Nature is Not a Means to an End: Applying Environmental Ethics to Desalination

Global water demand is rising, but our water supplies are decreasing. Desalination offers an unconventional source of fresh water to meet the needs of the world’s growing population. However, the process harms marine organisms and their natural environments, and exacerbates the threat of climate change. Examination of environmental ethics suggests that prioritizing concerns about environmental and community health is vital to the successful establishment and operation of desalination plants.

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The Ethical Implications of Climate Change and Future Inequality We Can’t Ignore

The impacts of climate change will disproportionately impact disadvantaged groups on regional, national, and international scales. The skewed vulnerabilities that arise from exposure to natural disasters, susceptibility to damage, and community ability to recover fuel the need to examine the ethical implications of producing greenhouse gas emissions in bulk for luxury purposes. As engineers are the creators of industrial processes, the responsibility an engineer holds towards themselves, the community they serve, and the future must be displayed through accountability for the cumulative impacts of each action.

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Ethics of Geoengineering

Until recently, the concept of geoengineering has widely been dismissed as a far-fetched and unethical idea to manipulate the environment. Geoengineering proposals intend to reduce the effects of global warming by manipulating the environment through extracting carbon dioxide from the air or reflecting sunlight to reduce global temperatures. However, as the context of climate change has shifted in urgency, geoengineering has emerged as a potential last-ditch effort to save humanity from climate-induced destruction. Despite its many unknowns and risks, geoengineering might provide a temporary solution to delay the detrimental effects of climate change and prevent the irreversible damage projected by current global warming trends.

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