Ethical Dimensions of Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems




Sustainability Indicators (SI) are a tool used in an attempt to measure the status of a system for which we have no endogenous terms of success, i.e., "the sustainable state." The primary purpose of SI is to provide a measure for the effectiveness of decisions, both as a measure of previous decisions and as a projection of current decisions into the future. With obvious applications for public and corporate policy, SI are used in a variety of specific contexts that can determine the limit of their applicability in other contexts, i.e., what is a measure of sustainability in one context may not be valid under another context or definition of sustainability. This lesson will take you through some of the historical details in the development of Sustainability Indicators (SI), how SI developed as an integral part of sustainability research, and specifically, how SI are being used to measure the sustainability of cities. 

Learning Objectives

  • Provide the arguments for sustainability indicators.
  • Identify the challenges to creating comprehensive sustainability indicators.
  • Assess the shortcomings of sustainability indicators.
  • Present the ethical issues that can emerge from the challenges and shortcomings to sustainability indicators.

What is due for Lesson 7?

This lesson will take us one week to complete. Please refer to the Course Syllabus for specific time frames and due dates. Specific directions for the assignment below can be found within this lesson.

Lesson 7: Assignments
Requirements Assignment Details
To Do Read and familiarize yourself with all the Lesson 7 materials.

Week 11:

  • Read Chapters 1-3 of: Bell, Simon Morse, Stephen (2008). Sustainability Indicators - Measuring the Immeasurable? (2nd Edition). Earthscan. See Canvas folder for link to the online text.

Week 11:

  • Propose a set of sustainability indicators based on ethics tools (ethics matrices 1, 2, and 3) and broader methods for analyzing systems (stakeholder analysis, LCA, and sustainability indicators) for a topic of your choice. Ideally, this topic would be the same as your final case topic. To submit, go to the course in Canvas, click on Lesson 7 and click on Assignment 7 - Submit Sustainability Indicators.


If you have any questions, please post them to the General Questions discussion forum (not email), located under the Discussions or the Lesson tab in Canvas. Your instructor will check that discussion forum daily to respond. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses if you are able to help out another student.