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How To Make A Difference ? > Ethical Consumerism.

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message 1: by MadgeUK (last edited Aug 20, 2010 02:08AM) (new)

MadgeUK (If this post is in the wrong place, please move it.)

I wonder how many folks here are helping towards a greener future by being an ethical consumer? Nagged at by my eldest daughter, who is an expert (MSc) in sustainable building and by my grand-daughter who is about to read Politics and World Development at University, I have, for some time, been doing what I can to buy ethically. I buy all my tea, coffee, sugar and biscuits from Fair Trade at my local Oxfam shop. I buy all birthday and Christmas gifts from there too, including vouchers for goats, hens and water. If we all do our bit in this way, I think we can improve people's lives in the developing world and help to develop sustainable manufacture and trade. Here are some ethical websites, telling you how to go about purchasing goods grown or made by sustainable methods:-


http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/products/...

http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/oxfam-un...

http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/FreeBu...

http://www.ethicalconsumerism.co.uk/

http://www.newstatesman.com/business-...

I do not drive a car so am not contributing to pollution in that way and I have decided to cut down on air flights instead of holidaying regularly in Europe, as I used to do, although I admit this is mainly due to my age and the current security hassle at the airports.

Are there others here who are 'doing their bit' or even more?


message 2: by Marieke (new)

Marieke MadgeUK wrote: "(If this post is in the wrong place, please move it.)

I wonder how many folks here are helping towards a greener future by being an ethical consumer? Nagged at by daughter, who is an expert in ..."


This is definitely an area that often overwhelms me. i really feel like i can do a better job with my choices. i'm a bit of a cynic and i sometimes can't help but feel like i'm going to get taken for a ride if i buy so-called green products over conventional products. so that is something i'm working on my consumer life! marketers can be evil; how to overcome that?. i am trying to look behind all those little badges that show up on products and become more wise about the science of things--for instance, what happens when i use this dishwasher detergent versus that dishwasher detergent? is that so-called eco-product that costs four times more really safer for the watershed? what kind of packaging is the product in? is it wasteful? recyclable? compostible? and i sometimes struggle with the demon of--well, maybe you should not even be buying that thing at all because it's simply not good, no matter how you cut it--but in the modern world, we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. computers are pretty dang bad for the environment, using loads of energy and what not. but if don't use my computer...where would that put me? i certainly wouldn't be exchanging ideas with any folks on goodreads!!

but i do buy fair trade items whenever possible because that is something i feel pretty confident about. i absolutely won't buy sugar or coffee if it's not fair trade. it's almost more important to me than buying organic versions of those items. i also only buy milk that i know comes from farms that grass-feed their cows and let their cows roam around a pasture. i'm also pretty picky about eggs.

i'm looking forward to reading those links you posted!


message 3: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Well Marieke, it certainly sounds as if you have made a good start. If everyone in the West made the same sort of effort it would make an absolutely enormous difference to the developing world and thence to our own future. My daughter abnd grand-daughter would be proud of you! Kudos!


message 4: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Well Marieke, it certainly sounds as if you have made a good start. If everyone in the West made the same sort of effort it would make an absolutely enormous difference to the developing world and thence to our own future. My daughter and grand-daughter would be proud of you! Kudos!


message 5: by M (last edited Aug 19, 2010 11:34AM) (new)

M (wwwgoodreadscomprofilem) | 337 comments MadgeUK wrote: "(If this post is in the wrong place, please move it.)

I wonder how many folks here are helping towards a greener future by being an ethical consumer? Nagged at by daughter, who is an expert in ..."


Thank you MadgeUK to start a thread about Ethical Consumerism. During our first discussion, " The Group Talk with Authors " with Timothy Dean, some members and the author have started a talk about this subject. So, I'll create a new folder and I'll add the thread. Thus, the group will follow the discussion, an important discussion. " What Can We Do, How To Make A Difference " ?


message 6: by M (last edited Aug 21, 2010 08:13AM) (new)

M (wwwgoodreadscomprofilem) | 337 comments Marieke wrote: "MadgeUK wrote: "(If this post is in the wrong place, please move it.)

I wonder how many folks here are helping towards a greener future by being an ethical consumer? Nagged at by daughter, who is..."


Thanks for your arguments, Marieke. Although our group community's name is "The Green group" and will stay " The Green Group ", I have banned the word " Green" from my language. I have often saw a lot of products named " Green " and unfortunately some of them wasn't " Green" . I was a marketer a few years ago!( before starting studies at The University for being an educator ) People can argue : " You're an activist " No, I'm not . Others can say :" You're an environmentalist " No, I'm not . I try to be a reflective consumer. I do buy fair trade, I always respect the cycle of seasons when I eat fruits, vegetables and fishes, etc.... It's a choice as a responsible consumer. I have developed the same attitude when I buy different products and I look at Compagny's ethics before any purchases.


message 7: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Has anyone any ideas how ethical consumerism can help the crisis in Pakistan, which is possibly the worst humanitarian crisis we have seen this century? Moreover, it is likely to be repeated here and in other countries, like Bangladesh, as changes in the world climate create more floods and famines. IMO reading books isn't enough, we must DO more.

http://www.unicef.org.uk/give/index.a...

http://www.wateraidamerica.org/what_w...


message 8: by M (last edited Aug 22, 2010 11:18PM) (new)

M (wwwgoodreadscomprofilem) | 337 comments MadgeUK wrote: "Has anyone any ideas how ethical consumerism can help the crisis in Pakistan, which is possibly the worst humanitarian crisis we have seen this century? Moreover, it is likely to be repeated here ..."

Thanks for the links. We need to do both MadgeUK. Reading books written by authors and scientists and DO more as each of us CAN do.
Have you ever read Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time or more recently Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond, The World Is Blue by Sylvia Earle, etc.......?
These are some examples. These authors invest their faith, their time, some of them in perilous missions, to give us the opportunity to increase our knowledge and to act in our daily life with ethics and values.

http://www.gregmortenson.com/

http://gregmortenson.blogspot.com/

http://www.mission-blue.org/

http://www.tedprize.org/sylvia-earle/

http://www.tedprize.org/mission-blue-...


message 9: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Thanks Michelle. I have read several of these books but having decided which side of the fence I am on with regard to many of these issues, I now prefer to spend my money ethically or to donate to 'green' causes. My eldest daughter (an architect) took her MSc in Sustainable Development and is now reading for her PhD so I get plenty of information from that particular horses' mouth, especially as I type up a lot of her work:).

I also have an ex-lodger who does humanitarian work in the developing world for the Red Cross - he is currently helping with the flood crisis in Pakistan. Additionally, my eldest grand-daughter (19) is about to go up to university to read Politics and World Development so I expect I will be hearing a lot from her too. She has just come back from a fact finding tour of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and India and brought back many alarming stories about the problems there, not least the floods being caused by the current Monsoon!


message 10: by Marieke (new)

Marieke indeed...politics and world development...this is where my true cynic emerges. i feel very strongly that a lot of these disasters, although they look like natural disasters on the surface, are actually political disasters. many disasters we see in the undeveloped and developing world could have been prevented or very much mitigated, if governments actually cared about their people and a strong system independent of personalities and power-holders existed. and i worry that a lot of the aid groups are rather hobbled...we are now generations into a lot of these situations despite the presence of NGOs on the ground attempting to care for people in a way that governments do not. but their success is pretty much at the mercy of governments, and by extension western foreign policy.

and the so-called developed world, which i'm beginning to look at as the "undeveloping" world, is not immune. in my own country we are seeing some pretty nasty situations that many of us would like to pretend can only happen elsewhere: Katrina and now the Gulf oil spill are just two examples. and the government is definitely complicit...the oil spill should not have happened and yet another worse event is waiting in the wings on another oil platform, according to experts. no one could have prevented the hurricane from coming ashore, but those levies were known to be weak and what passed for disaster management is pretty sad.

sooo...what i'm trying to get at, is how do ethically-minded consumers and citizens overcome the problem of poor government/corrupt and kleptocratic rulers? at what point should westerners step back and NOT do anything?

i'm ashamed to say i haven't read mortenson's books yet nor have i read diamond's. and the other i haven't heard of! i will check it out. perhaps mortenson's books will be an antidote to my cynicism, but often i feel like my cynicism will always remain but tempered with a cautious optimism...an example of a book that has done that for me is Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, which incidentally provides an excellent example of how governance affects disaster. i'm quite ashamed of the historical US role in Haiti and was quite distraught that our role was never addressed in the news coverage of the earthquake there.


message 11: by MadgeUK (last edited Aug 23, 2010 06:31AM) (new)

MadgeUK Cynicism will always be necessary but as someone with a political background, I think politics and government will always be necessary too and although they can never to 'enough' - whatever that is - they generally do far more than can the average citizen acting alone, corrupt government apart. No person or charity can invest the the multi-millions donated by governments. Our job is to vigorously lobby politicians and to see that they do what they were elected to do without getting their fingers in the honey pot.

I feel that not enough publicity is given to the fact that the fate of the 'third world' is linked to the fate of our own. That not donating aid or investing in these countries will only bring more problems upon our own by way of illegal immigration and criminal activity. Altruism, as the scientists now tell us, is to our own benefit and people today should be made to realise that altruism towards the poor of this world will benefit ourselves.

I saw a play a few years ago which told the story of a young, charismatic African man in a drought stricken part of Africa who got his people together and marched them across deserts to reach the shores of North Africa, facing prosperous, fertile southern Europe across the Mediterranean. On the way, millions of other impoverished people had joined him and there they eventually stood, waiting for their salvation. European politicians gathered together, pondering what to do with such a vast, hungry (and dying) crowd and wondering if they would turn to violence. The play did not show an outcome but it brought home the problem we are all facing and it was about something which is already happening in dribs and drabs across many borders in the world but which we try to put out of our minds as we eat the next Happy Meal.


message 12: by Marieke (new)

Marieke Hi--apologies for being so slow in adding to the discussion. i don't disagree except on one point, and even on that one point i'm not 100% sure. I've been thinking about foreign aid a lot and i'm beginning to think it's actually one of the problems in places like Africa, not a solution. but i'm not an economist, so it's difficult for me judge. all i know is that countries beholden to aid have not developed well and have severely stratified societies. sometimes i worry that altruism can be misguided and poor people's dignity is violated. out of altruistic sensibilities people in the west make decisions for poorer people, without truly taking into account what those people need or want to have satisfactory productive lives. of course this is a simplistic statement, i realize!

that play sounds very powerful...i think many of those people would most like for their home countries to be places of security and opportunity.

an interesting experiment is going on in the U.S. right now...americans have been invited to work on farms where migrant workers would normally work if it weren't for the crackdown on illegals and undocumented workers. i need to check to see how that's going. probably not well. :(


message 13: by Sam (new)

Sam (ecowitch) | 86 comments Marieke, we had a similar experiment done here in the UK getting people on Job Seekers Allowance working on farms and doing other jobs that migrant workers usually do. The idea was to get people into work and see how they cope with those kind of jobs and hopefully put a stop to the arguement that they can't work because migrants are taking all the jobs and the results were very interesting. Half of the British workers quit after only a day or two complaining that the work was too hard or the conditions were too tough while the other half just got on with the job. It showed that although migration can be a problem it can also be a benefit as many migrant workers are willing to do jobs native workers will not (for whatever reason). I wonder if the same results will be seen in the US?


message 14: by MadgeUK (last edited Aug 27, 2010 02:21AM) (new)

MadgeUK It depends a lot on what kind of aid is being offered. If a country is drought stricken, for instance, with the best will in the world the people cannot dig water out of the ground and so some form of aid is necessary to sustain life. The same goes for food: where crops have failed and livestock have died, providing seed and replacing animals sustains life. It is therefore important to give to the right kind of aid organisations. I am very keen on Water Aid because clean water alone sustains life in many circumstances. There are thousands of examples where communities helped in practical ways have developed and become self sustaining. I contribute towards the education of a girl in Kenya, for instance, and that little community is now thriving because its people have been helped to develop life skills which provide their families with food and water.

http://www.wateraid.org/

It is a 'cop out' to say aid does not work and therefore not to give. As affluent people living in the West, it is, IMO, our moral duty to help those less fortunate in some way but it is equally important to find out the most efficient and less destructive way of giving, which is not, necessarily, to governments. Ethical consumerism is also a way of personally giving aid directly to people and not to corrupt governments.

http://www.oxfam.org.uk/applications/...

Scientists have found that we are hard wired for 'altruism' and that we help people because it is in our interests to do so - it is part of the 'survival' kit we are born with. Similarly, it is in our own interests to help the 'third world' because in the long run it will benefit our own countries and therefore ourselves.


message 15: by Marieke (new)

Marieke Hi again,

I've been a bit swamped and haven't yet had a chance to track down info on the farmworker program but i will try to get to it soon.

i don't disagree with you, Madge, but i was talking mostly about direct foreign aid to governments and majorly large NGOs that seem to cause more problems than they resolve in many cases; not the really targeted type of aid that you are talking about. wateraid is new to me but i'm familiar with oxfam and respect their work.

basically i was getting at the problem where the west feels a lot of guilt and shame about the past and many people have a genuine desire to help, but a very large business has grown out of "helping" people living in poverty. there is a lot of money to be made from poor people! if these type of aid programs really work, why do most countries in Africa (for example) continue to have so many problems?

and then there is the brain drain problem. for example, NGOs bring in western doctors to work in x (ethiopia, for example) country; those doctors get paid a lot of money compared to what local doctors get paid. local doctors, which have been trained by their government, then look for work in y country (south africa), where they will get paid a lot more than they would at home, and where those local doctors have left for the UK, Canada, the US--also looking for better pay.


message 16: by MadgeUK (last edited Sep 03, 2010 03:25AM) (new)

MadgeUK I think we have good reason to feel shame about the past. I certainly feel shame about many of the things done by the British Empire.

African countries continue to have problems because of bad government and drought caused by bad farming methods and climate change, not just because some aid agencies don't work. It is like the flood problem in Pakistan - flooding will continue to be a problem in that part of the world and the same sort of disaster will occur again despite what aid we give now. So should we walk away from it?

I agree there is a brain drain but there really aren't enough doctors in Africa to cover the many problems. Again - what do we do, leave African without sufficient doctors? As the countries recover, doctors and other skilled workers do remain and do go back to their homelands, because skilled people can have a better life there than in the West, where there is still colour prejudice here.

It is far too easy to say we won't do anything because nothing seems to work. Even if some people profit out of the situation it must be morally right to try to save lives. We have just got to keep trying and if we save or improve the life of one child we have done something.


message 17: by Marieke (new)

Marieke I didn't intend for my comments to sound like i think it's an either/or situation, because i don't think that at all. and i certainly didn't say that i think the answer is to do nothing at all. i just feel like there are certain types of aid programs that contribute to--rather than resolve-- development problems in certain parts of the world, especially Africa. i was hoping to discuss the attributes of programs that work versus programs/policies that look good on the surface but actually harm the situation on the ground.

and i would really like to return to Madge's original question/comment...i think it's important to learn how to be a better consumer and i was really hoping to have a discussion about that. i apologize for my part in diverting the conversation. :D

for instance, how are so-called green products marketed and how to you make a well-educated choice to buy those products over other products? do these products really need to be more expensive than "regular" products? is living "green" a form of luxury? if so, how does that help the environment?

Since this group seems to have members from all over the world, i'm really curious to know how ethical consumerism looks in different countries...


message 18: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Folks here might like to see this piece about Prince Charles' 'green' campaign:-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/sep...


message 19: by M (new)

M (wwwgoodreadscomprofilem) | 337 comments MadgeUK wrote: "Folks here might like to see this piece about Prince Charles' 'green' campaign:-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/sep..."


And ???


message 20: by MadgeUK (last edited Sep 07, 2010 12:59PM) (new)

MadgeUK And nothing. I just posted it as 'green' information from the UK - remove it if you wish:).


message 21: by Marieke (new)

Marieke I think it's quite interesting but I haven't had the chance to finish reading it yet...


message 22: by M (last edited Sep 07, 2010 01:46PM) (new)

M (wwwgoodreadscomprofilem) | 337 comments MadgeUK wrote: "And nothing. I just posted it as 'green' information from the UK - remove it if you wish:)."

How we travel, how we use transportation in our countries is a huge debate. It's also the huge debate of Energy. In that way, it's an ethical choice to decide which kind of transportation to use. But each country has it's own transportation. I travel a lot in Europe by train (TGV or Eurostar) while a lot of countries can't use this kind of transportation. Thanks for this informative link, MadgeUK :)

How do you travel? Which kind of transportation do you use in your daily life ?


message 23: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Michelle wrote: "MadgeUK wrote: "And nothing. I just posted it as 'green' information from the UK - remove it if you wish:)."

How we travel, how we use transportation in our countries is a huge debate. It's also ..."


I walk, or use bus and train because I no longer run a car. Rail is my preferred method of transport and I too travel Europe by train when I can afford it, or coach when I can't.


message 24: by Marieke (new)

Marieke Is a coach like a bus?
In the US, if you ride coach it means you're not in the first class part of a train. :D
let's see how much more we can confuse all the englishes...


message 25: by MadgeUK (last edited Sep 07, 2010 02:01PM) (new)

MadgeUK Yes, a coach is a posh bus used for holiday travel. Comfy seats, toilets, video, a courier on board, sometimes a reading/coffee area etc.

http://www.leger.co.uk/SilverService....

We call the 'coaches' of trains carriages.


message 26: by Marieke (new)

Marieke and we call those carriages, "cars." interesting!

i just saw this article about a new program at Whole Foods (a major grocery store chain in the U.S.) to alert customers about whether or not their seafood is over-fished. then they plan to stop purchasing those types of fish from their suppliers.


message 27: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK That's a good idea - I will pass it on to someone I know who works in this field at our major supermarket. Thanks.


message 28: by Marieke (new)

Marieke MadgeUK wrote: "That's a good idea - I will pass it on to someone I know who works in this field at our major supermarket. Thanks."

I'm curious to know what your friend thinks! I'm also going to ask a couple of friends about this...they are both conservation biologists, one focuses on fish and the other on birds, but one also has a pretty good handle on economics.

in other fish news, i saw this today.


message 29: by Marieke (new)

Marieke Sam wrote: "Marieke, we had a similar experiment done here in the UK getting people on Job Seekers Allowance working on farms and doing other jobs that migrant workers usually do. The idea was to get people i..."

Hi Sam...I totally dropped the ball on checking up on this. But I just saw this news report indicating that Stephen Colbert will be testifying before Congress alongside the United Farm Workers president on this issue. anyway, the numbers are bad.

if you're interested, i can post a link to the video of the hearing...usually C-Span makes them available online.


message 30: by Marieke (new)

Marieke Newsweek just published an interesting guide with ten ways a "lazy person" can live more eco-friendily (is that word?)

i was expecting it to be somewhat same-old same-old, but it is actually quite helpful and includes useful resources.


message 31: by Sam (new)

Sam (ecowitch) | 86 comments Marieke wrote: "Sam wrote: "Marieke, we had a similar experiment done here in the UK getting people on Job Seekers Allowance working on farms and doing other jobs that migrant workers usually do. The idea was to ..."

Marieke, I'd love to see the video of that hearing. Be interesting to see how they address the issue of domestic farm workers. I know the debate here still continues especially now with government cuts to benefits and the like, the general debate of getting people off benefits and into work is getting wider coverage too.


message 32: by Marieke (new)

Marieke Sam wrote: "Marieke wrote: "Sam wrote: "Marieke, we had a similar experiment done here in the UK getting people on Job Seekers Allowance working on farms and doing other jobs that migrant workers usually do. ..."

Hi Sam, i found it! The entire hearing is two hours long--i have seen clips of it, but not the whole thing. i'll try to watch it, though. i am actually fascinated with hearings and wish i had more time to watch more of them on a variety of issues.

anyway, Colbert stayed in character while he testified, which greatly annoyed some of the congressmen; but i think his message came through loud and clear regardless of any sarcasm or apparent disrepect toward Congress.


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