This thoughtful essay explores issues in everyday ethics:
"You want to do the right thing. But in a world where it often seems impossible to eat, shop, drive, travel, or pretty much do anything without causing some measure of harm to others and the planet, leading an ethical life seems like a very tall order indeed. It’s true that practically everything we do in life has ethical repercussions. 'Any decision that has an impact on others now or in the future is an ethical choice,' explains ethicist Christopher Gilbert.... Gilbert says it’s useful to consider ethics like a moral ladder. On the lowest rung, you think only of yourself. Past the middle rung, you’re thinking of the decision’s influence on some. And on the highest rungs, you’re wondering how every choice impacts all affected by it. 'When we step up that ladder and consistently strive to stay at the top rung, we are living an ethical life,' he says. Will we be at the top rung all of the time? Almost certainly not. But the answer isn’t to throw up our hands. Rather, we can keep on trying, every day and throughout our lives, to approach the world thoughtfully and consider the implications of our individual actions on others.
"Depending how far and wide you extend your empathy and ethical efforts, you may find that seemingly simple dilemmas, like what to wear or what to eat, become incredibly complex upon reflection. The clothing retailer ASOS, for example, recently announced it won’t sell silk products anymore out of concern for the welfare of silkworms who die in the material’s production process. But ... refusing to buy silk also has an economic impact on workers in India and China, where silk production is a tradition. Add to that the fact that even cotton is problematic—it’s a crop that demands a lot of water, making it environmentally taxing—and you find yourself in a pickle over the simple act of choosing a shirt. Now you’re making a decision that impacts worms, the Earth and your fellow humans. What do you do? ... The moral of the story? The best way to live an ethical life isn’t to find all the answers, but to be willing to wrestle with difficult questions."
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