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November 7, 2003

Little Theater, Quad 346, SJU

Joe DesJardins, Philosophy and Ernie Diedrich, Economics

Learning What it Really Costs: Teaching Ethics With Life-cycle Case Studies

“Sustainability” provides the framework for a Senior Seminar that we teach entitled “The Ethics and Economics of Sustainable Societies.” One of the class requirements has each student research and write a life-cycle case study, an exercise in which they trace the full, or partial, life-cycle of some product with which they are familiar. Students are expected to examine the economic, ethical, and ecological implications along each step in the life-cycle of the product. We believe that life-cycle cases in general are very helpful in revealing the full economic, ethical, and ecological consequences of product development, marketing, use, and disposal. We also believe that asking students to research the product themselves provides additional pedagogical benefits. After a brief review of the economic, environmental and philosophical case for this approach, we will describe the life-cycle case method, offer several examples from our own classes, and make the case for the pedagogical benefits. A good time is guaranteed for all!