Last night my wife, Laura (her blog: Food-A Love Story), and I had the privilege of attending a dinner party at the home of Carolyn and Jeff Kull to honor Oxfam World Food Day. With a dozen or so people, we enjoyed a sumptuous vegetarian potluck with grilled vegetables, squash spaghetti and amazing gluten-free, sugar-free desserts by Stephanie Weaver (her blog: Recipe Renovator).
The evening was designed to further the dialogue on conscious eating. The choices we make about what we eat, and the relationship we cultivate with nature through our diet, are essential components of personal transformation and spiritual practice. Further, our very lives depend upon the intelligence of these choices.
Our Western Diet, predominantly based upon meat, dairy and processed foods, is literally a killer. More than a million Americans die each year from heart disease, cancer, stroke, and illnesses related to diabetes and obesity. All of these conditions are related to the food we choose to consume.
The impact of the Western Diet on global warming, world hunger, our polluted waterways and the plight of the rainforest is equally as alarming as its impact upon our health. Every minute some 25-50 acres of rainforest is cut or burned to the ground. Most of it is for grazing cattle. For every hamburger, 55 square feet of rainforest is destroyed. The leading cause of deforestation and species extinction worldwide is livestock grazing.
Twenty-five percent of the methane produced in the world comes from livestock. Methane and carbon dioxide are the leading causes of global warming. Along with methane, 150 pounds of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere for every hamburger that is made. This is 25 times more carbon dioxide than you would release into the atmosphere by driving your car all day long.
Thirty percent of the pollution in our waterways comes from livestock farming. The production of one pound of beef requires 2,500 gallons of water. The production of one pound of wheat or potatoes requires only 815 gallons. If we all ate a predominantly vegetarian diet we would reverse the pollution and loss of this precious resource.
Fifteen million children die each year from starvation. This is 40,000 children every day. Yet each day, the world produces enough grain to provide every person on Earth with more than two loaves of bread. 40% of that grain, however, is fed to livestock. 1.4 billion people could be fed by the grain given to U.S. livestock alone. If we reduced our meat consumption by just 10%, we could feed every starving child on Earth if we chose to.
Seeing how our dietary decisions not only affect our personal health, but have an impact on all of humankind and on Mother Earth, provides us a deeper awakening to the intricate and delicate fabric of life.
We are all in this together, and when any of us starve anywhere on earth, it creates a spiritual malnutrition for us all.