I know this may be an unpopular thing to do, but someone somewhere ought to raise this question. Is it ethical to adopt a naturist lifestyle in the UK?
Public nudity is, of course, fine. There are no serious moral questions about taking off all your clothes on clothes-optional and naturist beaches. Naturist swims are beyond reproach, and naturist saunas are the only sane option.
But there is one branch of naturist activity which seems very questionable. I refer, of course, to the people who practice naturism in the privacy of their own homes, either as individuals or as families. In recent years, I do not recall a single voice questioning the morality of this lifestyle, or a single letter or article raising the subject.
We live in a world where the rich countries consume a vast amount of energy each year. Most of it comes from non-renewable sources. I don't want to sound like an environmental freak, but the simple fact remains - all the coal and oil we burn gets taken from the ground, and we will have to wait a few million years before we get some more to play with. Whether you estimate we will run out in 50 years or 150, the moral issue is essentially unchanged.
And the fuel we burn turns into Carbon Dioxide. We create far too much Carbon Dioxide: it is warming the Earth's climate, melting the ice caps, and raising the sea level.
In the light of this situation, what can we do? There are two basic pieces of advice we are given to help us conserve energy and save money: insulate your home, and turn down the thermostat.
Part of this is easy. I'm sure that as naturists we all have made sure our homes are as well insulated as possible. But what about the other side of the coin?
The most important thing we can each do to conserve energy is to lower the temperature in our homes. Every few degrees makes a big difference to the amount of heat lost through the walls, windows, doors and roof. Conversely, every few degrees we raise the temperature, increases the heat loss significantly.
The advice given to all of us is - turn down the thermostat! Reduce the temperature by a few degrees, put on another jumper, save yourself money and help to save the environment in the process. But to adopt a naturist lifestyle at home, instead of turning the temperature down and putting on a few more layers of clothing, I would need to turn the temperature up so I can take off my layers of clothing.
And, of course, the problem does not just exist in the Winter. In Autumn and Spring, a textile family can use the central heating much less than a naturist family during all the months in which the weather is warm enough for you to survive without heating the house as long as you can wrap yourself up.
The problem, of course only exists for the died-in-the-wool home naturists. And it is a problem for those of us who live in a cold climate, where we need to heat our homes for much of the year.
I suspect that most naturists are more pragmatic in the way they live at home. We don't watch the TV and eat our meals in the nude, but we don't worry about locking the bathroom door, either. We might wander nude from the bedroom to the shower first thing in the morning, but probably don't take everything off the moment we get home at night.
However, I do talk with some people who claim to adopt a 'fully naturist' lifestyle at home, never putting on a stitch of clothing until they have to go shopping or out to work. It sounds like a comfortable way to live, but can it be justified morally?
There is, of course, another side. Perhaps naturists require fewer clothes? (Would anyone like to confirm or deny this hypothesis?) Fewer clothes means less energy used in manufacture and transport, fewer resources consumed by shops and packaging, and less energy expended on shopping trips.
Naturists probably use less energy, on average, getting their clothes clean and dry. The washing machine and tumble-dryer are used less, consume less energy each month, and last longer, so they don't need replacing so often. All these are savings we should recognise.
Going beyond these benefits, I don't want to ignore the strong moral dimension of all naturist activity, and the ethical principles which under-pin it: naturism helps people to realise that it is people that matter, not their clothes; people would not buy expensive pictures of naked ladies if human nudity was commonplace; people would not visit strip-clubs if they met naked people in the supermarket; people would be happier and healthier if they did not spend so much time and money trying to appear to be something they are not; and so on.
But none of this really applies to naturist activity in the privacy of our own homes. Promoting public nudity would affect these issues, but whatever we do in our own homes is not going to affect things much one way or another.
On balance, I cannot help feeling that the energy saved by the few clothes a home-naturist does not need to wash each week is more than offset by the heat lost every few hours from a warmer house.
I do not want this article to sound like a condemnation of people who are fully naturist at home. I am sure they are, on the whole, good people with their own set of moral principles they seek to live by. Please would you see this article as an invitation to start a dialogue on the subject? Would anyone like to reply, and describe the moral issues they take into account when living as a home-naturist?
Or perhaps we just need to recognise that naturism in a cold climate is inevitably going to be more of a part-time hobby than an alternative lifestyle?