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Thomas C. Hilde

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Tom Hilde is associate research professor in the School of Public Policy, associate director of international programs, director of Peru and Indonesia programs, and senior fellow in the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM). 

He teaches courses in sustainable development, environmental ethics, international environmental agreements, and policy and ethics. He also created and directs a graduate field course that, since 2011, travels each year to Indonesia (Bali, Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Java) to study complex adaptive social-ecological systems, land use change, and sustainable development. He directs another course in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest and Andes mountains that examines the conflicts between resource extraction, forest conservation, and native communities, as well as migration due to economic and environmental pressures.

Hilde was trained in philosophy, writing on philosophical pragmatism and global displacement (PhD, Pennsylvania State University). He moved to UMD from New York University, where he directed the Environmental Conservation Education Program and the Applied Philosophy Group, and taught interdisciplinary seminars in environmental politics and ethics, globalization, and international development. He has also taught symbolic logic and philosophy of technology at Texas A&M University. He has done work for the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the Center for American Progress, and China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, and has developed programs for Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry and National Development Planning Agency. Hilde was a Fulbright scholar in Venezuela in 2005 and Edmond J. Safra Network Fellow at Harvard University in 2014-2015.

His research and publications involve conceptual and normative analysis and evaluation of complex adaptive social-ecological systems, and adaptive institutions and governance in the areas of international environmental policy and ethics, sustainable development, democracy and human rights, climate change adaptation, and agriculture and food security. Prof. Hilde edited the books, The Agrarian Roots of Pragmatism (2000 with Paul B. Thompson) and On Torture (2008), a subject on which he has also given congressional testimony. He also translated from French Stalinism and Nazism: History and Memory Compared (2004). His most recent and current work is on sustainable adaptation in Balinese rice and irrigation terrace systems (subaks), pragmatism and policy analysis, and illegal gold mining and deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

Areas of Interest
  • Political philosophy & ethics; norms & compliance in international environmental law; climate change adaptation & local indigenous environmental governance systems
3 Credit(s)

Addressing the formidable challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, and the unjust distribution of environmental harms and benefits necessitates a philosophical understanding and reassessment of the ethical frameworks, norms, and concepts that inform and drive public policy and shape society. This course examines diverse modes of valuation of and obligations to the natural environment, particularly as related to the normative bases of environmental policy. Topics discussed include the different roles of economic and environmental values and norms in policy, obligations to nonhuman animals and ecosystems, obligations to future generations, biodiversity conservation, and the “slow violence” of environmental harms towards the poor and marginalized. The course considers contemporary debates in climate justice, including questions about intergenerational and intragenerational justice, the distribution of responsibilities for mitigation and adaptation among countries, inequalities and vulnerabilities exacerbated by climate change, and moral hazard and other ethical problems involved in geoengineering solutions to the climate crisis.
Schedule of Classes

Faculty: Thomas C. Hilde