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Sustainable Goals: Feasible Paths to Desirable Long-Term Futures
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology, Philosophy.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2835-919X
2014 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The general aim of this licentiate thesis is to analyze the framework in which long-term goals are set and subsequently achieved. It is often claimed that goals should be realistic, meaning that they should be adjusted to known abilities. This thesis will argue that this might be very difficult in areas related to sustainable development and climate change adaptation, and that goals that are, to an acceptable degree, unrealistic, can have important functions.

Essay I discusses long-term goal setting. When there is a great temporal discrepancy between the point in time of setting and achieving a goal, many uncertainties have to be considered. The surrounding world and the agent’s abilities and values might change. This is an ontological uncertainty. We often form beliefs regarding how abilities and values might change, but this belief is always uncertain. This is an epistemological uncertainty. A form of goal called cautiously utopian goals is proposed, which incorporate such uncertainties, but enables goal setting with long time-frames.

Essay II discusses the issue of goals intended to reduce great risks. We cannot expect an agent to do something that lies beyond this agent’s abilities, as exemplified in the principle ‘ought implies can’. Adjusting goals to what we currently, with a high degree of certainty know could be done is difficult. If not including an estimation of how abilities can change, important performance-enhancing functions of goals might be lost. It is argued that very ambitious goals should be set. This is partly due to the great magnitude and likelihood of unwanted consequences and partly due to the difficulty of delineating what lies in agents’ capacity to manage complex risks.

Essay III discusses a decision-facilitating tool Sustainability Analysis to be used by Swedish municipal planners. One sub-part of the tool, Goal Conflict Analysis, can be used to identify how the consequences of a planned adaptation measure will affect other long-term municipal goals. Identified goal conflicts can then be used in order to determine whether the conflicts are acceptable, or whether a different adaptation measure should be worked out. The paper discusses a workshop in a Swedish municipality in which the tool has been tested.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2014. , 49 p.
Series
Theses in philosophy from the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1650-8831 ; 46
Keyword [en]
goal setting, adaptation, sustainability, utopian goals, realistic goals
National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-144917ISBN: 978-91-7595-079-2 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-144917DiVA: diva2:715374
Presentation
2014-05-15, 1515, Teknikringen 74D, KTH, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20140505

Available from: 2014-05-05 Created: 2014-05-05 Last updated: 2014-05-05Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Cautious Utopias: Environmental goal-setting with long time frames
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Cautious Utopias: Environmental goal-setting with long time frames
2015 (English)In: Ethics, Policy & Environment, ISSN 2155-0085, E-ISSN 2155-0093, Vol. 18, no 2, 187-201 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Sustainable development is a common goal in the public sector but may be difficult to implement due to epistemic uncertainties and required long time frames. This paper proposes that some of these problems can be solved by formulating cautious utopias, entailing a relationship between means and goals differing from both utopian and realistic goal-setting. Cautiously utopian goals are believed, but not certain, to be achievable and to remain desirable, but are open to future adjustments due to changing desires and/or factual circumstances. Quality criteria for such goals are suggested.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2015
Keyword
means-end relationship; planning; goal-setting; utopian goals; climate change; sustainable development
National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-144914 (URN)10.1080/21550085.2015.1070487 (DOI)2-s2.0-84938427229 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20150629. QC 20160212

Available from: 2014-05-05 Created: 2014-05-05 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
2. Risk-Reducing Goals: Ideals and Abilities when Managing Complex Environmental Risks
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Risk-Reducing Goals: Ideals and Abilities when Managing Complex Environmental Risks
2016 (English)In: Journal of Risk Research, ISSN 1366-9877, E-ISSN 1466-4461, Vol. 19, no 2Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Social decision-making involving risks ideally results in obligations to avoid expected harms or keep them within acceptable limits. Ambitious goals aimed at avoiding or greatly reducing risks might not to be feasible, forcing the acceptance of higher degrees of risk (i.e., unrealistic levels of risk reduction are revised to comport with beliefs regarding abilities). In this paper, the philosophical principle ‘ought implies can’ is applied to the management of complex risks, exemplified by the risks associated with climate change. In its common interpretation, the principle states that we cannot expect an agent to perform something that lies beyond his or her abilities. However, it is here argued that this principle requires setting thresholds for legitimate claims of inabilities that justify the waiving of normative demands. This paper discuss three claims: (1) that caution is required before revising a risk-reducing goal that is perhaps exceedingly ambitious; (2) that claims on abilities are not only descriptive, but also value-laden; and (3) that the function of a goal has to be clarified before risk-reducing goals are revised. Risk-reducing goals that initially seem unrealistic arguably serve performance-enhancing purposes in risk management. Neglecting such goals could lead to choosing less desirable, but certainly feasible, risk-reducing goals.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2016
Keyword
risk, goal-setting, reconsidering goals, ‘ought implies can’, feasibility, environmental risk
National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-144915 (URN)10.1080/13669877.2014.961513 (DOI)000366684500003 ()2-s2.0-84907764446 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20160115

Available from: 2014-05-05 Created: 2014-05-05 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
3. Scenarios and sustainability: tools for alleviating the gap between municipal means and responsibilities in adaptation planning
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Scenarios and sustainability: tools for alleviating the gap between municipal means and responsibilities in adaptation planning
2012 (English)In: Local Environment: the International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, ISSN 1354-9839, E-ISSN 1469-6711, Vol. 17, no 6-7, 641-662 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Adaptation to climate change often involves long-time frames and uncertainties over the consequences of chosen adaptation measures. In this study, two tools designed for assisting local decision-makers in adaptation planning were tested: socio-economic scenarios and sustainability analysis. The objective was to study whether these tools could be of practical relevance to Swedish municipalities and facilitate local-level climate change adaptation. We found that the municipal planners who participated in the testing generally considered the tools useful and of high relevance, but that more time was needed to use the tools than was provided during the test process.

Keyword
adaptation, climate change, cost-benefit analysis, goal conflict, socio-economic scenarios
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-75316 (URN)10.1080/13549839.2011.646969 (DOI)2-s2.0-84863915761 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20150629

Available from: 2012-02-05 Created: 2012-02-05 Last updated: 2017-12-08Bibliographically approved

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