Western Washington University Western Washington University ------------------------------------------------------------------------- --------------------------------

Environmental Management Seminar

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Discussion Questions for Scarcity, Overconsumption and the Market:


1) There is enough food in the world today to support the entire human population, however many still speak of overpopulation. Define overpopulation. Given your definition, is the world approaching this state?

2) One of the biggest global issues is disparity of wealth. However, we may not see our own lifestyles as extravagant in comparison with many of our neighbors even though we far exceed the consumption levels of most of the rest of the world. What would it take for us to adopt a simpler lifestyle?

3) Given your ecological footprint and your share of the global commons in relation to given benchmarks, are you motivated or inspired to make any changes? If so, how could you project them onto a larger scale?

4) In what ways does an unconstrained free-market 'correct' for scarcity? For over-consumption? For overpopulation? What happens when the market fails to correct?

5) How aware are you of the negative externalities caused by your consumption? How would you create a mechanism whereby the cause/effect relationship had a shorter feedback loop?

6) Specifically relating to the environment, what are the positive externalities that businesses provide?

7) Is the market effective at allocating and reallocating natural resources?

8) We seem to accept as a matter of course that human beings are 'naturally' driven to acquire more and more. Is this the case, or rather are we socialized into a consumption mentality? What evidence can you provide in support of your position?

9) How do you define happiness? Do you think that accumulation of material possessions leads to an increase in overall happiness?

10) There was a time in our not-so-distant past in which over-consumption was viewed as evidence of a moral lapse--that greed, in short, was viewed as a moral vice. Now, however, we have 'progressed' to the point at which greed is viewed quite differently; consider the words of Gordon Gecko in the movie Wall Street:

Well, ladies and gentlemen, we’re not here to indulge in fantasy, but in political and economic reality.
America…America has become a second-rate power.
Its trade deficit and its fiscal deficit are at nightmare proportions.
Now, in the days of the free market, when our country was a top industrial power, there was accountability to the stockholder.
The Carnegies, the Mellons, the men that built this great industrial empire, did it because it was their money at stake.
Today, management has no stake in the company!
The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be the survival of the unfittest.
Well, in my book, you either do it right or you get eliminated.
I am not a destroyer of companies.
I am a liberator of them!
The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.
Greed is right.
Greed works.
Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.
Greed, in all its forms—greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge—has marked the upward surge of mankind, and greed—you mark my words—will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A.
Thank you very much.
Is greed good, or is greed a moral vice?


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