Review: The Rough Guide to Ethical Living

Matthew Chatfield
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Book reviews by guest blogger Ray Harrington-Vail of the Footprint Trust

The Rough Guide to Ethical Living

The Rough Guide to Ethical Living claims to “cut through the greenwash” . From tea to trainers and pensions to plane-tickets, the guide impressively claims to look at “all the problems and ethical options” and recommend resources to help you make a choice. The editor, Duncan Clark, works for Rough Guide and has written a number of successful Guides on a diverse range of subjects. This one, sadly, falls short of the mark. The book falls at the first post with its claim to be “climate neutral” due in part to tree planting. They would do well to see what the good Dr Rackham has to say about that (see my review of his recent book). This Rough Guide goes on to further undermine its own green credentials by the fact that it’s printed in Italy. The main problem with this book is that it appears to have relied heavily on contributions and guidance from various interest groups, and has failed to dig deep enough to be objective on some issues. One example of this is that it reports all the harm done to the environment by the processing of leather, but does not point out the harm done by in the manufacture of plastic alternatives. Very good if you only care about cuddly animals in isolation, not so good if you’re looking at the survival of planet earth! The animal rights focus of this book means that myths about vegan food being always better than meat and diary are repeated. It’s a point of view, but there are two sides to that story – Clark could have mentioned that in some cases the poor quality land used to produce meat cannot be used for crops and would be better left for livestock and wildlife. It also fails to give both sides in the animal testing argument ” there are environmental scientists who support animal testing. These points are not made. The book is not utterly toothless however, questioning propaganda from ‘ecoballs‘ claiming that the product “magnetizes” water to get clothes clean ” which is unscientific rubbish. It’s a shame that Rough Guide did not take the time to really explore the subject ” as they did with their Climate Change book (separate review follows). Don’t spend your money on this book unless you can get it second hand.

Matthew Chatfield

Uncooperative crusty. Unofficial Isle of Wight cultural ambassador. Conservation, countryside and the environment, with extra stuff about spiders.

One thought on “Review: The Rough Guide to Ethical Living

  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Odd review. I read this too and I wonder whether you haven’t dug deep enough yourself! For example, the offsetting uses climate care which, as explained in the book, does hardly any tree planting.

    And it does say that meat can sometimes be efficient with marginal land, etc, but points out that this is rarely the case…


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