Friday, March 11, 2016

Eating Matters in Our Common Home

Lent is traditionally a time when we "give up" some particular food as a spiritual practice. Meatless Fridays, and giving up chocolate are familiar ways of marking the season. Spiritual guides encourage us to think of making Lent a time of spiritual deepening, a time of prayer and reflection. So in addition to its disciplinary aspect, it has a quality of spiritual enrichment.
I would propose that reflecting on Pope Francis' recent document on the environment "Laudato Si'" could lead us back to the practice of Meatless Fridays, but for a different reason.
The chart here shows the carbon footprint of some of our common foods. Could we consider replacing a meal or two a week with a low-carbon-footprint substitute. Beef and pork rate high on the list. Eggs and tuna come in the middle, with only a fraction of the carbon footprint. And dried beans and lentils are at the far right, with a 90% lower carbon footprint, as compared to beef. Even choosing chicken over beef helps, choosing free range birds to avoid the inhumane treatment found on factory farm.
Some make the choice to be vegetarian, based on this information alone. By choosing every meal from the lower end of the chart, they significantly reduce their carbon footprint.
But you don't have to go to the extreme to make a difference. Even making the choice to replace a few meals a week makes a difference. E.g. what about making meatless Fridays a permanent choice. Or what about getting a vegetarian cookbook and choosing a few days a week to experiment with new low-carbon-footprint options. Another option would be to save the higher footprint options only for special occasions, Sunday dinner, birthdays and anniversaries. There are lots of possibilities.
The key is for each of us to make a commitment to move a little toward a lower-carbon-footprint diet, so that we can all benefit from a more stable environment. And more importantly so that the poorest and weakest of our brothers and sisters can have a little better place to live.
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