I'm teaching a lower-level Introduction to Ethics course this year (4 or 5 times), and I have a grant to design it with a sustainability focus. A focus on sustainability fits well with RIT's recent (baby) steps toward energy conservation, and the school's "common book" this year is Bill McKibben's Deep Economy.
I'll use Deep Economy in the course alongside selections from classic primary texts (the usual suspects: Mill, Kant) and some recent but equally common selections on environmental ethics and lifeboat ethics.
I'm pleased with the university's pick of this common text because it provides a framework to bring a discussion of some of my long-time personal interests into the classroom--food ethics, media consolidation, and distributed power generation. There is a confluence, of course, between my pragmatic, pluralist, and empirical philosophical commitments and these issues. And the sustainability framework gives a reason to emphasize social/political philosophy as much as the standard ethical approaches (Aristotle, Kant, Mill). I also like having a unified problem-based framework rather than a grab-bag of issues, some of which seem outdated or distant from my (and my students') experience, such as euthanasia and capital punishment.
But designing the course is not without problems:
1. The problem of burn-out and closed-mindedness on environmental issues. Although I don't think these issues are strictly partisan, people who listen to conservative talk radio have been told that they are. And an Institute-wide emphasis on sustainability could make philosophy seem mainstream rather than exciting and subversive.
2. There are many special events coordinated by the university and related to the Deep Economy book and the topic of sustainability. Bill McKibben is coming to talk, and so is Peter Singer. There will be tours to local farms and to Ithaca's EcoVillage. I can't make these course requirements because of the time slots they are in. But the topic of the course lends itself well to experiential learning, and I can make that a requirement. However, I have large sections of this course--2 sections of 40 each--so I can't exercise the guidance that I do in an upper-level Environmental Philosophy course. How will self-guided experiential learning projects go over in a lower-level course? Does anyone have experience with this?
3. Of course, there are no ready-made textbooks. I'm putting together a coursepack and, even at this late date, would love to hear reading suggestions!