Posted by: Matthew | July 19, 2010

Using a woodburner is an immoral act

Here at the Clean Air Society of the Kapiti Coast I’m not much for any religion, and I find it pretty offensive when someone tells me I can’t be moral because I don’t go much for their version of the gods, but there is a near universal amongst the religions of the Earth and their moral codes and which is also a part of any secular moral code as well. The Christians call it the Golden Rule, which boils down to this:

  1. One should treat others according to how one would like others to treat them (positive, passive form)
    1. Treat others as you would like to be treated (positive, active form)
  2. One should not treat others in ways one would not like to be treated (prohibitive, passive form)
    1. Do not treat others in ways you would not like to be treated (prohibitive, active form.)

It’s in Islam:

“None of you believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”
—An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith 13 (p. 56)

It’s in Hinduism :

“One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Other behavior is due to selfish desires.”
Brihaspati, Mahabharata (Anusasana Parva, Section CXIII, Verse 8 )

It’s in Confucianism:

“Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”

The golden rule definitely applies to woodburners. You wouldn’t want your house to become unlivable, and you wouldn’t want your air to be poisoned by your neighbours, so why do you think it is OK to do it to them?

So I am going to say it here very clearly:

It is an immoral act to use a woodburner when you have a neighbour that is going to smell your smoke.

It doesn’t matter if it only has 0.65 grams of smoke per kg of dry wood fuel used (which is about the lowest emissions of any woodburner on the market). That is under laboratory conditions, after it has already been burning at more than 0.65 grams of smoke while it was started, and you can’t make it work at 0.65 grams of smoke. You will pollute more than that. Also 0.65 grams of woodsmoke is actually quite a lot of smoke. It does not matter that tonight it is breezy and the smoke will be diluted by the wind, because you will also use it on a still night, when there are inversion layers because of the cold. Have you asked your neighbour if it is OK that you pollute the air they have to breathe? And what about your neighbour’s neighbour? What about the person who otherwise would be walking along your street but can’t? What about the asthmatic who wouldn’t be an asthmatic if it wasn’t for your woodburner? Have you asked the people who have had to give up netball or rugby because they can’t train on a winter’s night?

If I invented a new form of heating my house that used an exothermic chemical reaction but just happened to have poisonous gases coming off that I vent outside that blow over your house would that be okay? What if it was hydrogen sulphide, or sulphide dioxide, or what if it was ozone or carbon monoxide? Would that be okay? Now how would this new form of heating my house be any different to the chemical reaction of the incomplete combustion of wood in oxygen, for it too gives off poisonous smoke and gases?

You wouldn’t like being so poisoned would you? But you don’t have to fear because I wouldn’t do that to you, because I wouldn’t like it being done to me. The Golden Rule should trump the Tragedy of the Commons

I’ll let the Jewish holy books tell it like it is:

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”

—Talmud, Shabbat 31a



  1. […] better to not install one in the first place, and install a more ethical form of heating. It is actually immoral to use a Masport Grandview Series 3 […]

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