Research Paper: Solar

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Solar Still

Sustainable development and Ethical Responsibilities.

The issue of Sustainable development is one that is particularly pertinent to the modern world and to the issue of global warming. As such, it is also intimately linked to the debate about contemporary scientific and engineering ethics. Solar distillation has a long history and is noted as a technology that 'works' and functions well. The history of this technology can be traced back to the 16th century when it was used by Arab alchemists, with the first modern construction of a solar still known to have been built in 1872 (Solar Still Basics). In recent times a large number of these stills have been built, particularly in developing countries where water is a scarce resource. This also points to the issue of sustainability in a world where natural resources, including water, are rapidly becoming scarce. This fact consequently implies that there is an increasing need for engineers to be ethically and environmentally aware and sensitive.

The terms sustainability is commonly defined as, "… relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged" (sustainability). The concept of "stewardship" or caring for nature is included in this concept.

One of the most accepted definitions of this term originated at a United Nations conference in 1987, when sustainable developments were defined as those that "…meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs" ( DEFINING SUSTAINABILITY). In this sense, "Sustainable means using methods, systems and materials that won't deplete resources or harm natural cycles" and sustainability "identifies a concept and attitude in development that looks at a site's natural land, water, and energy resources as integral aspects of the development" (Manion 2002). Both of these pivotal points about sustainably apply to the aims of solar still development.

It is also important to note the progression of ethical concerns with regard to sustainability in engineering. The origins of this ethical concern in a formal sense dates back to the 1970s when…."certain business and government leaders began to argue that exponential growth -- in human populations and industrialization -- simply cannot continue indefinitely" ( Manion, 2002). This view and sentiment was linked to responsible and ethical concerns about the environment. This was seen to be especially important in relation to social demands and population expansion in underdeveloped regions, where natural resources were under strain.

The acceptance of the concept and validity of sustainable development gained a certain momentum with the 1987 Bruntland Commission report ( Manion, 2002). Sustainable development began to be seen more and more in the context of ethical responsibility, and as a form of development that, "…meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (Manion, 2002). This was further supported by the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. This summit emphasized the link between science and ethical philosophy in relation to sustainable development.

In the past science and engineering had been predominantly pragmatic in orientation, with little concern for the impact and effect on society and the environment. This is refers to as the utilitarian approach in engineering which is concerned mainly with of risk-cost-benefit analysis (RCBA) in all major technology ( Manion, 2002).

This more utilitarian approach began to change in the 1980s and 1990s with as growing awareness of the scientific responsibility and the ethical implications of scientific research and development. Subjects such as the following began to be important areas of debate in scientific and engineering conferences -- "…population stabilization, appropriate technology transfer, efficient use of natural resources, waste reduction, pollution prevention, and integrated environmental systems management" (Manion, 2002).

Therefore, there has over the last few decades been an ongoing movement to establish the link between practical science and engineering and ethical responsibility and awareness. This is especially the case in the engineering community, which has responded to these issues in a number of ways.

The first response has been through statement policies that "…recognize the gravity of the problem" and by "…publicly pledging to direct engineering in ways to increase sustainable technology and to avoid the production of nonsustainable technology" ( Manion, 2002). The engineering community has also responded to the need to address the issue… [END OF PREVIEW]

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