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Reducing Pessimism's Sway in The Environmental Ethics Classroom

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Increased awareness of the breadth and depth of existing environmental challenges is part of an environmental education. One effect of this increased awareness that can manifest itself in the environmental ethics classroom is pessimism. I outline two varieties of pessimism that have a tendency to hold sway in the environmental ethics classroom: 1) pessimism about the general state of the environment; and, 2) pessimism about being able to do anything about the general state of the environment. After outlining a few of the potential educational and vocational consequences of allowing pessimism to take root, I offer a pedagogical method for reducing the sway of pessimism in the classroom. I argue that William James' and John Dewey's writings on the subject of meliorism offer a framework that, when combined with some of the insights of incrementalism theory in environmental policy, can not only help students to reduce the sway of pessimism in the classroom, but also in their chosen career paths by, among other things, highlighting the "possibility of possibility".


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