Thursday, July 07, 2011

Gluttony in the Age of Food Shortages

At Wednesday's discussion group, the topic of conversation was the increase in food prices in the world and what that might mean for humans in the near and long-term future. This discussion topic brought out a larger than usual group. We had 18, which is one of the larger groups I've seen in the nearly two years that I have been attending. Its almost too many people, but it was very educational. I didn't share any opinions or views this time. I don't know much about the topic, so I was content to learn more from the well-informed group.

What I do know, though, is that every year on the Fourth of July, Nathan's Hot Dogs at Coney Island amusement park in New York City holds a hot dog eating contest. This makes the news every year. I think the winner this year ate a total of 69 hot dogs in ten minutes. I'm not sure what the winner gets, other than 15 minutes of fame. The winner of the past few years has been some Japanese guy. I didn't pay attention to the winner's name this year. This news item makes me sick. My personal view is that this contest should be banned. There's no reason to have it. Its not healthy to eat that many hot dogs. Even eating just one is not healthy for your body. Why would anyone want to eat more? Also, this gluttonous pigging out is most definitely a sin. In a world where there is real starvation for large numbers of people, who in their right minds would gorge themselves this way? This is the equivalent of flaunting in a starving person's face that you are so abundant, that you can overindulge on eating without concern for the hunger pangs in a starving human being. I couldn't live with that on my conscience.

Is this the kind of image we want to project to the world? Our wasteful, gluttonous society, consuming far more than our bodies need. We're obese, lazy, and gluttonous in a world where hundreds of millions go to bed hungry. Sick, truly sick.

Its weird to see these contest participants gorging hot dog after hot dog, trying not to barf if all up. I'm sure that after the ten minutes end, many of the contest participants are throwing up. This is the body's natural response when you abuse it. We should heed our body's natural reactions and not try to circumvent it for the sake of a gluttonous contest. Its amazing what the desire for 15 minutes worth of fame will do to people. One has to wonder if our Founding Fathers would look down upon such an event with pride that the document they wrote, ratified, and signed has become a holiday in which people gorge themselves on the leftover crap that gets processed into hot dogs. Why has this become a Fourth of July tradition?!?

You can be certain that those who enter the contest actually prepare themselves throughout the year, by having mini gorging fests. This binge eating in preparation for the real contest is a sinful waste. As I had said when a Florida preacher wanted to burn the Qur'an. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. Yeah, we have incredible freedom to waste food, but what does that say about who we are? What does it really mean to be the winner in this ridiculous contest? Does the winner feel accomplished, somehow? Does he feel important? Relevant? Envied by others? From a spiritual standpoint, I feel sorry for the contest participants. Like I said, participating in such displays of gluttony is nothing short of sin. There could be some negative karmic consequences to that. It is my hope that someday, our country will become enlightened enough to do away with such trivial amusements.

As for the discussion group, we discussed the increase in prices for wheat around the world, which has raised the cost of bread, cereal, and other grains. This is part of the staple for much of the world. When much of one's income goes towards paying for food, any increase in prices is devastating. There's also the concern that as many people become more affluent in China and India, along with their increase in money comes a desire to live the lifestyle of the developed nations in the West. More demands for meat consumption is going to affect our planet on a huge scale. As I've learned in the past couple years when I made the move towards vegetarianism (though I've kind of ate a lot more meat this year, so I'm slipping), a lot of water is used per pound of beef. If we understood the real environmental impact of our diet, the more conscientious among us would make big changes in how one eats.

What I learned at this group is that Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East are buying land in Africa to use for farming so that they can keep their people fed. This has created a problem because starving Africans are watching food being grown in their country to feed people who live on another continent. Is this moral or just?

The more I learn about the way we live, the more unsustainable I realize our lifestyles are. The problem can be boiled down to one thing: overpopulation. When the population of the planet was a billion, that was plenty crowded, but now we're around 7 billion. What will happen if we reach 10 billion or 15 billion people? When I retook a biology course five summers ago, I learned that in a habitat, when a specific animal population became too large, disease increased, as well as the predator population. Nature had a self balancing act to keep population under control. However, humans have been able to manipulate the environment and live high density with minimal effects. This can't last forever, though. The entire system is going to crash. Then what are we going to do?

No one brought it up, and maybe I should have, but in the developing world, people actually eat insects. Crickets and grasshoppers are a good source for protein and if you're starving, a grasshopper is going to start looking delicious. In Cambodia, one can buy fried tarantulas from food cart vendors. People in the developing world are resourceful. Not that I want to eat insects, but there sure are a lot of them and they don't require the massive amounts of water, grains, and care that cattle, pigs, and even chickens do.

This discussion was a reminder that I need to get back on my vegetarian (and fish) diet. I've been cheating with chicken a lot. In fact, as we discussed the global food problem, I was eating a chicken bento. Normally, I stick with the pasta and prawns or the salmon and rice, but I was curious to try the bento. It was okay...but I'm going back to my vegetarian and fish diet. Also, no hot dogs for me. I never really liked the taste, which is why I could only eat hot dogs in the past with lots of mustard, ketchup, and sauerkraut. Here's to healthy eating and no more gluttonous contests.

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