Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Thinking bigger: ethical consumption

I just returned from an extended trip to South Florida, where I attended the annual General Assembly (GA) of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. Among other business, GA selects a social justice issue for congregational study and action for the next few years. The issue selected for 2008-2012 was "Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice". It's a big topic, and an important one, but I found myself wishing that we'd thought even bigger and taken on ethical consumption, not just food issues. It's not about riding my own hobby horse of ethical fashion; it's about recognizing that we are whole, complex beings, behaving in complicated, interconnected ways. As people begin to think seriously about the environment, they won't want limit their actions to a single category of consumption; they want to be consistent, to understand the big picture and to feel like they are making meaningful changes. We use the same resources for a multitude of products. Petroleum
provides gas, Glad bags and fleece vests. Corn can be food, fuel or fiber. The growing ethanol controversy (fuel or food?) demonstrates how the solution for one consumption problem could create problems in another area.

Don't worry, I am not going to stray from ethical fashion; but I will avoid discussing it in isolation!

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