While contemplating ways to make a positive impact on our environment, D and I have been researching various “green” methods of living. Two months ago we became vegetarians after taking a close look at exactly where our food comes from. It was painful to see the level of abuses that occur in the manufacturing of food and how this process of feeding ourselves has become no longer a necessity for life but an industry to make money. It was painful because we realized that for many years, we have contributed to these atrocities.
The Dalai Lama once said, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” Food is the same. It is a necessity not a luxury and yet we have become a society of wants over needs. This process has changed the way we put food on our tables. No longer are we working for our food but merely making a trip to the grocery store. No longer are we enjoying the fruits of our labor while sitting at a dinner table surrounded by our loved ones discussing our day, but grabbing a ready made meal and running to the nearest television to sit in silence.
There is an imbalance in our lives that has created an industry of food for profit. Not so long ago, food was something we worked for. Flour was not simply something we picked up on the way home from work. Many years ago and still in some remote places today, flour was and is a process. From growing the wheat, to harvesting, drying and grinding and all the steps in between, flour was something we worked for, not something we went to work to earn money for.
In Kerala India, a man would come home from his professional job in the city to sit in his back yard and grind wheat for flour. When asked why he did this rather than simply going to the market to purchase already ground flour, his response was that it simply didn’t taste as good. This made me wonder; how much of what we eat today is lacking in flavor and texture because we no longer work for what we eat?
Does an ear of corn that we have grown and tended to ourselves taste sweeter than one we have picked up from the grocery store? Is food that has been genetically modified to add vitamins and minerals that nature never intended to be added healthier for us than foods that were grown naturally and never knew the inside of a laboratory? I think we know the answer. But what can we do about it now? We have created a world where so much of our land is occupied. High rise apartments and farm lands reserved for industrial crops that humans will never eat have taken over what used to be land we strove to be a part of not consume.
As we let ourselves get completely absorbed with our day to day lives that include technology and pollution we grow farther and farther away from what this planet, our planet, really needs. We as a people have become a cancer to Earth. We lose species of animals and plants, even our drinking water forever in our continued push toward “advancement”. But are we happier? When we have bigger houses and faster cars and $1000 dinners at the fanciest restaurants, is our level of happiness higher than that of the man in Kerala India grinding his own wheat into flour?
When we throw away those leftovers that have been sitting uneaten in our refrigerators for weeks while our neighbor goes hungry, do we go to bed at night feeling more fulfilled than our ancestors of 150 years ago working together as a community to create food for everyone? As our society becomes more industrialized, the hunger rates soar and our planet suffers. Are we really better for it?
Changes need to be made and they need to happen soon. D and I have committed ourselves to making a difference not just in the lives of others but for our planet, or maybe just our little corner of it. We are under no allusions that our actions will have a global impact but they will have an impact on our little part of it. Donating to our local food pantry every week, growing our own food, reducing our waste and learning the difference between wants and needs are really just the beginning.
Planting a garden. Using reusable grocery bags. Drinking tap water rather than bottled. Turning off the lights and using a candle. Walking or riding a bike to work rather than driving a car. These are some of the changes that everyone can make but sadly we realize that many won’t. Will you?
Imagine the difference we could make in our world if we were to view everything in terms of needs not wants. Imagine the people that would not go hungry if we as a society remembered that food is a necessity for living and not a luxury or a big business money making venture. Imagine how much we could have for everyone if we all just took what we needed and not what we wanted.
We are a society of excess. But is this progress?