Live to Eat and Eat to Live Long

It may not be obvious but I love to eat. However, participating in the Food for Life campaigns of Greenpeace and being a part of #IAmHampasLupa, a group advocating mindful consumption, made me put more effort into choosing the food that I eat. After all, “You are what you eat.”

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“…This is the tenderloin for the sophisticated restaurants. The Mexicans love the feet. I know. Go figure! We all love the face and the anus, as American as apple pie! Hot dogs. It’s all edible. All edible, except the squeal.” -Nancy Mirando, Okja

I watched Food, Inc. (2008), Super Size Me (2004), Okja (2017), and other documentaries, films, and Youtube videos related to food. I also read articles and books, and participated in advocacy events that further discussed the topic. I know, it seemed like I was brainwashing myself but aren’t we supposed to be concerned about stuff that goes into our bodies? Well, from all these so-called “indoctrination,” I came up with the following (obvious) conclusions:

  1. We have a broken food system. We are disconnected to nature, to the food that we eat; that we don’t know how it’s produced and where it comes from.
  2. Processed food is bad news. But we know that already.
  3. Corporations, as always, are in control of the food available in the market.
  4. We don’t know the long-term effects of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) but we’re probably eating them every day.
  5. We eat more meat and less fruits and vegetables leading to health problems.

In an ideal world, you would be growing and cooking your own food. You would be buying local produce and would constantly check the label of products you buy. You wouldn’t be wasting food. Who does that, anyway. Did you know that it’s the third best way of cutting greenhouse gases? And you would eat more fruits and veggies because aside from its health benefits, it can curb greenhouse gas emissions, too.

So what’s stopping us from eating healthy? Let’s start from home. Busy parents have no time to cook and resort to the convenience of fast food takeaways and processed food. Kids get used to eating junk early on. And then these big corporations which don’t really care about your wellbeing offer the “best-tasting” food in the planet, with the demand further fueled by these #hugot-inspired advertisements. Witty as they appear to be, sometimes how corporations take advantage of values, relationships, and emotions as marketing ploy can be disturbing.

If you live in the city, the readily available options you have are of course fast food and processed food yet again. Organic choices may not be that affordable to many but that begs the question, “How much value do you actually put on your food and yourself?”

Another eating habit issue is this notion that meat is normal, necessary, natural, and nice which drives us to consume more meat with less or no veggies at all. A 2003 World Health Report, however, estimates that 1.7 million deaths worldwide is due to low consumption of fruits and vegetables. You don’t have to be a vegan or a vegetarian but health experts encourage a more plant-based diet for a healthier you.

Climate change and the environment, and animal welfare may not faze you in terms of your diet but if you want to live long, that should motivate you to give more thought to what you’re eating. Quite literally, it’s a matter of life and death.

Why not a Green Christmas

Tis the season to be jolly. It’s also the season where it seems like it’s okay to indulge in excessive eating, spending, and consuming. Over consumption equates to more stress on the environment. But here are some ways on how you could make your Christmas celebration greener.

  1. Declutter and give away your stuff. Let go of things you’re not using. They may be useful to other people. Before thinking of going shopping, look through your belongings for hidden gems that could be the perfect gift for someone else.
  2. If you do have to buy a present, make sure it’s useful, environment-friendly, and has less packaging. And buy from local stores and social entrepreneurs if you can.
  3. Bring re-usable bags when going shopping.
  4. Wrap your gifts with fabric (like the Japanese do, furoshiki-style), newspaper, paper bags, or old Christmas wrappers.
  5. Don’t use disposables during parties. It’s too much a hassle washing up and all but think of the amount of garbage you generate from all the parties (double whammy for plastics, straws, and styro).
  6. Prepare local, organic, healthy dishes; less meat and more veggies. Your body and the earth will thank you for it.
  7. Don’t waste food. Compost food scraps to reduce potential waste.

Anything else you would like to add to the list?

You are what you eat

If you’re an environmentalist, it would be expected or assumed that you’re a vegetarian considering the fact that eating less meat helps the environment. The meat industry requires massive amount of land, food, energy, and water; in short, it has a huge carbon footprint. Add to that the issue of animal cruelty. So vegetarianism seems to be an ideal diet option.

You can also choose to be vegan (no animal byproducts), pescetarian (no meat but eats fish), or a flexitarian (occasional meat eater). People have different reasons for their diet whether it’s for the environment, health, or just a matter of preference. But choosing to be a vegetarian in the Philippines is a challenge where Filipinos are practically carnivores who love lechon (roasted pig), crispy pata (pork knuckle), bulalo (beef soup of shank with bone marrow), kare-kare (stewed oxtail with peanut sauce), and the list just goes on. Our idea of a vegetarian dish is vegetable with meat bits in it.

I haven’t been mindful of what I eat in the past but as I became immersed in sustainable consumption especially as a volunteer for the ecological agriculture campaign of Greenpeace, I began to make an effort in eating fresh, local, healthy food. I still eat fast food but I try to choose the “healthier” option. I also avoid softdrinks and junkfood.

Watching different documentaries on food made me realize how broken the food system is. Food, Inc. (2008) examined the inhumane and environmentally unsustainable food production in the US and the control of big corporations on our food. Super Size Me (2004) showed how a daily fast-food/McDonald’s diet can be detrimental to health. And there are more movies and documentaries revealing the truth behind our food.

We’ve heard news about how processed meat can cause cancer, the “pink slime” (meat-based product with ammonium hydroxide) being added to ground beef, chicken being pumped with growth hormones, and fruits and vegetables contaminated with cancer-causing pesticides.

Aside from food safety, food security is also being threatened due to climate change.

Where does that leave us? We’re encouraged to cook and grow our own food. And that may be difficult if you live in a big city where it’s all about fast and convenient way of doing things. However, there is a decline in fast food sales and a growing demand for organic and healthy food. Some farmers are now transitioning to organic or sustainable agriculture. And urban and container gardening is being promoted in schools and in communities.

Food safety and food security are complex issues. We have a broken food system and we can start fixing it by choosing and demanding for healthy, affordable food. As has been said, you are what you eat so don’t be fast, cheap, easy or fake.

You are what you eat
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Dream

Watching the animated short, “Dream” was saddening. Endangered species sing “I Dreamed a Dream” as they show how humans show no regard to animals and the planet.

Human needs and greed always come first. Environmentalists are branded as anti-development. It’s such a travesty when animals are protected against people who consider hunting as livelihood. “How can I feed my family if I don’t do this,” they ask. It can be a tricky subject as I remember Greenpeace’s war against sealers which affected the livelihood of indigenous tribes like the Inuit in Canada. What then should we prioritize? We always hear of sustainable consumption but how exactly can we keep the balance of sustaining the ever growing human population and the destruction of the environment and the extinction of animal species?

And what becomes of the indigenous people (IP) relying on what the Earth provides. They’re being shunned and their land taken away from them. I am an Igorot, an IP. But I have lost this identity somehow when I got molded in the ways of modern city life. That which is considered superior but is miserably failing as a system.

Is this the hell we’re living? Regardless, I still continue to dream.