Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Winter-Spring 2009 Environment and Health Seminar Series

Centre for Environment, University of Toronto

THUR MARCH 26, 4:10 p.m.
Room 108, Health Sciences Building
155 College St., at McCaul St.
Location map
DENNIS O’HARA, St Michaels College, University of Toronto
(brief bio below)

"Awakening Environmental and Health Ethics to the Post-Copernican Universe"
(abstract below)

No registration or fee required; all are welcome.

Parking available at 256 McCaul Street just south of College Street
Link for the map

Seminars are subject to change or cancellation.
Visit for schedule updates, abstracts and speakers' bios.
To receive regular email messages with the same information, please contact
Pavel Pripa (416-978-3475;

ABSTRACT: Most ethical theories and methods, including those used in ecological ethics, deal with proper human behaviour to promote human flourishing. However, in a post-Darwinian world in which we understand humans to be derivative from and dependent upon Earth’s systems, ethics tends to favour a pre-Copernican understanding of the primary role and stature of the humanity. Too often, it continues to formulate its positions as if humans were separate from the rest of the Earth community, and as if humans were primary and all else was of secondary importance. That is, even while it acknowledges that we live in an evolutionary universe, this new context for understanding the human and its place in creation has not sufficiently transformed ethical theories and methods. While it might be obvious that it is not possible to have healthy humans on a sick planet, why hasn’t ethics taken this maxim seriously, and what would happen if it did? If we adopted a more ecocentric and less anthropocentric approach to ethics, how might this alter the questions we ask and the decisions we make concerning environmental and health issues?

BRIEF BIO: Dr. O’Hara began his career as a chiropractor and naturopathic doctor, as a practitioner in private practice as well as an educator at the colleges of both of those professions. He has been a consultant to the Natural Health Products Directorate of Health Canada, and was a co-investigator in a 5 year CIHR funded project to establish the Canadian Interdisciplinary Network for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research. He has prepared a description of the naturopathic profession for the World Health Organization. In 1998, he received his doctorate from the University of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. Since 2000, he has been an Assistant Professor at the University of St. Michael’s College, and the Director of the Elliott Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology. He is also an associate member of the graduate faculty at the Centre for Environment at the University of Toronto. Since 2004, he has been a core faculty member of the certificate programme in Corporate Social Responsibility at the University of St. Michael’s College and is currently co-developing a course on corporate social responsibility for the United Nations that links the Millennium Development Goals with business, environmental and ethical concerns.

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