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Engineering Towards a More Just and Sustainable World

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  1. Sustainability Is More than Greening John Ehrenfeld Engineering Towards a More Just and Sustainable World APPE 19th Annual Meeting Cincinnati March 6, 2010

  2. Professional Ethical Principles Broad Societal Ethical Principles Engineers, in the fulfillment of their professional duties, shall hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public NSPE How does sustainability re-shape these elements of professional ethics?

  3. Equity Sustainable Development Environment Economy Sustainable developmentis the current ethical guide. Sustainable development is a form of development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability for future generations to meet their own needs.” Brundtland Report 1987 No, Sustainable development, itself, contributes to the persistence of unsustainability. Is this framework up to the job?

  4. Unsustainability is an unintended consequence of our modern beliefs and practices.

  5. Sustainability is the possibility that human and other forms of life will flourish on the Earth forever. Sustainability is an emergent property of a complex system. Sustainability lives in a different paradigm.

  6. Humans are caring, not utility maximizing, organisms. The world is complex. Two critical sustainability beliefs

  7. Engineering in a complex world.Reducing unsustainability (greening) does not create sustainability.

  8. Sustainability is not produced by a machine.

  9. Sustainability [Complexity] Problems Are Inherently “Wicked” 1. There is no definitive formulation of a WP. 2. WPs have no stopping rule. 3. Solutions to WPs are not true-or-false, but good-or-bad. 4. There is no immediate and no ultimate test to a WP. 5. Every solution to a WP is a “one-shot operation”; because there is no opportunity to learn by trial-and-error, every attempt counts significantly. 6. WPs do not have an enumerable (or an exhaustively describable) set of potential solutions, nor is there a well-described set of permissible operations that may be incorporated into the plan. 7. Every WP is essentially unique. 8. Every WP can be considered to be a symptom of another problem. 9. The existence of a discrepancy representing a WP can be explained in numerous ways. The choice of explanation determines the problem’s resolution. 10. The planner [engineer] has no right to be wrong. Rittel & Webber, 1973

  10. The hidden, dominating normative principal of modernity: Maximizing utility as the goal. Vilfredo Pareto John Stuart Mill The optimum case is where no one can be made better off without making someone worse off. The greatest happiness of the greatest number . . . is the measure of right and wrong. Utility maximizing is not the way to flourishing.

  11. For the modern economist this is very difficult to understand. He is used to measuring the “standard of living” by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is “better off” than a man who consumes less. A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption. E. F. Schumacher From “Small Is Beautiful” Sustainability poses serious ethical contradictions for engineers.

  12. "[W]e ask not just about the [technical] resources that are sitting around, but about how those do or do not go to work, enabling [her] to function in a fully human way" Capabilities needed for functioning (flourishing) • Life. Being able to live to the end of a human life of normal length … • Bodily Health. Being able to have good health, including reproductive health; to be adequately nourished; to have adequate shelter. • Bodily Integrity. Being able to move freely from place to place; to be secure against violent assault, including sexual assault and domestic violence; …. • Senses, Imagination, and Thought. Being able to use the senses, to imagine, think, and reason—and to do these things in a "truly human" way… • Emotions. Being able to have attachments to things and people outside ourselves; to love those who love and care for us… • Practical Reason. Being able to form a conception of the good and to engage in critical reflection about the planning of one's life… • Affiliation. • Being able to live with and toward others, to recognize and show concern for other humans, to engage in various forms of social interaction… • Having the social bases of self-respect and non-humiliation; being able to be treated as a dignified being whose worth is equal to that of others… • Other Species. Being able to live with concern for and in relation to animals, plants, and the world of nature. • Play. Being able to laugh, to play, to enjoy recreational activities. • Control over one's Environment. • Political. Being able to participate effectively in political choices that govern one's life; … • Material. Being able to hold property (both land and movable goods), and having property rights on an equal basis with others; … Martha Nussbaum Engineers must address the human and social dimensions of sustainability.

  13. Taking care of the world Taking care of others Taking care of myself Engineering for sustainability requires attention to three domains of care.

  14. The Natural Domain The Ethical Domain Sustainability The Human Domain The Tao of Sustainability A strategy framework for recovering the domains of consciousness lost in modern cultures. If human and ethical dimensions of sustainability are not addressed, nothing much will happen!

  15. Essential concerns An sustainability framework for engineering design

  16. Reducing Unsustainability Creating Sustainability Engineer’s Choices

  17. Engineering for Sustainability • Reducing Unsustainability • Dealing with the past • Retain cultural structure • Deterministic world • Needy, disengaged actors • Maintain transparency • Quantitative, analytic • Displaced learning • Disconnected design • Technocratic • Solve, resolve problems • Creating Sustainability • Creating the future • Changing cultural structure • Complex world • Caring, engaged actors • Interrupt transparency • Qualitative • Local learning • Participatory design • Pragmatic • Dissolve problems

  18. The ultimate nerd The Renaissance Man Engineers for Sustainability Which one do we need?

  19. Thanks, and here is the inevitable book plug. Now in paperback www.johnehrenfeld.com

  20. Selected Publications • Ehrenfeld, John R. Sustainability by Design: A Subversive Strategy for Transforming Our Consumer Culture, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008. • Nussbaum, Martha C. and Amartya Sen, eds. The Quality of Life, Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993. • Rittel, Horst, and Melvin Webber; "Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning," Policy Sciences, 4:155-169, 1973 • Funtowitz, S.O. and J. Ravetz, “Embracing Complexity, The Challenge of the Ecosystem Approach”, Alternatives, 20:332-38, 1994. • Law, J., Shaping technology/Building society, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 1992