To ensure the survival and quality of life of our species, we seek sustainable development to balance the economic, social and environmental spheres in an ethical and equitable manner. The United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs) have become the guiding principles aimed at guaranteeing a safe space for everyone through awareness and clarity of the responsibilities of each individual. This article addresses different views on the topic “sustainable development,” relating them to ethical issues and then associating the discussions with the SDGs. However, in relation to the subject of ethics and concern for planet Earth, several other documents, such as Laudato Si', Gaia and Gaia 2.0, are of great importance to complement and enrich the discussion. A global perspective is proposed, based on the encyclical Laudato Si', the Gaia theory of James Lovelock, religious concepts and idea of the good of humanity, along with the vision of Timothy Lenton who talks about Gaia 2.0. It is highlighted that understanding the role of the Church, the government and academic research in combating environmental, social and economic problems is of great relevance. Finally, based on the discussions provided herein it can be observed that although the statements and documents examined present similarities in pointing to an ethical agenda, they need further debate and research.
Initially, it was believed that planet Earth and its elements were available to man to use indiscriminately according to his needs. When men saw the earth from space, it became clear that the planet is limited, existing within a closed system powered by sunlight. Subsequently, with the advancement of science, the interdependence between all beings and natural elements has been increasingly understood (Lovelock, 2000).
It is now widely accepted that the earth can be considered as a living organism and that one action implies several reactions (Lovelock, 2000; Pillay & Elkadi, 2010). This is a vision of reality based on “awareness of the essential state of interrelation and interdependence of all phenomena—physical, biological, psychological, social and cultural” (Capra, 1984). Consequently, the current understanding of our planet and its environmental conditions is a limiting and determining factor for the maintenance of species (Rockström et al., 2009). It should be noted in this regard that the current geological period is called the Anthropocene, also known as the “Era of Humanity” (Artaxo, 2014).
Results and discussion
Analysis of databases
For each database, the three groups of search terms were used: (Gaia AND Gaia 2.0); ("Sustainable development goals" AND "Laudato si"); ("Sustainable development goals" AND Ethics). Figure 2 shows the fnal results of the search.
As shown in Fig. 2, a higher number of documents were identifed in the ScienceDirect database, followed by Web of Science. On applying the frst group of terms (Gaia AND Gaia 2.0), a total of 1,425 articles was identifed. For the second group of terms ("Sustainable development goals" AND "Laudato si"), 18 articles were identifed. The third group of terms ("Sustainable development goals" AND Ethics) collected a total of 1,753 articles. These data show the small number of studies directed mainly at the second group of terms. After the analysis, to discuss the results and discussions in the theoretical scope, 56 documents were used.