I recently had an experience that I think may change my life forever and I would like to share it with the world as I think it would add to the current debate on global development and sustainability. It is based on an idea that has been passed down generation to generation by some of the world’s greatest thinkers and it could have enormous implications for the future of our economy.
This year I started a Masters degree in Sustainability and shortly after starting this degree I began thinking about ways I could lighten my footprint on the world. This was always going to prove challenging given the state of the environment and economy at the beginning of the 21st Century.
After reading a book called “How Bad are Bananas?” by Mike Berners-Lee I came to the conclusion that we could have a major contribution to Sustainability as individuals through the way we eat for two reasons:
1. Because it is something we do every day
2. Because the standard Western-diet including a considerable intake of meat and other animal products has a substantial impact on the environment (in fact, according it is actually our greatest impact).
So, I committed myself to follow a vegetarian diet for 1 week.
After discussing with a friend, he recommended I watch “Forks over Knives” to further explore my idea.
I found this movie very inspiring as it carefully outlined the role of a plant-based diet in preventing (and in many cases curing) a variety of chronic illnesses, using the largest nutritional study ever conducted and various case studies – many from the Cleveland Clinic, one of the world’s most renowned clinical institutions in the world. So here comes the real challenge. I was so convinced that I took on their 28-day challenge – to cut out ALL animal products from my diet.
Just two weeks later I was given an enormous gift.
Since I was 10 years old, I have struggled with unbearable stomach pains. About once a month a pain would arise in me (called gastritis), which made it very uncomfortable during the day and I would be unable to sleep during the night. The following day the pain would pass. Although I was eventually given a diagnosis, which put me at rest knowing what the pain was, I was never able to get rid of the symptoms and still suffered a great deal. Until one day, when I noticed something special. After adopting this diet, I realised my symptoms gradually begin to disappear. They now happen much less frequently and are much more bearable, and when the episodes occur they tend to reverse, leaving before the end of the evening.
Since then, I have set upon researching this idea in greater depth to see whether other people would want to do it and how they might go about it and I have come across a range of interesting arguments. The following are some of what I think are some encouraging ideas. “Thrive Forward” is an online platform led by Brendan Brazier that provides advice on a range of topics including how to eat more sustainably, how to improve strength and endurance training, how to reduce stress and how to improve sleeping patterns. Also, Rip Esselystn, former firefighter gave an inspirational TEDtalk, in which he breaks down some of the key points from “Forks over Knives”, and shows how to create a habit of eating a plant-based diet, while presenting several examples of delicious meals.
It’s also interesting to see what some of the world’s greatest minds (athletes, politicians, scientists, doctors, philosophers and artists) have thought about vegetarianism. Hippocrates and Hoffman (founder of the American Cancer Society) advocated diet as the primary way to prevent and treat disease. In Ancient Greece, it was believed the best athletes in the Olympics should consume a plant-based diet for optimal performance. Ultra-marathon runner Scott Jurek, former President Bill Clinton, cricketers Chris Lewis and Greg Chappell, Paul McCartney, Thomas Edison, Gandi, Plato, Pythagoras… (the list goes on!) have all flourished on a plant-based diet.
We are living in a time where the world is experiencing great transitions. Progressing to new heights, capitalism has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty. But a global financial crisis has hit us on the head, demanding us to think about the way we’re living on this planet. We are beginning to see the limitations of our current model and the need to think ever more critically about global trade and economic prosperity. So what can we do as individuals?
While society may influence the decisions we make (sometimes for great benefit) we are living in an age where many of us have instant access to enormous amounts of information via the Internet. You can watch movies, read books, and go online to do your own research come to your own consensus about this diet. Eat to live, not live to eat.