University of Technology Sydney

78236 Environmental Ethics

Requisite(s): ((22 credit points of completed study in spk(s): C07122 Graduate Diploma Legal Studies OR 22 credit points of completed study in spk(s): C04264 Master of Legal Studies)) OR ((94 credit points of completed study in spk(s): C04236 Juris Doctor OR 142 credit points of completed study in spk(s): C04250 Juris Doctor Master of Business Administration OR 94 credit points of completed study in spk(s): C04363 Juris Doctor Master of Intellectual Property OR 94 credit points of completed study in spk(s): C04364 Juris Doctor Graduate Certificate Trade Mark Law and Practice) AND 70106c Principles of Public International Law AND 70107c Principles of Company Law) OR (94 credit points of completed study in spk(s): C04320 Juris Doctor Graduate Certificate Professional Legal Practice AND 70106 Principles of Public International Law)
The lower case 'c' after the subject code indicates that the subject is a corequisite. See definitions for details.
There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


This subject explores moral obligations stemming from humans’ relationship to the environment, and the role of law and legal systems in translating those obligations into ethical decision-making. An important part of the subject is the identification and evaluation of normative restraints that should inform human interactions with the living and non-living components of the environment. This draws students’ focus towards ecological justice theory and the claims of non-humans to their place in nature and their portion of the world's resources. The discussion also links ecological justice theory to the emerging field of compassionate conservation that examines the ethics of environmental decision-making in biodiversity protection, as well as analysing environmental criminology that examines issues such as over-fishing and laws relating to wildlife smuggling.

In addition to ecological justice, the subject also includes an analysis of environmental justice, a doctrine that originally focused on distributive justice, more specifically, the distribution of environmental risks and benefits among humans. Environmental justice, however, quickly expanded to include capacity, recognition and procedural justice. Its importance is demonstrated by evaluating real-world examples, such as government decisions that allow the operation of high-risk or pollutant industries in areas inhabited by disadvantaged communities; and how populations in developing countries can obtain justice when a multinational corporation poisons their drinking water.

Students study these topics against the backdrop of the role of law in enforcing and protecting environmental rights and responsibilities. Examples and readings are widely drawn, including from international law and comparative case studies. This means that while the subject is underpinned by legal theory, it also proffers an 'applied theory' approach so that student learning is practice-oriented. The theoretical and ethical components are used to evaluate and analyse issues and problem questions that deal with real-world environmental issues on which legal professionals provide advice in professional practice. The learning materials and assessments are designed to elicit discussion for both current environmental issues as well as those likely to occur in the future. Successful completion of the subject complements student learning in other environmental law subjects, including international environmental law, climate law and international trade law and the environment.

Detailed subject description.

Access conditions

Note: The requisite information presented in this subject description covers only academic requisites. Full details of all enforced rules, covering both academic and admission requisites, are available at access conditions and My Student Admin.