Sweet Moral Agonies
May 19, 2008
Writing on the Guardian’s eco-blog - titled, somewhat presumptuously, Ethical Living – Adharanand Finn touches on another great moral conundrum of our time.
If you take a bicycle, one of the greenest forms of transport available, and put an electric motor on it, is it still green?
The answer, apparently, is yes.
In the battle to get commuters out of their cars, electric bikes are regularly cited as an eco-option, particularly for those who live too far away from work to cycle, or those with injuries or fitness problems, or those who are just too lazy to cycle. They also get rid of the excuse that you don’t cycle because you don't want to arrive at work dripping with sweat. One enthusiast even suggested to me that the energy saved by not showering cancels out the energy used to power the bike, making it just as green as regular cycling.
A comforting thought for our cyclist’s friends and colleagues. Sadly, Mr Finn’s 13-mile test ride didn’t go terribly well.
After a while, however, as the motor began to lose its charge, the bike began to struggle. Hills needed pedalling up, and were almost as much effort as on a normal bike - the now feeble pull of the motor being virtually cancelled out by the added weight of the bike. I wouldn’t want to get caught out and about with a flat battery. By the end I was sweating.
Which brings us to the thorny matter of deodorant and the agonies of making the most Gaia-friendly choice. Thankfully, there are numerous eco-conscious personal hygiene products to fret over, including hemp seed oil and, perhaps surprisingly, bicarbonate of soda, which is applied either by hand or with a brush and can be bought by the kilo. However, the most remarkable product is almost certainly Dr Mist, which “flushes out toxins” while healing minor flesh wounds and is described by its makers as “a concept to respect human self-esteem.”
Mr Finn has previously wrestled with the cultivation of a green CV and such pressing moral questions as Are Ceramic Cups Really More Ethical Than Disposables?