Sunday, November 16, 2008

Living ethically

A Life Stripped Bare: my year trying to live ethically was very readable book, not too heavy or preachy, looking at the ways an individual or a family unit can live more ethically. The author, Leo Hickman, writes engagingly and offers a window into his world as he struggled to balance practicality and affordability with a less damaging lifestyle. Much of the advice you probably are already aware of, if interested in the subject, but it's got useful pointers and perhaps things that you wouldn't usually think of are flagged up as well.

As his starting point, Hickman, had a trio of ethical living type bods come in and audit his family's lifestyle and home. They gave him advice and pointed out issues to be addressed. This was an interesting process, while apparently uncomfortable for them.

I was a bit hmmm about the auditors' apparent preference for alternative therapies, since big health food companies and complementary therapies are just as big business as "Big Pharma". And homeopathy is a nonsense*. I was itching at Hickman's vague belief that there probably is something in it since, while he acknowledged the existence of the placebo effect, he didn't seem to fully understood how potent it can be from his dismissive tone. I can't really blame him, as it's not widely understoood, it's somewhat counter-intuitive and carries baggage of 'must have been hypochondria all along' with it. I felt on issues such as this one of alternative medicine, relying on the authority of his auditors for some of what is ethical and what is not, was problematic. Obviously he made his own decisions and never for one moment did it cross his mind not to use conventional medicine for his daughter when it was required, so it's a niggling point.It's just that I felt their authority was presumed and perhaps not always correctly.

Some of the assumptions made by the author and also by the auditors are worth questioning when it comes to which ethics are the "right" ones. But then, that's something you have to work out for yourself, deciding which issues are most important to you.

The book gave me a lot to think about and I'm back to feeling guilty about meat. It's not the welfare of animals that is highest on my list on this issue, although I would always choose more humanely raised meat. My real concern is that the same amount of land that produces meat for one consumer could supply enough vegetarian produce for twenty veggie consumers. It's a doozy that.

Then I have to start wondering about land/feed for dairy and wondering if veganism would be have to be the truly ethical choice on this score. For now, like the author, it's probably just a meat-reducing diet. This is a poor compromise I admit, but shifting us so radically as a family would be unlikely, especially when we're not all on the same page - and I'm not going it alone, oh no!

* Yes it is.

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