Organic Produce – The cost of eating well (or not).

Is it better to buy organic food or not? I am still undecided on the issue if I’m honest. We’re always told to eat healthily but what does eating healthily really mean when push comes to shove? When we buy organic produce, our minds should be set to rest for a number of reasons. We know the food we buy is free from the majority of harmful chemicals and pesticides and the treatment of animals is safeguarded in accordance with high (and naturally healthy) animal welfare standards.

To me, when I think of the word ‘organic’, I really feel that there is (or should be) an extra level of care involved when it comes to how food is treated and sourced. That level of care should not only be in relation to the above mentioned but it should also be there to educate people about how food is grown and what processes are involved. It isn’t simply about buying food which is labelled organic: it should be a movement which helps people truly connect with the natural environment.

A way of life. It is unfortunately an expensive choice but is it the best (or the only) choice?

I had written previously in regards to how it is so easy to take the food we eat for granted. We walk into the supermarket, we select the product we want and hey presto, we buy it and take it home. The thing is – just what is it that we have taken home with us? A disregard for our own health and the natural environment in favour of keeping some spare change in our pockets or have we made a choice that supports the economic and environmental welfare of the society we live in? If we invest in organic food, it will invest in us in turn – surely?

I believe so but there is a problem – there are millions of people to feed on the earth and there is simply no way we can provide the land to grow organic produce for so many people. It is simply impossible. Economically, it costs too much money to invest in it as it is more time consuming to grow organic produce and the cost of manual labour is higher because less chemicals are used for production. Everything has an extra degree of expensive when it comes to eating organic produce and really, from what I can see, it is all a matter of practically, demand and efficiency.

I think when possible, it is always good to buy organic produce as it is better for the environment and hopefully, your own health. Supporting local farmers and buying their produce ensures you buy food that is produced naturally – that sounds a little bit too obvious when you think about it but it makes sense. When you consider how food production for mass consumerism has been treated (the amount of packaging and chemicals used for example, the pollution caused by vehicles in the transportation of food), it makes sense to buy from local farmers who are putting in the extra effort to produce food that is nutritious, tasty and good for the environment. Not only that, but it keeps community spirit and togetherness alive too.

Sounds like a ‘win, win’ situation to me. In theory, yes it is but the reality (as always) is a little bit different. There are so many mouths to feed and not enough time to produce it in a way that benefits everyone. As demand increases, all that matters is that we meet those demands in whatever way we can unfortunately. The sad truth is that there isn’t time for much else. As far as choice is concerned, it all hinges on survival really. A default response to living in a world where the freedom to choose is something of a luxury. Although, we could also say that we can make better use of the land. When you think of how much is used for the rearing of animals for slaughter, perhaps if we ate less meat, we could use the land to grow vegetables. But – we all want to have the freedom to choose, so there we have it. Some of us want to eat meat and some of us choose to be vegetarians. That’s the way it goes.

Like a balloon expanding, it also becomes weaker as it stretches. We could say the same thing is happening when it comes to the consumption of food and how we choose to live. As far as the future is concerned, we are writing it through some of the choices we make and in other ways, the choice has already been made for us – determined by the very same freedom behind making those choices. The freedom we have all come to expect and need could one day spell the demise of our general standards of living and health. You could say that we have become too successful in destroying our own lives without us even knowing it. Freedom wears a cunning disguise sometimes….

© Christina McDonald 2014

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Tasting Chocolate….

Which do you prefer, milk or dark chocolate? That is a hard question sometimes and for me it can change daily (sometimes hourly working in a chocolate shop!)

I am learning to appreciate dark chocolate more than ever before. Firstly, I do not seem to crave dark chocolate as much as I would do milk. The sweetness has become too much for me now and when I start eating it, I cannot seem to stop. It is a mistake to for me to buy a bar of milk chocolate – it will be gone in 45 minutes! Some people love a very high percentage and some people prefer something around the 65% mark. I draw the limit at 70%. Anything higher and I feel I am chewing and swallowing quickly to get rid of the intense taste. Anything past 80% is an acquired taste for me.

I remember trying 100% – it was quite an experience! The chocolate equivalent of double espresso. When you surpass the initial ‘shock’ to your palate, you can actually experience quite a wide range colourful taste sensations. Fruity notes, tangy, acidic, bitter, citrus, earthy, smoky, peaty…there are many ways to describe the experience and the beauty is…your experience will be completely unique to you.

How would you describe it?

So – where does the most comfortable percentage of cocoa lie for you? Between 60 and 70% is a good range for me. Flavoured chocolate which is around 65% seems to allow my taste buds to experience varying and more subtle flavours which can sometimes be lost in a higher percentage of cocoa. The natural taste of the bean comes through tremendously so without any other flavours added – sometimes additional flavours (such as rose, violet, cinnamon etc.) can enhance the taste of the chocolate and complement the variety of flavour notes found within the bar.

What we are tasting when we eat chocolate does depend on many factors of influence. The way the bean has been treated has a great impact on how the chocolate will eventually taste. The natural flavour of the bean will also be susceptible to the fermenting, drying and roasting process, the length of conching and of course, how the chocolate is tempered will all have an effect on the taste of the finished product.

Making good chocolate is a highly skilled craft requiring experience and precision. Selecting the beans is just the start of the process of discovering the many different colours and layers of taste. Knowing how to extract the best qualities of the bean through the chocolate making process is the key.

The entire process is dependent on so many variables – for instance, the climate conditions can influence how poor or successful a harvest is. When you actually take a moment to think about where good food comes from, we can truly appreciate the journey it has been on from origin to the finished product. From my brief experience working in the industry, making chocolate is a very creative and innovative journey. There seems to be no limits as to what you can achieve with the right amount of skill and application.

It’s another world. Magical, creative and sensual…what more do we want?

Christina McDonald 2014.

The Healing Heart….

Listening to and following your heart sounds very romantic. Almost like an ideal situation that we have forgotten about and shelved for the time being as it doesn’t seem to get us anywhere. I remember years ago when a friend asked me what I wanted to do with my life and I said ‘I want to be a musician’. She said (actually she laughed) and said ‘That’s all very well, but will it bring money in? I doubt it.’ If I wasn’t stronger in that very moment, I would have listened to her and lost out on some of the best experiences in my life so far.

It is doing what feels right and natural that seems to be the most difficult of all.

Having a goal which involves following your intuitive feelings isn’t always easy especially when nobody else is on your side. I never had thought to myself that I was idealistic in anyway (perhaps in my youth) but I always believed I could achieve anything if I put my mind to it. I had the conviction of faith. I wasn’t particularly religious growing up but I always had a belief in something, that there was a meaning and purpose behind all existence somehow.

“All ideals are dangerous: because they debase and brand the actual; all are poisons, but indispensable as temporary cures.”

(Friedrich Nietzsche).

If we are constantly aspiring to an ideal, we are missing out on living in the moment we have been given. We become a seeker of a false reality instead but in some ways, it keeps us going. We keep moving in the direction of our dreams whilst all along forgetting to actually live out our dreams.

If we don’t listen to the heart, we don’t grow. We cease to live. We exist only in some kind of detached reality whereby we feel constantly unhappy and unfulfilled. We then make poor decisions instead that bring about a feeling of consolation for removing ourselves from the needs of our heart. I have always been a great advocate of personal growth and asking questions. Don’t just accept things about yourself at face value unless you understand ‘why’ you make the decisions you do. Every instance I wanted an insight into my behaviour, I asked myself why did I do this, why did I feel like this, why did I make this decision? Being completely honest with yourself is the way to living a life from your heart.

We are so very cynical I feel when it comes to taking the heart’s advice. Why would it put you wrong anyway? It is keeping you alive after all. If we ever allowed ourselves to stop very briefly, to sit down and have a rest for five minutes, we would become aware of the beating of our heart in the midst of a peaceful silence. Everyday, our hearts keep us alive. We know the heart is beating. We have night and day, the sun, the moon, the stars….we know what to expect. There is a force at work and everything seems to have a rightful place. A miracle of life that sustains all living things in existence. We know it through the mind. Do we feel it and experience it through the heart though?

We are surely understanding more in relation to the actual fabric of existence. The ability to learn about and analyse our surroundings is fantastic for sure. For example, the news that scientists had discovered the existence of light that originated from the the birth of the universe over 13 billion years ago is quite simply – amazing. We can learn more about the natural environment, ecosystems and wildlife. There are no limits to the possibilities within science. That’s what makes it so fascinating – pushing the boundaries of what is currently known and possible.

We are now fully aware of what is happening to the natural world. Our climate is changing rapidly and irreversibly. It is a reflection of how our individuals needs and desires are changing everything we see. Whether we could have avoided this situation or not will be debatable in years to come. Now, all we can do is hopefully adapt and overcome to survive the changes we are facing.

We can expand and increase our knowledge and understanding of the world and indeed, the universe we live in. The quest for knowledge and fact is the search for truth but if it is not tempered by the intuitive wisdom and guidance of the heart, I doubt that science will be able to stand fully on its own. Where is truth also to be found? In the human heart. Consciousness is a way of being. A way of living in the world with an awareness of the interconnectedness of all things. If you don’t believe me, then search your heart.

Within nowhere, is everything. The essence of spirit (or the possible key that science is continually searching for). I believe this can only be understood and experienced through consciousness. A realisation of the aliveness and being of everything in existence. What is consciousness? That mystical force that is behind all existence.

Science is the quest for factual truth. If we can see it and touch it, then it is real. Living in reality means looking at the facts of our existence. Evolution is a fact. Climate change is a fact. Facts are important and crucial to our understanding of the world we inhabit. There is however, another hidden aspect to our individual and collective existence on earth. Consciousness itself. We are not an abstract entity in relation to the world we inhabit. We are the world we inhabit. The same atoms, made of the same ‘stuff’.

Whatever this force is, this energy, I believe it is a natural part of our evolutionary process. We are part of it. We are energy. As a species, we are yet to accept this truth within us. There lies one possible direction we could take. Is this the key we are looking for? This simple key with which we need to unlock the eternal mysteries? A mystery that cannot be analysed, seen or touched but felt only through experience? I do not believe science can unite every aspect of existence simply by looking at facts. Facts can be misleading after all….

These are just my feelings and beliefs. We are all searching for clues to the answers we seek and making sense of it all requires us to embrace, consider and to accept all the possibilities. Rule nothing out, keep an open mind and where possible, look at the facts.

What is a fact? A fact is an element of truth. And what is truth? From the perspective of science, if you can see and touch it, so it is real. How can it be proven otherwise? Can’t truth also be an awareness of something? An intuitive feeling? Something that only you could be aware of without anyone else understanding? If only a specific individual can be aware of this truth in their own way and in their own time, is it then possible to evolve together as a species if truth is only part of a subjective experience?

Define truth? We could debate that one for centuries to come…

So, we are all part of this strange mystical energy but all of us seem to be travelling through it in our own way. When we finally learn to live in harmony with ourselves, we are falling in line in accordance with the natural law – simplicity. From our perspective as human beings, there is nothing complex about existence. It is not our struggle to understand the theory and meaning behind existence but our inability to feel that we are also a living part of that existence. As soon as we all experience this simple truth, the world will change. Our inner world will change…

When I say ‘travelling through it in our own way’, I mean to say that personal growth depends on the individual in question. Most of us are too stressed and busy getting through life to slow down and ask ourselves the most meaningful and significant questions life holds in trust for us. When we are ready to approach it (in other words, when we have suffered enough), then we consciously choose to change our life situation for the better. As soon as we do that, things begin to change for the better. Life and the choices we make begin to make sense when we truly listen to ourselves.

The environment of our planet reflects what is going on in our minds. If we have toxic thoughts, that will have a negative impact on the world around us. There is no way we can create a harmonious external environment when the environment in our own mind is in turmoil. We need to be in touch with ourselves on the very deepest levels of consciousness to ensure we are dwelling in a state equanimity. Every feeling and thought you have and everything you do in life will influence someone else.

Just like nature, human beings have the capacity to grow…if we allow the process to happen through our continued awareness of our thoughts and emotions. If we stop feeling, we stop living. The natural world is alive but we do not realise that we are such an intricate part of that aliveness. Living from a holistic perspective means dwelling in harmony with the world and when we do this, we find ourselves living peacefully with ourselves and others in turn. When we end the conflict within ourselves, we end the conflict with the rest of the world.

The question is – when (if ever) will our collective suffering reach a point where that change is an inevitability? Suffering is simply a signature of living in disharmony with oneself. If we look at the natural environment, we can see just how pronounced these changes are. War, poverty, hunger and disease are becoming more prevalent in the world as time goes on but they have no rightful place in the human heart. They are just illusory shadows of the mind caused by fear and isolation.

When we heal ourselves, we heal the world in turn. Listen to your heart.

© Christina McDonald 2014

The Natural World and the Responsibility of Freedom

The natural world is depicted as something that is outside of our own everyday reality and significance when it is anything but. As beautiful and wondrous as it is, we still are so unaware of the beauty that exists all around us in the natural world. We can learn all about it if we like. In books, from television, newspapers and magazines. That is not the same as experiencing it though.

Of course, information is everywhere. There is no fact we cannot find if we need it. The technological age has enabled us to acquire information at astounding rates. This is the age of communication. When it comes to individualism and following intuition however, I am sorry to say we are nowhere near where we should be. It is having a devastating impact on not just our own lives but on the natural world for the following reasons….

We are living in a utopia. A Garden of Eden. Things could not really be better. Planet earth is in our care while we have it and we have the freedom to do with it as we choose. Freedom. That is a word that invites a great deal of responsibility for our actions. We all want freedom but do we actually know what to do with the freedom we have been given in life?

Nobody has sat us down and said – ‘Hey guys, this is your planet. Take good care of it or else there will be consequences. There is no scolding parent chastising humanity to behave and to do the right thing. That kind of thing is left to our better judgement. We are more concerned about preserving our being in the afterlife rather than take care of the life we have in the here and now. Sound crazy? Just a little. The problem is – if we are not told what to do, will we actually do the right thing – or anything at all for that matter?

The one thing I have noticed as the years have gone by is that nobody can be bothered to do the right thing anymore. We always have to be told to act ethically and responsibly without actually feeling the need to do so ourselves. Is it always necessary to be told ‘clean this up, recycle, do this, do that?’ In our individual bid to do what we want (in other words, to have the freedom we want), would we actually ever do anything? Scary thought perhaps. If we didn’t have jobs, families and goals, would we just sit down on the sofa and watch constant reruns of ‘Everybody loves Raymond’ and eat junk food? Maybe, maybe not.

Where does interest come into all of this? It is normal to have interests and hobbies of course. The problem is – we all have to make money to survive. If your hobby doesn’t pay, you end up working in a job you don’t actually like or appreciate. Eventually, you can’t be bothered. You don’t do things right, you stop caring, you make mistakes…you just stop trying in the end. You aren’t doing what you feel you need to be doing so why bother?

Sound familiar? Perhaps the psychology of all this is very simple. If we don’t have the freedom to pursue our creative and intellectual needs, we end up stagnating. We become lazy. We stop growing. Money and the need to survive becomes the only saviour we depend on. Let’s face it – it isn’t much to look forward to. What are we actually contributing to the betterment of humanity if we are not being true to ourselves? We are part of nature, part of the earth. If we are not being true to who we are, then we are being untrue to nature…and consequently destroying the natural world.

Pretty simple when you think about it. If we believed that we could live on this earth and be ourselves, I think we would try and do more. There is an apathy within many of us that I believe stems from our inability to live a life according to our truest and deepest needs. Money comes first and life comes after. It should be life first and money as a means to an end only. Our love of having more will not create a desire to do more. In fact, it will probably encourage us to do much less than what we are already doing.

When we have everything we need, we become lazy. Apathetic. Detached perhaps from the reality of everyday life and the struggles it brings. When you are struggling to survive, you actually learn to appreciate everything you have in life and how difficult it is in fact to obtain the essentials. Food, water and shelter are actually the most fundamental of blessings and they are all we need to live on this earth in harmony with the natural world. Our conflicts come from wanting more and more. When will it ever be enough?

Having everything is still not enough for some people. There is always that constant and persistent lack that comes from within which, on a very basic level, is a blinkered view of the abundance of blessings we actually have right now. The ability to breathe, think, feel, see, walk…what else can you think of that gives you that feeling of contentment, joy and happiness? There is no material possession you can obtain outside of yourself that will give you a lasting feeling of peace and contentment. If you can buy it, you can lose it, break it, have it stolen..you name it…why would you centre your entire happiness and feelings of contentment around that?

The environment of our planet reflects our emotional and mental environmental state. If we have toxic thoughts (such as anger and hatred towards others), that will have a negative effect on the world around us. There is no way we can create a harmonious external environment when the environment in our own mind is in turmoil – it just will not happen! We need to be in touch with ourselves on the very deepest levels of consciousness to ensure we are dwelling in a state of peace and equanimity. Every feeling you have, every thought and every action you take in life will influence someone else and something either in a positive or negative way.

Plants grow and flowers blossom. So do human beings…if we allow the process to happen through our continued awareness of ourselves.

© Christina McDonald 2014

Apathy and the environment…is it too little too late?

Feeling slightly annoyed this morning and a little bit fed-up…

At least the sun is shining!

As I was having a cup of coffee still bleary eyed this morning, I heard a story being discussed on the news in regards to a UN report describing an urgent need to treble our use of renewable energy or face a massive and dramatic increase in dangerous levels of global warming. Not good news – at all. Living in Central London, I have become fed-up recently of breathing in so much cigarette smoke, smelling pollution and feeling as though my chest is getting tighter by the minute when I’m going to buy a loaf of bread. It has got worse in recent years and I have been here nearly a decade now.

That isn’t the only thing I’m annoyed with though.

My husband recently bought an ‘e-go’ electric bike which I think is brilliant. I wish everyone thought the same. Hopefully some people do. As he has had a lot of health problems and enjoys cycling, it seems to work better for him as a way of getting around the city. It isn’t as hard on his body and he has more energy to do other things. Not only that, there are no carbon emissions and he isn’t putting an extra strain on the environment and people’s health.

Sensible yes? You would think.

He came home and told me that a car driver had slowed down, rolled down his window and literally laughed at the fact he was riding the bike. It looked ‘gay’ apparently. ‘You need number plates for that mate!’ Ah no, it is classified as a bicycle. As long as it meets the EAPC rules, it doesn’t need to be registered and taxed. It doesn’t go more than 15 mph and he has a licence anyway (even though he doesn’t need it in this instance). This guy didn’t even know what it was! My partner explained exactly what it was and why it was good to use. Blank expression in response. If that is the case, how are we going to change our collective attitude towards global warming then? That is depressing and quite unbelievable.

If this is the kind of prejudice and hostility you meet when you are actually trying to improve not just your own life, but the life of other people around you, I am deeply concerned for the environmental future of the planet. We need to wake up and smell the fossil fuels. It is reaching crisis point as scientists are pointing out. Do we even have the time we need to sort this? If by ‘time’, we mean reforming people’s attitudes towards alternative energy, that is going to be a challenge and a half considering the level of severity. A lot more needs to be done to get it into people’s heads that we need to change the way we live in order to survive.

Instead of starting wars with other countries and hating and killing each other, why not (maybe) start dealing with real problems? Slagging someone off on the street on a busy Saturday afternoon for riding an electric bike is doing nobody any favours.

Being an individual doesn’t mean standing out from the crowd as a celebrity. Of course, as a nation, we are all so obsessed with that one and doing selfies is so important isn’t it? The perfect picture. (Don’t get me started on that one either). Being an individual means making a choice that exempts you from what is regarded as ‘the norm’. Here’s another picture – soon we won’t be able to breathe and eat properly if we don’t wake up soon. If you want to do something different in life, be prepared to feel very alone, even if it is the right thing to do.

(Apparently). Rant over.

© Christina McDonald 2014.

Here are the EAPC rules:
Sources:
https://www.gov.uk/electric-bike-rules

BBC News
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-27007486

The drive to survive….Is altruism now in opposition to human survival?

It seems we are all living on the earth with the goal of surviving as a collective species and as individuals. That is the theory anyway. To me, it is theory that is very flawed and conflicts in its very nature. Our drive to survive is continually dominated by the instinct to take whatever we can with little consequence for what the repercussions will be for other people and the environment. Our individual survival efforts do not support the good of all. The truth is – there is a better and more productive way to live if only we had the confidence and faith to get there. Life is something that interconnects us all together. This is not an abstract truth but a fundamental reality of our existence. Togetherness is something I believe, holds the key to our survival and our ability to thrive as individuals within that collectively.

Living in a capitalist society does not of course, give way to altruism easily. The system gives us the chance to ‘make it’ but that translated simply means making a profit. Profit is not designed to meet the needs of the people. It is ‘survival of the fittest’ in the truest sense. There is a good deal of selfishness in society present which ensures our individual survival but potentially at the cost of the collective wellbeing of the planet. If that is the case, as a collective species, we could be well on the way to destruction (if not, then definitely well on the way already). Taking what we want to make a profit simply isn’t an option anymore if we want to live consciously. This is the problem – I’m not sure that everyone does or knows how to live in a way that protects the interests of all of us. Do we even want to?

According to Richard Dawkins, we act within our own interests and only in the interests of others if it ensures our own survival. Altruism therefore is part of some kind of default response in an attempt to further our own interests. We are merely carriers and exponents of a gene that dictates how we are all going to behave as far as ensuring our own preservation is concerned. What about choice? I think if we summarised behaviour as a consequence of genetic conditioning, we are not taking responsibility for our actions. I don’t think it is that simple. Is life ever straightforward?

It would be a poor outlook….I really hope not. I would like to think that people do things for others simply for the joy of doing so and not hoping for anything in return. There is much to be gained in life by acting and loving unconditionally. I think we are too afraid to do so as there is always that doubt that if we show kindness and generosity to someone, they may see it as a weakness and take full advantage.

It’s time to take a big chance. Survival of the fittest cannot just apply to one individual getting ahead over another. The collective must survive as a whole. Altruism must become less of a selfish motive and more of a consequence of an inherent understanding of what it means to be human and part of the world. Eventually the fittest will not survive as there will be nothing left in the world to survive on.

If we are not living in harmony with ourselves, we probably will not live in harmony with the world around us either. Cause and consequence is something that again, seems as though it is quite remote to our being. Our actions will always affect others somehow. What we say, think and do will have some kind of impact on the environment around us even if it is not immediately apparent. On days when we feel angry, depressed, agitated, fearful and tense, do we make good decisions? I know I don’t. Now – what if world leaders sitting around a conference table felt the same on the day they had to find a resolution to a conflict between two nations? Would the conflict resolve or would it worsen do you think?

If we are in conflict with ourselves on the most fundamental levels of being, how can we expect to do good in the world and in a way that will enhance the world we live in? We are not separate from the world we inhabit. We are the world we inhabit. The world we create is a reflection of how we feel inside – cause, reaction and consequence. What we think and feel, we create.

This invites a question in regards to the true definition of love. Love is seen as something that is outside of us. It is not just a mysterious stereotype either or something to be attained simply by doing something or being with someone. In reality, it is much more significant than that. Being in harmony with yourself is the first step towards realising the awesome potential love has to change the world. Love is a state of being. When we reside in that state of being, we are living according to the natural law. That law is instinctive and corresponds to our most basic needs. The need for food, shelter and human companionship for instance.

Our desire for more is not something that is vital for survival. We want it. If we really want it, we find a way to get it. And why not? Desire is natural too. You would think so – but only if that desire to based on as aspect that furthers our personal growth in a positive way. Wanting to accumulate more material possessions for the sake of it has no meaning and if there is no real meaning, there is absolutely no point whatsoever in pursuing it.

The choices we make in life should reflect our needs and not necessarily our desires. Otherwise, it has a tendency to warp our perspective towards a desire that masquerades as a need when it isn’t anything that can do us any good. Desires will always be there within us but they need to be tempered with a great deal of discipline, self-control and awareness if we are to make sensible choices. Drinking is a desire, not a need. We do it and we enjoy it. Sugar is something we desire. We don’t really need it but we want it. Is it that great for our health? Not really.

We all know how to survive. That chapter in human evolution has been written. We should cultivate altruistic behaviour in order to thrive. Being kind and loving begins in our own heart towards ourselves and it is a strength we have not harnessed yet. The ability to care for ourselves is the start of the journey towards truly caring for the world we live in. We are a part of the world. Separateness is an illusion. The same atoms inside you and me have been transformed and changed over billions of years of evolution – through hundreds of millions of stars. Through countless galaxies and planets, we have all travelled through time endlessly and we are travelling still…

In all honesty, the journey hasn’t even started yet. The best is yet to come. We can actually do this and Dawkins seems to share the same optimism towards the end of his book ‘The Selfish Gene’. To quote Joni Mitchell, ‘We are stardust,’….

© Christina McDonald 2014.

Nurture Nature….

I have never walked so much recently being on holiday. My energy levels were bouncing and I attribute that to a surge in my Vitamin D levels. Going for a long relaxing walk on a sunny beach makes it apparent that everything around us is living and alive. I couldn’t help but wonder what life would be like without the things that really count – health, happiness and of course, good health.

The world we live in sustains us with life. You might think that is an obvious statement to make. It is just that but it is one that we take for granted. We have everything we could possibly need. Food, water and the ability to live because these fragile factors sit delicately in a harmonic balance.

If that equilibrium is disturbed, it can cause many problems. Being a ‘foodie’ isn’t just about enjoying and appreciating the taste of good food. It requires us to adequately note where and how the food we eat is sourced and how it has been treated.

Who hasn’t just gone into the supermarket feeling exhausted after a long day at work and just taken the first thing of the shelf without reading the label? My confession – I stand guilty as charged. Ease and convenience has made a lot of people compromise the quality of what they eat. In today’s rapidly changing and volatile world, we cannot afford to do this lightly anymore.

Looking around shops and supermarkets, many products we see are geared up to seducing our senses. (I love it-I am a pleasure junkie). Anything that excites our receptors to pleasure is used to appeal to our emotional sensibilities over perhaps more practical and healthy options.

The anticipation of pleasure plays an important role when it comes to influencing what we buy. Brightly coloured packaging, (and of course, not forgetting how much sex sells for instance), these techniques are cleverly used to promote sales of countless products in the market today. Like moths to a flame, we take the bait willingly and perhaps very carelessly.

Take palm oil for instance. If you look at the back of some supermarket products, you will see that palm oil is used as an ingredient. This is extremely destructive on the environment and many of the world’s natural habitats are being exterminated as a consequence (like orangutans for example). We should ignore this at our peril. Out of sight, out of mind will not protect us from the very real danger of the natural world being completely destroyed.

Deforestation, flooding, exploitation of immigrant workers employed on illegal palm oil plantations (to name but a few) .. but it’s all relative…right? If it’s not on our doorstep, we tend to not think or worry about it. But hey, if the packaging is cool and it looks good, who cares….

Again, mass consumerism ensures there is always supply and demand. If there is money to be made, that usually overrides the collective good. Looking through life through a microcosm isolates you from the whole. ‘My demands and needs are all that matters’. We don’t think of the greater good, just our own good.

If we don’t make conscious and ethical decisions in regards to how our food is sourced, we end up with the bleak prospect of destroying the natural habitats of animals not to mention, our own health in the end. We must think how our actions affect other people and the environment.

Our innate selfishness ensures our individual survival but potentially at the cost of the collective wellbeing of the planet if the choices we make create a negative impact on the rest of the world. If that is the case, as a collective species, we could be well on the way to destruction….

According to Richard Dawkins, we act within our own interests and only in the interests of others if it ensures our own survival. Altruism, therefore is part of some kind of default response in an attempt to further our own interests.

I feel that is a poor outlook….I really hope not. I would like to think that people do things for others simply for the joy of doing so and not hoping for anything in return. There is much to be gained in life by acting and loving unconditionally. I think we are too afraid to do so as there is always that doubt that if we show kindness and generosity to someone, they may see it as a weakness and take full advantage. Yes…possibly, but maybe not….

Basically, if you compare humanity’s relationship to nature, (like all relationships), if we don’t nurture them properly, they will not grow and thrive in the way they should. If we abuse people, relationships become destructive and suffer as a consequence.

Why would our relationship with nature be any different? We are all dependent on each other and the earth is dependent on us. Look after the natural world and it will look after you in turn….guaranteed!

© Christina McDonald 2014