ENV333 Ecological Worldviews Syllabus

University of Toronto, Fall 2015


About This Course

A worldview can be understood as “a comprehensive model of reality” combining “beliefs, assumptions, attitudes, values, and ideas” (Schlitz, Vieten, & Miller, 2010, p. 19). We all hold basic – although often unconscious – assumptions about the very nature of reality, including our relationship with what is commonly called “nature” or “the environment.” As well, we have assimilated a variety of sensorial habits or filters that affect the way we perceive the world. These assumptions – together with sensorial and cognitive habits –may influence our ability to perceive the problems we face and also limit our imaginations, making it more difficult to conceive of a path toward ecological sustainability and social well-being. As Albert Einstein noted, “the significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” We may need a new vision of reality, or even a new modality of consciousness – a more ecological worldview – in order to address our most urgent crises and to create a more just and sustainable human society. ENV 333 explores how worldviews – including those with roots in scientific, religious, philosophical, and economic perspectives – have contributed to environmental and related social problems and how changes in our worldview might contribute to the solution of these problems. To delve into these questions, the course will examine the understanding of nature and environment in western, eastern, and indigenous traditions. As well, the course will explore a variety of ecological worldviews including deep ecology, ecofeminism, and social ecology as well as cosmogenic and liberatory perspectives.