbusters website. In class, we will
experiment with some “culture jamming.”
Nov. 3 Green consumerism and planned obsolesence
Many people have high hopes for the green consumer movement. Its guiding
idea is: we do not need to buy less as much as we need to buy smarter and
greener. E.g. Change your lightbulbs. Bring non-disposal bags to the grocery
store. Can green consumerism really be an important solution to our global
Alex Williams, “Buying Into the Green Movement,”
NYTimes July1, 2007. Williams recounts several arguments in favor of and
against green consumerism. What are the arguments?
In class, we will focus on one worry about green consumerism: what if so-called
green products are made to break or be replaced (planned and perceived
Start by looking at the following: (1) Apple‟s website:
http://www.apple.com/environment/. (2) IPod Touch environmental report.
Make note of at least one fact from each that you found surprising or interesting.
How do this website and the product description make you feel about Apple‟s
commitment to the environment? Does it seem like Apple cares about the
Next read and watch the following:
Made to Break, ch. 9 “Cell Phones and E-waste,” 261-281. What do you think
about Apple‟s commitment to the environment now? Does planned obsolescence
compromise the “greenness” of Apple‟s products?
Neistat Brothers, IPods Dirty Secret: http://www.ipodsdirtysecret.com/
In class, we will discuss our conclusions, and we will watch the following:
YouTube video: Steve Jobs and the IPod on SNL
Frontline: e-waste special
Climate Change and Global Justice
Carbon dioxide emissions are reponsible, in large part, for global warming. The US has 5% of the
world‟s population, but it yields 30% of the world‟s CO2 emissions. Is it fair for us to contribute
so much to the world‟s stock of CO2 emissions? Global warming has serious consequences for
the world‟s inhabitants; but it will effect the world‟s poor most of all. This means that the people
least responsible for causing global warming will bear the most serious consequences of global
warming. Is that fair? In this section of the course, we will study two topics. First, we will
attempt to discover how the world‟s poor are being affected by global warming.
Second, we will consider proposals for an international agreement on climate change. Proposals
have the following four basic plans. These are: (1) the “grandfather” plan: countries agree to
return to emissions levels in a certain year (e.g. 1990); (2) the green growth plan: countries
continue to pursue a strategy of maximum economic development, but commit to green
development; (3) historical responsibility plan: countries most responsible for causing global
warming are made responsible for fixing global warming; (4) equal shares plan: a per capita
allotment of emissions is allowed to each person in the world, and every country gets a
corresponding allowance of emissions.
Nov. 5 OPEN. Probably should be a class introducing the final project and on the
making of a YouTube video.
Nov. 10 The Effect of Climate Change
Roberts, T., Parks, B. 2006. “Globalization, Vulnerability to Climate
Change, and Perceived Injustice” in Society and Natural Resources. 19:4, 337-
Nov. 12 The Effect of Climate Change
Global Humanitarian Forum: Human Impact Report, Climate Change, 2009.
This is a long document. It is not necessary to read every word. However, do
find out: Why do the authors claim that it is difficult to gather information on the
effects of climate change? Keep notes on the information that is compelling and
interesting. You may need to come back to this information in the final project.
Nov. 17 The Effect of Climate Change: Future Generations
Suppose we have some moral obligations to help people suffering today from
climate change. But many scholars believe that the principal effects of climate
change will be felt by future generations.
Literature that examines the proposed effects of climate change on future
generations. Probably an excerpt from the IPCCC‟s latest report.
Page, E. 2006. Climate Change, Justice and Future Generations.
Cheltendham: Edward Elgar, 132 ff. Page, E. 2007. “Fairness on the Day After
Tomorrow: Justice, Reciprocity and Global Climate Change.” Political Studies
Edward Page asks: how do the claims of future generations affect the decisions
we make about climate change today? What is his answer?
Nov. 19 Equal Shares Plan
The equal shares plan gives countries emissions allowances that are based on a
per capita allotment of CO2 emissions. Peter Singer argues for an equal shares
plan. How would his plan work? What are its strengths and drawbacks, and how
does Singer address the plan‟s drawbacks?
Peter Singer, One World: the ethics of globalization, ch. 1.
Malik Amin Aslam, “Equal Per Capita Entitlements: A Key to Global
Participation on Climate Change?” World Resources Institute 2002
Nov. 24 Historical Responsibility Plan
The historical responsibility plan requires that the countries responsible for
global warming are correspondingly responsible for its mitigation. As such, the
historical responsibility plan is based on the familiar principle, „you broke it, you
fix it.‟ While that principle rings true in some cases, is it the right one to apply to
Rovere et al. “The Brazilian Proposal on Relative Responsibility for Global
Warming.” World Resources Institute 2002
Bear in mind that Singer also addresses the historical responsibility plan. Why
did he object to it?
Nov. 26 Thanksgiving Break!
Dec. 1 Green Growth Plan and the Grandfather Plan
When President Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol, he argued that instead of
adopting a grandfather plan (which would require that the US attempt to return to
1990 levels of CO2 emissions), the US ought to pursue a strategy of green
growth. That is, it should continue to pursue economic development at a
maximum pace, but that it should attempt, in the meantime, to make growth as
sustainable as possible.
Steve Vanderheiden, Atmospheric Justice, ch. 1
Dec. 3 Project work.
NOTE: remember to schedule meetings with your CWiC advisor!
Dec. 8 Project work
NOTE: the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference begins on Dec. 6
Dec. 10 Project presentations