SUSTAINABILITY AND ETHICAL COMMITMENT COMPETENCES IN ENGINEERING STUDENTS
Sustainability is a core competence of graduate students of the Technical University of Madrid. In a complex and globalized world, sustainability is closely related and linked with ethical commitment of engineering students and professionals. The aim of this work is to analyse the environmental awareness of engineering students and also their attitudes about sustainability and sustainable development and to study the ethical basis of this concern and their moral judgement.
Moral judgment is the individual capacity to think, argue and make judgments on the correctness of human behaviour. The moral judgment applies to controversy, which pose moral problems. The moral judgment is developed in three levels: Pre-conventional (it takes into account only their own interests), conventional (it takes into account social norms), post-conventional (there are considered universal principles and values as justice, freedom, responsibility, solidarity, equality, etc.). Moral values are properties of reality that arise from the relationship between humans and their social and natural environment, and they allow us judging the reality and guide our conduct and behaviour. Moral action can not be based on fault, but the responsibility of rational analysis and mature, empathy and creativity.
A survey was done among students of post-graduate courses held out in the Undergraduate School of Agricultural Engineering of the Technical University of Madrid. It had ten main framework subjects and a total of 50 items, that students should valued between 1 and 5 (being 1 very low importance and 5 very high importance of the questioned item, and 0 doesn’t know or doesn’t answer). After that, a lecture was done about sustainable development, human footprint, sustainability and biodiversity indicators, responsible consumption and ethical values and principles. Finally, an ethical dilemma was presented to the students about delocalization of an industry to a developing country.
Students showed high environmental concern and interest and valued learning about sustainability and ethical competency. They considered sustainability as a key concept for society in the 21st century, although it should be quite devaluated by politicians and media overuse of it. They considered that human impact over global earth ecosystems was mainly due to affluence level in developed countries, but also by the increasing population number, but not by an insufficient level of technology. They preferred participatory and low-tech approaches as management options of the transition towards sustainability. They would give up superfluous consumption in order to achieve sustainable development, but it would be rather difficult to change all of their life style (transport, housing, food, leisure, etc.).
Ethical foundation of environmental concern was studied asking about their consideration about nature. The highest scores were reached by the consideration of nature as a source of material or aesthetic or cultural resources for human beings. The highest scores were reached by the responsibility about nature conservation and fragility of it. A group of them showed a post-conventional level in moral judgement, but other showed a conventional one, where corporate or self interest was preferred against universal values of solidarity, justice or freedom.