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24th Annual Bertram Morris Colloquium

The Ethics and Politics of Consumerism

Abstracts of Colloquium Papers


"Globalization, Consumption, and Human Development: 

The Cases of Costa Rica and Honduras"

David A. Crocker

Thursday March 16, 2000

3:10-5:00 p.m.

UMC Forum Room

In Costa Rica and Honduras, two very different Central American countries, household and public consumption patterns have undergone significant changes in the last decade. My aim in this paper is to (i) examine the role of globalization and neoliberalism in causing these alterations, (ii) describe the ways in which traditional consumption patterns have been replaced by recent consumption styles, and (iii) in the light of a version of the capabilities approach, evaluate the impact of these changes on human well-being and sustainable human development. 


"Graceful Simplicity: A Social and Personal Orientation for the 21st Century"

Jerome Segal

Wednesday March 15, 2000

7:00-9:00 p.m.

Old Main Chapel

This paper discusses the diverse history and concept of simple living, the idea of gracefulness, the legitimacy of Americans' perception that they need more money, and the politics of simplicity.

Professor Segal's book, Graceful Simplicity: Toward a Philosophy and Politics of Simple Living will be available for purchase at the reception following his talk, and at the community forum on Saturday in Hale 270.  Cash or check only.


"Redefining Progress: 
 Making our Ecological Footprints Sustainable"

Mathis Wackernagel

Friday March 17, 2000

11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

UMC 230

Mathis Wackernagel cuts through the verbiage about sustainable development and shows how, armed with a pocket calculator, some basic equations, and readily available resources, we can all begin to assess to what extent we are living beyond our means – or overshooting the ecosphere’s ability to cope.  He teaches us not only to calculate our individual footprints, but also how to assess the health of nations and the world overall using ecological footprint units (EF’s).  Not surprisingly, Mathis concludes that many of the world’s high-income countries – including Japan and the Netherlands, which are often held up as models for developing countries – are running massive ecological deficits with the rest of the world.  That is, their positive dollar trade balances and high levels of material consumption are supported by ecological flow and life-support services generated by an ecosystem area elsewhere on the planet several times larger than their own domestic territories.  Mathis will describe the significant implications of this conclusion (he calculates that we will need the equivalent of five to six additional planet Earths to meet the estimated material needs of humans in the year 2040) and, importantly, how we can all work to live sustainably as individuals as well as nations.


"Changing the Mental Model of Consumption"

Patricia Werhane

Friday March 17, 2000

3:10-5:00 p.m.

UMC Forum Room

The exportation of the Western mental model of consumption by global corporations as they pursue economic interests in developing countries has been roundly criticized as detrimental to indigenous cultures, to developing political economies, and to global environmental integrity. Yet this activity continues unabated. I will argue that if one rethinks global strategies for multinational corporations as part of a systems approach, and redefines the notion of consumption as exchange, we will be able to reformulate global corporate strategies in terms that place environmental integrity as part of corporate strategic advantage, thus working toward triple-win outcomes.


Morris Colloquium 2000 is co-sponsored by:

the Morris Fund, the Department of Philosophy, 
the Center for Values and Social Policy, the CU Environmental Center,
and the United Government of Graduate Students.


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