Slowing down, and the Pacific gyre

The importance of slowing down

It’s a symptom of our times that so many of us are ‘busy’, always on the run, rushing from one activity to another.

There’s a social pressure against slowing down. In so many offices, a contribution is measured by time spent at the computer rather than what’s actually being done. We’re all running so fast on the treadmill that we don’t think about where we’re going, much less why.

One of the most useful pieces of advice I got was, at least three times a day, to stop and question whether what I was doing right then was the best use of my time. So often the answer was no. Usually the culprit was my email, where I was mindlessly delving into my continually-growing inbox, churning out thoughtless responses to trivial issues.

Inspiration and innovation comes from the quiet moments when we take a breath, not the frenzy of action.

Our body gives us the same message.

Rushed meals while performing some other activity don’t suit our body, and lead to digestive problems. It all starts with chewing. Not only does chewing break the food into smaller, more digestible pieces, it also produces digestive enzymes that aren’t found in the stomach. Food should be liquid by the time it’s swallowed, which usually involves chewing each mouthful at least 30 times.

Nutrionist Patrick Holford describes the importance of breathing before eating, saying that the mere anticipation of food, simply pausing and breathing, improves the food’s digestibility. Another nutritionist, Gabriel Cousens, wrote about how he could never quite get himself to chew as much as necessary (he recommends 40-100 times), even though he had an intellectual understanding of the benefits. It was only when he began to cultivate a more subtle awareness, consciously tasting each individual taste in the food, experiencing the texture, listening to the sounds, noting the different subtle tastes as the food moved over different areas of the tongue, that he managed to achieve his goal.

Couzens describes eating consciously as “a way of opening one’s heart to God [and] a way to feel the Divine Presence”, and that eating provides “a regular opportunity for the conscious eater to take the time to receive and read God’s love note, rather than toss it into the garbage can of the stomach”.

It’s certainly not possible to appreciate a divine love note if we’re eating while watching the soapies, taking in negativity from a newspaper, or running to the office to meet someone else’s clock-watching schedule!

The Plastics Battle

I was watching Super-Size Me yesterday, the documentary of Morgan Spurlock’s near-fatal month-long experiment of eating only McDonalds foods. The movie showed an animation of all the waste produced from McDonalds eateries in the US. Each day, an area the size of the Empire State Building is filled with plastic waste from that fast-food chain alone.

About 10% of plastic waste ends up in the sea, where it collects and breaks into smaller pieces, forming a toxic soup for marine and birdlife.

An area larger than the entire land mass of South Africa, 1000 miles from the US coast, is covered in plastic, containing six-times more plastic than plankton. It’s growing all the time. Two in every five albatross chicks born on Midway Island, in the remote Pacific, die, mostly from consuming too much plastic, fed to them by their mothers who collect it from the ocean surface. View a video on this marine garbage dump here.

It’s not just McDonalds. So much of what we buy is wrapped in plastic. Last year’s winner of the Friends of the Earth One Minute Film Competition, which you can view here, was on just this theme. There’s still time for budding filmmakers to enter the 2008 competition.

We’re committed to reducing plastic waste and packaging, and are working with all of our suppliers to achieve this. Many are switching to bio-plastic, made from plant material, and which is compostable, as a step in the right direction. Reducing is always first prize, and producing your own food, or buying locally, so that the food does not need to be excessively packaged as it’s transported around the world, helps with this. If you must buy plastic, rather choose bio-plastic, which is compostable. Much of the oil in the world is used for plastic, so using bio-plastic doesn’t involve involve supporting the oil companies.

We’re offering small and large bags from Green Home, and, if you must choose disposable cutlery, there’s also cups, forks, knives and spoons available.

To order, go to www.ethical.org.za.

Have a great week,
the Co-op team.