Ethical Dimensions of Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems

Matrix 1: Categorizing Top-Level Ethical Issues


Ethics Matrix 1: Categorizing Top Level Ethical Issues

Choose a topic or use the one assigned to you, depending on the assignment. Begin to orient your topic in relation to the columns on the worksheet.

Stage 1: Identify and clarify initial conditions for analysis. Provide as much clarity to the description of the topics as possible. This is crucial. You need to define your case/topic clearly and in depth. A title alone will not suffice. Expect to write a paragraph describing. Remember the "who, what, where, when, why and how," in your description.

Stage 2: Review the three top-level categories on the course website, and remember they are inclusive, i.e., one issue can be in multiple categories

Stage 3: Begin with notes or quick phrases to fill the columns out. Make notes as needed and be able to describe further what the tags mean in context. Try to identify at least three issues per column. Provide a sentence or two describing each topic. Hint: you are looking for topics or issues that would make a difference if it were not done well or if it were done some other way, e.g., would your prefer surgery without anesthetics?

  • First, identify what would it mean to “be professional” with handling a given issue.
  • Second, identify how the topic or issues do, or could have impacts on people and the environment.
  • Third, identify where there may be possible impacts based on choices about methods, analysis, and materials. (Note: Some issues or ways of looking at them may seem to fit in more than one column and that’s fine, just be able to explain the relationship.)

Stage 4: Then, rank the topics you identified in Stage 3 in order of importance, where importance can be either ethically "better or worse," it just indicates that it needs to be addressed and is of a high priority. Provide a brief summary (a few sentences) as to why you ranked them this way.

Matrix 1 FAQs

Q. So here what analysis we are talking about? Do you want us to pick a topic? Can you please give me examples of topics that can be picked? e.g., Topic can be “renewable energy over Fossil fuel”?

A: The topic of analysis depends on the assignment for that lesson. For the first assignment, I want you to begin thinking about a topic you would like to cover for your final project. You don't have to commit to what you decide upon now, but try to pick a case that you yourself would find useful to study more in-depth. Consider something you could either use and apply in your current work or a topic that you would like to add to your portfolio. If you are a solar, wind, or biofuels person, I suggest choosing something in that arena which you would like to learn more about. Try to avoid broad and sweeping topics, such as renewable energy over fossil fuels, and narrow your topic down as specifically as possible. The more specific you are, the easier it is to do the analysis because you are working with specifics. For example, we will later look at the ethical issues surrounding biofuels, and why some biofuels are much more ethical than others. So, it would be much better to do a comparison between, say first-generation biofuels and third generation biofuels, or the ethical issues of corn ethanol.

Q: So for Stage 3, do you want us to fill space under the Categories (I. Prof and Research integrity, II Broader Social and Enviro Impact, III Embedded Ethics) for the selected topic?

A: Yes, that is the goal. The first pass is to just sketch out the topics, like brainstorming, and the second pass is to add description and reasoning as to why those topics.

Q: Please clarify Stage 4, “Rank in order of importance”? Should the ranking be based on positive impact or negative impact?

A: Positive and negative impacts can very much depend on who you ask (we'll see this much more in terms of stakeholders.) Your ranking should really be based on the overall magnitude of the impacts, as opposed to whether or not they are positive or negative.