June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.1184.1 - 14.1184.17
The Changing of the Guard: Should the Engineering Ethics Code
Be Changed to Environmental Ethics?
Engineers of the 21st Century must include environmental considerations in their designs. Such additions to design thinking as sustainability and consideration of environmental impacts are worthwhile; however, to place the emphasis on such considerations may override the main focus of the basic ethics statement. A series of recent publications has urged a move to broad environmental thinking as the foundation for engineering ethics. Environmentally-based ethics arises out of “deep ecology” or “morally deep ethics” in which oneness with nature, rather than our stewardship of nature, underlies our thinking. The authors warn that such an environmentally- based ethic proves detrimental to the meaning of engineering, provides an inadequate base for an ethical system, requires a major shift in worldview, and could produce a situation which is actually harmful to human lives.
Neglect of the environment in the first half of the 20th Century led to large areas of destruction: pollution of water, air, and soil, destruction of forests, and, in some case, destruction of entire species. Catalano describes the situation in grave terms: “The world is in the midst of a period of unprecedented and disruptive change. This is particularly evident when examining the health of the world’s ecological systems. A host of human forces impinge upon coral reefs, tropical rain forests and other critical natural systems located around the world. Half the planet’s wetlands are gone.” 1
Because of the threat to the ecological system, modern engineers have come to recognize the importance of including environmental considerations in engineering decisions. Such additions as sustainability and consideration of environmental impacts are worthwhile; however, to place the emphasis on such considerations may override the focus of the basic ethics statement. A series of recent publications, including two books, 2,3 has urged a move toward broad environmental thinking as the core foundation for engineering ethics. When first considered, this change may seem to be a good idea. Any modifications of the basic ethical concepts previously established, however, including the Engineering Code of Ethics, should be examined carefully.
The solution proposed by some to the destruction of our environment (a solution which attempts to link peace, justice, ending poverty, and protecting the environment) is a move toward a new ethical foundation for engineering, a foundation that is specifically rooted in the environment. The proposed new ethical system has been termed “morally deep ethics” since it is based on the concept of “deep ecology.” “Deep ecology” is an approach to ecology based upon the complete
Leiffer, P., & Graff, R. W., & Lee, B., & Batts, M. (2009, June), The Changing Of The Guard: Should The Engineering Ethics Code Be Changed To Environmental Ethics? Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5413
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