Your eating choices can make a significant impact in fighting our climate crisis.
There’s a beautiful story of a boat in the middle of the ocean in which three men are stranded. They draw invisible lines down the boat, dividing the space so each man has his own third of the boat. Although the lines were just imaginary, each of the men stayed in his section of the boat. One day, two of the men look over and they notice that a leak has sprung in the third part of the boat, and water is now flooding in. They panic and shout at the third man, “Stop up the leak! The boat’s going to sink and we’re all going to drown!” But the third man turns to them and said, “Oh, don’t worry, it’s only leaking in my part of the boat.”
I love that story because even though there were “lines” drawn, we all understand that a leak in any part of the boat brings the whole thing down. That’s the situation we are in on our planet today. The collective boat of our healthy, sustainable, physical presence on Mother Earth is sinking. It is up to us to plug up that leak.
When we talk about climate change, so many of us relegate it to the responsibility, the fault, and the duty of our governments, multinational companies, and the massive transportation industry. We sign online petitions, we march, we picket. It’s wonderful to show solidarity, but there’s a lot more that we can do, and there’s a lot more that we need to do. An area where you can have significant impact is through your eating choices.
Why Meat is a Problem
The Amazon rain forest, which produces approximately 20% of the oxygen on earth, which absorbs approximately 20% of the carbon dioxide, which provides us with approximately 20% of the fresh drinking water on our planet, is being clear-cut at a rate of a football field a second. The fires and other recent events in Brazil are making this rate even more dramatic.
Take a moment and just breathe. Inhale for three seconds, let it out for three seconds. In that six seconds, six football fields of Amazon rain forest were deforested. For what? Primarily, for the livestock industry, so that we have the power, the luxury, and the freedom to choose to eat hamburgers, to choose to eat steak.
According to United Nations’ statistics, by 2040 the world will have half the water it needs! Yet the amount of water that goes into the production of one meal of hamburgers could, in the words of Newsweek magazine, “sink a naval destroyer.” Approximately 2,500 gallons (approx. 10,000 liters) of water goes into the production of one meal of hamburgers. That’s the amount of water you use in bathing for six months! Chicken is about one third of that. So it’s great to turn off the taps while you brush your teeth, but in order to offset the water usage of a meal of chicken, you’d have to refrain from bathing for two months. For a meal of beef, you’d have to refrain from bathing for six months. Are we prepared to do that? Of course not, nor would your loved ones and colleagues appreciate it if you stopped bathing. Instead, can we stop eating the meat that is hijacking the planet’s resources?
Aligning our Ideals and Actions
The livestock industry is also responsible for more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than the transportation industry. How many of us feel a pinch of guilt for the airplanes we take, for the travel we do? That impact is negligible compared to what we’re eating. Every hamburger releases approximately 75 kilograms of carbon dioxide into the air. That is the equivalent of taking your car and driving it, morning to night, nonstop for three straight weeks. The livestock industry is responsible for 40% of the methane in our atmosphere just due to the cattle while they are alive. That which they emit from their various orifices puts 40% of the methane into our atmosphere. When you include the clear-cutting of the forests and the burning of their waste, 100 million tons of methane goes into the atmosphere. Go ahead and fly in airplanes. If you really want to make a difference, be vegetarian.
As people committed to living a spiritual life we have to live the values and that includes making changes to our lifestyles so they are in alignment with our spiritual and yogic ethics. As Mahatma Gandhi said, we have to be the change that we want to see in the world. It’s not about ramming our beliefs down other people’s throats. Rather, the question is can we be the change? Are we prepared to actually live spiritual lives 24 hours a day? When we do that, it gives courage to other people and inspires them to act the same way. So, go ahead, next time order the vegetarian meal.
The International Yoga Festival, located at Parmarth Niketan in Rishikesh, India, unites yogis of every culture, color and creed together in a one-world yogic family. Come be a part of an expanding global consciousness, March 1-7, 2020, by registering at https://www.internationalyogafestival.org/register/.