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A Question of Ethics. Michael Donnelly (Realeyes Sustainability) Patricia Mackey (Sustainable NI). Why sustainability matters. What is Sustainable Development?. Securing the Future, UK's Sustainable Development Strategy, HM Government 2005.

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A Question of Ethics

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A question of ethics

A Question of Ethics

Michael Donnelly (Realeyes Sustainability)

Patricia Mackey (Sustainable NI)

Why sustainability matters

Why sustainability matters

What is sustainable development

What is Sustainable Development?

Securing the Future, UK's Sustainable Development Strategy,

HM Government 2005

“To enable all people throughout the world to satisfy their basic needs & to enjoy a better quality of life…

…without compromising the quality of life of future generations”

Why sustainability matters living within environmental limits

Why sustainability matters: living within environmental limits

Clean air & water, Stable climate

Viable forests & fisheries, Biodiversity

Population increase from 6 to 9 bn

Consumption per head increases 4 - 6x

Source: The Natural Step

An alternative view of development

An alternative view of development

Aim = Quality of Life for All




Where we need to be

Aim = Growth




Where we are now….

Five principles of sustainable development

Five principles of sustainable development

  • Living within environmental limits:

  • Respect limits of environment, resources & biodiversity

  • Ensure natural resources to support life remain unimpaired

  • Ensuring a strong, healthy & just society:

  • Meeting diverse needs of all

  • Promote personal wellbeing, social cohesion & inclusion

  • Create equal opportunity

  • Achieving a sustainable economy:

  • Strength, stability, prosperity & equal opportunity

  • Polluter Pays

  • Efficient resource use

  • Promoting good governance:

  • Participative governance across society

  • Engage people’s creativity, energy & diversity

  • Using sound science responsibly:

  • Policies developed & implemented according to sound science

  • Precautionary Principle

  • Public attitudes & values reflected

Source: Securing the Future, UK's Sustainable Development Strategy, HM Government 2005

Beyond the environment the triple bottom line

Beyond the environment: the triple bottom line

Living within environmental limits:

Ensure natural resources to support life remain unimpaired





Ensuring a strong, healthy & just society:

Meet diverse needs of all; promote wellbeing, inclusion & equal opportunity






Achieving a sustainable economy:

Strong, stable, efficient & fair





Global challenges

Global Challenges

Climate change why it s happening

Climate Change: Why it’s happening

  • Without heat trapping “Greenhouse gases” Earth would be 25C cooler

  • Human activity is increasing levels of greenhouse gases in atmosphere

    • CO2 has increased from 280 to 380 ppm

    • Rising between 2 and 3 ppm/year

    • Main source is fossil fuel combustion for energy and transport

  • Average surface warming of 1 to 6C expected

What s at stake projected global risks

What’s at stake: projected global risks

Monbiot: 90% cut by 2030

Tyndall: 90% cut by 2050

UK Gov: 60% cut by 2050

  • Rice yields fall 15%

  • Increasing extreme weather events

  • Indian Ocean coral dies

  • 400m extra in water stress

  • 5m extra in hunger

  • 18% species loss

  • Greenland icecap melts

  • 97% coral reefs bleach

  • Arctic summer sea ice melts

  • 2.3-3bn water shortage

  • 200m more at risk from malaria

  • Ecosystem collapse

  • Major city flood risk

  • >50% species loss

  • “Runaway” climate change

  • - Forest die-back

  • - Permafrost melt

  • - Carbon release from soils

  • Human cost?




We already have the solutions

We already have the solutions

Public Transport

Passive Design




Emissions Trading

Pollution damaging health and the environment

Pollution: damaging health and the environment

  • “UK air pollution more dangerous than Chernobyll”

    • 24,000 premature deaths per year (Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution)

  • Over 100,000 man-made chemicals exist

    • Only 3,500 have been adequately tested for health and environmental impacts

  • Over 300 man-made chemicals can be found in the average European’s blood

  • With globalisation, Europe is exporting its pollution overseas

Upstream prevention is cheaper than downstream clean up

Waste our throwaway economy

Waste: our throwaway economy

10 x

10 x





10,000 kg

raw materials

1000 kg

finished product

100 kg




6 months

Consumption should not be an end in itself: need to rethink value and efficiency

Global inequality

Global Inequality

Poverty an ever widening gap

Poverty: an ever widening gap

UK average high street coffee price


20% of world survives on less than $2 per day

Biodiversity the sixth extinction

Biodiversity: the sixth extinction

  • Up to 50% of species could be wiped out by climate change

  • Widespread decline in wildlife populations

    • Habitat destruction and loss of wilderness

    • Over-harvesting of timber, fisheries

    • Falling fertility from pollution

    • Invasion of alien species

The goal one planet living

The goal: One planet living

1.8 gha

2.2 gha

5.6 gha

  • Ecological footprint = equivalent area of land required to meet an individual’s needs

    • Food, fibre, waste, energy, space

    • Measured in “Global hectares per capita” (gha)

“Equal sustainable share” =

“Global average footprint” =

“UK average” =

Group exercise

Coffee Cup Exercise

Work as groups

First map out the lifecycle of a cup of coffee:

From raw materials to disposal!

Identify impacts

Social, environmental and economic

How can this be improved?

Group Exercise



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