Confessions of a Hypocrite: Utopia in the Age of Ecocide

Shaun Chamberlin explores the difficulty of being an earth activist in a consumerist and modern world. Shaun is inspired by David Fleming's latest book, 'Lean Logic', which explores culture, history, science, art, logic, ethics, myth, economics, and anthropology.

I confess! I love Magnum ice creams!

But surely as a good, responsible eco-citizen, I must be aware that these relatively cheap, beautifully packaged nuggets of deliciousness are inescapably products of the industrial system that is destroying all that I hold dear?

That Magnums are produced by Unilever, not only the world’s biggest ice cream manufacturer but the world’s third largest multinational consumer goods company, associated with deforestation for palm oil, exploitation of workers, the promotion of unsustainable agriculture, factory farming, the use of tax havens, lobbying against GM labelling and so on…

So I should stop eating them, right? I should overcome my baser urges and live a lifestyle that accords with my values and beliefs?

Well, there is certainly an argument for that, and I know many friends who struggle and expend huge energy and willpower on resisting their deep desire for Magnums, or bacon, or jet flights or whatever… And even feel resentment at those who don’t do the same. Occasionally, of course, they give in, and then feel huge guilt, and maybe increased resentment at those who seem to consume without even feeling this inner conflict.

With this approach, it is little wonder that we environmentalists are often characterised as tedious killjoys who wouldn’t know how to enjoy ourselves in a vegan chocolate factory. Perhaps it is even fair. After all, there is nothing inspiring about the struggles of a divided and conflicted self. And there is nothing less inspiring than ‘shoulds’. With the possible exception of ‘should nots’…

But what is the alternative, if we are mindful of the consequences of our actions? How can we live lives of full joy, without sacrifice, guilt or wilful ignorance?

For me, what works is letting the two sides of my self talk to each other. The part that desires the Magnum and the part that does not desire the consequences. Rather than choosing between them, I let them talk it out. Surprisingly, perhaps, they seem to come to an agreement quickly enough.

Read more here.