Trying to live a low carbon lifestyle and 'be ethical' presents quite a few dilemmas, and in no particular order, here are some of mine. Some of my dilemmas are not really connected to low carbon or not, they are just my personal dilemmas. They're here too.
Logs as a renewable fuel VERSUS logs as a wildlife resource.
I collect logs from all over the place... some are from skips and would be landfilled, some are dumped by gardeners, tree surgeons and contractors, and I find some in hedgerow bottoms and woods. I have no dilemma whatsoever about using wood to heat the house and to cook on, as this replaces fossil fuel and we have two highly efficient stoves which extract about 85% of the energy from the logs (compared to an average of 15% with an open fire). Using wood is good.
BUT branches which fall in woods and hedgerows are colonised by fungi, woodboring beetles and much, much more. This is also good.
So, my dilemma is occasionally whether to leave some wood to rot down naturally and be part of the ecosystem, or whether to collect it and use it on my stoves. Usually it is easy to decide, but now and again I have to stop and think and to decide whether to leave a log for wildlife.
Publicity VERSUS Privacy
This is a biggie. I'm not interested in privacy... I have nothing to hide, I'm not ashamed of anything, I am open about just about everything in my life. However, my family are more normal and have varying levels of desire to be private. I've been asked not to mention certain things on my blog, and do my best to just write about my own stuff, what I do, how I'm feeling. However, my openness and honesty has led to some conflict with some family members.
I write this blog because I have deliberately chosen to live a low carbon lifestyle, using few resources and avoiding, as far as possible, the Capitalist nightmare which in my opinion, is rapidly reducing the ability of humans to continue living happily on this planet, and I want to publicise how someone can live with a small carbon footprint. I don't want to ever say 'you should do this' or 'it is wrong to do that'; what I want to do is to describe how I live, and how enjoyable it usually is, and hope that others might copy, or take on aspects of low carbon living if they think it's the right thing to do.
So, I'm determined to continue writing this blog, and doing as much pro-sustainability publicity as I can, but not compromising the wishes of family members. This is really difficult. I have turned down several TV enquiries purely because of the family situation. This is my biggest ethical dilemma.
Vegetarianism VERSUS Veganism
I've been veggie since I was 19 or 20 years old. I experimented with various foodstuffs when I went to college at 18, including making brawn out of a whole pig's head and pate using a recipe my Dad used to use.
But I also had periods of having no meat for several weeks, and I found my head to be clearer with no meat and my bowels to have a quicker transit, which also felt better. I gradually became vegetarian; the last dead animal foodstuff I knowingly and willingly ate was octopus whilst on holiday in Crete with my girlfriend aged 20 or possibly 21. Since then I've been totally vegetarian.
However, the carbon agenda has risen in importance and I've become aware of the impact of the meat and dairy industry on our global footprint and our individual carbon footprints. It is obvious to me why a vegan diet... especially one rich in local seasonal food, has the lowest carbon impact, and I believe it to be better for the health of the consumer too, so long as they ensure they have a balanced vegan diet with nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables, grains and pulses, mushrooms and yeast.
So, the logical dietary conclusion to my political stance is that I would be vegan. But I'm not. I really like a bit of cheese now and again. Gill also bakes delicious cakes and makes really good quiches, and I'd find it difficult to turn these down. Also, I sometimes get out of date eggs from the greengrocer which I hate to waste, so I generally hard boil these on the woodstove and then pickle them, and over the next weeks and months, have an occasional pickled egg sandwich. So, to be vegan would mean saying no to Gill's cakes and breaking these eggs on the compost heap. And, most difficult of all, would mean no more Stilton cheese. Oh, I also use up out of date yoghurts and occasionally enjoy a Baileys. So I do have quite a bit of dairy in my diet, not every day but definitely every week.
But this 'happily veggie but wannabe vegan' is a constant dilemma, and I guess one which may remain for a while.
Pests VERSUS Food Crops
I try to grow as much of my own food as possible, and I grow organically as I believe in the intrinsic value of wildlife and don't wish to use synthetic chemicals to control pests. And one of the reasons behind vegetarianism is a love of animals: I don't wish to kill, harm or hurt animals in order to get my nutrition.
So, what level of animal use/destruction do I feel is acceptable? I grow brassicas (broccoli, calabrese, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts) and these are predated by various butterfly larvae. I have little hesitation in squashing these caterpillars between finger and thumb, against the leaf, to stop the leaves getting eaten. Brassica leaves full of caterpillar holes have smaller crops. I want larger crops.
I do the same with aphids (greenfly/blackfly), and that's about it for serious vegetable pests. I net the tiny Cherry tree to try to prevent birds eating the cherries, but the biggest dilemma is how to protect my Walnut tree from the grey squirrels. These will completely strip the tree bare (and did in 2008) so in 2009, I placed plastic bottles over a few walnut clumps to see if that protected them. It did, but the other 95% of the crop was taken. In 2010 I put plastic bags over some bunches, and rubbed chili powder mixed with Vaseline onto some other nuts. We still lost well over 60% of the crop.
So I bought a trap. This is a live trap. Then I found out that it is illegal to release these 'rats with fluffy tails', it is illegal to kill them by drowning them in a water butt, and the RSPCA told me to either release it into a sack and hit it hard with a length of wood (err, no thanks!) or to shoot it in the head whilst in the trap (I've no gun) or to take it to a vet who would put it to sleep. I have two objections to this last option. Firstly, the squirrel in the trap is very distressed. A cycle ride to a vet a couple of miles away would be very cruel. Secondly, the vet I asked about putting a squirrel down told me it would cost at least £20.
I borrowed an air rifle but I didn't get a chance to use it. What should I do about the squirrel menace? I want a nut crop. Grey squirrels are invasive pests, despite being 'cute' and having their own intrinsic value and a 'right to life'. A tough dilemma.
(other ethical dilemmas to be added in due course!)