DEMS 3707: Disaster Ethics

Undergraduate course, York University, School of Administrative Studies, 2018

Disasters and emergencies are full of ethical dilemmas. If you can’t save everyone, for instance, who should you save? Is it okay to break laws or normal moral codes during moments of emergency? What obligations do you have to respond to a disaster in front of you – or halfway around the world? Should we prioritize protecting people from asteroids, car accidents, or heart attacks? These aren’t abstract questions of Plato and Aristotle: these are real, life-and-death decisions that force us to think about what we hold to be ethically correct and morally admirable.

In this class, we use emergencies and disasters to explore a variety of ethical issues and perspectives.

Throughout our time together, we have three objectives:

  1. To become familiar and comfortable with the basic ‘building blocks’ of ethical reasoning; to develop skills in thinking about and making ethical arguments; and to be able to better understand, explain, and engage with the ethical positions of others.
  2. To become effective in applying these ethical perspectives to disasters and emergencies, in the service of managing them in more just ways.
  3. To be familiar with professional ethics, including in the field you are considering practicing in long-term.

Official Course Calendar Description

Explores ethical uncertainties associated with disasters and emergencies and develops a basic understanding of ethical decision-making processes and moral reasoning. Also explores the moral imperatives associated with emergency management in a variety of contexts, locally and globally. Emphasis is on applied ethics, development of moral competence in response to issues, and implications for socially responsive environmental and disaster management.

Prerequisites: AP/ADMS 1000 3.00 and AP/ADMS/DEMS 2700 3.00. Cross-Listing: AP/ADMS 3707 3.00