Best-Of Advice

On balancing the scales

Regarding your “ethical consumption” post—I agree with you, nothing will ever balance the scales. People are terrified of having to feel guilty about anything, and they’ll use whatever they can to keep on walking around blind to their negative impact on the world and on others. But are you saying that we shouldn’t try to make conscientous decisions about what we buy when we can? If I can buy the laundry detergent bottle made from recycled plastic instead of new, shouldn’t I? Not to the point where it makes me struggle finanically, or cripples me in some other way. I know it’s just a drop in the oil-tainted ocean, that all corporations see is dollar signs, and that balancing the scales is impossible, but isn’t tipping them a little bit back still worth it?

I just want to keep some hope and some sea turtles alive. Even if it’s foolish and makes you want to call me a hippie.

Balancing the scales is not impossible. All you need to do is go develop the major scientific breakthrough in the field of photovoltaics or inertial confinement fusion that finally revolutionizes our supply chain of clean renewable energy.

Somebody’s gonna do it. Might as well be you.

If all you want to do is tip the scales back just a little bit, then I suppose you could move to Malawi and start an orphanage or something. You know, devote your entire life to easing the suffering of the third world in some personal way. As you put it, it’s just a drop in the oil-tainted ocean, but hey, it’s a start.

Short of that, please stop kidding yourself. You’re not making a difference.

Feel free to buy whatever laundry detergent you like, but do not for one second let yourself believe that your decision was somehow more conscientious because the bottle was made of recycled plastic. Do you have any idea how mind-bogglingly self-centered that sounds?

I wish common sense included a sense of scale. You and your consumer identity have absolutely no moral mass whatsoever. Nothing you can buy at Walmart will ever count as an ethical unit of measure that has weight on a global scale.

Green products are a marketing strategy. All you’re doing is paying a premium for that fleeting moment of self-satisfaction you feel when you buy something labeled as environmentally conscious.

That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with having a consumer preference, but please know that it doesn’t earn you a single inch of ethical high ground.

I know, you can make arguments for aggregated effects, but those are still just passive market forces tied to a capitalist system built on corporate self-interest. Buying a Prius doesn’t mean you’re “doing your part” to conserve oil. It merely means you get better gas mileage.

I’m not a cynic. I really do believe that you can make that drop in the ocean, but doing your part actually requires that you fucking do something. You can boycott shrimp all your life, and it’s not gonna help a single sea turtle. If you want to keep those little bastards alive, become a marine biologist and go save some fucking turtles.


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