What if, today, we all – politicians and people – took an oath, and swore to live our lives by three words from Hippocrates: Do No Harm
How would government decisions change? How would businesses change? How would our international and interpersonal relationships change? How would our relationships with ourselves, our stuff and our food change? And more than that, in ten years time, if we all based our lives around that promise, what would the world look like? How would the health of our people and our planet overall have changed?
I think a struggle for a lot of people would be pulling themselves out of the quagmire of denial, egoism and self-interest, and admitting the role we play in causing harm, because nobody wants to feel like a bad guy. We all have a role to play in harming the environment by using products that aren’t made sustainably, or that can be recycled, and producing more than we can use. It leads to so much stuff going to waste that could be upcycled and used (I’m a huge fan of wonky veg!), toxic chemicals and plastics ending up in landfill and our oceans, and animals being tortured for the sake of the vanity industry, or being reared for food in overcrowded conditions with so many being slaughted unnecessarily. (For more on this, see my upcoming post about meat waste).
Make your own choices
I think a majority of us are sentimentalists. We want the world to be a warm fuzzy place, but we delegate the responsibility to other people to make it happen, and they operate with their own (usually monetary) interests at heart, not ours, and certainly not the environments; and they go to great lengths to gloss over the ‘collateral damage’ that happens as a result of their decisions.
I think it’s important that we are aware of both the value and the cost – not just the market price, but the environmental and human cost of everything, because it would definitely change the value we place on the material objects that we choose to own, the value we place on each other, and the services, and natural resources we take advantage of and currently take for granted.
There is a mountain of bad information and bad things happening in the world. Conquering that mountain starts with us. We can choose to be part of the problem, or part of the solution. It is important that we don’t hide away from the ugly parts and instead choose to learn more about how the current consumer industry works and where it falls down in order to understand better how we can improve it so the whole world and everyone and everything in it can benefit – regardless of what policies our politicians make.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hippie, and I’m not a stereotypical ‘preachy vegan’ who will try and emotionally manipulate you into feeling rotten about about your decisions. I’m simply saying that there are people (and I’m one of them) who are trying to do things differently, who are making conscious decisions about how they choose to live and what products and services they choose to consume and accept- how do you feel about joining in?
I know it’s easier to stick our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not happening and hope that it will all resolve itself, but the plain and simple fact is it’s not going to resolve itself. You don’t have to sign up to PETA, or join Greenpeace and go on marches, or wear tie-dye tshirts, eat lentils (although they are yummy!) and grow your body hair to make a difference.
You can just make a few small changes that don’t really affect your life at all, such as swapping out your plastic toothbrush to a biodegradable bamboo one, swapping your chemical laden household cleaners for a natural one (this one is my favourite) or even making your own which is ridiculously easy! or swapping your MAC cosmetics for E.L.F who are cruelty free, a quarter of the price and just as good (in my opinion). You can swap your meat, dairy and eggs to produce you can guarantee is raised ethically, or swap it altogether for plant based alternatives.
If not cutting out, cutting down the amount of animal products you eat in general would go a long way to reducing your risk of chronic heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer***. Plant based alternatives are not only easy on your wallet, but just doing Meatless Mondays can help reduce some of the extensive damaging impact the commercial meat industry is having on the environment. If everyone in the UK skipped beef one day a week, it may even prevent about 7,000 cows a year being raised for slaughter in the first place.
We are all very quick to blame everyone and everything else when things go wrong, but how much responsibility do we really take for our own actions and the choices we make? There are only a handful of politicians and many of us, so if positive change is to happen, it’s more likely to come when we all as individuals start stepping up, rather than expecting government policy to sort out our mess. What would happen if we really started living more intentionally and making conscious decisions about the things we do and the things we use?
And what if you took an oath today – a really simple one – that for just one month (to begin with 😉) you vow to do no harm.
If you try this, leave me a comment – I’d love to know how you found the experience!
*** The forks over knives documentary on Netflix is fascinating/alarming/enlightening