( Manion, 2002). The ethics of sustainable development in the sciences also includes the "precautionary principle." This refers to the view that, "When an activity raises threats of harm to human health and the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically" (Manion, 2002).
In the light of the above brief overview of way that ethics and social responsibility have become part of the ethos of the contemporary scientific world, it becomes clear that a focus on technologies such as solar still production is one way in which engineers can enact their ethical and social responsibilities in this age. This project also takes into account the social and cultural needs and context of the people of the region, especially in areas where there is a lack of resources.
From an ethical perspective, professional engineering organizations have made an important contribution and commitment to the environment and sustainability. This refers as well to the engineering code of ethics. For example, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Code of Ethics encourages its members to "Accept responsibility in making engineering decisions consistent with the safety, health and welfare of the public, and to disclose promptly factors that might endanger the public or the environment" (Manion, 2002). In a similar vein the Code of Ethics of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) states that, "Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public and shall strive to comply with the principles of sustainable development in the performance of their professional duties" (ASCE Code of Ethics). This also includes the important canon that, "Engineers should be committed to improving the environment by adherence to the principles of sustainable development so as to enhance the quality of life of the general public" (ASCE Code of Ethics).
This last canon of the ethics of the ASCE is particularly relevant to the present project. It underscores the realization that engineering and the sciences should be continually aware not only of the impact that they have on the environment, the sustainability of that environment and the social context in which they build and work, but that engineering also has an ethical duty to assist and help those in need through technology and expertise. This is clearly stated in the Guidelines to Practice Under the Fundamental Cannons of Ethics of the ASCE: "Engineers should seek opportunities to be of constructive service in civic affairs and work for the advancement of the safety, health and well-being of their communities, and the protection of the environment through the practice of sustainable development" (ASCE Code of Ethics). The following statement from the World Engineering Partnership for Sustainable Development (WEPSD) clearly places the role of ethics and sustainability into perspective. "Engineers will translate the dreams of humanity, traditional knowledge, and the concepts of science into action through the creative application of technology to achieve sustainable development (Manion, 2002). This shows the intention of the engineering community to form an integrated partnership involving all disciplines to provide advice and leadership towards as more sustainable environment. This means in effect that the engineer can "…play an active role in this transformation…in the changing climate of the greening of American business" (Manion, 2002).
The above ethos and concerns for sustainability are reflected especially in projects linked to scarce resources. Water is a primary resource and essential for public health. As one study notes, "Over one billion people still use unsafe drinking water sources. This is because many farms, villages and even cities lack the knowledge, capacity and funding to develop water distribution and purification systems" (AMREF CanadaWater and Sanitation Lesson Plan -- Science Experiment and Activity). This emphasizes the role of the modern engineer in helping to protect and generate this scarce resource.
'AMREF Canada. Water and Sanitation Lesson Plan -- Science Experiment and Activity', viewed 9 September, 2010, http://canada.amref.org/silo/files/water-science-experiment-grade-11-12.doc.