Our daily decisions
I recently had the good fortune of stumbling upon the list of eleven vows that Gandhi strove to adhere to. The list resonated strongly with me and reflected aspirations that I already had about how to live my life. One of the items listed is “Avoidance of Bad Taste”, by which he meant to only eat healthy, pure foods.
Many of my friends right now are in the process of transforming their lives and, in particular, the way they eat. Some for health reasons, other for reasons of conscience. I get a feeling that sometimes it gets out of hand, though. Recently, I saw a posting on Facebook insinuating that we should not eat even a drop of olive oil because of the fat content, and another about not eating honey or syrup because of the sugar. Then there was the posting about not eating quinoa because it is impoverishing the South American countries where it is grown.
Regarding the quinoa, another of Gandhi’s vows was to use locally made goods. Americans have long had a cognitive disconnect between the things they buy and the environmental and social consequences of those purchases. They do not think twice about discarding a cell phone every year to buy a new one, even when that new one was made with rare earth minerals that are mined using big pits and poisonous tailings ponds. The factories used to produce them are in China where environmental and working conditions are not regulated with the same vigor as in the U.S. Everything is disposable now, and our need for “growth” means it’s more beneficial to our economy for you to throw something away and let someone manufacture a new one than to fix the old one. This is wasteful and irresponsible. We buy clothes made in Vietnam, water from mountains in Italy and coconut water from some tropical locale. The production of those goods in massive quantities takes away resources from those local economies and results in large amounts of carbon emissions during transportation.
Until we can truly embrace a largely local and durable economy, our buying decisions are harming people. When we don’t shop locally, our local economy is harmed. And when we shop from big global companies, we are harming lots of other areas that suffer the pollution or environmental degradation from the manufacturing process. So, in your search for health, do not flock to the specialty products that are made in exotic places. Search for the healthy alternatives produced near you. Then you can eat healthy in good conscience without excessive negative impact on the planet and others.
Many vegetarians and vegans gloat about the reduction in environmental/animal harm they are responsible for, but they do not think one bit about the other foods and objects they purchase that have negative effects on animals, people and the planet. EACH AND EVERY purchase is your decision to support or reject certain practices and levels of harm. Your money is a powerful tool that you can use to shape the world.
As for removing anything from your diet that has the tiniest bit of fat or sugar, that is each person’s prerogative. But it does not work for everyone. As Buddha discovered, becoming an ascetic is not necessarily a worthy goal. He consequently promoted The Middle Way. I eat honey and olive oil every day, and I am a very healthy person. I also eat tons of vegetables, I don’t overeat, I drink a lot of tea and get exercise. It is all about moderation and variety in our daily decisions.
It is wonderful to share information with others about health risks and dietary concerns, but be sure to remember that we are each on our own individual journey and must choose our own actions. Be kind to others and be kind to yourself in your attempt to be healthy and helpful.