shades of grey

I saw this quote by Michael Pollan in Treehugger the other day and it got me thinking- He was talking about the business of companies trying to spread misinformation about the health care reform bill:
So Mackey is wrong on health care, but Whole Foods is often right about food, and their support for the farmers matters more to me than the political views of their founder. I haven’t examined the political views of all the retailers who feed me, but I can imagine having a lot of eating problems if I make them a litmus test.”

This really hit home for me, I must admit. I’d been feeling conflicted about the Whole Foods thing, not because I regularly shop there, but because it was one more thing to complicate some already messy issues.
With all the footnotes under all the choices that have to be made every day, I understand why people get frustrated and give up, or on the opposite spectrum, stick religiously to some sort of “ism”, because it simply removes so many variables from the table.

I can’t help but think though, that sometimes the best choices don’t readily fit into a system (an “ism”). For example, I’ll take eggs from a neighbors flock of happy chickens over a meat-substitute with a bunch of things I can’t pronounce in it. But that’s me, and I know that for a lot of people, eating that egg is something they’d never even consider.

With all the different factions battling it out, trying to convince people that this, that, or the other is black and white/good or bad, how does someone figure out where to draw their own line in the sand?
More to the point, how does one then try to help educate people about making the best choices for themselves without confusing them, or making them throw up their hands in frustration? I’ve never been very good at that part, but I’m trying to get better. I guess if I just start the conversation, maybe that will help?

So, what’s your black and white? What do you do with the grey areas?


2 thoughts on “shades of grey

  1. Honestly, sometimes I waver- because like you there are so many shades of grey. For example, I make sure to buy the legitimate free range eggs at the supermarket, not the ‘fake’ free-range owned by the cage producers trying to get a slice of the market. But I don’t avoid grocery products with egg in them, or ask about egg sources in restaurants. I try not to buy new things unless I really need them, but this tends to go out the window when I shop on Etsy (damn those oh-so-tempting Czech beads!).

    I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s okay to have shades of grey. It’s okay to sometimes buy something without knowing the background, or even in spite of it. No one can be a saint 24/7 – it’s about making as many good choices as you can. Heck- I’m just thankful that mainstream society now considers ‘eco-friendly’ to be a choice no longer resigned to the hippies and gays!

    As for educating people, I’ve found that a gentle, non invasive conversation is often taken well. I’ve educated my mother a lot on what she buys simply from doing my shopping when she does hers. Now she’s telling me what new ‘ethical bits’ she’s found!

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