Wild Rockies Field Institute

Environmental Ethics: Global Climate Change and Visions of a Sustainable Future

Dates: July 24 -August 12, 2018

Cost: $3,245

Semester Credits: 3

Philosophy 323: Environmental Ethics and Global Climate Change (3 credits)


How is global climate change fundamentally altering our world?  What would a truly sustainable world that effectively addresses the challenge of climate change look like?  How should we relate to the natural world?  This course will take you to the Crown of the Continent in northwestern Montana where you will backpack and explore one of the most spectacular intact mountain ecosystems in the world while studying possible answers to these questions.

The field of environmental ethics questions what our relationship with the natural world should be and the issue of global climate change requires that we find an answer.  Drawing on the great ethical conditions of western philosophy and going beyond these traditions when necessary, this course will focus on the application of environmental ethics to the fundamental issues raised by global climate change.  Students will learn the essential elements of climate change science and see the effects of climate change on plant and animal species as well as the famous glaciers of Glacier National Park.  This experiential understanding of the effects of climate change will give students a concrete basis for beginning to formulate a vision of a truly sustainable future for both humans and more than human others.

The course will begin in Missoula, Montana on the University of Montana campus where students will meet with climate change scientists and environmental ethics scholars to discuss the current status of climate change and the application of environmental ethics to issues raised by anthropogenic climate change.  From there the group will travel to the Rocky Mountain Front to meet with federal land management agencies, conservation groups and the local farming/ranching community to discuss the effects of climate change.  The Rocky Mountain Front serves as the launching point for a week-long backpacking trip in the Great Bear Wilderness Area where students will see the effects of climate change on Whitebark pine ecosystems and Pika populations in high elevation communities.  A subsequent trip to the Blackfeet Reservation will introduce the group to traditional Native American perspectives on the relationship between the human and non-human world through discussions with tribal elders and educators.  Finally, the group will travel to Glacier National Park to observe and discuss the effects of climate change on glaciers, wolverines, and alpine ecosystems with National Park scientists. 

Over the course of three weeks, student work will examine the political, social, economic, and cultural changes required to effectively address climate change.  Through selected readings, small-group discussions, visits with guest speakers, first-hand experience, and daily written journal assignments, students will immerse themselves in environmental ethics, climate change science, and conservation biology.  Upon completion of this course, students will be expected to articulate their vision of a truly “sustainable” future that addresses the challenges of global climate change.  Permited activity will take place on Lewis and Clark National Forest.


Enrollment will be limited to twelve [12] students. Our courses are multidisciplinary and our students come from all majors. There are no academic prerequisites for any of our courses. The best background is a sense of curiosity, a willingness to take responsibility for your academic growth, and a love of adventure. No prior backcountry experience is necessary, but this is a physically demanding course and students are advised to arrive good physical condition. This course takes place in high elevation settings and some backpacking sections will be physically challenging.

WRFI accepts students on a rolling admission basis and will review applications immediately upon receiving them. Currently, WRFI is accepting applications for all 2018 courses.

The first payment of 25% of tuition will be due three weeks after acceptance.

Apply Here!


$3,245 per student includes tuition, dinner food, on-course transportation, group camping and cooking gear, and incidental fees (maps, charts, study guides, etc.). Students will be expected to provide their own breakfast and lunch meals, and to print the course text. An additional $155 filing fee is required to receive academic credit for the course from the University of Montana.

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