280.940 Land Use Ethics
This course is in all assigned curricula part of the STEOP.
This course is in at least 1 assigned curriculum part of the STEOP.

2021W, SE, 2.0h, 3.0EC

Course evaluation


  • Semester hours: 2.0
  • Credits: 3.0
  • Type: SE Seminar
  • Format: Distance Learning

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of the course, students are able to...

After successful completion of the course, students are familiar with a selection of ethical approaches to the use of land. Aldo Leopold, in his 1949 book “A Sand County Almanac”, inaugurated “land ethic” as a field of applied ethics. Students will learn about a variety of applications to land policy, property, and planning.

Subject of course

Aldo Leopold, in his 1949 book »A Sand County Almanac«, inaugurated »land ethic« as a field of applied ethics. Leopold’s land ethic »changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.« Leopold demanded: 

»Quit thinking about decent land-use as solely an economic problem. Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and esthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.«

Leopold spoke of a »cowman who cleans his range of wolves« and disrupts the ecological balance between wolves, deer and vegetation. The cowman, Leopold claimed, caused an ecological disaster because he »has not learned to think like a mountain.« The seminar will examine how various members of the land community might be thinking and which consequences »thinking like a mountain« has for land use ethics.

In order to frame our discussion, we shall use a model from John Rawls’ theory of justice: The veil of ignorance. The veil of ignorance conceals to the members of a constitutional assembly who they are. The members of the constitutional assembly have full information and data for their country and society, but since they do not know who they are, they cannot tailor the constitution according to their needs and preferences (and the famous difference principle emerged). Rawls developed his theory of justice for human animals. Although he wrote his book at the beginning of environmental activism (1971), he left it to others to ponder environmental justice and land use ethics. Which principles of justice would emerge from a constitutional assembly behind the veil of ignorance, if not only human animals participate ... but also non-human animals, plants, rivers, mountains, the land?

Teaching methods

Discourse analysis; literature review; student presentations; break-out groups; active participation in discussions

Mode of examination


Additional information


Online seminar organizer     

Ben Davy (TU Wien / University of Johannesburg /
TU Dortmund / RWTH Aachen)


You’re welcome to ask benjamin.davy@udo.edu


Please consider the plagiarism guidelines of TU Wien when writing your seminar paper: Directive concerning the handling of plagiarism (PDF)



Course dates

Wed16:00 - 18:0013.10.2021 ZOOM-Meeting (LIVE)Basic concepts of land use ethics: From Aldo Leopold to COVID-19
Wed16:00 - 18:0020.10.2021 ZOOM-Meeting (LIVE)Aldo Leopold’s land ethic: Thinking like a mountain and the community concept
Wed16:00 - 18:0027.10.2021 ZOOM-Meeting (LIVE)What is land? What is the value of land? What land ethics exist?
Wed16:00 - 18:0003.11.2021 ZOOM-Meeting (LIVE)Orthodox moral values: Justice and the dignity of human animals
Wed16:00 - 18:0010.11.2021 ZOOM-Meeting (LIVE)Random planning values: Sustainability, resilience, etc.
Wed16:00 - 18:0024.11.2021 ZOOM-Meeting (LIVE)Aldo Leopold and John Rawls: Thinking behind the veil of ignorance … about land uses!
Wed16:00 - 18:0001.12.2021 ZOOM-Meeting (LIVE)Thinking like a landowner: The ethics of private property in land
Wed16:00 - 18:0008.12.2021 ZOOM-Meeting (LIVE)Thinking like a woman: Ecofeminism as land ethics
Wed16:00 - 18:0015.12.2021 ZOOM-Meeting (LIVE)Thinking like a tree: The ethics of rights in nature
Wed16:00 - 18:0012.01.2022 ZOOM-Meeting (LIVE)Thinking like a non-human animal: Food, pet, or foe?
Wed16:00 - 18:0019.01.2022 ZOOM-Meeting (LIVE)Thinking like the future: Climate change, extinction, and the well-being of next generations
Wed16:00 - 18:0026.01.2022 ZOOM-Meeting (LIVE)Thinking again: Take-away points from Leopold, Rawls, and others

Examination modalities

Presentation (30%), active participation (30%), 5-page seminar paper (40%).

Course registration

Begin End Deregistration end
06.09.2021 10:00 12.10.2021 12:00 12.10.2021 12:00


The student has to be enrolled for at least one of the studies listed below


Study CodeSemesterPrecon.Info
066 440 Spatial Planning


No lecture notes are available.