Towards an ethically founded framework for sustainability engineering in South Africa

Long, Stanford Staples (2015-04)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The apparent conflict between development activities and the need to preserve environmental integrity, here called the environmental dilemma, serves as the point of departure for this study. With engineers in general, and civil engineers in particular, being major role players in development activities, this study turns particular attention to the role they do, and should play with respect to the environmental dilemma.1 The study commences with an overview of the traditional ethical and environmental ethical theories, but this does not produce an unambiguous, master solution to the environmental dilemma. However, on a more pragmatic level, and based largely on its undeniable widespread popularity, the concept of sustainable development surfaces as the most promising strategy. Notwithstanding its popularity it remains a vague and contestable concept. This is born out by the numerous definitions and interpretations accorded to sustainable development in the literature. In order to lend more rigour to the concept, this study firstly suggests an ethical foundation for it, and secondly proposes a framework through which a fuller understanding of it may be articulated. The ethical foundation is based on the value of beneficence, which is rooted in the reciprocal altruism that is part of our evolutionary heritage, and which has been further reinforced by widespread cultural appropriation. Moderated by the equally widely held value of fairness, and the principles of holism and biocentrism, it is argued that beneficence, as a basic and near universal societal value, is well suited to be the moral underpinning for sustainable development. The sustainability framework, as it is proposed in this study, is hierarchically structured so that it is more monistic and prescriptive at its higher levels, while at the lower levels it is more pluralistic and pragmatic. At the highest level of the framework sustainable development is irrevocably bound to the vision of a sustainable society. At the next level the values that underpin sustainable development, beneficence, fairness and respect for life, are found. At the following levels the message of the vision and the values of sustainable development is expanded further through three foundational and eighteen subsidiary principles, the latter being expressed in categories that represent the dimensions of sustainable development. This study recognises four dimensions within sustainable development, these 1 It needs to be noted that in this study the environment is (frequently) broadly interpreted so as to include social concerns as well as those related to the natural environment. being the environmental,2 the social, the economic and the institutional dimensions. These dimensional categories are not mutually exclusive but are rather used as categories of convenience. The framework is concluded, at the lowest levels, with measurement themes and applications, also dimensionally categorised. With this expanded understanding of sustainable development as background, the study proceeds to an overview of the legal and policy framework of South Africa with respect to the environment and sustainable development. This is followed by two case studies that attempt to discern the sustainability challenges evident in local development practice. The first of these case studies deals with the proliferation of golfing estate developments in the Southern Cape, and the second with the proposed construction of a national toll road through the Wild Coast area of the Transkei. The study then turns its focus to the engineering profession in South Africa, with particular reference to the civil engineering discipline. After reviewing engineering codes of conduct from a number of countries, particularly with respect to their environmental and/or sustainability prescriptions, a proposal for a South African version of such a code is put forward. As it turns out this suggested code leans heavily on the previously proposed sustainability framework. Finally civil engineering education in South Africa is assessed with respect to environmental and/or sustainability requirements, and the conclusion is that sustainable development, in its fullest sense, might be best served by the introduction of a unique educational programme focussed specifically on sustainability engineering.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die konflik wat skynbaar bestaan tussen ontwikkelingsaktiwiteite en die behoefte om die integriteit van die omgewing te bewaar, hier genoem die omgewingsdilemma, dien as die vertrekpunt van hierdie studie. In ag genome dat ingenieurs in die algemeen, en siviele ingenieurs in die besonder, hoofrolspelers is in ontwikkelingsaktiwiteite, word aandag hier spesifiek geskenk aan die rol wat hulle speel, en behoort te speel, met betrekking tot die omgewingsdilemma.3 Hierdie studie begin met ‘n oorsig van die tradisionele teorieë in etiek en omgewingsetiek, maar dit lewer nie ‘n eenduidige meester-oplossing vir die omgewingsdilemma nie. Egter op ‘n meer pragmatiese vlak, en grootliks gebaseer op die onteenseglike populariteit van die konsep, het volhoubare ontwikkeling as ‘n belowende strategie na vore gekom. Desnieteenstaande die hierdie populariteit, bly die konsep van volhoubare ontwikkeling vaag en omstrede. Die veelvuldige definisies en interpretasies wat in die literatuur aan die konsep toegesê word, dien as bewys hiervan. Om meer krag aan die konsep te verleen word daar in hierdie studie, eerstens ‘n etiese fondament ter ondersteuning van volhoubare ontwikkeling, en tweedens ‘n raamwerk waardeur dit beter verstaan kan word, voorgestel. Die etiese fondament is gebaseer op die waarde van welwillendheid. Hierdie waarde is gewortel in die wederkerige altruïsme wat deel uitmaak van ons evolusionêre erfenis, en verder in die samelewing gevestig is deur wydverspreide kulturele toe-eiening. Daar word geredeneer dat welwillendheid, bemiddel deur die ewe wydonderskrewe waarde van billikheid, en die beginsels van holisme en biosentrisme, as ‘n basiese en ‘n byna universele maatskaplike waarde, besonder geskik is om vir volhoubare ontwikkeling die morele onderbou te wees. Die volhoubaarheidsraamwerk, soos dit in hierdie studie voorgestel word, is hiërargies gestruktureer sodat die hoër vlakke meer monisties en voorskriftelik is, terwyl die laer vlakke meer pluralisties and pragmaties is. Op die hoogste vlak van die raamwerk word volhoubare ontwikkeling onlosmaaklik gekoppel aan die visie van ‘n volhoubare gemeenskap. Op die volgende vlak word die waardes wat volhoubare ontwikkeling fundeer, naamlik welwillendheid, billikheid en respek vir lewe, gevind. In die daaropvolgende vlakke word die boodskap van die visie en die waardes van volhoubare 3 Daar moet kennis geneem word dat die omgewing in hierdie studie (dikwels) breed geïnterpreteer word, en dus sosiale kwessies sowel as dié van die natuurlike omgewing insluit. ontwikkeling uitgebou deur drie basiese en agtien aanvullende beginsels, waarvan laasgenoemde uitgedruk word in kategorieë wat die dimensies van volhoubare ontwikkeling weergee. Hierdie studie onderskei vier dimensies in volhoubare ontwikkeling, naamlik die omgewings-,4 die sosiale, die ekonomiese en die institusionele dimensies. Hierdie dimensionele kategorieë is nie onderling uitsluitend nie, maar word eerder as kategorieë van gerief aangewend. Die raamwerk word op sy laagste vlakke voltooi deur metingstemas en toepassings wat ook dimensioneel gekategoriseer is. Met hierdie uitgebreide begrip van volhoubare ontwikkeling as agtergrond, is die studie voortgesit met ‘n oorsig van die Suid-Afrikaanse wetlike en beleidsraamwerk ten opsigte van die omgewing en volhoubare ontwikkeling. Dit is opgevolg deur twee gevallestudies wat poog om die uitdagings wat volhoubaarheid in plaaslike onwikkelingspraktyk hou, te skets. Die eerste van hierdie gevallestudies het die die vinnige vermeerdering van gholf-landgoedere in die Suid-Kaap aangespreek, terwyl die tweede gehandel het oor die voorgestelde konstruksie van ‘n nasionale tolpad deur die Wildekus-area van die Transkei. Die fokus van die studie verskuif hierna na die ingenieursprofessie in Suid-Afrika, met spesifieke verwysing na die siviele ingenieursdissipline. Nadat verskeie ingenieursgedragskodes van ‘n aantal lande oorweeg is, veral met betrekking tot hul omgewings- en volhoubaarheidsvoorskrifte, is ‘n Suid- Afrikaanse weergawe van so ‘n gedragskode voorgestel. Uiteraard leun hierdie kode swaar op die volhoubaarheidsraamwerk wat vroeër voorgestel is. Ten laaste word siviele ingenieursopleiding in Suid-Afrika beoordeel ten opsigte van omgewings- en volhoubaarheidsvereistes, en die slotsom is dat volhoubare ontwikkeling, ten volste begryp, ten beste uitgebou sal kan word deur die instelling van ‘n unieke opvoedingsprogram wat spesifiek gefokus is op volhoubaarheids-ingenieurwese.

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