The Knowledge of Good and Evil

I had already been obsessing about apples all week.

"I had already been obsessing about apples all week."

Last night, my sixteen year old son told me that his girlfriend had said something really nice about me. I anticipated what it might be – perhaps a compliment about my appearance, personality or skills as a domestic goddess?

“You choose good apples.”

Not quite what I was hoping for. So then what was intended as a throwaway comment becomes a topic worthy of the Inquisition – the green ones or the red ones? the colour, the size, the juiciness..?

Coincidentally, I had already been obsessing about apples all week. I have been buying organic fruit for some time now. Last week, however, I noticed that the organic apples were from the USA. Although I am warming to the United States with the new President taking office this week, I stood in the supermarket aisle agonising over my dilemma: surely the good I am doing for the planet in supporting the organic cause is being cancelled out by the environmental damage of flying said apples from the States. I put them back.

Reaching for the fair trade apples, I was perturbed to see that they were produced in South Africa. Still such a long way. I put them back.

I eventually settled on apples from France. Not organic. Not fair trade. But closer to home. Think of the food miles.

With only four items in my trolley, I was mentally exhausted. If making the ethical consumer choice was to be that hard, I would never make it home. Fortunately (for my sanity, not for the world at large), most of my choices were far more limited.

But now add to the mix the fact that the family (and the girlfriend) have opinions on the taste and appearance of apples, and that the husband has an opinion on the price at the bottom of the shopping bill, Eve’s choice seems positively straightforward.

It’s not as simple as the knowledge of good and evil. There is not a right and wrong choice. Ethical decisions can never be black and white. For example, my husband’s ethical passion is fair trade; my friend would always choose organic; I have a sympathy for food miles. Which one of us is most ethical?

I guess we should be thankful that today, ethical choices are widely available. We can make informed decisions about what we buy. We can engage our conscience and reach our own ethical conclusions. My conclusion for today is that I need to look into locally grown organic produce. Delivered to the door, I believe. At least I would no longer be blocking the aisle in the supermarket in my state of paralysing indecision. I wonder what my son’s girlfriend will think….

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