Food Awareness and Sustainability

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FOOD AWARENESS & SUSTAINABILITY: Debating Dietary Preferences That Abet or Mar the Environment simulates an animated story where nine friends meet for dinner at a posh Tucson restaurants. Each favors a different dietary preference and discuss their reasons for what they enjoy eating. Given the subtitle of the story, part of the story’s narrative entails what people also consume relates to the environment, spirituality, ecology, wellness, and how some food choices are not only harmful to the environment, but also to meat entrees related to the meat-processing industries. The discussion is, therefore, energetic, but not preachy. Instead, the narrative provides an overview of dietary choices, with emphasis on the vegan and vegetarian diet since both are eco-friendly. Included in this large work are addenda related to human anatomy and how certain food choices are indeed harmful to one’s health. 258 pages.

Genre: dining, cuisine, higher consciousness, spirituality, vegetarianism, vegan, meat-processing industries, dietary choices, dialectical conversations

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The topics discussed in this lively narrative will expand to global proportions. Namely, the consequences of one’s food choices that vicariously affects the environment. As the maitre d' and author of this narrative, this discourse on food choices and ecology by way of a dinner party is more than a casual night out for nine friends who share the same dining table. The story serves as a delectable metaphor that equates food choices with ultimate adverse environmental effects. Yet how many people ever stop and think whether what whets their appetite may be harmful or beneficial to the environment, depending on what they eat? The fact is, the quality of the air, water, and soil is heavily affected by the cattle and dairy industries that process the kind of food most people prefer.

Food Awareness is a literary vehicle that I use to get the message out that there is something all of us can do to help repair the damage to the environment, starting with our food preferences. I rely on ample research to support this thesis and all of the facts mentioned throughout the text are current. Let it be understood that this text is not out to lambaste those who enjoy meat and dairy products. Nor does it intentionally recruit people to become vegetarians and eco-warrior types. It is a candid story that discusses nutrition, food choices, and the ecology in an open-minded manner, all of which takes place over a fine meal where good friends gather and enjoy each other’s company on a Friday evening.

The story begins in Tucson, Arizona where the dinner party meets at a favored restaurant. Their repartee throughout the evening encompasses the tenets described above and accounts for the main text, and the appendices material following the story explores the clinical relationship between eating and ecology. Although some of the guests may not realize that their diet and food choices also correlate to the environment, the spirited conversation of this gathering shows how the two are related in an integral way.

Dr. Élan Santé who hosts the dinner party, has recently lost his wife to cancer. Since then he has come to realize her demise might have been preventable had she not been exposed to certain environmental hazards that caused her lung cancer. Now he is looking for answers in both nutrition and ecology. For example, he points out that before food products find their way to the market, and long before the victuals ever reach the dinner table, be it processing, packaging, or preserving, the raw products all come from the environment in one way or the other. Ecology is therefore one of the critical studies he advocates people should be cognizant about. Specifically, what is or isn't beneficial in the web of life that supplies all of us with the food we eat. Thus, if the environment isn't at its optimum and is stressed or ailing in some way, then how can we expect to remain healthy in light of our dependence on an unhealthy environmental source where we get our food in the first place?

There are vegetarians, quasi-vegetarians, and non vegetarians in the assembly, including one somewhat feisty vegan. Shakti is unquestionably passionate about what she eats. She also encourages the others seated around her to consider what she calls conscious food choices. In this sense, Shakti is an advocate for change and an avid recruiter to vegetarianism, especially veganism. Her point about not eating anything with a face stems from a synthesis of health, environment, and spirituality, which she implores the others to at least consider as a viable way of life for body, mind, and tuning in the upper chakras of one’s soul. She will have quite a battle on her hands, however, because some of the others in the dinner party, especially her somewhat renegade husband, Reb, simply don't see things her way. At least not to the extreme Shakti advocates. When it comes to eating, the other dinner guests have a laissez faire attitude and abide by a revamped centuries-old adage with modification that states, "Eat, drink, and be merry and be one with your tummy. But if you do drink, then assign a designated driver."

The conversation is both casual and serious. Often, the nature of the discussion is dialectical and the various notions expressed by each of the dinner guests follow the art and social etiquette of examining different notions in a logical manner. Through the means of questions and answers the reader is able to determine the validity of each point of view throughout the text. Thus, the dialogue is uncensored, fair-minded, and everyone has his or her valid opinion. Mostly, Eco-Entrees eavesdrops on part of the group’s discussion that centers on food, nutrition, and ecology, including the reasons why each guest seated at Dr. Santé’s table favors his or her respective food choices, regardless of any connection to the environment. At times, the discourse is playful, sometimes fervent, but always informative. The conversation is also easy enough to follow even if one's knowledge about the main topics discussed is limited. The important thing to bear in mind is how the fusion of these two subjects — nutrition and ecology — serves as the forum for this text and the meeting of minds and appetites that represent the most popular food choices.

Here is one example how Dr. Santé sums up the matter of health and nutrition in view of one’s eating preferences. The first question he addresses to his dinner guests has to do with the fuel one puts in the gas tank of his or her vehicle. Namely, would they put kerosene in the gas tank because it’s cheaper and more readily available? The second question he asks concerns having the choice to change the oil in the engine by one’s self or pay a service station to have the work done. If one chooses to do the work for one’s self, would one also let the oil spill out onto the ground or even in a nearby stream just to get rid of it? Thus, the direct link of food choices, nutrition, and the environment is established early on in the text. All the points of view espoused by the nine dinner guests are thoroughly discussed throughout the evening meal and the four main entrees that are served.

The primary theme of Food Awareness comes down to this axiom: “Let's all eat better, feel better, and try to create a healthier environment in a symbiotic, conscious way.” The aim of Eco-Entrees is thus intended to promote this theme and spread such awareness. According to Dr. Santé, a highly developed eco-awareness also promotes our understanding of a profound and integral symbiosis. Equally, people have a tacit responsibility to maintain the balance of life, simply because humankind tends to think of itself as an eminent force and contender in the trophic levels (i.e., how energy flows through an ecosystem and essentially who eats what). At the very least, humankind needs to do something about this ubiquitous and topical concern of the new millennium and the faltering environment we are faced with, including the prophetic global warming menace. Some, like Dr. Santé and Shakti, feel we have an ethical obligation to act as wise stewards for the planet and have no other choice or say in the matter. Whether a person chooses an eco-friendly diet or continues with a traditional menu of choice that suits their taste in food, what is being touted throughout Food Awareness reflects both the quantity and quality aspects of our lives. An eco-friendly diet implies the food we eat is important both in a nutritional sense and to the environment. Hence, the subtitle of this book: Conscious food choices equal a sustainable environment.

By cutting down on certain food products, specifically those originating from the meat and dairy industries, we also help limit the environmental poisoning attributed to both industries. The four chapters that correlate to the four different entrees probes this topic and represents a workable compromise in meat and dairy oriented preferences for those who eschew one or both, including vegans or raw foodist types who avoid all meat and dairy products. This compromise may not set well with those who feel the vegetarian diet is the best or the healthiest. Then again, some 93% of the world's population do eat meat and dairy products and are likely not going to change their eating habits regardless the rationale of the vegetarian or vegan campaign. Nevertheless, there is a cogent argument in the text that states the environment is better able to renew its resources if we cut down on the consumption of meat and dairy products. It is my hope Food Awareness will at least open some minds to the feasibility of this statement.

Shakti's role in the story is arguably the most extreme point of view compared to all the others. In her view, the mission she espouses is to show how humankind ends up contaminating the nest we live in by fouling the land, sky and water. Sound and telling evidence for this statement follows throughout both parts of the text. What needs to be protected is therefore the environment so that the food on our plates remains healthy and nutritious, just as the air that we breathe needs to be clean, and the same with the water that nourishes our bodies.

This information text for today and for tomorrow’s readers. Today, our awareness tells us that we had better pay attention to what we're doing to the web of life, starting with the environment. Today, we need to examine our eating habits and preferences because we realize tomorrow's generations will inherit the environment that we leave behind. Today, we all have an obligation to think and plan for what shape the environment will take in the future. Today, we are more mindful of this obligation than ever before. Still, our pace in making these necessary changes is miserably slow compared to our routine interest in commerce, economics, and the diverse ways we find to entertain ourselves. Are we paying too much attention to our egoism and indiscriminate material needs, especially considering what global reality is steadily revealing? Some would think so while many others seem to focus their attention elsewhere.

What is clearly expressed throughout Food Awareness will help explain what needs to be looked at and why each of us holds the key to a healthier body and environment. There is even a positive benefit for our doing so: We really have no other choice or say in the matter. The environment we depend on must ultimately matter to all of us.

Consider these five easy pieces as aphorisms that speak directly to one of the greatest barriers to most minds — the ability to change:

  1. "Things do not change, we do." (Henry David Thoreau)
  2. "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." (Leo Tolstoy)
  3. "He who will not apply new remedies must expect new evils." (Francis Bacon)
  4. "There is nothing permanent except change." (Heraclitus)
  5. "The world's apathetic and I really don't give a damn.

Furthermore, I just want my steak and eat it, too. While you're at it, make mine bloody rare, and to hell with the environment and ecology and what's good for my health. In short, I'm not buying what you're preaching!" (Adamant source unknown)

Madames et messieurs, bon soir et bon appetite! Here's to your very good health and to that of the Earth Mother's. As a life-giving organism, she may not need us as much as we need and depend on her. Nevertheless, the fact is we do vitally depend on the environment to sustain our lives. So does every other living organism. It is therefore our actions and intentions that matter the most, not just the words we try and live by. Eco-Entrees is a text meant to whet appetites and stir consciousness to new heights by means of nutritional and environmental awareness.



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