Blog Archives

Your parents raised you right.  Maybe you went to church or a mosque.  Maybe you didn’t.  But you consider yourself a pretty decent and ethical person.  At some point on your journey, you developed a set of morals and ethics and have more or less lived by them since, right?  Wrong.  

The greatest strength of humans is actually the amazing adaptability to our environment we get from that extra big brain we have.  Broken down to the most basic level, we do what works in order to survive and thrive in our context.  If you grow up in Russia, you’re likely to speak Russian rather than trying to speak Swahili.   If you’ve grown up in Poland, you’re much more likely to be Catholic rather than say a Hindu.  If you grow up punching others, you’ll discover pretty quickly that your behaviour gets you into trouble (unless you take up boxing of course!) – so you either stop doing it, become a boxer, or you end up in jail.  

If you think about it, morality and ethics are just kind of a way of codifying rules of thumb about what our society accepts or rejects as ok behaviour.  This would have begun as simple rules designed to keep everyone in the tribe safe – rules like ‘don’t stray far from the fire after night falls’.  But over time, our rules have evolved along with us.  The recent decision of Australians to finally recognise same sex marriage is a case in point.   It’s a fascinating example because you can actually see the majority view switch its opinion to the polar opposite over just a few years.

Source: Overland.org.au

Did those Australians opposing same sex marriage back in 2001 consider themselves to be unethical?  Highly doubtful.  Was there a sudden decision by all Australians to abandon their ethics around 2004?  Also kind of unlikely.  More likely is that a sustained effort to change attitudes paid off.  

We tend to conflate ethics and truth.  We think that our own ethical framework is somehow more true than someone else’s – and that’s a dangerous place to land.  It leads to extremist ideas; ideas that give one group of people an excuse for persecuting another.  

“This is a slippery slope!” I hear you yell.  “You are saying that all views have equal validity!”  It means that every thief or liar is just as right as Mother Teresa!  Woah, calm down!  I don’t mean that at all.  Stealing is unacceptable not because God is against them, or because I’m right and those who steal are wrong.  They are unacceptable because the majority of us agree that they hurt someone – and most people can agree that hurting people is not good for us both as individuals and as a society.  We don’t actually need some kind of divine truth to be on our side to make ethical choices.  We just need effective systems for aggregating our different perspectives on what works best for the greatest number of people.  Then the power of the majority – usually called the long arm of the law – determines the rest.

For better or worse, countries have decided (with a few notable exemptions) that the majority of people in a country get to decide on laws.  What are laws? The embodiment of our values, norms and morals.  Oddly, this gives politicians, lawyers and judges the strange status of being like the Priests of the modern age – enforcing and sometimes adapting our most formal code of ethics.  We should be exalting them for helping us evolve!  Didn’t see that coming, did ya.  The only thing that makes the whole process ok is that our systems of government require both lawmakers and law interpreters to actually listen to the will of the majority.  

I would also argue that more highly-evolved societies also get the majority to consider the wellbeing of the minority as well.  Unfortunately, we can think of many societies where that’s still not the case.  Take a moment to sympathise for the plight of the many minorities around the world that are still routinely persecuted by major rule.   

So the next time you find yourself thinking “that is just so objectively wrong”, please catch yourself.  A minor tweak can convert that thought to “I disagree”. There is no such thing as moral truth.  There is only agreement and disagreement.  We must work harder to understand why others may disagree with us, then explore solutions whereby all people can thrive.

Steve runs a consultancy called Anticipate.co.nz, dedicated to helping people find a path to their favourite future.

We, the Year 9, Be More team at St Monica’s College, Epping believe that fair trade is important as with it the world becomes a better place in which justice and sustainability become the centre in creating a decent and dignified working area for farmers and labourers.

Fair trade is important in the developing world for farmers and workers as it provides them with fair terms, decent working conditions as well as having better prices and creating a local sustainability.
(more…)

Hello from freezing Wellington,

There is something that about being a so-called ‘food ethics blogger’ that really bugs me. I think it’s that sense that maybe I should be a model for all my readers (yes, both of you)…a paragon of virtue if you will. The unfortunate truth is that I’m not really all that ethical when it comes to food. I mean well, but I have a couple of guilty food secrets.

The first is that sometimes I do let food go off and throw it out. It’s not deliberate. I don’t have a vendetta against market gardeners or anything. It just sort of happens. I know there’s no excuse, but sometimes I get busy or just forget what’s already in the fridge when I’m at the supermarket. Then, when I get home, I just can’t face eating food that’s limp or got stuff growing on it. Even worse, as a gardener, I know how much effort and time it takes to grow things. But does that stop me chucking that partly mouldy orange? Not a bit. (more…)

Emily and Melissa started their journey towards Leo Strange in very different places and were brought together by truly serendipitous experiences in India. After hearing their story and seeing their samples, its hard to believe they only met a few months ago.

Emily © 2017 Zev Weinstein

Emily has over 10 years experience in the fashion industry, predominately in High Street fashion. During this time she began to realise the serious social and environmental impacts of the fashion industry and started identifying potential areas for change. While in Northeastern India Emily volunteered with a friend’s grassroots educational Charity, the One Love Project, based in Pushkar. Here she met a family that had lost their factory in a fire, and started producing kimonos with them from Sari waste. In this experience Emily saw potential to effect change and became motivated by a desire to work closely with villages in India.

Melissa’s journey with fashion begins at a young age but pauses when her sewing machine catches fire at around the age of sixteen. Following this she spends some time travelling the world and arrived in India, where she opened up a cafe. While running the cafe Melissa worked closely with women in the local community and saw potential for supporting their empowerment through providing employment. This experience of working and living in India inspired her to impact change in these communities through social enterprise. It is also here, surrounded by the amazing textiles traditions of India, that her passion for creating garments was reborn.
(more…)

When I was asked to contribute to this ethical living blog with a few thoughts on sustainability, I thought it would be an easy feat. These days we frequently hear the words ‘sustainability’, ‘ethics’ and ‘fair trade’ used freely, and at times, interchangeably.

 

The sustainability that we most talk about most often is the definition of sustainability adopted in the 1987 publication Our Common Future – also known as the Brundtland Report. According to the report:

“[Sustainability is] development that meets the needs of present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Our Common Future, 1987).

It’s meaning is simple and straightforward: to be sustainable, we must make sure that what we do today will not disrupt the wellbeing of tomorrow.

  (more…)

– by Steve Waldegrave

Kia ora! My name is Steve and I am writing to you from the top of a hill in Wellington, Aotearoa / New Zealand. It’s not any random hill (that would be weird); it’s where I live.

I’m half Polish, half Kiwi and bit further back, a bit Irish, a bit Scottish, and even a tiny bit Indian (on my grandmother’s side). It’s complicated. (more…)

St Monica’s College is a very special school. It is one of few schools that has dedicated Coordinators of Social Justice and Sustainability who both have generous time allowances to do their work. We are a school dedicated to making this world a better place and promoting care for creation. It is no wonder then, that we are a Fairtrade Accredited School. (more…)

– by Antony DiMase

One of the biggest myths in sustainable architecture is that somehow it costs more to build a green building.  Leaving aside the lifecycle cost and social impact of not building green – this myth ought to be challenged.  The common thought amongst developers is that green buildings cost about 15% more than regular buildings and that the consultant costs are much higher.  As such it is difficult to justify building less of what you need to be more “green”.   Sure we all want to do the right thing – but as George Osborne told the British Parliament in 2011 “We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business”.  Closer to home – think of a school committee trying to justify not building a new classroom in order to be more sustainable – it simply is not going to happen. (more…)

While awareness of the social and environmental cost of fashion and food production and consumption is on the rise, it can often feel like there is a lack of guidance on what actions you can take and where you can find ethical and sustainable products. What stands out in many conversations I have on this topic is a sense of helplessness in the face of injustice, with many people feeling unsure of what to do, and whether their actions actually do make a meaningful impact. The United Nations named 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, which present exciting opportunities for aspiring conscious consumers. Travel combined with making a positive impact on peoples lives and the environment seems like a pretty good formula to counter feelings of helplessness and despondency. (more…)

No Comments