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Geoethics - Ethical Challenges and Case Studies in Earth Sciences

dftsjThis is a book suitable for Earth scientists with an interest in sustainable development and social responsibility. It discusses the ethical issues in the Earth Sciences.

It includes case studies, showing where experts have gone wrong and where key organisations have ignored facts, wanting assessments favourable to their agendas.

It is written by a group of contributors with experience ranging from philosophy to Earth science.

Competition for natural resources increases all the time. Modern societies are increasingly under pressure from shortages in energy carriers, land surface, water, metals, biodiversity etc.

Geoethics consists of three main areas: (1) professional ethics of scientists; (2) ethical considerations related to specific projects, and (3) general ethical considerations about the Earth and its components.

Recent developments in the formulation of Research integrity policy are outlined, ending with the ‘Singapore Statement’. The four principles and 14 responsibilities of researchers and their institutions are given.

One particular problem is plagiarism, which is an offense to decency; not always an illegal action, it is always an ethical problem.

This book refers to the 1980s discussions between the Reagan administration and the Soviets. Reports to the US Congress from the executive branch of government had stated that the Soviet Union was “in likely violation” of the bilateral Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT) 1974, which imposed a limit of 150 kilotons for the explosive yield of any underground nuclear weapons test conducted by these two countries after March 1976.

Nuclear power plants are a potential risk to the population, when they are located near faults liable to earthquakes and along coasts prone to tsunamis. To maximise profits, estimates of seismic hazard may be minimized, so as to reduce construction costs.

Decision-making under conditions of uncertainty poses serious questions about the decision pathway, its complexities, consequent responsibilities, and, ultimately, the difficulties of identifying the “correct” decision to make.

Analysis of radioactive waste management and the ethical discussion surrounding this topic shows that reflection on side-effects of human actions is, in most cases, not as clear as should be possible, or as necessary.

Although geoethics is an important a new branch in Earth sciences, it should be noted that geo-hazards have been faced since the dawn of civilisation.

This is an excellent and thought-provoking text book and can be recommended most strongly.

Reviewed by Steve Rowlatt

GEOETHICS - ETHICAL CHALLENGES AND CASE STUDIES IN EARTH SCIENCES Edited by Max Wyss and Silvia Peppoloni Publisher: Elsevier Science Publishing Co Inc Publication Date: 21 Nov. 2014  425pp hbk   ISBN 978-0-12-799935-7 List Price £54.89