The Ethical Dilemma of a Rapidly Receding Watering Hole: Implications For Design Education



Design Education Strategy


  • ethics, sustainability, globalisation


Ethos, the origin of the word ethics, originally meant a place where animals frequent. When the herds gather at the watering hole how do they interact with other herds, species or competition? How do they behave in a way that they will be welcomed back?

A failure in ethics is an indication of a fundamental blind spot about the nature of things. Ethics should never be a listing of minimal (usually negative) standards but rather a way of sensitizing us to nature and the human community (Moore 2003). We as Homo sapiens or in Latin "wise humans" have lost touch with our subtle understanding about the nature of things. Globalization and the scale of industrialization required to maintain our booming population have also led us to a new era of ethical behaviour. The overcrowding around the watering hole is unprecedented. No model of the past has adequately taken into account an estimated population of 6.684 billion (as of July 2008) and an expected 9 billion by 2054 (UN Population Division 2001).

It is essential that we relearn how to ‘drink at the watering hole’ in a sustainable and equitable manner bearing in mind that we don’t jeopardize our children’s chances of being welcomed back!

DEFSA conferences

DEFSA promotes relevant research with the focus on design + education through its biennial conferences, to promote professionalism, accountability and ethics in the education of young designers. Our next conference is a hybrid event. See above for details.

Critical skills endorsement

Professional Members in good standing can receive a certificate of membership, but DEFSA cannot provide confirmation or endorsement of skills whatsoever. DEFSA only confirm membership of DEFSA which is a NPO for Design Education in South Africa (