The Australian Association of Professional and Applied Ethics 17th Annual Conference was hosted by the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney from the 15th to the 17th of June, 2010. The conference convener was Dr Betty Chaar. Betty organized a truly wonderful conference and we are all in her debt for the obvious hard work and dedication which made such a conference possible. The conference included innovations such as the Authors‘ Sessions which were most beneficial. We were most fortunate to have as keynote speakers Stacey Carter, Ian Kerridge, Simon Long staff, Ron McCallum, Gael McDonald, Geoff Moore, Alan Saunders, Peter Singer and Colin Thomson. I am sure that everyone who was present would agree that Professor McCallum‘s explanation of his escape from a future of basket weaving, because he thought life must offer something more, was inspirational. Peter Singer‘s address as to our obligations with regard to global poverty was also excellent as were the others. The AAPAE was privileged to have such keynote speakers.
Furthermore, Betty‘s addition to the conference with the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science & Research of a workshop exploring the ethical challenges of new technologies and the risk and responsibility in Nanotechnology, Biotechnology and Synthetic Biology took us into a future which as ethicists we cannot ignore. Although personally I have always been more comfortable contemplating the past. For that reason I was most appreciative of the welcome cocktail Betty organized in The University of Sydney‘s 150 year old Nicholson Museum. I have visited The University of Sydney before but I never realized that the University had a museum housing the largest collection of ancient artefacts on the Australian continent. These artefacts are from Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Egypt, and the Near East and Middle East. Many of the speakers I heard at the conference were inspirational but with no disrespect to them some of these ancient and very silent artefacts were even more inspirational. Not that I am suggesting that we could ever substitute one for a keynote speaker! Betty, along with her diligent team, also had two additional allies at that conference. One was the weather which was perfect. The other was their campus. Undoubtedly envy is a sin, but for most of that conference I was a sinner. The University of Sydney is beautiful.
To be on such a campus is wonderful. Betty, to you and your colleagues our heartfelt appreciation laced of course with envy. Thank you, Betty.
We had during our last teleconference some discussion of how the AAPAE might further its links with similar organizations. I was fortunate enough after our AAPAE conference to attend another. The people who organized this conference would well be worthwhile fostering further links with. They are truly excellent people. This conference was at the beginning of July. It was the 3rd Bergamo Wharton Joint Conference and its theme was Stakeholder Theory(ies): Ethical Bases, Managerial Applications, Conceptual Limits. This conference was held in the Italian city of Bergamo. Bergamo is a fascinating city. Although to all intents and purposes it is two cities. There is the old city of Bergamo at the top of a hill which is a medieval walled city. It is a most beautiful place with stunning views of the surrounding countryside which includes the foothills of the Alps. The city is also filled with magnificent towers and ancient squares. Below it is the modern city of Bergamo. I gave a paper on stakeholders and was somewhat unnerved to discover that the session I was presenting at was being chaired by Ed Freeman who virtually created stakeholder theory. I had never met Ed Freeman previously. Fortunately he is a kind and good man! This conference was the first time I visited Europe. It was also the very first time my wife ever accompanied me to a conference. That had its advantages which includes the fact that she speaks Italian. The conference was organized by Silvana Signori, Gianfranco Rusconi and Alan Strudler and they also organized a wonderful and inspiring conference which was a pleasure to attend. Not that in going to Bergamo I had left Sydney very far behind. Amongst the attendees at that conference was a colleague who lectures business ethics at The University of Sydney.
Bergamo boasts a disproportionately large representation amongst the I Mille, those 1,000 volunteers who fought alongside Guiseppe Garibaldi for Italian unification. Initially I did not understand why this was so. However the reason is simple. Bergamo then was the centre of the Italian silk manufacturing industry. And many in it sided with the Risorgimento, the forces for Italian unification. They did so for a simple reason: they wanted to get rid of tariffs and establish a common market in which to sell their products. Such a motivation is certainly not unrelated to applied ethics. Amongst such motivations there must be enough material for at least one applied ethics conference. Yet, whilst undoubtedly the motivation of many in Bergamo was to support the Risorgimento and to be actively involved in the temporary government of 1848 there is something more. Bergamo‘s silk industry was devastated by a silkworm disease in the early 1850s. That provides something else: at least enough material for one good conference on moral luck.