Construction of power plant, ethical challenges
University of Strasbourg, France
Email: [email protected]
On 29th February 2016 The Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company Ltd (BIFPCL), (a joint initiative of India’s National Thermal Power Company and Bangladesh’s Power Development Board) signed an agreement to construct a coal-based power plant at Rampal, near Sundarban. This project was expected to be started earlier. But, following the recommendation of Norway’s Council on Ethics, the project was about to rejected due to some threats for the Sundarbans.
According to documented information shared by MS Siddiqui, the Rampal plant alone would generate ‘940,000 tons of toxic residue (called coal ash) each year.’ Environmental expert’s impression is, this proposed plant might destroy this world’s largest mangrove forest, a World Heritage site, announced by UNESCO in 1997.
There are some debates has been arisen for and against concerning this project, it is continuing. Associated figures are defending their own stand points.
Here, I would like to shed some lights on this issue from ethical or moral perspective.
Many authentic reports on impacts of coal-fired power plant are accessible on internet. Core fact is, those are the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions. A wide range of ethical issues have emerged due to produce of toxic air emissions which causes alteration of the earth’s surface.
We all are aware that the atmosphere influences us both directly and indirectly, especially through the constraints it creates. Since industrial revolution, our atmosphere is in jeopardy by increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide at an exponential rate of growth as well as reduced ozone in the stratosphere at higher and mid-latitude. In view of the fact, ecological change has became a matter of attention among environmental scientists in west from the beginning of 19th century.
In regards of environmental discussion, scientists have been started to look incessantly about the consequences of emission of toxic gases. In particular, carbon dioxide emission is an unavoidable bi-product of burning coal or any fuel. They speculate if this situation continues, worst thing are waiting to be faced. We could adjust this path by reducing use of fuels and reversing deforestation. That’s the opinion of environmental scientists.
The scientific and technical professions also have responsibilities in this regard. But the fact is, the technology developer is not the authentic figure to tell us about the level of risk associated with the technology. Because their judgment as the inventor might be remain clouded.
We like to breath in village, but love to live within urban facilities in practical life. As a result, urbanization process (or in other word digitalization) has became a agenda for politicians, technological advancement is indispensable in this process.
When we talk about developmental issues, things must be addressed from specific ethical principles. Progress or development refers to a balanced quest for wellbeing. This is a commitment for not only towards existing populations but also towards future generations. Advancement isn’t merely for existence, it is to enjoy and preserve a high quality and rich diversity of life. It isn’t isolated matter from nonhuman nature (in particular, wildlife), which possess intrinsic value. In solving urban problems, we don’t focus on the intrinsic value of nature, rather concerned with instrumental values – in ways that natural resources serve human being.
Development, growth or digitalization, however I say should be sustainable, which cannot be achieved without careful attention to its ethical dimensions. Growth process based on strong ethical principles provides a clear sense to progress that make it more than just a problem-solving system, but also a supreme. Important principles for progress concern about justice and obligations for future generations. It refers to give equal weight to the future as well as the present.
The nature of potential harms and uncertainties that gird appropriate ethical and political concerns cover up fundamental rights and the very nature of justice. There are four categories in this respect. I will touch only one, that is, issues of compensatory or distributive justice.
Distribution justice refers to an ethical principle, those who have caused harm to others should be held accountable for it and even compensate those that have been harmed. If any negativity occurs because of this power plant, according to compensatory justice policies, are the sufferers to be compensated?
Another concern about climate change issue is our future generation. The picture would be clearer if we draw a clear distinction between our immediate generation, (like our children, grandchildren and sometimes great grandchildren – who are in our own life-time; whom we know and do care) and the distant futures (that the generation beyond our life span). We need to be clear about future generation: do they matter? Why and How much? How far ought the future to enter our moral thinking?
In dealing with those issues, complexity is linked with societal issues and political support for the establishment of effective policies. This controversy is moving from science to politics.
But unfortunately, in the history of civilization process, we often see the clashes between politics and ethics. Particularly, when it comes from the ruling party. Ethics demands that we shall tell the truth even though it put us in trouble, ensure justice, respect of boundaries, autonomies etc. While in politics we often notice the abandonment of some principles of ethics. This might be because the goal of ethics is to ensure justice, autonomy etc. for all, while the motive of politics is group interests and benefits.
Perhaps using military power, establishment of tribunal court, carrying out strong defense system are necessary for ruling party. Yet here lacking one thing, moral legitimacy. The justification of this system is in order to obtain some public profit. This system that set asides the ethical principles will face a legitimacy crisis in the long run. Certainly some political decisions bring positive outcomes for public, it doesn’t about being so ethical.
To be ethical or put moral values in political agenda isn’t really very compacted issue. Rebecca Todd Peters In Search of the good life, the ethics of globalization talk about those issues in detail. Shortly, the moral norms suggest that what is required is, not more growth, not more profit, not more unexamined excess even under the guise of social development. Transformation of our ideological orientation that would place the earth and all of the creation at the center of our moral world. Taking care of the planet is a teleological factor for humanity. The author Rebecca Todd Peters (2004), In Search of the good life, the ethics of globalization, The Continuum International publishing group, New York.
Teleology comes from modern Latin teleologia, from Greek telos (end) + logia (logy). This term used in mid 18th century (denoting the branch of philosophy that deals with ends or final causes). Teleology has the basic meaning of the study of ends or purposes. A teleologist attempts to understand the purpose of something by looking at its results, judge whether an act is good or bad by seeing if it produces a good or bad result. It claims that all changes has a definite purpose.
First : we must alter our lifestyle. Second : we should not confused social development with capitalist model that is dominating since World War II.
As we have tendency to follow the examples from west, we may care to take a look what they are doing regarding environmental issues.
Europe first recognized climate change and environmental problems in 1985 by targeting scientific study of the issue in its research policy. Between 1985 and the joint Council declaration of 1990, the European Council agreed to run programs aimed at developing specific targets and goals for greenhouse gas reduction.
The European Climate Change Program (ECCP) was launched in June 2000 by the European Union’s European Commission. The goal of the ECCP is to identify, develop and implement all the necessary elements of an EU strategy to implement the Kyoto Protocol. All EU countries’ ratifications of the Kyoto Protocol were deposited simultaneously on 31 May 2002.
Solving energy problems are not merely understanding puzzle but rather crucial challenge on which the future humanity depends.
Uncertainties in scientiﬁc knowledge and information gap is the top among all. Those uncertainties include incomplete data on particular issue, limitations in scientific knowledge, applicability and prediction of scientiﬁc models, boundaries of our conceptual schemes, and the exact impacts of our decisions etc. We are puzzled about how to act on basis of given knowledge. We are unconfident about how to properly handle those issues of vulnerabilities.
A better understanding will emerge when we could address properly and prudently about the threats for people living now and in the future. Consideration of future generations is an essential element of the total ethical response to any environment related decision. Just our attitude towards nature, consumer mentality would requires some sort of modification. Only then, things will be crystal clear!!!