What is known is that the world is disintegrating before our eyes. I am not speaking about societies, they come and go. I am referring to the actual natural world, what we usually refer to as the environment – nature. When nature goes it doesn’t come back. Damage can sometimes be reversed but the extinction of a plant, an insect, a fish, a mammal or a bird is a final act. It is gone forever. With it goes the function that it served, a thread in the vast tapestry of life.
Who would do such a monstrously stupid thing? Who indeed?
Now some, but not all, realize that the existential threat of our actions are rebounding on us. As ice melts, oceans rise, insects disappear and climate-driven fires burn down the forests we consider action. We need action. Sign a petition, march in the streets, force government to speak the truth and take action, force industry to clean up their act – all good stuff. Maybe we can elect green politicians that can sort it out, maybe we can force the oil and coal industries to “leave it in the ground”. Maybe someone else can undo the damage we all contribute to every day.
Our default setting is to look for someone to blame and there are plenty of villains out there, both real and imagined. Greedy business bosses, crooked politicians, industrial polluters, gods will, the arrangement of the stars or our position on the Aztec calendar. But what about us? Are we victims of a cruel world?
The Macrobiotic way of life has always stressed personal responsibility. If we are sick we are encouraged to reflect on our actions. We seek to tease out the possible actions that we have taken that may contribute to our sickness. It is an integral part of our philosophy that we first consult the mirror before looking further afield. Once we have located the offending habits it is then our duty to correct our actions or stop complaining.
I have noticed, you may have too, that the single act that every person can do to slow and even reverse climate change is often left as an afterthought. It is no secret that raising animals and using them as food is one of the top causes of environmental destruction. Some say it is the main cause.
Yes, there are other human actions that contribute to climate change, but animal agriculture, the production of animals for meat, dairy, eggs and even fish farms are an environmental tragedy. What is known is, if we were to stop eating animals and using animal products, the world would be a better and healthier place for ourselves and future generations. The question is why don’t we just do that?
This is an especially puzzling question for the macrobiotic community. Leaving animal products out of the diet is completely congruent with our philosophy. If making balance with nature is a goal of our practice, killing sentient creatures simply for our pleasure or to fulfill an imagined tradition is a great mistake. Ohsawa and Kushi both claimed that eating a diet with no animal products was the best way to achieve mental and spiritual health. We need to change our thinking and actions to meet the challenges at hand. These are different challenges than existed in the 60s, 70s and 80s. One Peaceful World is only possible if we save the world.
DO YOU HAVE SKIN IN THE GAME?
A great little saying that I understand comes to us from the wonderful world of investment finance is, “Do you have skin in the game?” Having Skin in the Game means that you actually put in some of your own money before advising others to invest. It means that you share personal risk in a project. You are not on the sidelines cheering, you are not an observer, you are a participant. Being a vegan means you have “skin in the game” of ecological renewal, you are serious.
When I hear that someone is 80% vegan or vegan on Fridays or vegan with some fish added my first thought is that it is like saying you are a little bit pregnant. My second thought is that they are not serious, they have no skin in the game. Environmentalists who suggest we “reduce” the amount of meat and dairy have no skin in the game, they are unwilling to make the issue of environmental health and justice a personal thing. It seems they do not want to upset anyone by doing something that may seem extreme.
Living a vegan life reinforces your commitment to the living planet every day in a very intimate way. The most common social action, eating with others, becomes a statement of purpose. This is not about shouting at people about their habits, that is childish. This is not about showing horrible pictures of animal farming, that is a form of bullying. This is about you, living a life free from violence. It is about living a life of Ahimsa, doing no harm, it is the spirit of macrobiotics.