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Engineering LibreTexts

10: Sustainability - Ethics, Culture, and History

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    • 10.1: The Human Dimensions of Sustainability- History, Culture, Ethics
      Once we begin talking about sustainability, it’s hard to stop. That’s because sustainability is truly the science of everything, from technical strategies for repowering our homes and cars, to the ecological study of biodiversity in forests and oceans, to how we think and act as human beings.
    • 10.2: It’s Not Easy Being Green- Anti-Environmental Discourse, Behavior, and Ideology
      The consensus view among scientists and professional elites in the early twenty-first century, as it has been among environmental activists for a much longer time, is that our globalized industrial world system is on an unsustainable path. Inherent in this view is a stern judgment of the recent past: we have not adapted well, as a species, to the fruits of our own brilliant technological accomplishments, in particular, to the harnessing of fossil fuels to power transport and industry.
    • 10.3: The Industrialization of Nature- A Modern History (1500 to the present)
      It is a measure of our powers of normalization that we in the developed world take the existence of cheap energy, clean water, abundant food, and international travel so much for granted, when they are such recent endowments for humanity, and even now are at the disposal of considerably less than half the global population.
    • 10.4: Sustainability Studies- A Systems Literacy Approach
      Transition to a sustainable resource economy is a dauntingly large and complex project, and will increasingly drive research and policy agendas across academia, government, and industry through the twenty-first century. To theorize sustainability, in an academic setting, is not to diminish or marginalize it. On the contrary, the stakes for sustainability education could not be higher. The relative success or failure of sustainability education in the coming decades, and its influence on governme
    • 10.5: The Vulnerability of Industrialized Resource Systems- Two Case Studies
      Sustainability is best viewed through specific examples, or case studies. One way of conceiving sustainability is to think of it as a map that shows us connections between apparently unrelated domains or sequences of events. To cite an earlier example, what do the cornfields of Illinois have to do with the decline of fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico?
    • 10.6: Case Study- Agriculture and the Global Bee Colony Collapse
      Two thousand years ago, at the height of the Roman Empire, the poet Virgil wrote lovingly about the practice of beekeeping, of cultivating the “aerial honey and ambrosial dews” he called “gifts of heaven” (Georgics IV: 1-2). Bees represent a gift to humanity even greater that Virgil knew.
    • 10.7: Case Study- Energy and the BP Oil Disaster
      On the night of April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, one of hundreds operating in the Gulf of Mexico, exploded, killing eleven men, and placing one of the most rich and diverse coastal regions on earth in imminent danger of petroleum poisoning. BP had been drilling in waters a mile deep, and in the next two days, as the rig slowly sank, it tore a gash in the pipe leading to the oil well on the ocean floor.
    • 10.8: Sustainability Ethics
      The 1987 United Nations Brundtland definition of sustainability embodies an intergenerational contract: to provide for our present needs, while not compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. It’s a modest enough proposal on the face of it, but it challenges our current expectations of the intergenerational contract: we expect each new generation to be better off than their parents.