Concerned About the Climate? OK. But What Are You Eating?

There are ways within our means to protect the environment, says Buddhist practitioner John Bussineau — including a plant-based diet.

John Bussineau
12 June 2017
Burger Climate

With the US decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, we, who are caring practitioners and followers of the Buddha’s teachings, are understandably concerned for the environment and all life on earth. But there are ways, within our means, to protect the environment. Among them: making and sticking to a logically derived, mindfully thought-out decision to eat a plant-based diet.

There are well documented Buddhist sources of support our continued eating of comfort food. The Devadatta story, the three rules of purity, and other sources clearly point out the Buddha did not forbid his sangha to eat meat. While there is some debate on these ideas, and at times it is a controversial subject, since other sources from the Mahayana tradition and certainly the First Precept support a conflicting view on this subject—perhaps we can set aside all that for a moment and consider the world we find ourselves living in today.

In many ways we live in a much different time than the Buddha. Should we not consider current causes and conditions? Like:

  • Did you know that eating beans instead of beef is beneficial for the environment? An eight-minute shower uses 17 gallons of water but it takes 660 gallons to make one single burger. And while using less water by any means is beneficial, a new study finds that swapping beef for beans can help the U.S. reach targeted greenhouse gas emission reductions.
  • Compared with beans, beef requires 20 times the land and creates 20 times more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of protein consumed.
  • Every single day a practitioner eats a plant-based diet we save 1,000 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, and 30 square feet of forested land.

And did you know that, according to the UN, the meat industry contributes more to climate change than all cars, buses, and trains on the planet combined?

Levels of emissions from the animal agricultural sector are high enough, that even if we eliminated fossil fuels from the equation entirely today—we will still exceed the maximum amount of greenhouse gases that is considered our budget for staying under 2 degrees centigrade.

As mindful practitioners in today’s world we know that despite what governments decide to do in terms of the Paris Climate Accord we can continue to help fight climate change and protect the environment by deciding to simply changing our mind and eat a plant-based diet.

John Bussineau

John Bussineau is an author and member of the Jewel Heart Sangha. He is a senior student of the late Gelek Rimpoche (seen here on the right) and teaches Dharma class in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. On Rimpoche’s deathbed in January 2017 he named John and his wife Billie as Jewel Heart’s Ambassadors for Vegetarianism, Veganism, and Animal Rights. John is the author of The Buddha, The Vegan, You, and Meat Our Delusion, publishing in June 2017. John is also chapter leader of Dharma Voices for Animals Detroit-Ann Arbor group.