Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ready for your 1st commitment to Change?

It always comes down to that which is within one's influence: "do what you, personally, can do." As we're learning, with increasing frequency and urgency, the Earth and her creatures are crying out for help in so many ways: melting polar ice, rapid extinction of species, changing climate. We've heard the dire predictions and daily fear reports. So what can we do?

My $0.02:

Forget Our Nation's Savior, Obama, for a moment. Set aside thoughts of a newly Demo-boosted Congress. Put on your reading glasses and focus on the area immediately around you-- whatever you can reach.

Ready? Okay, here's your first assignment: Eat less meat.

"How much less?" you ask, a furrow in your brow as you contemplate a sad sayonara to your twice-weekly bacon double-cheesebuger.

The answer, of course, depends on how much you're eating now. But the fact is, our meat-eating habits are wreaking havoc on the planet and it is within most folks' immediate control to reign in the destruction.

So here are some options for you, depending on your starting point:

1. If you're a heavy hitter-- a "meat and meat-and-potatoes" type, the sort of eater who is only vaguely aware of other food groups-- you can start easy. Make one day a week meatless. You can do that. If you already do that, make it two. Or three. Push just a teensy bit beyond your comfort zone-- so you know you're doing something, making a tangible sacrifice, but you're not setting yourself up for failure by taking on too much too fast.

2. If you are not an inveterate carnivore, but you enjoy a good steak now and then and have no trouble with the occasional burger or bratwurst or bacon slice, try this: limit your intake to once a month. You can turn it into a ritual: a special meal you can especially enjoy because you can no longer take it for granted-- it's too rare (like your steak, if you like it that way, keeping in mind the usual public health caveat to avoid undercooked food; hey, it's a Brave New World).

3. If you find you typically only eat red meat when in the company of others who do so-- at parties or dining out or other events, say-- here's your task: make the commitment to avoid red meat altogether. It's the worst environmental offender of the Flesh Pack. Stick to chicken or fish. (And no, industry marketing notwithstanding, pork is not white meat. It's red as a stuck pig. Literally.)

4. If you've never been much of an eater of flesh, but have no particular qualms about eating it and occasionally indulge, congratulations: you've just discovered you're a vegetarian. Perhaps even vegan. What a small step it is, after all, from indifference to a choice to do good. And how very good it is. Embrace your new commitment and enjoy your newfound lifestyle, knowing that your diet's negative impact on this beleaguered planet is least of all. And perhaps your impact is more than just "not negative"-- leading by example can be one of the most positive things you can do as you influence those around you.

Of course, feel free to jump ahead to any commitment you like. #4 is ideal and presents the greatest benefits for your health, your conscience, and your planet (not to mention the animals). But take on only those commitments you can stick to. If you really want to go straight to #4, but you break out in a cold sweat at the thought of the withdrawal you think you'll suffer, give yourself a break and commit only to the easiest one you can stick to and allow that you'll revisit the list later when you're looking for a new challenge. You learn to walk with baby steps because leaps aren't nearly as likely to produce lasting success.

One more thing: proudly display your commitment on a slip of paper under a fridge magnet. That way you'll be reminded not merely of the restriction you've willingly placed on yourself but of the beauty you are simultaneously creating: the beauty of a better world.


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