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John and the Habitat for Humanity Dilemma

John and the Habitat for Humanity Dilemma

John and the Habitat for Humanity Dilemma

John Reynolds is a Research Chemist based in Alabama. He also volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, which is a humanitarian organization that provides decent housing for the poor in the community. John learns that Habitat for Humanity uses vinyl in its housing projects, a product that has been criticized for its hazardous effect on human health. This paper uses Kolb’s experiential learning cycle to reflect on John’s dilemma. Kolb’s experiential learning cycle suggests that learning occurs in a four-stage cycle. The four stages include learning from concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation (Kolb & Kolb, 2005). This reflection will determine contextual or social influences on how John can think about the situation and the relevance of these influences. Most importantly, the reflection helps determine the best course of action in this situation.


Concrete Experience

John Reynolds has been volunteering at a humanitarian organization called Habitat for Humanity. The purpose of this organization is to provide better living standards for the poor in the community. John is a Research Chemist in Alabama, and volunteering for Habitat for Humanity has greatly improved his credit towards ‘service for the community’ at his workplace. One day, John watches a documentary titled ‘Blue Vinyl,’ which essentially criticizes the use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products. According to the documentary, PVC leaches into groundwater and water tables and is later consumed by people. The presence of PVC, according to the documentary, can cause significant harm to human health. One of the major risks of PVC contamination is said to be cancer. John also did his own research that links PVC to serious health concerns. He discovers that Habitat for Humanity uses PVC for its building’s sidings. The organization receives cheap vinyl at reduced rates from the vinyl industry as part of their contribution to corporate tax shelter contribution. Therefore, Habitat for Humanity is considered to be one of the big polluters of groundwater and water tables with PVC. John is faced with the dilemma of what to do in this situation, considering a humanitarian organization is potentially causing more harm through its activities.

Reflective Observation

The situation that John is in is a case of an ethical dilemma. An ethical dilemma is a situation of a difficult choice between two or more moral options. In an ethical dilemma, either of the options may include the transgression of a moral principle, which makes choice-making rather difficult (Singer, 2011). In this case, the choices include the following; John can choose to maintain his association with a humanitarian organization that is allegedly causing harm to the environment and the health and safety of the communities within which it operates. There is also an option of calling out the use of vinyl in affordable housing construction by Habitat for Humanity. The first option could lead to increased harm to people and the environment. The second could either lead to the organization’s change of the use of vinyl to more expensive building products or John’s loss of his volunteering opportunities. The essence of the functioning of this organization is the minimization of building costs so that the course can provide good housing for as many people as possible.

Abstract Conceptualization

There are several contextual influences on how John may choose to make his decision. One of the influences on his decision would be conformity. He could choose to conform to the normal way of doing things in the building industry. The vinyl industry is relatively large, and PVC is a widely used product. John could choose to ignore the product’s potential impact because, despite the concerns, a majority of people are still using it.

Another social influence of this decision is obedience. John can choose to be obedient to positive values by raising concerns over the potential impact of PVC. John did his own research and found a cause for concern regarding the impact of vinyl contamination on the environment. His decision could be based on his obedience to his values of integrity by making sure that Habitat for Humanity makes some changes to its building structures.

Active Experimentation

 If I were in John’s situation, I would choose to be obedient to my values. It is better to raise concern over the potential contamination than let the organization continue to harm the people it was created to help. Raising concern might lead to further investigation of the situation to determine the real impact of vinyl contamination. More information might help to ascertain whether there is truly an impact on human health since the credibility of the documentary “Blue Vinyl” has been questioned.


Effective reflection is necessary for effective decision-making. Kolb’s model has been used in this case to evaluate the factors that need to be considered to solve this dilemma. Based on the analysis, the best decision to make would be to raise the alarm about the situation but perform further investigations before taking action.


Kolb, A. Y., & Kolb, D. A. (2005). Learning Styles And Learning Spaces: Enhancing Experiential Learning In Higher Education. Academy Of Management Learning & Education, 4(2), 193-212.

Singer, P. (2011). Practical Ethics. Cambridge University Press.


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In this Assignment, you will select ONE of the following case studies and prepare an essay that factually and succinctly describes the case. Use a reflective learning theory as a framework in your analysis. Please offer your own views on the topic …not just a rehash of what someone else has written – Thanks!

John and the Habitat for Humanity Dilemma

John and the Habitat for Humanity Dilemma

Week 3. Case Study

Select ONE of the following case studies. Read the case study and write a Case Study on

Please offer your own views on the topic …not just a rehash of what someone else has written – Thanks!

  • John and the Habitat for Humanity Dilemma

Imagine yourself in John Reynold 1s position. What would you do? What are the social (or contextual) influences on how John thinks about his situation? Are they all equally relevant?

John Reynolds is a Research Chemist in Alabama. He also volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. In his volunteer work, he receives a lot of personal fulfillment as well as lines on his vita and credit towards 11service in the cornrnunity 11  at the laboratory where he is employed. One weekend, John sees a documenta1y film called Blue Vinyl.

It essentially criticizes the polyvinylchloride-related  industries for not using environmentally safe procedures, and for allowing PVC derivative compounds to leach into water tables. The current theory is that these compounds can later cause cancer in the human body. John was especially surprised to learn that vinyl siding on homes is  considered to be one of the main contributors to groundwater and water table pollution. The documentary noted that a variety of home builders receive special incentive discounts to use vinyl siding. One such builder is Habitat for

Humanity, which has used inexpensive vinyl siding in its homes for years, because Habitat receives vinyl siding at a reduced rate from the vinyl industry as a corporate tax shelter contribution. John does some research in respected journals, and decides that the link between vinyl products and cancer gives him cause for concern. What would you do in this case?

Blue  Vinyl is a 2002 documentary film directed by Daniel B. Gold and Judith Helfand.  Dubbed the world 1s first toxic comedy, it highlights the hazards of bio-accumulation, pollution, and the make-up of what we commonly hope are benign plastics. Itwas shown at the Sundance Film Festival and received rave reviews from Roger Ebert. To be fair, some of the critics noted the final version of the film was edited to eliminate conflicting information and a woman who claimed to have a vinyl-related cancer later changed her diagnosis to another disease. There were other issues raised about the documentary’s credibility. Still, the film became the centerpiece of a campaign to educate and persuade industry change in producing vinyl products. You may view the film at Blue Vinyl documentary or see clips at Highlights of Blue Vinyl documentary .

  • The Doctor and the Department of Defense.

Imagine yourself in the young American DoD doctor’s position. What would you do? What are the social and contextual influences on how you think about this situation? Are the social/contextual influences equally relevant? It1s 1957, and you are a young American doctor working for the Department of Defense in the Marshall Islands. The Marshall Islands are being used by the United States as a nuclear warhead testing site. A friend of yours, Adam Johnson, is a doctor with a volunteer medical team who treats the Marshall Island natives, who were relocated to an island downwind from the testing sites. Adam mentions to you that over the last ten years, he has noticed an increase in particular kinds of cancers. You suspect that this cancer might be related to radioactive fallout, traveling with the prevailing wind patterns, from the nuclear weapons testing that your group has been engaged in on the islands. What would you do in this case?

Further Background: Between 1945 and 1958, the United States conducted 67 atmospheric tests of nuclear weapon designs on the Bikini and Enewetak atolls of the Marshall Islands. After this testing ended in the late 1950s, residents who had been relocated from these atolls began asking to return to their home islands. But going home proved to be not so simple. At Enewetak, for instance, islands continued to be used for other defense programs through the 1960s and 1970s. Finally, in 1978, an extensive radiological survey was conducted of the northern Marshall Islands, including those in the Bikini and Enewetak atolls. An aerial survey determined the external gamma exposure rate. Samples of soil, food crops, animals, well water, seawater, fish, and more were collected to evaluate the radionuclide concentrations in the atoll environment. About the same time, the U.S. launched a massive cleanup and rehabilitation program on the Enewetak Atoll, scraping off about 76,400 cubic meters of surface soil from 6 islands and sealing it off in a crater on the atoll’s Runit Island.


▪ Decide which ONE of the two cases you will analyze.
▪ Factually and succinctly describe the case.
▪ Apply one of the theories of reflective learning from our course to the case.
▪ Imagine yourself in the character’s position.
What would you do?
What are the social (or contextual) influences on how the character thinks about his situation?
Are they all equally relevant?

Your Case Study shall be between 3 to 5 pages (excluding cover page and reference page) and shall have the following sections:

  • Title page (Not included in Page Count)
  • Introduction
  • Narrative
  • Conclusion
  • Reference page (Not included in Page Count)
  • Formatting should include: 1″ margins, double spaced, 11 to 12 point font


  • Cite the reflective learning theory used in the case study
  • Use in text citations for quotes or material not your own
  • Choice of citation style
  • URLs alone are not acceptable

I recommend you spell check your writing. Once your Case Study is complete, save it and upload your document into the Assignments folder.

20% of final grade.

Again, there are no right or wrong answers to this assignment. However, thoughtfulness and thoroughness do count. Please write professionally (spellcheck, good grammar, etc.)
Reminder: Your grade will be heavily influenced by your ability to incorporate reference to your selected reflective learning theory and course reading material throughout your essay.
Contact me if you have any questions about the assignment.

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