So, the whole John Woolman question, how to live a "righteous" life, without becoming "self-righteous"
I feel like my head often spins, and I wonder if his would (I think so) with all the considerations going into living rightly. I don't think I could even list the things to be boycotted these days. Maybe he had such considerations, but from so many years later it seems like "sugar and indigo? piece of cake!!!"
Walk into any large grocery store (where most people shop) and I would guess that pretty much NOTHING in there would pass a woolman-esque test of moral acceptability. Pesticides, fossil fuel transportation, chemical ingredients, exploited labor, rainforest devastation. It would be interesting to attempt to find 5 items at my local "Rainbow" that wouldn't incite at least one of these concerns.
I bike rather than driving, and on a used bike (which bypasses the "made in Taiwan" problem - which even US-made bikes have, because their parts are made elsewhere) but I use grease and plastic to keep it going. I have pretty much no clue about the implications, but I know it's not compltely "pure"
I buy almost all of my food at a co-op, keeping a special eye out for processed foods with brand names that have continued to elude Phillip Morris and the other two or three companies that own almost all food production. In the summer I join a CSA, and try to grow a few (very few!) things myself. But living in Minnesota, local produce is at best a half-year proposition. (or should I try to set up a root cellar and keep apples and potatoes and carrots enough to last til spring? I could, but the thought is not appealing) I could stop eating processed and packaged food altogether (I'm sure it's possible, but I can't imagine it)
My sweetie has a car, and I am ashamed to say I often encourage driving (when I'm very lazy or want to go somewhere far away) We try to buy gas at Citgo, which is Venezuelan oil, but it's still gas, and we still run the risk of killing squirrels or cats (or even humans) every time we drive.
I've taken the plane more lately. I went a good 5 years without doing so, I think. I love the train, but it often costs more than flying, even if you don't include the extra days off work. And what damage do trains do? Much less than planes, but still......
I love chocolate, and try to eat mostly fair trade, but reese's peanut butter eggs can suck me in pretty easily.
And, what's more, what is the point????
I can tend to want to be "pure" - I've been a vegetarian for years, and started wearing leather again a few years ago partially to "de-purify" myself and partially for the practical reason that a pair of leather shoes that will last a good long time might do less damage overall (even though their production is generally pretty darn eco-unfriendly) than the 4 pairs of synthetic shoes I might buy in the same time period. (I bought a pair of new leather hiking boots in 2000, and a pair of used leather high-top shoes the next year, I don't forsee having to buy more shoes any time soon. ) I still won't buy leather sandals, because there doesnt' seem to be any reason (they don't wear better than my chacos) and have settled, in future, on only buying leather (and wool) used, which for me is the perfect solution - as it keeps me from getting into my almost ocd animal-free-ness, while not actually financially supporting an industry I can't morally support (It does, however, depend on my fellow american's lack of concern on this issue and general overconsumption, another imperfection in my plan)
And, I think of all the quaker discussion about simplicity being about God's will, and not some random asceticism. At the same time, for me, doing the most ethical thing that you can manage in any given situation is inseperable from doing god's will. It's not just related, it's inextricable.
"I care nothing for a man's religion, whose dog is not the better for it" - was that Mark Twain??? A great quaker spiritual leader, I know, but it's true, as far as I can see.
Carl mentioned on his blog the idea of Community as Green Technology, and a spiritual community committed to right action. The image excites something in me. I wonder if there are enough quakers called to something radically different from mainstream society, and similar enough to each other's visions, to carve something like that out? or a few somethings?