EPE Values - Ecological Sustainability

Ecological sustainability is a value concept that measures the degree to which humans exploit Earth’s resources and harm her life support systems. It considers the appropriateness of the practices they use to do so.  For these practices to be sustainable, natural resources should not be exhausted, nor should the Earth’s life supporting processes suffer irreversible or even serious harm. Rather their integrity should be ensured so that all living beings, human, plant, and animal, may survive and thrive in the present and in the future. Ecological sustainability is a value concept which opposes and aims to undo the violence wrought upon the Earth Community and to provide the context essential to achieving a nonviolent culture. It is a notion that has evolved from a growing awareness of the unsustainability of the model of economic development used by the industrialized world in the North and some industrializing countries in the South. To reverse the consequences of such development, the World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) and the United Nations Conferences on Environment and Development (1992, 1997 & 2002) have advocated ecologically sustainable development though, more recently, the terms “ecologically sustainable societies” or “an ecologically sustaining future” are viewed as preferable to “development” which carries with it the ideology of growthism.

Questions for ethical reflection
  1. Do humans have the right to exploit Earth’s resources? Earth’s life support systems (atmosphere, water and land)? Why ? Why not? Should the rights of Nature be considered in evaluating the impact of these human activities? Why? Why not?
  2. How is the appropriateness of these activities to be measured, e.g. the impact of production and consumption on Earth’s resources and life support systems?
  3. What responsibilities do humans have to protect the wellbeing of other species? to ensure and restore the integrity of Earth’s resources ? life support systems?
What are your views on the issues raised by these questions ? Discuss them with a friend or share with wenden@rcn.com