Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ethical issues ignored in teaching, research of sustainability, expert argues

Date:
July 1, 2010
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
Just about everyone agrees that sustainability is a good thing. But why do we think that? Do we support sustainability for the right reasons? These are among the questions that are addressed in a new academic paper.

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?"

Nelson is an associate professor with appointments in MSU's Lyman Briggs College and the departments of Fisheries and Wildlife and Philosophy. Vucetich is an assistant professor in MTU's School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "Ethical issues ignored in teaching, research of sustainability, expert argues." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 July 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100701183528.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2010, July 1). Ethical issues ignored in teaching, research of sustainability, expert argues. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100701183528.htm
Michigan State University. "Ethical issues ignored in teaching, research of sustainability, expert argues." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100701183528.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) Mount Paektu volcano in North Korea is showing signs of life and there's not much known about it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins