Consumption

Click here for a detailed listing of our Spring 2011 Consumption Theme events.

“Infinite growth of material consumption in a finite world is an impossibility.” – E. F. Schumacher

The statistics are staggering:

  • The global population exceeded 6.8 billion people in 2008, with nearly 1.2 billion people (nearly 21%) living in extreme poverty (on less than $1.25 a day).
  • The U.S. contains 5% of the global population, yet we produce 25% of the global solid waste and use 21% of the global energy
  • For every 100 pounds of trash we discard, 35 pounds are paper. Newspapers account for 14% of all landfill space, packaging paper another 15-20%.
  • Each product we buy contains an average of only 5% of the raw materials involved in the process of making and delivering it; the other 95% is waste.

Let’s face it: We are a culture of consumption. Consumption has reshaped our values: ease and convenience are marketed as necessities, global symbols of affluence and status. Even being “green” is now measured through buying power and purchasing habits. Society’s insatiable demands have put us at unsustainable odds with a natural world that imposes limits. In addition, our consumptive behaviors have contributed to epidemic proportions of physical and emotional addictions, obesity, and debt. While some enjoy overabundance, others struggle daily to meet their basic needs. These patterns of behavior are radically altering the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the health of our bodies and minds, and the species with which we share the planet.

With consumption comes waste…what should we do about both? How do we balance wants with needs? How can we maintain extreme wealth at the expense of abject poverty? In what ways can we fulfill our consumptive desires without stealing from future generations? What choices do we have?

The 2010-11 Hartwick Campus Theme launches a year of reflection, awareness-building, and action regarding our modern culture of consumption. We’ll examine our roles as individuals and as community members in assessing our wants and needs, promoting changes in consumptive behavior, and reducing our collective ecological impact. Through a series of activities and events throughout the academic year, the Consumption Campus Theme plans to:

  • Identify the political, socio-economic, and psychological forces behind our consumptive habits
  • Measure consumption patterns with respect to energy, food, and materials at Hartwick College
  • Raise awareness about the impacts of our choices on individuals, communities, and the natural world
  • Engage the College community in efforts to address consumption through education, awareness, and action

“The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.” --Elise Boulding

Consumption Campus Theme Committee:
Brian Hagenbuch, Director, Pine Lake Institute for Environmental and Sustainability Studies
Dan Morse, Program Coordinator of the Pine Lake Institute
Mark Davies, Associate Professor of Education
Kristin Jones, Associate Professor of Economics
Andrew Piefer, Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Stephanie Rozene, Assistant Professor of Art
Cecelia Walsh-Russo, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Gary Robinson, Director of Counseling Services
Emily Quackenbush, International Student Advisor/Off-Campus Program Coordinator
Alyssa Pearson ‘12
Molly Harper ‘12
Madeleine Jayson ‘11

We are very interested in additional staff and student members of the theme committee. Please contact Dan Morse, morsed@hartwick.edu, if you would like to serve on the committee.