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Engineering LibreTexts

14: Sustainability - Ethics, Culture, and History

  • Page ID
    44139
    • Page 14.1: 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.
    • Page 14.2: 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.
    • Page 14.3: 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.
    • Page 14.4: 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.
    • Page 14.5: 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.