Food choices, diets and our relationship to the production of food are becoming more and more prevalent in national discussions. People are becoming more openly aware of food personally, socially and environmentally. A recent article in The Washington Post about Al Gore’s choice to become vegan came out a couple of weeks ago. Eliminating meat is the most environmentally healthy decision an individual can make. I’d like to congratulate Al Gore on making this decision and reinforcing his dedication and practice as an environmentalist. I hope that as a result, people will better understand the urgency necessary to make a dietary choice in relation to personal and environmental health. At the same time, however, I believe there is a right way to move forward in the direction towards sustainability regarding diet and lifestyle.
With recent insights and evidence mounting in support of a whole-food plant-based diet as demonstrated by T. Colin Campbell, I believe it is important to go beyond looking at what we eat as a single, mechanically separated facet of our lives, and begin to consider food as an integral part of our entire lifestyle and approach to life. Learning how to make informed, dietary choices and developing healthy habits that will last over the course of a lifetime is a real kind of sustainability that is attainable by every individual who makes the choice to lessen or stop meat.
As our modern environments are largely unhealthy, it is up to individuals to take the initiative to create environments where health thrives. Health craves health and as we develop habits that foster healthier and healthier choices, the environment will reflect that. Our relationship with our environment and health are reflections of each other that in turn affect each other exponentially.
The most basic and real sustainability that we have control over is in our food choices. In order for food choices to be sustainable for our health and well-being, they must be delicious and satisfying. Although this may require from us the time and dedication to learn to cook, prepare and eat, as our knowledge of the food grows, so does our satisfaction over time. Furthermore, we also have the ability to learn how to make better food choices in restaurants or in any other circumstance. And over time, these skills and habits we form with our food become easy in the long run, when we look at the scale of a lifetime. Our food choices should center around what nourishes us and in turn, brings out our best. Most often, these foods happen to be those that are indigenous to our unique climates and ecosystems. Although eating “local” is important, eating foods native to our climatic zones fosters the connection we have to the environments where we live. For example, eating local foods in season helps make us more aware of the changes of the seasons themselves, for starters.
There is more to changing one’s diet than lessening/stopping meat; it is how you go about it. As the topics of the sources of our food and seed, our agricultural practices, our environments and our dietary/health patterns become more prominent in our cultural awareness, it would not be surprising to me if more and more people decide to lessen or stop their consumption of meat. As much as I support this choice, I would also like those to be aware of the enormous potential to drastically change the course and quality of one’s life this kind of choice has. The potential to become in control of one’s direction towards health, towards a lifestyle that fosters sustainable and local communities and nourishes both the body and the mind.