Identify a moral dilemma in environmental ethics.
The dilemma should have two opposing sides, each with its own arguments. The two sides will have competing goods; that is, benefits that will come if their actions are taken or principles they do not want to compromise. Of course, each side will likely also have harms that will result if their preferred actions are taken, a fact that their opponent will use against them. The sharper the conflict between the two sides the easier it will be to write the case. See the list of “Sample Topics” in reading assignments for Unit One.
Create a fictional situation.
The situation may be a crisis to which the major character (the hero/heroine or person caught in the middle) is forced to decide between the two positions in order to resolve the situation. Introduce the situation and the central character and describe his/her problem in the first two paragraphs of the case.
Create a dialogue between the characters.
This character will then debate the issues with one or more additional characters. Perhaps each new character could represent one of the two opposing positions. Most of the case should consist of this debate as dialogue. The characters should debate what ought to be done in this particular situation in concrete terms and give reasons why. The best cases are about specific situations. The characters disagree about what should be done in that local situation and why. Generalities are best left for the commentary.
Conclude the case.
The best case studies do not resolve the dilemma but to end with the central character(s) forced by circumstances to make a tough decision, one way or the other. You do not say what the character(s) decide. This leaves the reader with the task of figuring out for him/herself what the decision ought to be. Or, if you feel strongly that one side of the dilemma is preferred over the other, your central character(s) may resolve the dilemma and take action. The reader is then left to judge if the decision was correct.
Guidelines for the Commentary (1,000)
The commentary is your evaluation of the case based on your reading and research. You should explain why your characters take their positions on the issue and why they argue the way they do. You can bring in facts or examples from real-life cases and refer to the experts who represent each side. Cite your sources with footnotes or endnotes and include a bibliography.
Your case will be no better than the research on which it is based. You should be as fully informed as possible about the issue. The University library carries a number of excellent journals and magazines on the environment, not to mention the fine book collection. Also, the Internet is a great source for special interest groups or organizations and governmental agencies that advocate one position or another or who provide facts. Take full advantage of it.
Examples of case studies with commentaries
The course text (Gudorf and Huchingson) consists almost entirely of case studies written with these guidelines in mind. Use them as your models.
For this assignment I had to turn in a proposal, you don’t need to use those sources but here is my case study proposal:
Case Study Proposal: Justified Homicide
For this case study I would like to explore the topic of justified homicide. Whether killing poachers of rare wild animals is ethical or defending these poachers because they have human rights. According to PetPedia, an online knowledge resource, poachers kill thousands of endangered animals every day, and around 30,000 animal species are driven to extinction because of this industry. While poachers are killing off various species of wild animals at an alarming rate, and are seen as awful people who are doing awful things, they aren’t what the average person would imagine them to be. Poachers are not the “ringleader” of their operations and are hardly ever the main beneficiary or person gaining the most profits from these wild animals.Many poachers are poor, and uneducated. The United Nations, an intergovernmental organization, states that some basic human rights are the right to life, and the right to work and education. Further arguments towards the human rights of these poachers can be brought up in the case study.
On the opposite side is an argument to kill these poachers and to let them meet the same fate of the animals they killed. If any sentient creature deserves the same moral treatment then these poachers should not be considered for anyone’s remorse. After all, many people feel and care deeply about the well being of animals more than they do people. The poachers are not doing any favors by exterminating precious life on earth, life that can’t speak up for itself. As the silver rule states “Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.”
Anthropocentric ideals would value human life more than the life of animals. Other ideals, while a bit more complicated, would say that animals have their own intrinsic value to humans. These rare wild animals also have their own “telos” while they are aware of it or not, they have goals and a will to survive. Each side has compelling arguments because being ethical is not just black and gray. It is not easy to say yes this is ethical or no this is not ethical, there are many different arguments that arise.
After reading my proposal he accepted my case study and left me these comments:
“You seem to cover most of the bases in this complicated issue. One question concerns the value of an entire endangered species vs the life of one human or even several humans.”
Thank you again for all your time and hard work!