Advertisement

Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 1007–1016 | Cite as

Mega-Sized Concerns from the Nano-Sized World: The Intersection of Nano- and Environmental Ethics

  • Peter Attia
Original Paper

Abstract

As rapid advances in nanotechnology are made, we must set guidelines to balance the interests of both human beneficiaries and the environment by combining nanoethics and environmental ethics. In this paper, I reject Leopoldian holism as a practical environmental ethic with which to gauge nanotechnologies because, as a nonanthropocentric ethic, it does not value the humans who will actually use the ethic. Weak anthropocentrism is suggested as a reasonable alternative to ethics without a substantial human interest, as it treats nonhuman interests as human interests. I also establish the precautionary principle as a useful situational guideline for decisionmakers. Finally, I examine existing and potential applications of nanotechnology, including water purification, agriculture, mining, energy, and pollutant removal, from the perspective of weak anthropocentrism using the precautionary principle.

Keywords

Nanotechnology Environment Anthropocentrism Aldo Leopold Precautionary principle 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank both Dr. Thomas Powers, for initially encouraging me to publish this paper and for many helpful discussions clarifying these ideas, and Dr. Ismat Shah, for helping me develop this paper, introducing me to nanotechnology and the Nanotechnology Undergraduate Education in Engineering (NUE) program, and his mentorship throughout my time at the University of Delaware (particularly through study abroad). Additionally, financial support through the National Science Foundation-NUE program (0939283), is acknowledged.

References

  1. Allhoff, F. (2008). On the autonomy and justification of nanoethics. In F. Allhoff & P. Lin (Eds.), Nanotechnology & society (pp. 3–38). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  2. Barker, T. F., et al. (2008). Nanotechnology and the poor: Opportunities and risks for developing countries. In F. Allhoff & P. Lin (Eds.), Nanotechnology & society (pp. 243–263). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  3. Commission de l’Éthique de la Science et de la Technologie. (2008). Ethics, risk, and nanotechnology: Responsible approaches to dealing with risk. In F. Allhoff & P. Lin (Eds.), Nanotechnology & society (pp. 75–89). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  4. Drexler, K. E. (1986). Engines of creation: The coming era of nanotechnology. New York: Anchor Books.Google Scholar
  5. Dupuy, J.-P. (2007). Complexity and uncertainty: A prudential approach to nanotechnology. In F. Allhoff, et al. (Eds.), Nanoethics: The ethical and social implications of nanotechnology (pp. 119–131). Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
  6. Earthworks. (2004). No dirty gold. May 14, 2012.Google Scholar
  7. Foresight Nanotech Institute. (2005). Foresight nanotechnology challenges. May 13, 2012.Google Scholar
  8. International Center for Technology Assessment. (2007). Principles for the Oversight of Nanotechnologies and Nanomaterials. May 13, 2012.Google Scholar
  9. Jones, R. (2007). Can nanotechnology ever prove that it is green? Nature Nanotechnology, 71–72.Google Scholar
  10. Joy, B. (2007). Why the future doesn’t need us. In F. Allhoff, et al. (Eds.), Nanoethics: The ethical and social implications of nanotechnology (pp. 17–39). Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
  11. Kurzweil, R. (2007) On the national agenda: U.S. congressional testimony on the societal implications of nanotechnology. Nanoethics: The ethical and societal implications of nanotechnology (pp. 40–54). (F. Allhoff, et al., Trans.)Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
  12. Leopold, A. (2003). The land ethic. In A. Light & H. Rolston III (Eds.), Environmental ethics: An anthology (pp. 38–46). Malden: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  13. Lin, P., & Allhoff, F. (2007). Nanoscience and nanoethics: Defining the disciplines. In F. Allhoff, et al. (Eds.), Nanoethics: The ethical and social implications of nanotechnology (pp. 3–16). Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
  14. Lövestam, G., et al. (2010). Considerations on a definition of nanomaterial for regulatory purposes. Luxembourg: Joint Research Centre.Google Scholar
  15. National Nanotechnology Initiative. (2012). Nano.gov. May 9, 2012.Google Scholar
  16. Norton, B. G. (2003). Environmental ethics and weak anthropocentrism. In A. Light & H. Rolston III (Eds.), Environmental ethics: An anthology (pp. 163–174). Malden: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  17. Owen, D. (20 December 2010) The efficiency dilemma. The New Yorker. July 29, 2012.Google Scholar
  18. Palmer, C. (2003). An overview of environmental ethics. In A. Light & H. Rolston III (Eds.), Environmental ethics: An anthology (pp. 15–37). Malden: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  19. Peterson, C., & Heller, J. (2007). Nanotech’s promise: Overcoming humanity’s most pressing challenges. In F. Allhoff, et al. (Eds.), Nanoethics: The ethical and societal implications of nanotechnology (pp. 57–70). Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
  20. Powers, T. M. (2008). Environmental holism and nanotechnology. In F. Allhoff & P. Lin (Eds.) Nanotechnology & society (pp. 109–123). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  21. Saunders, H. D. (1992).The Khazzoom-Brookes postulate and neoclassical growth. The Energy Journal.Google Scholar
  22. Shew, A. (2008). Nanotechnology’s future: Considerations for the professional. In F. Allhoff & P. Lin (Eds.), Nanotechnology & society (pp. 127–146). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  23. Weckert, J., & Moor, J. (2007). The precautionary principle in nanotechnology. In F. Allhoff, et al. (Eds.), Nanoethics: The ethical and social implications of nanotechnology (pp. 133–146). Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemical EngineeringUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA

Personalised recommendations