Our diet has a tremendous impact on the environment. In the modern world we lost our capacity to provide food for ourselves. We earn a living to be able to buy food to feed our family. To reduce our carbon, petroleum, or toxic footprint, we need to revisit our eating habits. Fad diets are at their peak: whatever conviction you have about life, there’s a diet to serve your ideology.
Hereby I’m demonstrating three tools that shed light on diets from ecological perspective. In essence, they all strive to guide you to the lowest ecological footprint. They are based on the permaculture ethics: earth care, people care, fair share.
Garrett’s Food Wheel
The Food Wheel gives a 4-dimensional analysis of our diet. It values organic, local produces that are cultivated using forest farming and permaculture techniques. It avoids the use of animals. The tool was created by Elaine Garrett and Alan Garrett, members of the Movement for Compassionate Living, UK. They advocate of ecological veganism that is based on agricultural revolution.
“[The Movement for Compassionate Living] promotes the production of food through sustainable methods of vegan-organic horticulture and agriculture (without the use of chemicals or animal products) using plant-based compost and liquid feeds and green manuring techniques. MCL promotes a healthy vegan diet based on crops that can be grown in a person's home climate where ever possible, using patterns of production such as forest farming and permaculture techniques, that mean food is grown for local communities, by local people, reducing the distance from field to fork. MCL encourages people to grow at least some of their own food and promotes the research into the range of food plants that can be grown in each climate zone.”
A vegan diet, that removes animal products off the table and yet includes non-organic produces, products that are manufactured in an unfair manner, or simply depends on the consumption of products coming from the other part of the world, might satisfy the animal liberation criteria, but falls short on other ethical aspects: it exploits land and people.
Paul’s VORP omnivore forest garden
Building a Better World in Your Backyard, a book by Paul Wheaton and Shawn Klassen-Koop, demonstrates a chart of diets and their carbon footprint. The authors use the term SAD, referring to the Standard American Diet, and their invention VORP, that is Virgin, strictly Organic, Rich soil, and Polyculture/Permaculture. The VORP diet naturally means “low processing, low packaging, foods are grown in aged soil with a high organic matter level, […] seasonal foods, […] no pesticides”.
In their chart, you can recognise the same dimensions as in Garett’s Food Wheel. However the VORP model puts more emphasize on the food production aspect. According to Paul’s calculation, a VORP omnivore forest garden doesn’t only significantly decrease your carbon footprint but it actually removes carbon from the environment.
“Rather than saying that everyone needs to be vegan for the sake of the environment, I think that, by advocating for VORP food, we can have a much larger impact. Then each person can decide whether or not to eat animal products, depending on what works best for them.”
Fukuoka’s diet of non-discrimination
Masanobu Fukuoka is known to be the figure who did permaculture before it was called so. “He was a proponent of no-till, no-herbicide grain cultivation farming methods traditional to many indigenous cultures, from which he created a particular method of farming, commonly referred to as «natural farming» or «do-nothing farming».” (Wikipedia)
In his book, The One-Straw Revolution (1975), Fukuoka explains the four main classifications of diet (page 78):
- “A lax diet conforming to habitual desires and taste preferences”
- “The standard nutritional diet”, in other words “materialist, scientific eating”. SAD is a good example.
- The diet of principle, based on “spiritual principles and idealistic philosophy”. Vegan or sattvic diet would fall into here.
- “The natural diet, following the will of heaven. Discarding all human knowledge, this diet could be called the diet of non-discrimination.”
"Human life is not sustained by its own power. Nature gives birth to human beings and keeps them alive. This is the relation in which people stand to nature. Food is a gift of heaven. People do not create foods from nature; heaven bestows them. Food is food and food is not food. It is a part of man and is apart from man. When food, the body, the heart, and the mind become perfectly united within nature, a natural diet becomes possible. The body as it is, following its own instinct, eating if something tastes good, abstaining if it does not, is free.”
Fukuoka’s natural food farming philosophy incorporates all previous considerations and talks about none of them at the same time.
"Unless people become natural people, there can be neither natural farming nor natural food. In one of the huts on the mountain I left the words, «Right Food, Right Action, Right Awareness» […] inscribed on a pinewood plaque above the fireplace. The three cannot be separated from one another. If one is missing, none can be realized. If one is realized, all are realized."
When choosing what you eat, you also choose the impact you leave on the environment. Realize your relationship to nature. It is you and it is apart from you at the same time. Therefore, your impact on nature is per se the relationship to yourself. Stop exploiting the environment. Stop exploiting yourself.
"Exploitative nature of who we are exists in all aspects of life. […] Fundamentally what needs to go is this urge to exploit anything and everything that’s little weaker than me. That should go. If that doesn’t go, people will find devious ways to do the same damn thing.”
– Sadhguru: Consciousness