1.2 Ethics of Sustainability



1.2 Ethics of Sustainability

Motivations for exploring sustainability can be different depending on your world view: logic, emotion or instinct can be the drivers. Generally they are based around concepts of humanity inherently striving for survival. The following are three viewpoints for sustainability:

The Ecologist Doesn't see the human race as a separate entity from the planet and its resources, but part of it. Their motivations for preserving the planet are that nature and humanity have an inherent value and should be protected because of that.

The Environmentalist Sees nature or the planet as separate from the human race. It is there for humans, and as such humans should have stewardship over the world. They see the planet as something to be preserved so that humans can survive and evolve.

The Economist Understands the measures of unsustainability arising from a consumer led culture treating finite resources as an income, but has faith that market forces and abusiness as usualapproach will result in a natural crisis aversion occurring; that the system will sort itself out through technological advances if left to its own devices.

It is not intended to go deeply into philosophy in this module, but it is important to consider for yourself what motivations you may have, (if any) on this subject. To assess motivations you first need to place yourself with or in the world, and this is a subjective experience.

Engineers have a role in society to design and implement systems that benefit humanity. Before an engineer can undertake a project, they must first have a full grasp of their motivations for being an engineer, and whether the aims and objectives of the project fit in with their ethical standpoint.



Imagine you work for a civil engineering company and your company has been asked to build a road through ancient woodland. The construction of the road will destroy the habitat of an endangered snail. Opponents to the road say that ancient woodland has an inherent value, and it is a travesty to wipe out the only place this snail lives in the world. Supporters of the road argue that it will bring social and economic benefits to the village it is connecting, which is inhabited by many people living in poverty. They argue that the economic benefits of the road will increase the quality of life for the residents of the village. The company you work for stand to make a large profit by securing the contract to build the road.

What would be the primary concerns for an ecological engineer, an environmental engineer and an economical engineer?

Would anything change if it was panda rather than a snail that was endangered?

Worldwide trends will now be presented to illuminate the concepts of why people are talking about sustainability. These come under two themes: exponential growth of population and consumption (the needs as expressed above) and associated limits to growth due to depleted resources and increasing pollution resulting from the consumption of the resources.