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Is There Ethical Consumption?

I have a feeling this will get erased, but for the sake of lively conversation on a Wednesday morning....

Is there such a thing as Ethical Consumption under the current system we live in? Discussssss

- I'm the best at being me when I'm outside
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one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.
14 Replies

The problem is that values are not universal.

Most civilizations believe in a few non-negotiables: murder is wrong, so is stealing. Get much beyond that, however, and we are all over the place.

Do you not agree?

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Read "Braiding Sweetgrass" in which Robin Wall Kimmerer answers your question much better than I could. 

Everything in the whole world lives by consuming other things.  There are deeply magic metaphors in that fact.  Next time you are outside, eat a dandelion and you'll see what I mean.  If you take something, you must also put something back.  When consumption is ethically questionable, the missing piece is gratitude.  Consumerism interrupts "giving back" by exporting natural capital; it interrupts "gratitude" by defining value in terms of money. Marie Kondo is onto something important when she suggests that you should say thank you to your stuff. 

Yes, everything lives by consuming other things.  But the hoof stock grazing and the carnivores eating the hoof stock was in balance before we came along and knocked everything out of our balance with our sense that everything is ours to do with as we like.  Survival of the fittest worked with creating and maintaining species.  We kill and destroy.  The vast number of species are endanger of being extinct or are all but extinct.  All because we wanted their hide, their meat, or their living space.  Or sometimes we just kill them for the sheer joy of killing.  Its not sport when they can't fight back.

Being grateful to the organisms we destroy by taking over their living space or killing them just because we can or because we want their tusks or horns or some other body part does not make it OK.  Several tribal groups would thank the animals they killed for their sacrifice so that the tribe might live, but those groups took only what they needed to live and tried to live in harmony with nature.

We don't live in harmony with nature.

If you think this through you will realize that there is no amount of gratitude sufficient to justify the abuses of factory farming or trophy hunting, just as there is no amount of gratitude sufficient to justify ecocide.   That doesn't mean you can't ethically use things, but you can't ethically abuse them or exterminate them either.   What if you took responsibility for properly disposing of every item you acquire?  What if you made a commitment to thank every item before it leaves your possession (yes, even the single-use packaging) and made sure that, if possible it is re-used, recycled, or composted?   

I think there is a sliding scale, with more or less ethical consumption on both extremes. There is no universal standard for ethical consumption. It’s an interesting thing to think about though. Great question!