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Environmental ethics explored in CMC course

Perhaps you think not another tree should be logged in the forest.

Or maybe you’re convinced the chain saw was the best human invention since the wheel.

But have you ever stopped to ask why you hold whatever beliefs you do about the environment?



Jim Olp believes it’s a question worth asking.

Starting Wednesday, he will be leading a “Philosophy of Environment” class at Colorado Mountain College’s Glenwood Center.



He wrote recently to prospective students, “It is my belief that even though many of us are deeply involved in environmentally related questions and issues, we seldom take the time to reflect upon and examine the philosophical, ethical (and even moral) history, implications and underpinnings of our commitments and beliefs.”

His class is aimed at exploring the reasons for people’s environmental beliefs and the responsibilities they owe to nature and each other.

“Is there a right and wrong inherent in the environment and/or our treatment of the environment?” he asks.

While Olp has a background as an environmentalist, he’s not hoping to fill his class with ardent advocates of environmental protection. Students who have signed up include a Forest Service employee, a musician, a retired engineer and a representative of a local environmental group. He also has invited a local rancher, writers and others to participate.

“I tried to get people of different opinions,” he said. “I think there’s going to be a sharp group of people with different ideas.”

He also expects some of his students to have stronger backgrounds in the environment and philosophy than he does. He plans to run the class as a seminar, facilitating discussion as much as instructing.

“I think the students will do as much teaching as I will, if not more,” he said.

Olp has long taught business and accounting at CMC, but he also has taken philosophy classes himself. He recently worked as director of the Conservation Science Center for Yellowstone Ecosystem Studies, a research and education nonprofit located in Montana at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

In addition, he formerly was chairman of the board in Colorado of Sinapu, a group originally devoted to wolf reintroduction, and now a group advocating more generally on behalf of wild carnivores and their habitat.

He said he has been involved in grassroots environmentalism for more than two decades.

“There’s always a lot of enthusiasm at the grass roots, but there’s not a lot of grounding on what they stand for and what they believe in. I hope this brings grounding,” he said.

He said he made a point to reach out to leaders who can teach others about the basis of environmental viewpoints.

He hopes for the class to include field trips, and also visits by guest speakers such as environmental authors and journalists.

The class will run every Wednesday from 6 to 8:50 p.m., through April 30. Registration will be accepted up to the start of the first class.


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