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?

Related Articles


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 December 22, 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 December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Fish Species Discovered, Setting Record for World's Deepest

New Fish Species Discovered, Setting Record for World's Deepest

Buzz60 (Dec. 22, 2014) A new species of fish is discovered living five miles beneath the ocean surface, making it the deepest living fish on earth. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

AP (Dec. 21, 2014) Officials have opened a new road on Hawaii's Big Island for drivers to take care of their daily needs if encroaching lava from Kilauea Volcano crosses a highway and cuts them off from the rest of the island. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Cheap Oil Help Fix U.S. Roads?

Could Cheap Oil Help Fix U.S. Roads?

Newsy (Dec. 21, 2014) As falling oil prices boost Americans' spending power, the U.S. government is also gaining flexibility from savings on oil. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Russian Surfers Brave Icy Cold Waters

Raw: Russian Surfers Brave Icy Cold Waters

AP (Dec. 20, 2014) Surfers in Russia's biggest port city on the Pacific Ocean, Vladivostok, were enjoying the sport on Saturday despite below freezing temperatures and icy cold waters. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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