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Integrated Learning-Living Communities

Business Ethics and Environmental Sustainability – Fall 2020 Update

By Barbara Heroy John

COVID-19 protocols did not prevent the BEES from swarming this fall. Bike rides along the river—in cohorts smaller than 10 persons—enabled students to visit Dayton’s archeological site Sun Watch (which was abandoned by Fort Ancient Native Americans in after a rapid period of resource depletion) and see the area’s landfill and sewage treatment plant ... from a healthy distance.

A second series of forays—to the Carillon Historical Park—helped students to make sense of the role of natural resources in Dayton’s subsequent history, first by appreciating the role of the Great Miami River (in enabling early farmers to export their crops by way of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to NYC) and later the role of canal system (that redirected the commodity flow to Pennsylvania). It was Dayton’s natural resource endowment—its forests and fertile soil watered by a navigable river system-- that first recommended it to settlers.

After deforestation resulted in muddy streets, Dayton’s quarries contributed limestone (dubbed Dayton marble) to both to pave its downtown streets and to transform its first log cabins into more permanent structures.

Deforestation may also have aggravated the periodic flooding suffered by the city, culminating in the devastating 1913 flood. Locals later ‘remembered the promises made in the attic’ (where most downtown residents awaited rescue by small boats) , making contributions to finance a group of dry dams designed by Arthur Morgan that retain their efficacy to the present day and gives Dayton its enviable the Five Rivers Metropark system.

A walking tour of the Woodland cemetery (built on high ground, next to the UD campus) enabled students to identify not only specimens of the trees that once enveloped the area, but also the graves of some of Dayton’s most famous personages/ The earliest works by the poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar were published by his high school classmates, the local printers/later bicycle shop owners Orville and Wilbur (without the moustache) Wright. The Ritty brothers who ran a downtown bar called The Pony invented the cash register (that led to the founding of National Cash Register—NCR—by enthused coal supplier John H. Patterson). A later visit to the Patterson Homestead enabled students to appreciate the sales methods that gave global dominance to this corporation’s product…originally invented to prevent employee theft in a bar in Dayton’s Oregon District!

Visiting a vintage print shop, a replica of one of the Wright brothers’ bicycle shops and the display of the Wright Flyer II permitted students studying entrepreneurship to distinguish between the vision and talent that informs innovation and the skillsets necessary to bring inventions successfully to market. The Wright brothers’ manufacturing facility never employed more than 40 people, and beyond a few government contracts, the firm failed to achieve a meaningful market share, despite the acquisition of lucrative patents protecting their designs.

The BEES also learned to appreciate the ethical challenges of leadership. John Patterson, renowned not just for founding NCR but also for his role in leading the rescue and recovery effort after the 1913 flood, narrowly escaped federal charges for income tax evasion. Charles Kettering—the inventor of the electronic ignition system that replaced cranks on early cars—later supervised the work of the Cornell chemist Thomas Midgley at GE. Midgley is best known for conceiving leaded gasoline and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)—arguably two of the most environmentally damaging innovations of the 20th century—contributing to smog and the depletion of the ozone layer.

The BEES are hoping that spring will enable them to venture farther afield. A visit to a local beehive, a raft trip and a pancake breakfast at an old flourmill are on the ‘to BEE done’ list.

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