Personal, Social & Corporate Responsibility in a Common World

Vol. 14, No. 1


Guest Editors' Commentary

Exploring opportunities for eco-sound food habits: Households and researchers in partnership

Responsibility in a common world: My brother's keeper?

Neoliberalism, Microbes, and Peace: A Human Ecological Perspective

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Kappa Omicron Nu FORUM
, Vol. 14, No. 1.  

Editor: Dorothy I. Mitstifer. 

Guest Editors: Margaret M. Bubolz & Linda Nelson

Official publication of Kappa Omicron Nu National Honor Society. Member, Association of College Honor Societies. Copyright 2000. Kappa Omicron Nu FORUM is a refereed, semi-annual publication serving the profession of family and consumer sciences. The opinions expressed by the authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of the society. 

Further information: Kappa Omicron Nu, PO Box 798, Okemos, MI 48805-0798. Telephone: (727) 940-2658 ext. 2003

Interested in submitting an article to KON FORUM? Papers are now being accepted for review. For more information, click here.



Guest Editors' Commentary


Margaret M. Bubolz and Linda Nelson
Professors Emeriti, Michigan State University

The Paolucci Symposia at Michigan State University began in 1985, two years after the death of Beatrice Paolucci, long-time Michigan State University faculty member, scholar, integrationist, futurist, and international leader in human ecology and home economics (now family and consumer sciences). The purpose was to honor Paolucci’s life and work, continue her visionary thinking, contribute to the ongoing development of the body of knowledge in the field, and extend application of an ecological model to perennial and emerging problems.1

This commentary presents an overview of the Fourth Symposium, held April 3-6, 2002, and of two papers already published in the special online issue of Kappa Omicron Nu FORUM. It describes several current events and issues that impact our common world and concludes with observations on the responsibilities of family and consumer sciences.


Planning for the Fourth Paolucci Symposium at Michigan State University began in the year 2000. A committee from the College of Human Ecology worked with the Society for Human Ecology (SHE) to hold the Society’s International Conference in conjunction with the Symposium. The theme, “Personal, Social, and Corporate Responsibility in a Common World,” reflected Paolucci’s concern in the 1970s and early 1980s with ecological issues as well as her convictions about the importance of the family ecosystem—the family in interaction with its environment–as part of the total human ecosystem (Hook & Paolucci, 1970; Paolucci, 1983; Paolucci, Hall, & Axinn, 1977). The theme also reflected Paolucci’s holistic view of the interdependence of natural physical and biological, behavioral, social-cultural, and human built components of the environment.

The theme addressed the growing realization that responsibility for the protection and sustainability of the total environment rested upon decisions, actions, and policies in all sectors and levels of society, including the individual. It was increasingly clear that responsibility was global–that we did indeed live in a common world, using common resources. Keynote and plenary speakers who could address the interdependence of business and industry, governmental policy, science, and the research community were identified. Corporate responsibility was to be given emphasis. Proposals related to families, schools, business, communities, health, and other support systems were invited. Other topics to be addressed included diversity, security, philosophical, cultural, and ethical perspectives as well as conceptual, theoretical, and programmatic applications.

September 10, 2001 was set as the deadline for submission of program proposals. The next day, September 11, 2001 (9-11), terrorists attacked the United States. The relevance and significance of the Symposium theme for the meaning of “common world” and the need to think globally immediately became more apparent. Planning for the Symposium continued, however SHE withdrew its sponsorship because of security and other concerns. Nevertheless, many members of SHE and others from over a dozen countries attended the Symposium and presented papers, panels, and roundtables on a wide variety of topics related to the theme.

In the online issue of Kappa Omicron Nu FORUM (Volume 14, No.1 Fall 2002) we published the keynote address by Clifton R. Wharton, Jr., President, Michigan State University, 1970-78, admirer and friend of Beatrice Paolucci. Dr. Wharton has been a leader in international programs for several years, including serving as U.S. Deputy Secretary of State in the Clinton administration.

In his paper, “Responsibility in a Common World: My Brother’s Keeper?” Dr. Wharton discusses the complex interrelationships among values, belief systems, economic development, political systems, and human well-being. He challenges us to consider several critical questions: Who defines the “common good”? Who decides upon the locus of responsibility or determines the standards for responsibility? How will we deal with the negative consequences of economic globalization–especially human dislocations and inequalities and with “our gluttonous use of oil” with its consequences for environmental protection? He concludes:

Can we be our “brother’s keeper” in an interdependent world where the “they” [persons who may not share our values or religion, language, ethnicity and the like] often do not see us as their brothers? Or even more important, can we afford not to?

We have also published the article, “Exploring Opportunities for Eco-sound Food Habits: Households and Researchers in Partnership,” by Helena Shanahan of Goteborg University in Sweden. She reports the results from an intensive study of ten households’ opportunities and constraints for eco-sound food habits related to their everyday life. The article illustrates how family and individual decisions and actions on a collective basis have far-reaching consequences and how families and researchers working together can increase awareness and change behavior.

Current Global Events and Issues

Social, political, and corporate actions and events around the world continue to impact the lives of all of us, the environment, and the profession of family and consumer sciences. Currently, the spotlight is on the 2003 Iraq War with its destruction and degradation of life, resources, and social-cultural and physical infrastructures. The war and its aftermath will have long-range consequences. Other current global events are the emergence and rapid spread of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and the diagnosis of mad cow disease in North America.

A current issue in the state of Michigan illustrates the complex interdependence of our joint responsibilities. Thousands of truckloads of trash from Canada (and other states) are currently being shipped to and disposed of in Michigan. This issue divides lawmakers, trash haulers, communities, and citizens; many fear environmental pollution. But, allowing the state to bar Canadian trash could violate the North American Free Trade Agreement and have political repercussions and economic consequences and can affect relationships between the two countries. Similar concerns have arisen with respect to the ban on importation of genetically altered crops and food from the United States into Europe and other countries.2

Another example is that of the effort to open up Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling in order to lessen U.S. dependence on the Middle East for oil. Opinions differ widely on the necessity, consequences, and ethics of the proposed action, as well as of other efforts to roll back environmental protection measures.

An issue directly impacting families and communities is lead poisoning that can hinder brain development and create behavioral problems in children. Lead poisoning results from lead-contaminated soil, dust, chips from paint manufactured before 1978, and other sources. Lead poisoning is considered a major environmental threat facing children. This problem illustrates the interdependence of the quality and health of the environment and the realization of fundamental human rights, such as human health and well-being and a safe and secure environment. Several international agreements, treaties, and conventions on environments and human health have been enacted (Calamita, 2002). These focus on such issues and matters as air pollution, biological diversity, energy and material resources, global climate, land and soil conservation, and management of agricultural, forestry, and marine resources.

These problems have global implications and involve many sectors of society, including physical and social infrastructures; communities; and health, political, economic, agricultural, industrial, and educational systems. Families are of critical significance; their everyday decisions and activities are both affected by and influence policies and actions on a societal level. The rights and contributions of women are also of special importance, both in their family roles as well as in agriculture and other sectors of the economy and society.

Concluding Observations

All of the problems and issues described illustrate the interdependent, complex, and recurring nature of human-environmental interactions. None of these matters can be dealt with by any single component of society or field of knowledge. Nor are there any simple solutions. These matters generate perennial, practical problems3 that will keep recurring in new forms and guises as part of social, cultural, political, scientific, technological, and other changes. They are the kinds of problems related to human needs and human and family ecosystems in which teachers, practitioners, researchers, and others in human ecology and family and consumer sciences have been and will continue to be engaged.

The human sciences must be “at the table” when research, policies, and programs relating to these matters are being formulated. Contributions can be made to scientific knowledge and economic, moral, and value analysis of human-environmental issues. Articulation and definition of the body of knowledge and the underlying conceptual and theoretical structure of its research and practice must continue (Anderson & Nickols, 2001).

We return to Dr. Wharton’s questions: “Can we be our brother’s keeper in an interdependent world. . . .? Or. . .can we afford not to?” It is our conviction that we must afford to be our brothers’ and our sisters’ keepers—and they must afford to be ours. And we add that humanity must work in a responsible way to ensure the quality of the environment.


We welcome submission of additional articles related to the Symposium theme, both from persons who participated in the Symposium as well as from others who did not. See the Call for Papers and guidelines for submission at kon.org


The authors express deep appreciation to M. Suzanne Sontag for her careful review and excellent suggestions.


1 For further information about the life and work of Beatrice Paolucci, see Bubolz (2002).

2This issue was the subject of a plenary presentation at the Symposium by Rebecca Grumet (2002).

3For a discussion of perennial practical problems in home economics, see Brown and Paolucci (1979).


Anderson, C. L., & Nickols, S. Y. (2001). The essence of our being. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, 95(5), 15-18.

Brown, M., & Paolucci, B. (1979). Home economics: A definition. Washington, DC: American Home Economics Association.

Bubolz, M. M. (2002). Beatrice Paolucci shaping destiny in everyday life. East Lansing, MI: Paolucci Book Committee.

Calamita, C. (2002). International agreements, treaties, and conventions on environment and human health. Retrieved May 6, 2003 from American Association for the Advancement of Science Web site,

Grumet, R. (2002). Plant technology for crop improvement: Historical perspective, current and future uses. Plenary speech, Fourth Beatrice Paolucci Symposium, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, April 5, 2002.

Hook, N.C. & Paolucci, B. (1970). The family as an ecosystem. Journal of Home Economics, 62(5), 315-318.

Paolucci, B. (1983). Home and family workshop for learning. First honorary faculty lecturer. The Camilla Eyring Kimball Chair of Home and Family Life. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, March 10, 1983

Paolucci, B., Hall, O., & Axinn, N. (1977). Family decision making: An ecosystem approach. New York: Wiley.

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