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edX Philosophy and Critical Thinking

4 Exam Questions

1. Develop a sustainability model by using AMOEBA approach focusing on your closest community. - AMOEBA was a big part of this course so developing a model by using that would help to understand how the model works. -By focusing the topic on a personal issue (here own community), students can at the same time think how they can affect the community and their own life to be more sustainable.

2. Are the benefits of Greening through IT higher and more important than the harms of it? - IT can help in sustainable energy consumption for example. There are, however, also negative sides to it, for example poor infrastructure that needs to be improved if IT is used more. - One cannot focus only on the positive outcomes of greening through IT as each side has almost always a negative one too. It is necessary to consider whether or not the negative outcomes are a smaller harm.

3. Why sustainability hasn’t been reached in the past more effectively and efficiently? - For stakeholders to understand what steps have to be made towards sustainability, they have to understand why previous stakeholders and decision-makers have failed in the past. - Learning from previous wins and losses is important for stakeholders to understand what has to be done to achieve current and future goals.

4. How can sustainability indicators’ development and usage be improved so sustainability goals are reached? - One of SIs main challenge is that they are describing a complex issue very simply. This has resulted in not so effective use, which harms the actions of sustainable movements. - To understand what is wrong in the current SIs, helps significantly the development of SIs in the future. This questions also reflects to question number 3, as learning from past is essential when trying to build and develop a sustainable future. SIs were important also in the course, so I wanted to use them also as subjects.

Homework 4: Radar Diagram Model

I decided to use Espoo = Green City as a test case. I have taken also economical and social aspects into consideration.

Task Missing Lectures (Lecture 3)

4. Paradigms and Professionals

Reductionism, especially hierarchical reductionism, works very well with sustainability in my opinion. Why? Sustainability is a complex system and to fully understand it, it has to be divided into smaller pieces. One cannot understand how an object, system or thing works if the parts of it are not recognized. For example when air quality worsens, one has to understand and study what features are affecting it. One of these features could be carbon dioxide emission, and then the sources of those emissions have to be found. However, there are problems to the hierarchical reductionism approach. When someone (scientist, individual, stakeholder etc) is dividing a complex system into smaller parts, he might divide it into parts, which don’t represent the system as it should. This happens in everyday life also. Issues rise concerning this problem: What is the proper way to divide sustainability into smaller parts and who decides it? Local communities should be able to affect what are their most critical sustainability issues and thus, what Sis should be used. However, this also creates problems as also said in the book Sustainability indicators. Each individual has his own perception of what sustainability is and what are the most important parts of it. Because of this, groups/communities should find a uniform view of their sustainability goals and this might be difficult and take time.

Another problem of reductionism is to lose the sight and understanding of the sustainability system as a whole, which is considered in holism and especially in a systems view, where elements affect each other and they create the system through interrelatedness. The best parts of the hierarchical reductionist approach (dividing into smaller parts and getting an understanding from those) should be applies to the systems approach. This way the participants could understand entirely what is involved in sustainability, how it occurs and how it can be affected positively.

5. Projects and Sustainability Indicators

Process-project approach fits well to measuring sustainability by using SIs and thus aiming for a sustainable world, because individuals have different opinions of sustainability and consequently the goals of the sustainable world might be hard to describe. Having different views is great, because then multiple aspects are included and different sides are recognized. A solution for multiple views mixing the purpose of the project could be dividing the project’s participants into smaller groups if possible. These groups could be one focusing on the local aspect: how the donors are affected and how internal and close external issues possibly change, and another group could focus more on the wider external aspect. It is important to have in the same group individuals with common interests and goals.

The process-project approach fits also with the project making a region more sustainable. One of the sustainability aspects is the environment and it constantly changes. The process approach can accommodate to the changes. Also a region’s economic situation can change due to external factors. When these change, the opinion of the stakeholders might change also. These show the problems with sustainability, as it is so uncertain. The approach, which is used, as to be able to alter when needed and the stakeholders and other participants have to also be able to change their opinions and approaches accordingly. The multidimensionality and complexity of what sustainability actually is and what it contains, are the key reasons why SIs haven’t been that successful yet and why sustainability is hard to reach. One problem might be that the project group sets themselves one target, for example aiming for using only renewable energy in a community, and smaller stages are ignored.

6. Imagine: An Example of a Systemic Sustainability Analysis

The presented, updated version, of the Imagine Approach sounds smart and in my opinion is a functional method that sustainability indicators’ developers should use, in addition to individual’s and communities’ which are aiming for sustainability in any area (social, economical or/and environmental). I was left wondering what are the actual problems why even small sustainability targets are hard to achieve, as there are many difficult projects in different companies and industries, which succeed. Is it because of the individuals’ behaviors and mindsets? If it is, then the first step of Imagine approach has failed. The best way to ensure that the project group consists of individuals with the “right” mindset, the project should have a project manager. But of course this also has problems, as how to make sure that the project manager is the right kind of person for the project. Somehow these issues have to be solved and managed; otherwise the aims of sustainability are never reached. Is it because the participants and stakeholders haven’t understood the context and thus set wrong targets? These both problems arise in the first step of the Imagine, so a lot of emphasis has to be put at the start of the approach.

One of the best things in the Imagine approach is the ability to learn and the opportunity for the public to express their feelings, which occur in step 4. General public can possibly give a wider/deeper view and points that should be improved in the project. A key thing here is the project’s participants’ ability to listen to the general public, understand them and to be willing to take their opinion into consideration. The issues, which the public might bring out, will be closely related to the third and especially second step of the Imagine approach. Using the SIs in the right way, and using the right SIs overall, are a critical issue in measuring sustainability. The worst outcome would be that no results are found and nothing has been learned. When deciding which SIs to actually use, a difficult task is to understand the sustainability system as a whole and how its parts work individually and together. This relates back to previous chapters of the book: sustainability is a complex system and the SIs are usually too simple. How this issue can/will be won depends on the project, its group and environment and goals.

7. Sustainability Indicators: The Rhetoric and the Reality

Chapter 7 brought up the problems in measuring sustainability, which are essential in my opinion also. These are how individuals’ aspects, culture and simplicity of SIs have affected negatively the development and efficient implementation and use of SIs. Cultural differences are an essential problem as everything happens nowadays on a somewhat global scale, which means that different projects are usually international. Another point is that everyone involved in a sustainability project has to be able to consider others points and opinions. An important issue, which wasn’t clearly stated, is that when aiming for sustainability, one has to start with their own community’s sustainability before expanding to larger areas or even foreign countries. Especially here in Finland, the government, industries and individuals have to enhance Finland’s economic sustainability first before targeting to other sustainability areas. However it is important while improving the economic situation that social or environmental aspects are not harmed at the same time, even though other improvement actions are not put forward towards them. Once own sustainability is in a “better condition” can resources be used to external areas.

The authors emphasized the importance of reflective practice and continuous learning. This is difficult nowadays as the whole world needs fast change concerning sustainability and both stakeholders, other project participants, and general public overall (at least in some areas) are constantly in a massive hurry. Somehow hurry has to be minimized, both in media and in individuals’ minds, so there isn’t that much pressure to perform rapidly. If slowed down, individuals would understand better the different aspects of sustainability, why others think like they do (better/worse), and should they learn anything from what has happened. Slowing down doesn’t however mean that things and processes shouldn’t be done effectively and efficiently, they just shouldn’t be rushed.

Group Homework Radar Diagram

Pre Task Lecture 2: Thoughts

Major issue that has stuck in my mind after reading the first three chapters of the Sustainability Indicators book is criticism towards the simplicity of the indicators. I have been told to divide a big and difficult issue to smaller simpler parts. However, from the book I got the picture that the indicator is evaluating a big and difficult issue by using only one indicator. Difficult issues can’t be analyzed in too abstract and simple ways, then you won’t get to know every necessary point. Also when reading in the book that some sort of indicators have been used for a few decades, I was left wondering why aren’t they used today in a efficient way?

Homework 2: Sustainability Movement

My “sustainability movement” concerns sustainable energy usage, and expanding it afterwards to sustainable water and waste consumption. These tasks are easy for an individual to implement. Important for an individual to start to live sustainably is that the drive towards it comes from the individual him/herself. This can happen for example due to belief or some sort of natural disaster, which occurred, or due to economical reasons.

In this “movement” lets consider everything starts from decreasing energy usage (switching lights off when daylight available and not in the need of light, washing full patches of dishes/clothes, lowering room temperature etc). Once an individual starts this, and sees results in it either concerning consumption, cost reduction or both, the individual will start to inform his/her relatives/friends of the results (important word-of-mouth). This will lead to new individuals doing the same actions, as humans can be considered followers. The individual can encourage his/her neighborhood to do the same action, but it is important to state all the possible benefits they will receive, to reach each neighbor’s own values. For example a student living in Skinnarila is this individual who started to use energy sustainably. He/She tells friends and neighbors what has received and these individuals, also living in Skinnarila, starts to live the same way. Students in Lappeenranta can eventually affect students in other cities by word-of-mouth and social media and add to their own lifestyles step-by-step lower water consumption and the correct way to recycle.

To sum up shortly my “sustainability movement”, to start the movement, an individual needs to have his/her own motivation to start it. With word-of-mouth and concrete results, this individual can affect personally other individuals, which are close personally and also geographically to his/her life. When many have joined the movement, this group can affect others how are located for example abroad. The reason I used this kind of movement is because it would affect me most. I wouldn’t do it because media or politicians are saying I should, I would do it because my close ones or general public (“normal people”) recommend it to me.

Pre Task Lecture 1: Thoughts

Sustainability consists of environmental, economical and social aspects. In the course book, IT (information technology) and CS (computer science) is applied in each of the before mentioned aspects. The main advantage of IT and CS in sustainability is that one could gain needed, and even excessive, information. The information could concern actual energy consumption, energy price, whether renewable energy should/can be used, food’s condition, the pollution in agriculture etc.

Almost everything companies and societies do affect somehow the environment. The massive amount of energy usage is a concern, which can be seen in the course book and other literature resources. In Park and Ohm’s article concentrates on new technologies, which could help improve energy efficiency. It is important to incorporate more and more renewable energy resources to make sure that energy is used in a sustainable way. It is however at least equally important to make sure that energy isn’t going to waste. IT can help in gathering data of weather, energy consumption and the best energy resources for specific things. For me this shows the diversity of IT as it can be used in almost everywhere and together with other resources, help the sustainability in all of the three aspects mentioned earlier.

An important factor has been neglected in my opinion. This is computers’ and other IT resources’ effect on the environment. The impact computers etc have on energy consumption should be measured. It is kind of contradictory as IT could help social sustainability by helping in natural disasters or environmental sustainability by helping in making energy consumption more efficient, and at the same time IT resources must consume a big amount of energy in a not-sustainable way.

Additional literature

More advanced technologies in energy industry: Park, E. & Ohm, J. Y. 2015. Appropriate Technology for Sustainable Ecosystems: Case studies of Energy Self-Reliant Villages and the Future of the Energy Industry. Sustainable Development. Vol. 23 iss: 2. 74-84.

Watson, R.T., Boudreau, M-C and Chen, A. J. 2010. Information Systems and Environmentally Sustainable Development: Energy Informatics and New Directions for the IS Community. MIS Quartely. Vol. 34 iss: 1. 23-38.

Homework 1: Articles

Article 1: Lamb, J. 2011. Green IT and use of private cloud computing in South Africa. Emerging Technologies for a Smarter World. 1-6. (

Companies, and also individuals, are seeking ways to 'be greener' and lower their carbon footprint. This article shows why it is important to implement green IT and how it can be done. One example is changing IT equipment to virtual servers and to efficient database structures which will reduce significantly the IT power consumption. In this article cloud computing is seen as one of the main ways save energy.

Article 2: Murugesan, S. 2008. Harnessing Green IT: Principles and practices. IT Professional. Vol. 10 iss: 1. 24-33. (

This article demonstrates the importance on Green IT today and in the future. Murugesan states that companies are mainly focusing on cost efficiency and power efficiency. Companies have forgotten the effect on environment and since IT's importance and usage has grown significantly, much focus and effort has to put on developing and making IT more sustainable and greener.

Article 3: Hobby, C., Rydell, N., Sjogren, E., Williams, W. 2009. IT products. Going beyond green - Can high performance and sustainability co-exist? Sustainable Systems and Technology. 1-4. (

The carbon footprint, which IT causes, are a reason for the upturn of Green IT. Especially since business networks and consumers are more and more aware of social responsibility and eco-friendliness. This article gives an example of a tool which can guide users to a more greener IT equipment, Environmental labelling. However the main focus of the article is answering consumers demand of high performance products and at the same time ensuring that the product is sustainable and green.