Navigation Links
Ethical issues ignored in teaching, research of sustainability

Just about everyone agrees that sustainability cutting energy use, reducing carbon emissions and, in general, keeping the Earth green is a good thing. But why do we think that? Do we support sustainability for the right reasons?

These are among the questions that Michigan State University's Michael Nelson addresses in a paper published this month in the journal Bioscience titled "Sustainability: Virtuous or Vulgar?"

Specifically, Nelson and co-author John Vucetich of Michigan Technological University argue that the issue of ethics is a vital component in the teaching and research of sustainability, but one that is sorely lacking.

"This debate," they write, "has almost entirely neglected a fundamental dimension of sustainability the ethical dimension. Lack of attention to the ethical dimension of sustainability is stifling progress toward sustainability."

Or, as Nelson puts it: "If we don't know where we're going, we won't know when we get there."

Nelson said that from the educational perspective, it's important that all aspects of sustainability are covered.

"Everything we do sends messages to our students," he said. "We see our students as people who will go out and do important things in this world. It's important how we nurture that."

The ultimate question, the authors say, is this: "Do we care about ecosystem health because ecosystems are intrinsically valuable, or do we care about ecosystem health because it serves human interests?"

While a question such as this is difficult to answer, Nelson said that "we are unlikely to achieve sustainability without knowing what it means."

In their paper, Nelson and Vucetich consider the most widely appreciated definitions of sustainability, which indicate at least roughly that sustainability is "meeting human needs in a socially just manner without depriving ecosystems of their health."

While the definition seems quite specific, it could mean anything from "exploit as much as desired without infringing on the future ability to exploit as much as desired" to "exploit as little as necessary to maintain a meaningful life."

"From a single definition rises two wildly disparate views of a sustainable world," said Vucetich. "Handling these disparate views is the inescapable ethical crisis of sustainability."

"The crisis results from not knowing what we mean by value-laden terms like 'ecosystem health' and 'human needs,'" Nelson said. "In other words, is ecosystem health defined by its ability to meet human needs only, or does ecosystem health define the limits of human need?"


Contact: Tom Oswald
Michigan State University

Related biology news :

1. NHGRI funds new Centers for Excellence in Ethical, Legal and Social Implications Research
2. Alternative food networks connect ethical producers and consumers and can lead to healthier eating
3. Reprogramming the debate: stem-cell finding alters ethical controversy
4. Synthetic Biology: funders move to address social and ethical challenges
5. Human embryonic stem cells developed from 4-cell embryo; world first may lessen ethical concerns
6. Human Microbiome Project awards funds for technology development, data analysis and ethical research
7. Dolphin cognitive abilities raise ethical questions, says Emory neuroscientist
8. AMP commends SACGHS whole genome sequencing focus, raises ethical questions and forms working group
9. Chloroplast f and m Thioredoxins Discovered in Nonphotosynthetic Tissues
10. 200 journals join in theme issues on poverty and human development
11. Knocking out cell receptor may help block fat deposits in tissues, prevent weight gain
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/20/2015)... , November 20, 2015 NXTD ... focused on the growing mobile commerce market and creator ... Gino Pereira , was recently interviewed on The ... air on this weekend on Bloomberg Europe , ... . --> NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" or the ...
(Date:11/18/2015)... Nov. 18, 2015  As new scientific discoveries deepen ... and other healthcare providers face challenges in better using ... patients. In addition, as more children continue to survive ... adulthood and old age. John M. Maris, ... Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) . --> ...
(Date:11/17/2015)... 17, 2015 Paris ... --> Paris , qui s,est ... DERMALOG, le leader de l,innovation biométrique, a inventé le ... et empreintes sur la même surface de balayage. Jusqu,ici, ... l,autre pour les empreintes digitales. Désormais, un seul scanner ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:12/1/2015)... , December 1, 2015 Dr. Harry Lander , ... serving as Chief Science Officer and recruits ... Harry Lander , President of Regen, expands his role to ... and recruits five distinguished scientists to join advisory ... expands his role to include serving as ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... , ... November 30, 2015 , ... Global Stem ... development stages of a new closed system for isolating adipose-derived stem cells. The announcement ... fraction (SVF) of adipose tissue. SVF is a component of the lipoaspirate obtained from ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... , December 1, 2015 Partnership includes an ... for the u niversity , ... support treatment s cale - up ... (ARVs)   Africa , where licensees based anywhere in the ... on SDN technology. --> Africa , where licensees based anywhere ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... November 30, 2015 , ... Imagine ... Jurassic World: The Exhibition, opening in March 2016 at Melbourne Museum in Melbourne, ... tour including several North American tour dates. The Exhibition is based on Universal ...
Breaking Biology Technology: