"Fair goes the dancing when the Sitar is tuned. Tune us the Sitar neither high nor low, and we will dance away the hearts of men. But the string too tight breaks and the music dies. The string too slack has no sound, and the music dies. There is a middle way. Tune us the Sitar neither low nor high. And we will dance away the hearts of men." -Buddha
In this current age, we find ourselves being bombarded more and more by extreme perspectives that tell us we're either Democrat or Republican, we're either a vegan or a carnivore, you're either with us, or your against us. The list of extremities goes on and on, and it seems to only be getting worse with each passing day. It can be so easy to be swept away by these myopic views of the world, so how do we break free of this daily onslaught of information that seems to be coming at us from all sides? How do we find the middle way? Why is this timeless teaching from the Buddha just as significant now as it ever was?
As humans it is so easy to focus on the short-term and not consider the long-term effects of what we do each day and how our actions impact on the earth and those around us. In Hinduism there is the concept of karma, which holds that every action (or inaction) you perform ripples out into the universe and will determine your future experiences. To put it another way, in the words of Isaac Newton: "For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction." These ideas, these scientific truths can either seem daunting, or on the other hand, they can offer a glimmer of hope. Think about it - right now, today, you can make a choice. You can perform an action that will not only be beneficial for yourself and your overall health, but will ripple out and have a beneficial effect on the health of the planet.
What is that action that you can take today, you ask?
Eat less meat.
For many of you reading this, this might seem like the most obvious answer ever, and for others, you might be about to click out of this page and stop reading this article. Before you take any drastic measures and shut out something you think you might not want to hear, try and be open and consider this perspective.
Firstly, this is coming from someone who was vegetarian from age 12 - 23. Because of health reasons I switched back to eating meat, but even then, I often go weeks without eating meat. When I do eat meat, I ensure that I know exactly where it's coming from and that it is sourced from a local farmer who uses biodynamic practices.
All that aside, by reading books like "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Micael Pollan, I became aware of just how terrible factory farms and big agriculture is. Recently, I watched Cowspiracy on Netflix, which painted an even more bleak picture of the situation. Ultimately, what publications like these point out is that there is a big environmental issue out there that we are not talking about, and that needs to be addressed globally.
Some statistics that might make you stop in your tracks include:
- Animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gases than all transportation put together
- Animal agriculture is the leading cause of rainforest destruction
- Animal agriculture is responsible for 55% of water consumption in the US
- Animal agriculture is the leading cause of freshwater pollution as well as ocean dead zones
Ultimately, the documentary Cowspiracy seems to present the point that we must do away with all animal agriculture and become vegans. While this argument is valid and a very necessary voice in the environmental discussion, it is also an extreme view that is not necessarily realistic. That said, it does point to the power each individual holds in determining his/her own diet. You have the power to make a beneficial impact on the environment with the dietary choices you make.
Perhaps you can't or you simply won't become a vegan. Nevertheless, there are some meaningful steps you can take to make a significant impact on your overall health and on the health of the planet. Some steps include:
- Getting informed. Do your own research. Watch movies and read books and articles on the topic of agriculture and it's effects on the environment. The more you know, the better decisions you can make.
- Cut down on your meat and dairy in-take. Easier said than done. Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. You might just notice that your body will thank you.
- Know where your food is coming from. Start shopping at your local farmer's market. Guaranteed that once you start sourcing your food from people you know, you'll not only feel better, but you'll notice that the food tastes better, too.
Bottom line - you can make a difference. You don't have to be drastic in your actions. Ultimately, the middle way, moderation, is best. And while it is hard to change, it is possible.