Ethical Dimensions of Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems

Guides to using the Matrices


Throughout this course, you will be asked to work with various worksheets, which I refer to here as matrices. The reason for calling these worksheets "matrices" is derived from the social sciences, where matrices are used throughout various disciplines to organize the collection and evaluation of qualitative data. We take this very same kind of approach here, with the matrices I have designed, for qualitatively identifying and evaluating across a wide variety of ethical issues.

Rule Zero: DON'T PANIC

First rule in using the matrices: You should not stick to the one sheet of paper. These matrices are conceptual frameworks, and I do not expect that you would be able to fit all the necessary detail in just the rows and columns of the pdf. Also, do not fill these out by hand and then scan and turn them in... this makes it very difficult for me read and to grade and give back comments. The best thing is to move your responses to a text file where you basically work through the columns and rows in a linear flowing manner, down the page. Just be sure to identify which of the sections you are responding to with a header for that section.

Second rule: Not all categories may be applicable to the case you are evaluating. Think carefully about it, but if it does not seem applicable, either indicate as such or just don't include that sub-category. However, and this is the tricky part, the specific topic/sub-category may not currently seem to be an issue; however, could it become an issue in the future if certain actions or consequences are not taken into consideration? This is the "anticipatory" aspect of ethical analyses which takes time to develop.

Third rule: Just because something does not seem to be an ethical issue since it has not been addressed does not mean it should not be considered. For example, just because a project does not address the needs and considerations of under-represented groups does not mean that it shouldn't address those needs. This is what I refer to as an "ethical deficit" or "ethical gap," where the lack of addressing an ethical need does not mean that there is no ethical issue there. Again, this is another example of trying to anticipate where ethical issues may go unrecognized.

Fourth rule: Always always always explain your reasoning. Remember the old "what, who, why, where, when and how?" rule of problem solving? Well, that should be a basic assumption in all your writing for this course, and others. For example, in the stakeholder matrix, just listing a person or group is not enough for anyone to go on... you need to explain what they have at stake and why.

Final rule: Do your best to think through these and apply the concepts. The reason why we go through a variety of these exercises is to improve your practice and familiarity with the various categories encountered in each of the matrices. I build room for improving your learning and do not expect perfection on the first attempts.