Macrobiotics A Second Opinion
A reflection of over five decades of study, practice and teaching of macrobiotic principles and their application, with comments on the potential for future development.
The Times We Live In
For many years there has been a discussion within the macrobiotic community of teachers and practitioners regarding ways to communicate our message with greater clarity. After all, our larger purpose is to make a social contribution and share those ideas and practices that best relay the unique benefits of the “Way of Life” in creation of a peaceful and healthy world.
These conversations have often arrived at what might be called a “rebranding issue”. The idea that the term “macrobiotics” needs to be replaced by another phrase or term that speaks better to the modern eye and ear. The belief that there will be a magic set of syllables that attract interest is naive. What is sought is a name that comes close to the general spirit of The Great Life or terms that focus on healthy living.
I don’t feel that these attempts are misguided if they increase enrollment in cooking classes, lectures or other activities but I doubt that it provides a solution to reduced interest. It is what takes place in the events and what is taught that is of importance. There is, however, other areas worthy of attention aside from external labels. These issues concern the values that are inherent in our practice, our interpretation of the stated principles and addressing the issue of what we stand for.
One thing is certain, macrobiotics as a vital social force, has been on the decline for several decades. Macrobiotic books are seldom stocked in major bookstores, attendance at macrobiotic events (with a few notable exceptions) have dwindled and the cultural association of macrobiotics is with the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s not present times. I don’t feel that these observations are unfair, they are a reflection of objective truth. If you believe, as I do, that macrobiotic principles and practice have much to offer then it is our duty to promote those beliefs in a way that their power is appreciated.
The process of re-invigorating macrobiotics beyond its present state require a shift in the framing of some concepts that are common in macrobiotic texts and teaching. Some of these concepts are explicit and some are simply implied. These do not signal a huge change in the application of our principles (I will use the term principles in this essay exclusively in reference to Oshawa’s Theorem’s and Principles) but will impact our application of nutritional theories.
If we do not represent a larger vision that addresses the needs of modern society, we are missing a great opportunity to make a lasting contribution to the challenges we all face together. This is particularly true since we face a unique situation in human history.
Trouble in Paradise
The planet we call home has had many turbulent periods. On five different occasions between 75 and 90 percent of all life on earth has been made extinct. Until now these events were all caused by natural disasters such as abrupt changes of temperature due to meteor strikes or volcanic activity. Through all this, the planet has continued its dance around the sun and the remaining life forms have flourished and evolved. The process of life has shown its immense endurance and determination. Those qualities are now facing the greatest challenge ever.
Past challenges to life on planet earth have not been generated by the actions of one particular species. The living world now faces a unique threat, a betrayal by one of its own. The long evolution of life and its expression in humankind has brought us to our ultimate destination, the place where we finally define what and who we are. Our future will reveal the true content of our mind and spirit as well as dictating our shared destiny.
Human evolution includes both the biological and social aspects of life. In the biological sense, it appears that we are moving in reverse. The impact of toxic chemicals, radiation and the reckless abuse of environmental features have affected every aspect of human life. The sum total of these changes has tainted the food chain and combined with short sighted decisions regarding human health are already being reflected in the steady rise of degenerative disease, decreased immune response, increased rates of infertility in many countries and a rise in mental illness. All of these phenomena can be seen as signs of species extinction.
There is emerging information regarding the way that changes in gene “expression” can be altered by our diet and other environmental factors. We do not know the degree to which these changes are heritable, but the writing is on the wall. The built environments we live in and the toxic materials that flood them endanger the future of human life itself. We are poisoning ourselves and our offspring. It has been said that the next generation may be the first to live shorter lives than the previous.
We blindly insert features with unknown consequences into our lives. We know very little about the effect of the electro-magnetic fields generated from appliances, cell phones, micro-wave ovens, TV sets and all the Blue Tooth equipment that seems essential for modern life. The known number of carcinogenic chemical additives to our food, soil air and water rises every year. We use drugs to control preventable symptoms and medicate our children before they even walk. We are arriving at our time and place of reckoning. It is both an exciting and dangerous time. The party is over, and it is time to pay the bill.
The Pervasive Force of History
Serious students of macrobiotics will be aware of “The Spiral of History’ as described by both Oshawa and Kushi. This prophetic diagram illustrated the centripetal force of human social development and the resulting effects on our life.
The effects of this movement included: Over-population, increased speed of social activities such as travel, communication, information and general services as well as increased need for energy, the generation of excessive heat, the migration into cities with increased concentration of populations and a broad range of social phenomena.
It is worth pointing out that when any group of animals are confined to limited spaces the risk of disease and mental disturbance is increased. The compression of a human population certainly proves this point. According to the United Nations, around 55 percent of the world's population is thought to be living in an urban area or city, with that figure set to rise to 68 percent by 2050.
In a late-night coffee shop rendezvous with Michio Kushi, I remember him sketching a spiral on a napkin and talking about how these compacting forces (yang) could change into a spiritual awakening (yin) spiral outward. My observation was that it could also lead to complete annihilation of humanity. He said, “That is also possible.” That is the stark reality of our situation.
Since it is humankind that has created the problem, only we can provide the solutions. The vision of a new age of human consciousness arising out of the present situation as opposed to the decimation of human society through environmental breakdown, global pandemics or unchecked war should give us pause. Panic or denial will not work. What is essential is a radical shift away from the status quo and a clear-eyed sense of urgency. Some answers lurk within macrobiotic practice if we learn how to communicate them in a way that addresses the challenges we collectively face.
Honoring the Past
The core teachings of Macrobiotics are about developing a human ecology that speaks to the needs of the individual, society and the web of life we exist within. Macrobiotics has much to offer to the development of a healthier, more sustainable and just society. In order to do this, we will have to establish a clear vision of our goals as individuals and as a group. That process needs to include a serious discussion about the relationship between our philosophy and our values.
Between the mid 1960’s and the early 1980’s the macrobiotic community experienced the greatest growth and created the greatest cultural influence. The activities that produced this burst of growth and achievement were diverse but mostly focused on nutrition, healthy lifestyle, ecological concerns (mostly organic agriculture), challenges to medical overreach and consumerism. The greatest impacts were in the areas of nutrition (including the manufacture and distribution of healthy food), self-generated health and healing as well as Asian and New Age philosophy.
The attention of the community was outward facing. The changes in health, diet, consciousness and agriculture were aimed at cultural change. The work of macrobiotic teachers, counsellors, cooks, and entrepreneurs that helped thousands of people recover their health were a statement of human potential. Through the work of Ohsawa, Kushi and Aihara many important ideas were injected into the Western social dialogue. It is the activity of those fifteen to twenty years that created the greatest cultural impact of macrobiotic principles and practice. The “movement” was clearly focused on social change.
The Centre Will Not Hold
The life-threatening crisis that we face is the devastation of the natural world referred to earlier. There is no doubt that this is caused by human activity and that those actions are driven by destructive concepts and values. Primary among those concepts is the idea that humanity is the singular important lifeform on earth. This anthropocentric world view is seen in evolutionary theory, religious dogma and our attitudes toward other forms of life. The below quote is an example from Christian thinking.
Most macrobiotic theory is anthropocentric. This is an observation and not an accusation.
Human concerns are always placed first, particularly individual concerns. This is a softer version of the “rugged individualism” that has been a major theme in American politics and increasingly in authoritarian governments around the world. It is a firm fit with the idea that humans have dominion over nature.
The idea of dominion is a separation of our-selves from any other form of life. It creates the thought of “Self” and “Other”. It is an essential force in our attitudes regarding the natural world and sanctions actions that are pleasing to the individual or group who perceive themselves superior with no regard for consequences. It is a driving mythology that easily mutates into distinctions of race, gender, religion or class. There is no overlord without an underdog.
Ohsawa was a champion of the individual. The image of the individual as a free agent unfettered by material or social constraints was a major theme in Ohsawa’s work (in Kushi’s more romantic moments the Ronin or Master-less Samurai was the image). The bedrock of consciousness in Ohsawa’s writing is the individual taking responsibility for their own health and the development of their sensitivities in both thought and action. This is certainly excellent advice for creating a foundation for the development of our full potential, but it is a foundation only.
Concepts of community or social responsibilities are not clearly addressed except as the natural outcome of healthy individuals. These concerns are left to each person. This is interesting since Ohsawa defined the areas life defined as social and ideological development as crucial to the fully realized life and yet the values that animate socialization are not defined. Ohsawa labeled Supreme Judgement as the transcendent state of being that was the ultimate goal of health. Both Ohsawa and Kushi focused a great deal on attention on Spiritual (Supreme) Judgement.
Transcendence is very attractive goal. The esoteric has a unique lure. Certainly, various forms of autogenic training, visualization, chanting and a wide range of both traditional and modern techniques can activate greater self-awareness and inner change. Conversely, when these practices become the singular focus of our personal development, they can take us out of the world of human culture. It defines the difference between integration with our society or separation from it.
Oshawa’s view seems to be that the development of judgement must progress through social and ideological development as a requirement and not an option. These arenas of life are referred to by him in his description of judgement as a sense of justice, ethics and moral values. This is a curious fact since moral values are sometimes scoffed at as being limiting and subjective within the macrobiotic community. The idea that all values are subjective is a popular one within the macrobiotic community. The idea of “flexibility” is often seen as a prime indicator of advanced development.
It seems this goal of personal autonomy is assumed to be free of social obligation or ethical boundaries when it is convenient. It has been used in the way that unhealthy habits or behavior on the part of experienced macrobiotic teachers were laughed off as showing that they had developed past more mundane considerations. The rationalization of actions seemingly contrary to the basic teachings of macrobiotics were alright for those who were more advanced in the MB hierarchy. As a side-note this behavior is often observed in cults.
The accusation of being Judgmental can be a macrobiotic curse, ironic since the whole system is built around concepts of judgement. It also becomes a catch-all for the idea that there are no moral or ethical distinctions possible, any argument is simply subjective. This has been a classical philosophical debate. What is essential in order to apply any moral or ethical standard is a clear statement of agreed values. It is agreed values that lie at the foundation of any social movement.
If macrobiotics is a Way of Life and not, simply a “life-style” then values need to be defined. The pursuit of justice and ethical clarity require us to reflect on our ideals and our vision of the best of possible worlds. Our values define the world we want to create. They are tools to guide our consciousness when they are recognized as a reflection of our true self. The assumption that eating a certain way assures social cohesion or judgement is naive.
Discernment / Judgement
The focus in Ohsawa’s writing was that the purpose of health was to develop and refine consciousness (Judgement) to become a “free man” (or woman). He refers to this state of transcendence as one where we are not attached to the emotional reactions, social inhibitions or limiting beliefs that constrain our intuitive alignment with natural law. The promise is that the delusions of the material world will have no hold on us. This theme of operating outside/above the “delusions” of the material world was, and still may be, a profound influence on macrobiotic thinking. It is a world where everything is subjective, based on individual concerns and there are no truths except that “everything changes”.
It is easy to see how these ideals were attractive to the culture of the 60’s and 70’s. The cultural revolution against authority, (“never trust anyone over 30”), the drive to throw off the conformity of post war society and the use of psychedelic drugs were all significant driving forces. The social movements for civil right and opposition to war were also influential. The generation was looking for new ways of thinking and being.
The study of Yoga, the Hindu religion, classical Chinese thought, Western Mysticism and Zen Buddhism were making their way into Western youth culture. These influences offered new values regarding human potential. Ohsawa was certainly aware of this, one of his first and most popular books in the 1960’s was Zen Macrobiotics. A title that angered many Zen practitioners.
Japanese culture was completely foreign to the young disciples of the macrobiotic movement. Many found comfort and value in the discipline. They followed a fugal dietary program, were introduced to a set of challenging new concepts, learned meditation techniques and were willing to give authority to teachers and leaders who represented a different world view. It is true that for some, the attraction was the exotic appeal of a mysterious culture that seemed the opposite of their own.
In Ohsawa’s model of personal evolution, the fundamental stages were development of physical health (Mechanical Judgement), the creation of a refined sensitivity (Sensory Judgement) and emotional stability (Emotional Judgement). These qualities are seen to be the foundation for further development. They are primary building blocks of our ego and underly our character. He then shifts his attention to specific intellectual and cultural influences.
It seems inherent in his writing that these strata of development embrace both perception and action. They also influence whether we accept or reject the beliefs and ideas (Conceptual / Intellectual Judgement) we are exposed to. We are not a blank slate upon which anyone can write. Ideas either “make sense” to us or they do not. The degree of influence that our biology, sensory acuity and emotion life open us to different ideas is yet to be proven.
Concepts inform the way we “organize” the information we receive through our own experience, our education and the learned beliefs of those around us. They can serve to expand and deepen our understanding of life or limit it. These concepts influence our individual and shred values. Ohsawa placed “Conceptual or Intellectual Judgement” as the bridge between our personal experiences and the broader world.
In our macrobiotic community we have a broad range of concepts to pick through. Many of these ideas come directly from Japanese folk traditions, some are adaptations from other Asian sources, esoteric teachings and selective bits of science.
I am sure many of us would agree that (as Ohsawa noted) our belief systems can be used to justify our sensory or emotional preferences as an evasion of an uncomfortable truth. We can always find with a reason that what we already love to do is based on deep thought, advanced sensitivities, logic or a convenient intuition. Rationalizing cultural habits, explaining why things happen based on invisible forces, capricious gods, the stars or pointing to DNA as the source of all problems are examples of this. It seems that part of the human mentality is the search for the miraculous invisible. That is not a problem as long as it does not constrain our appreciation of the astonishing tangible world that surrounds us or the very real behaviors of human society.
Using the reason of “tradition” is one way that concepts are given value. Tradition is certainly a cultural consideration that can be, and often is, useful. But that use can be a constraint on progress and based on conditions that have radically changed over time. I often hear that macrobiotics is a “traditional diet” but that is a difficult claim to prove. While most macrobiotic foods were used in previous times by many cultures, macrobiotics as practiced, is a very modern synthesis of many influences. If our understanding of nutrition, as well as other important aspects of life, do not reflect the needs of our times we are in error.
I have heard many people say that they cannot understand what macrobiotics is. Is it a diet, a philosophy, a lifestyle or all of these? If people know of macrobiotics at all it is usually associated with a therapeutic or “healing diet” or a Japanese diet. The connection between this public image and the vision expressed by the macrobiotic motto of “One Peaceful World” is often unclear.
It is quite understandable that confusion exists. Macrobiotic books are largely focused on diet and the most widespread public presence of macrobiotics is in cooking classes and the therapeutic use of diet. Dietary issues seem paramount and yet when asked if MB’s is a diet the answer is usually, “No, it’s a way of life”. What is it besides eating a particular diet that defines this lifestyle? What are the practices or beliefs that are unique? Since the beliefs surrounding dietary choices are fundamental to our identity it may be that they are also a key to defining our broader purpose.
We have inherited many ideas and social habits from our teachers. Some of these ideas and habits are useful, even profound, and some are not. The question is if we can we adapt our habits and concepts while still respecting the spirit of their origin? I believe we can.
Macrobiotics and Nutritional Science
During those years when macrobiotic teaching was focused on the connection between diet, health and healing, the holy grail was recognition from science. Numerous attempts were made to achieve some level of scientific credibility for our work. Overtures were made by macrobiotic organizations and individuals to universities, independent researchers and government bodies to take up our cause. Most of these had limited effect or none at all. but times change. Many of the ideas that we were proposing have now gained credence in nutritional science.
The past fifteen years have seen an increased interest in studies regarding diet and disease. There has been a steady stream of new science from both laboratory analysis and epidemiology that shows striking parallels to many macrobiotic dietary concepts. Research has shown that:
- Animal sourced foods such as meat and dairy are causal in diseases including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, various cancers and many more.
- There are serious health risks in many processed foods such as the use of hydrogenated oils, excess salt and/or sugar and artificial flavoring agents.
- Animal sourced foods and highly processed food can create inflammatory processes that are seen as the foundation of many disease processes.
- Whole grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds can form the foundation of a healthy diet and may be superior choices.
- The distinction of “first class protein” is a myth.
- A primary influence on health or sickness is the environment of the digestive system – the gut biome.
- The foods that we choose to eat have a profound effect on the working of our cognitive functions.
- The connection between dietary choices and environmental damage is significant.
The contemporary concern for the link between environmental and health issues has grown to a degree never before seen. The synergy between social movements independent of macrobiotics toward self-sufficiency, organic food, seasonal eating and alternative health care were part of the milieu that supported macrobiotics. Many ideas that were considered “alternative” have moved closer to the mainstream. It turns out that our focus on the human diet as a tool for personal and social development was very accurate.
Concerns, such as climate change, and dietary issues are very high on the social agenda. The macrobiotic community responds on an individual basis but not as a solid social force. If we are to create a vibrant movement that truly supports a “Healthy and Peaceful World” it would do us well to adapt to the environment as it exists. We are well into a new century with unique challenges.
The threat of global pandemics generated from animal uses is a stark reminder of this reality. It is now more widely known that about 60 percent of all human diseases and 75 percent of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, which means the originate from animals. Most of these infections come from livestock, including pigs, chickens, cattle, goats, sheep and camels. The influenzas are believed to have originated after humans began their intensive domestication of animals about 10,000 years ago.
The presence of disease in animals raised to eat will continue to be a problem regardless of the breed. Many in the West are horrified by the fact that the source of the present virus was in a “wild animal” meat market. The fact that there are about 2,000 “wildlife farms” where many of these animals are raised in China really takes the “wild” out of the definition. The situation is making more people aware of the environmental link between disease and what we eat.
Macrobiotic Health & Healing
Most people start their inquiry into macrobiotics with diet since it is there that the issues of physical well-being are addressed. This is natural since preventing disease, establishing and maintaining health or recovering from illness are important and urgent life issues. There is increasing information regarding the role of diet as a causal factor in creating serious disease. This includes its effects on general wellbeing and even the potential for therapeutic applications. This evidence is no longer from complete outliers but from the leading edge of orthodox medicine. Much of this closely corresponds to a macrobiotic dietary program.
Macrobiotic dietary principles have been developed over the past 50 years in America, Europe and Japan. They are based on the traditional philosophy of Asian medicine as practiced in China and Japan. These concepts reflect physical, environmental and social observations for a period of over 5,000 years. Although the philosophy bears little relationship to Western nutritional science, the conclusions are remarkably similar.
While the diet associated with macrobiotics is the “Standard Macrobiotic Diet” this way of eating is not a diet in the strict sense – it is a way of choosing foods and can be applied depending on the needs of the individual. Michio Kushi developed the Standard Diet in the early 1980’s with assistance from Edward Esko, William Spear, Murray Snyder and me. The standard diet was presented to describe general principles to the growing number of people seeking help with their health who were dealing with cancer, heart disease and a variety of serious illnesses. While thousands of people found assistance in recovering their health using variations of the standard diet, the association of macrobiotics and healing is often misunderstood.
When we look at what concepts have survived the test of time in the macrobiotic community, we clearly see that it is those that apply to physical health rule the day. Debates regarding what we eat, how much we chew, the proper way to cook particular foods top the lists of discussion. These topics are followed by techniques to assess personal health (self-diagnosis). The assumption is that health can be micro-managed to a very high degree. Focus is on the self.
The application of macrobiotic principles to nutrition is not essentially an attempt to therapeutically correct the symptoms of disease. The macrobiotic approach to eating is focused on assisting the body to recover from nutritional stress, often the result of the modern diet, and return to a more sensible state of biological balance. In the process of returning to a more balanced state many people experience a natural recovery of health and in some cases a complete remission of serious symptoms. The diet helps the body exercise its own self-healing capacity.
Bio-Individuality is an approach to nutrition with many adherents. It includes those who believe that our metabolic rates, gender, genetic backgrounds, blood types and physical constitution govern what foods we need to be properly nourished. It also applies to the way that macrobiotics is taught and practiced. It is an issue that needs discussion.
Over the years I have had the opportunity to review a great many diet plans put forward by other counsellors. I am sure that my brothers and sisters who do this work have done the same. One thing is clear, the percentage of difference from one to another is very small. In discussion with a few other counsellors there is an agreement that up to 95% of the diet suggestions will be the same. There is an aspect of this which is heartening. People are on the same page. The problem lies in the focus of the teaching and communication in counselling.
Any quick survey of comments on macrobiotic Facebook pages or questions from students in various teaching centres show that the issue of individual uniqueness dominates. This is a social issue that embraces modern culture in the more affluent societies of the world not only in macrobiotics. We are obsessed with our uniqueness our “specialness”. We don’t want something “off the shelf” we must have the special one built only for us.
It is a very common aspect of contemporary thought that a significant problem in human life is that we do not love ourselves enough and that our personal anxieties or problems are unique to ourselves. Since our problems are unique, our needs must be unique as well.
This has become a primary selling point with macrobiotics. The ability to perceive small differences in constitution and condition and tailor make a diet and life plan that is specifically targeted to the individual. This is a direct extension of the anthropocentric pathology that stands between us and the natural world. I am sure that this is where there will be much disagreement with this statement so let me explain. A quick look at evolution is helpful.
It would be difficult to find any other species where individual requirements for nutrition are essential. Diets change in relationship to soil conditions, rainfall, temperature and a variety of environmental effects but those cover every animal within the species. The difference would be eating specific foods due to illness. It does not include radical changes in nutritional patterns other than those dictated by a particular environment.
This is not meant to cancel out the fact that people living in specific environments have adapted to specific diets due to environmental influences. One problem that we must address is that the environment we live in is not “the world of nature”. According to the United Nations Indigenous populations or “First People” comprise only 5% of the world population. The majority of these people live in close concert with the non-indigenous population. We all eat at the same table. Food security, regional self-sufficiency and environmental considerations will drive the conversations for what people eat not blood type, morphology or the positions of the stars.
An elephant in Africa has the same needs as an elephant in India. The same is true with tigers, wolves etc. Human anatomy is generally the same from person to person. There may be slight differences in digestive ability due to long term generational eating or regional differences due to adaptations to climate extremes but those are marginal. There may be damage due to toxic conditions brought on by nutrition or environmental toxins but those are modest compared to the similarities. It is the similarities that are important.
Macrobiotics has prided itself on being able to micro-manage diets according to sex, specific constitution, astrological signs and detailed adjustments due to the location of disease symptoms. I know from experience that if suggestions to clients are presented with a high degree of individual and unique features, they are happier. I believe that this is as much about psychology as biology. Several facts work counter to these beliefs.
I have met many people over the decades who had no guidance at all but simply followed the very simple food lists and outlines in Ohsawa’s books and had great success. The second is that there are many doctors now working with nutritional programs that are using very simple and consistent dietary templates that achieve great success working with clients who suffer from a variety of complaints.
General dietary programs such as those offered by John McDougall, Neil Barnard and other plant-based doctors produce excellent results. This is without the specific cooking and food selection criteria used in macrobiotics which I believe would improve their results and make them more sustainable. The common factor in these approaches is the total avoidance of all animal sourced foods, processed foods, excessive fats and simple sugars.
This does not erase the valuable insights into many counselling and life-skills such as reducing or avoiding specific foods for therapeutic reasons. These are very small adjustments and easily explained with common sense. The use of helpful home remedies or the use of specific cooking techniques to match digestive and general requirements are also not mysterious. All these things are important aspects of macrobiotic nutrition and are examples of valuable insights into human health.
The problems come when the complexity of bio-individuality is over exaggerated compared to the more general aspects of food selection. When the issues of health are complex students feel they need to dig into the more complex doctrine of macrobiotic teaching to produce helpful results. It also leads to the false belief that personal health can be micro-managed through subtle dietary changes. This is reflected in the impression that many clients experience that approach macrobiotics for health counselling. If the diagnosis and prescribed health program is communicated in obscure language or presented as a result of supernatural physical or emotional perception it creates a false image of what we do.
This approach also deflects attention away from an ethic of eating that embraces the broader social, environmental and attitudinal issues that contribute to sickness. While energetic, and more esoteric factors may be influencers on the state of health they can also be a huge distraction for simpler practical issues that challenge individuals to change.
Deeper Meaning Of Food – Transcending The Personal
The writing of Ohsawa and Kushi are filled with observations on health and sickness. At the foundation of their observations regarding health is the role of diet. Diet is seen as a driving force for individual physical and mental wellbeing. This is usually expressed as reflecting the importance of the digestive system in the breaking down and assimilating the energy (Chi) and nutrients from the food and creating “blood quality”. This understanding predates modern insights into the functions of the enteric nervous system and the production of serotonin in the intestines. While not explored in great detail, the gut brain connection lies at the basis of much macrobiotic thinking. This relationship is seen to be fundamental in individual development and lies at the foundation of many of Ohsawa’s boldest ideas.
A common critique of macrobiotic ideas for many years was that “food isn’t everything”. This was primarily aimed at the lack of teaching about psychology, spiritual training and social issues. It was a valid criticism. It seemed that every emotional, family or social problem was related to what people ate. If someone was angry, they must be eating too much yang food, if they were tearful - too much yin. “Sorry I got angry; I ate some fish yesterday.”
If one were to point out that there were millions of intelligent, friendly and accomplished people who eat meat and sugar daily it must be down to the fact that they had a strong constitution or were born under the right stars. Anyway, they would die of cancer. The truth is that the observation that food was everything was both right and wrong.
Consider Ohsawa’s comments of our relationship with the vegetal (I will print the quote later). His simple acknowledgement, almost childish, that without food we die. When we eat, we take in the interaction of sun, soil and seed. Our food is a composite of air, water and all the life of a living soil. We have the ability to choose the form of what we eat, to prepare it to meet our needs, to chew it to extract the most benefits and then to present it to the internal environment to process and create the energy and substance of our life. This is the un-disputed truth, but there is more.
What we choose to eat not only demonstrates our judgement, but it educates it. When we are conscious of the broad consequences on our food choices, aside from personal health, they serve as a reflection of deeper values. Challenging social norms with a mindful alternative is not always comfortable. When we demonstrate our ideals through action we are acting in concert with our true vision of life. The ethic of the food we eat is a profound expression of our physical, mental and spiritual vision of life. The macrobiotic approach to food provides an excellent perspective on this issue including the social impact and the spiritual potential of our choices.
Macrobiotics & Society
It becomes obvious that the very nature of politics and other social mechanisms are not capable of withstanding the unchecked power of the food industry and the vested interests that live on the wages of environmental destruction and sickness. The hope of our children and future generation’s lie in our collective ability to take our individual physical, emotional and spiritual health into our own hands and to let our presence be felt and our voices heard.
The macrobiotic community has been somewhat resistant to the conversation of ethics in food choices except where issues affect personal health. The focus has been to concentrate on the health effects of foods and the “organic” quality of foods. Issues such as sustainability, transport, water use, biodiversity, soil impact, food slavery and food economics are often neglected. That does not mean that individuals are unaware of these issues and use them in their personal life, it simply means that they are not part of the usual description of our practice.
The macrobiotic community has always been active in supporting organic agriculture and opposed any form of chemical use in farming as well as the introduction of GMO products. The focus here has been mostly on the negative impact of these chemicals used on human health. Of course, this is an important issue and there needs to be more education on these issues. Unfortunately, the conversation is often limited to the human impact and not the larger topics of soil and environmental damage.
Talk of nature has always been very abstract in macrobiotics and the life of animals, for the Japanese teachers, was relegated to subservience. In Ohsawa’s words, animals are here for our “amusement”. Modern understanding of the environment and the wisdom of indigenous people from around the world clearly presents another view. The relationship between animal and vegetable life on the plant are inexorably linked.
Animal life cannot exist without vegetation. The reverse is also true with an important exception. Humans are the single form of animal life that would not be missed. The human contribution to the biosphere is non-essential. To use a British phrase, we are not fit for purpose. The sad truth is that it is human activity that is the single most destructive force of the total web of being. The extinction of many types of insects, Bees or Ants for example, could bring down all life on earth. If human life was taken out of the biosphere the world would stabilize fairly quickly and the human experiment could be yet another failed evolutionary cul-de-sac.
In macrobiotic studies we understand that the world is comprised of energy in different forms that comprise our environment. How we manage our relationship with the environment is a clear indication of our consciousness. The awareness that we develop is grounded in many factors such as our sensitivities, our culture and our beliefs. It reflects our judgement.
The origins of macrobiotic thinking lie in the attempt to understand the rhythms, cycles and patterns of nature so that we can live in a state of harmony with them. If this is true, we need to review our diet and lifestyle to be congruent with that goal. The origins of these studies in natural process were certainly not as an abstract intellectual enterprise, they were aimed at survival. That goal still stands in front of us.
We should not accept creation as a thing done and finished. The stages of consciousness in thought and action point to our exciting potential. We have the capacity to become a creative force for a new planetary consciousness, a catalyst for evolution, co-creators of planet earth. This can only happen when we view judgement as a social as well as personal goal and accept that goal as an undertaking that requires continual participation.
The proposition that there should be ethical content in macrobiotics is one that has driven quite a few spirited conversations. There have been statements regarding ethics in counselling and teaching discussed in many macrobiotic meetings. These are really only regarding ethical business practice, but beyond that none that I am aware of. Nutritional ethics, social ethics or environmental ethics are left to individuals as a sign of “freedom”. I question this premise.
If we are a community of people, then what are our values? If the bonding factor of our community is belief in the Theorems And Principles Of Yin/Yang, as stated by Ohsawa we should think again. These certainly have philosophical weight but have only abstract value in applications to human interaction. There is no intentional agency in the actions of energy as described. They describe the ways in which infinity manifests in yin/yang and the ways in which they interact. It is not directed at a defined goal relative to human life.
To address the issues of personal and social activities we have to shift to the Levels of Judgement. This template addresses personal and social life. It describes the relationship between biological, familial, social and ideological development. Ohsawa also commented on the inherent social and ideological values implied.
Vague statements such as “living in balance with nature” or “living in harmony with the Order of the Universe” sound good but are so vague that they lose all meaning. If we share values, then what are the ethics that represent our vision. How are those ethics reflected in practice? If we are attempting to live in harmony with the Universe we are off the hook. How could we be otherwise? What if the word universe were replaced by the word nature? People know what nature is, nobody knows what the universe is - nobody.
This does not mean that individuals within the community do not have firmly held ethical values. I am sure that a broad survey of macrobiotic individuals would show a great deal of agreement among them. These alignments are seen as added onto their practice of macrobiotics and not as a fundamental feature of them.
Values are qualities that serve as the foundation for our ethics. Authentic values need to be internalized they need to be reflected in action. They are commitments of alignment; they are not options to consider if they are convenient.
All societies put limits on freedom, even the most democratic, human rights supporting ones. Not all actions can be allowed in a functioning society because some are destructive or oppressive to the rights and well-being of others. They are agreements. In an independent social grouping there is, rightly, no possibility of enforcement only a free acceptance of values that lead to certain goals. Our goal is purportedly One Healthy and Peaceful World.
Harmony with Nature
If we accept that creating both health and peace in the world are our goal, then the environment takes centre stage. Creating a healthy environment is the central issue This concept, once seen as eccentric, is now gaining prestige as one of the primary challenges facing society. What we eat is firmly embedded in that challenge. A significant shift in awareness of the relationship between environmental sustainability and nutrition is apparent.
It seems logical to me that part of our commitment to nature would be to completely eliminate foods with negative environmental impacts as an ethical statement. This would mean the avoidance of all animal sourced foods on environmental, social and health grounds. It would provide a consistency to the macrobiotic honouring of nature and life in all its forms. It would also provide an opportunity for the macrobiotic community to model the potential of leading a healthy life with no animal products.
The paradigm of scientific nutrition has altered our understanding of food and its place in our life. George Ohsawa illustrated the relationship between the development of the animal and vegetal kingdoms in his Spiral of Evolution. It pointed to the fact that since the vegetal kingdom is autotropic it always precedes animal evolution. Plants take in the elements of sunlight, air, water and minerals from the soil directly and produce the compounds essential for all animal life. Animal life is incapable of this process.
Over billions of years plants developed a variety of strategies to concentrate these elements in a variety of ways. Ohsawa surmised that these unique patterns of structure and content had a direct effect on the structure and unique attributes of the animals that co-evolved with them. Plants are our direct and most intimate connection with the natural environment. The degree of our acknowledgement of this connection is an indicator of our understanding of life. What we eat is the Deep Ecology of a Macrobiotic life.
Our studies are based on the development and refinement of our judgement. It is interesting that both Oshawa and Kushi acknowledged the specific role of animal sourced foods in this process. Kushi made avoiding any animal sourced foods as a requirement for his “Spiritual Development” courses. This is consistent with spiritual training in Buddhist and Hindu religion. The question might be, “If this approach to eating elevates awareness why only do it in the confines of a workshop”.
While I would challenge some of the assumptions in the following quote, Ohsawa was very clear regarding the effect of using animal sourced food on consciousness. (emphasis mine)
“After twenty years of research, I am quite convinced that man must be dependent upon and faithful to the great Vegetal Mother; he must depend entirely and only upon her. But even if you adopt macrobiotics, you may still make the mistake of taking too much food. Excess in quantity is worse than bad quality.
We are sons of the Vegetal Mother, who sacrifices herself to feed us. We are transformed vegetables. Without chlorophyll, we are unable to forge our blood, our life. Our mother is vegetal. This is biological law. If this law is violated, we shall suffer from physiological, mental, and even spiritual difficulties. But simple vegetarianism without the universal, eternal, and absolute principle does not suffice, because it is reactionary and sentimental.
Since macrobiotics is not the kind of vegetarianism that is mere sentimentality, hemoglobinic (sic) foods are avoided for biological and physiological reasons. They are avoided in order to develop men who can think.Animal meat has the ideal composition for an animal: animal glands produce hormones fit for creatures who act only according to their instinct and are unaccustomed to thinking. An animals centre of sensitivity or judgement is not as highly developed as that of a man”.
A major feature of the growing awareness of environmental destruction by human activity is a focus on the use of animals for food. Animal agriculture is one of the primary polluters of both atmosphere and the waterways. The damage to the atmosphere is through the dramatic reduction in rainforests to grow food for cattle, the massive requirement for refrigeration in transport, the land, sea and air shipping of meat and dairy and the methane produced by the animals.
Water pollution is caused by the run-off of faeces and urine of feed yards and farms as well as agricultural chemicals used to grow animal feed. The combination of these factors poison rivers and streams leading to the ocean where these potent chemical mixes produce dead zones where no life except algae can grow. These are direct environmental effects of raising animals for meat and food. We either contribute to this or we don’t. (I will get to fish later)
One of the qualities that develops with a nervous system is “sentience.” Eighteenth century philosophers used the concept to distinguish between the capacity to think and to feel. We see it as the ability to experience sensations. We sentient creatures have an emotional life. We can feel fear and pain. We can suffer. We can play and feel affection. Any-one who has spent even a short time around animals knows that they share these experiences with us. Even if you have only viewed animals on-screen, you will have seen them display concern and compassion for each other. They share these traits with us and do not simply live to please us or for our amusement and use.
One of the most deplorable abuses associated with the anthropocentric view of life is our use of animals. This abuse is not based on biological need but on pleasure. There is no major objection to the fact that the classical distinction between first- and second-class protein was absurd. The fact that animal sourced foods are still considered to be essential is a reflection of the meat and dairy industry advertising and not the science.
We are all aware of the numbers but sometimes don’t reflect on what is represented by them. Well over 72 Billion land animals are slaughtered each year to satisfy the human appetite for flesh. The number is most likely up to 80 billion due to acknowledged underreporting. This is a horrendous killing field. The total number of sea creatures in immeasurable since they are only measured by the ton. An estimate is over a trillion.
Animal slavery and abuse is implemented on a colossal scale so that this massive execution can be economical. When animals are “things,” they can be owned and used as the owner sees fit. Endless campaigning to “improve” the abuse and refine the killing do not change the basic facts. Many animal welfare organizations are inspired by supposed “improvements” in animal comfort within the meat, dairy, and poultry industries. These “smoke and mirror” changes are the exact strategies used by the processed-food business when replacing one fat with another or one sugar with a chemical or replacement. It sounds more natural but is fundamentally the same or even worse.
The ethic of using animals for food production as well as for entertainment and labour sits in total opposition to the Buddhist and Hindu concept of Ahimsa. Ahimsa is part of the bedrock of both religions and conveniently ignored in favour of social convention and personal pleasure. The concept roughly translates to, “Do No Harm”. A reading of the Sermon on the Mount expresses the similar sentiments. This quote from Wendell Berry, the American farmer and poet is a clear expression of it.
"We're members of each other — all of us — everything. The difference is not whether you are or not, but whether you know you are or not. Because we're all under each other's influence. We're all are affected by one another's others’ lives and decisions. And there is no escape from this membership."
It is often said in macrobiotic circles that we are all one, everything is connected. If we miss the obvious spiritual implications of taking life for our own pleasure, we have not considered the matter deeply enough. We study cause and effect. The results of eating animals are reflected in the relationship of these products in non-communicable disease, environmental devastation, sentient suffering and the spread of contagions are obvious. Is this Karma?
Foundations of Macrobiotic Thinking
When set out to define any set of ideas it is often helpful to reduce them to their simplest form and avoid specialized terminology. This allows for clarity regarding the relative worth of the concepts being studied. My purpose here is to discover if there are any areas where our collective experience and study have proven to contradict previous beliefs as well as define areas where our collective action may not be congruent with our core values. I am not attempting to define macrobiotics for anyone else.
- Macrobiotics is an ecological philosophy that aims to understand the laws of nature and how those laws relate to human existence.
- A primary feature of the laws of nature is that everything is connected, there is no us or them, there is no “other”. This applies to humans of different race, religion, physical ability, gender, sexual preference as well as all living creatures.
- We are all part of the family of life on the planet. Our concerns need to promote the health of all creatures both human and non-human.
- There is an order to natural process. We believe in natural law.
- It is possible for humankind to perceive the order of nature through study, observation and experience. It is in our understanding and application of natural law that we can transcend the limitations imposed by our social and personal mistakes.
- If we understand this order we can align our thoughts and actions with it and live a more vibrant, fulfilling and healthy life.
- Part of this process of alignment is the ability to change and adapt to new realities that occur in society or the larger environment.
How Do Our Beliefs Translate Into Daily Life?
- Macrobiotic teaching places great value on maximising physical, mental and spiritual health as an essential part of personal growth.
- The process of creating and maintaining health is a personal laboratory for understanding natural law through physical experience and the development of a visceral understanding of the world around us.
- We realize that creation of health includes a constellation of influences including (but not limited to) physical activity, emotional stability, intellectual curiosity, fulfilling relationships and a spirituality grounded on respect for life as well as good nutrition.
- Macrobiotics has always had a special focus on food choice and preparation. It is a fundamental part of the process of creating health. The food we eat, along with air and water, are the most intimate connection between our biological being and the environment.
- We acknowledge the fact that food choices have implications that effect the environment, social health, economic justice and a wide range of ethical issues as well as individual well-being.
- Making simple food choices is a way of reforming social attitudes about health as well as a daily reminder of our relationship with nature.
- Understanding our connection with nature, we make every attempt to live with gratitude and without the undue waste of resources.
- We always support the natural rather than the synthetic and chemical solution to foods, goods and services.
- The outcome of these actions is co-operation rather that domination over nature and a rejection of the parasitic values of modern society.
Macrobiotics As A Social Influence
- The stated goal of the last generation of macrobiotic teachers was to work toward the creation of One Peaceful World.
- The challenge of any social movement is to stay true to its stated objectives and maintaining its founding principles while adapting to changes in the cultural environment.
- Contemporary macrobiotic practitioners find themselves in a unique position. The science of nutrition is steadily moving toward the dietary conclusions we have promoted for decades. The macrobiotic movement has played an important social role in this development.
- While public interest in and knowledge of nutrition has increased greatly over the past 20 years, interest in macrobiotics has diminished.
- The macrobiotic skill set includes abilities such as cooking, home food processing, understanding seasonal eating, home remedies, the healing power of foods and a variety of useful techniques from ancient wisdom traditions. These skills can be important contributions to those who are changing their food habits in response to health concerns, environmental issues and ethical concerns.
- It is clear that one of the most certain contributions to the creation of One Peaceful World is changing the way our food is grown, processed, distributed and retailed. The modern food chain is a series of commercial, not biological relationships. Our fundamental beliefs should give us unique credibility on these issues, it has not.
- It may be that the tendency to cloak our thinking in a series of esoteric principles, the over-emphasis on individual “special needs” and lack of any dietary ethic creates a lack of clarity.
The Importance Of An Ecological Food Ethic
Ethical issues are increasingly part of the debate on food quality. These ethical considerations include, but are not limited to:
- The direct impact of specific foods which contribute to disease.
- The impact of chemicals in farming on health and the environment.
- The impact on small farms in poor countries by multi-nationals.
- Food slavery.
- International Food Security.
- The potential damage of GMO to crop diversity, to health and environment.
- The spread of animal disease to humans (zoonosis).
- The use of land to grow food for animals rather than humans.
- The rapid depletion of fish stocks.
- The killing of sentient animals as a food source.
All of these issues are part of the evolving understanding of human nutrition and will become more dominant in the future. The question is if the macrobiotic community will be part of that evolution or not.
When we look at the above issues of nutritional ethics it is clear that the production and consumption of all animal foods produce the biggest negative influence.
An important question for the macrobiotic teaching community is if our practice is coherent with the principles stated above. If macrobiotics is really about raising consciousness, (or using Ohsawa’s term, Judgement) why would we not promote the highest standard of practice toward that goal.
Some Concerns And Questions
Over the past several years I have brought up many of the topics referred to at macrobiotic teachers’ meetings. My experience is that some have clear reservations, and many stay silent. I am listing the most consistent concerns and questions and my response to them for the sake of clarity. They are listed in no particular order.
Tradition and Exceptions
There are two parts to the macrobiotic resistance to the avoidance of all animal products regarding traditions. The first is anthropological and the second is the reference to macrobiotic culture.
When we reflect on food traditions from around the world, we surely know that they were a direct response to environmental conditions I mentioned before. This is fundamental to the ecological macrobiotic worldview. Food traditions were always a question of food availability, environment and cultural development. Stories of Maasai warriors, people living in deep jungles or native Inuit people are interesting, but they are anomalies. The same is true of our real or imagined ancestors following the “traditional diet”.
The physical and social environment we live in has changed dramatically in the last century, even in the past 50 years since Ohsawa’s death and will keep on changing. It is the reality of the present not the past, that we must make balance with. It is the present that produces the challenges to our health. Tradition is very interesting and often instructive but not always a sensible guide for the future.
Macrobiotics Is Not Veganism
I agree, macrobiotics is macrobiotics. I am a self-identified macrobiotic teacher and have never claimed otherwise. For me the vegan ethic is completely compatible with the principles and practice of our way of life. No one yet has given me an argument that contradicts that viewpoint.
The public face of veganism is as diverse as those who identify themselves as macrobiotic. Some people who eat a vegan diet are animal welfarists, some are confrontational animal liberationists, some only use the word plant based. There are vegans who eat the way they do exclusively for health reasons, some for environmental reasons and some exclusively for the animals. Marlene and I resonate with non-violent vegan education. Some are junk food eaters, and some eat a macrobiotic diet.
Veganism Would Not Solve All Environmental Issues
No, it will not, neither will macrobiotics in its present form. A macrobiotic vegan diet does have the most profound impact on a clean environment that any individual can make on a daily basis. It does not stop you from doing any of the other great things you can do in other areas of your life.
Animals Have Always Been Used In Agriculture
This is largely the case but then so has slave labour, a tradition that continues to this day. Tradition is interesting, often informative but always based in the past. There is no need for animals in modern farming. There are many mechanical devices for strict labour and crop rotation, composting and other advances in organic agriculture are sufficient.
Meat Is In The Pyramid
There is really no way to make a graphic representation of a healthy way of eating. We have all tried but they are usually so fixed that they are useless. They provide a general illustration of what foods to eat and indicate volumes.
In macrobiotics there was first the pie chart that was generally not reflective of what macrobiotic people were eating at the time. This was followed by a series of pyramids that were generated by Kushi. The first one’s had fish (white meat) as an occasional food. The last versions had meat, dairy and eggs as optional monthly choices and fish down as weekly consumption. I believe these are strange and ill-advised choices. I will take it a step further and say that I think the choices was about making people more comfortable, putting a friendly face on the diet.
It is said that a little fish now and again or a little dairy or eggs will make the thought of dietary change more acceptable but is that our purpose? The fact that Michio was fond of fish is no more important than the fact that he smoked. The fact that Ohsawa included animal quality foods in 5 out of his 10 diets is as irrelevant as his views of the role of women. Respecting the teachings of these men and the courage of their commitment to a better world does not mean wholesale acceptance of everything that came out of their mouth (or went into it).
There is a general agreement that the modern diet, heavily dependent on meat, eggs and dairy foods is killing us. Those populations that consume this high proportions of these foods consistently present the highest rates of NCD’s. This has been shown in epidemiological findings since the 1950’s and confirmed consistently by hundreds of studies from around the world. Even though we use a different and (I feel) more comprehensive method to reach the same results should not dissuade us from using this information.
Are we a consistent application of nutrition that is both ethical and healthy or do we want to moderate our message to fit in with an antiquated approach? It is ironic that when conventional nutrition is moving in our direction, we change tack and move backward.
The Curious Story of the Fish
One of the most interesting theories put forward by Ohsawa was his view of evolution. His observations on the connection between plant and animal morphology are fascinating (his time scale perhaps not so much). This model certainly affected macrobiotic food choices, even among those who never studied the template that Ohsawa proposed. This evolutionary template places human life at the apex. This is a very common idea and certainly not unique to him.
After all man is made in “Gods Image”. It is part of the hierarchy of nature that lays the groundwork for anthropocentric thinking and many of our present-day environmental issues. This image of our relationship with nature is outmoded, regressive and goes against all environmental sensibility.
Human life is certainly more complex in structure than most life on the planet, but it is also the most destructive. When we imagine that animal life is inferior rather than part of the support system of life on earth, we feel free to abuse it. In macrobiotics, the idea that fish have a simpler nervous system and a more primitive structure served as a rationale for consuming them as the “acceptable animal”. Sometimes the rationale of eating them because they were closer to vegetables than mammals was floated. They were also one of the most popular animal quality foods in Japanese culture and reflected the eating traditions of our teachers.
Recent research shows that the lack of neural complexity does not demonstrate a lack of sentience. Fish are sentient and die of suffocation. Anyone who has had pneumonia or severe breathing difficulties can relate. Every year fish stocks are ruined to a devastating degree. Any lack of attention to this is to contribute to a major ecological disaster. The oceans of the world were ruined by the 1960’s and are even worse now. The fishing industry kills trillions of sea creatures each year and is the biggest contributor of plastic to the seas.
Plants Are Sentient Too
I would be the first to agree that the earth and everything on it is living. That does not mean that everything lives the same. Sentient creatures have a nervous system that allows them to respond. Animals respond and react, plants seem to only react, beautifully but they react. Even if plants had some form of sentience, they would still be appropriate for human food at this time simply because we lack the ability to take water, soil and exposure to sun and create our body’s needs.
This is the issue that Ohsawa made in the quote above. Plants are the source of all nutrients for animal life. They are autotropic, they can take their life from minerals, water, sun. They create the full range of nutrients required. When we eat animals, we are simply eating plant nutrients that have been made “more similar” to our physiology but constructed in the form of the mammal reptile, bird or fish. We then reconstruct these nutrients and recombine them as ourselves.
Everything Is Macrobiotic
This particular trope is a popular response to questions regarding the “macrobioticness” of particular food. The way that Yin and Yang are used in macrobiotics defies any application of ethics. I agree with that. Using Yin and Yang is a way of talking about objects, actions or ideas in comparison with other objects, actions or ideas. It is important to note that it is macrobiotic writing that has given the impression of good or bad foods.
It is a system of measurement. In that sense, there are no values. In terms of Yin/Yang a hamburger is just a hamburger and a bowl of rice is simply a bowl of rice. I could make a distinction between these two items but in order to make a statement regarding their nutritional use I would have to apply goals and values. It is convenient way of comparing the various aspects of nature. The fact the system understanding of yin/yang is not concerned with values makes its use difficult when describing the subtleties of human behaviour.
I hear this statement often and it is an attitude that runs counter to any ecological concern we might address. It is a simplistic attitude disguised as zen. It is simply relativism, the idea that there is no right or wrong, good or bad, up or down. We need to talk about this. This is all about how we perceive the value of the actions taken. It needs framing according to the purpose of the action taken. When we use an ecological approach to food some of these comparisons become clearer.
It is not a coincidence that foods that promote personal health also have economic, social, environmental and even psychological and spiritual advantages. When we view these factors as “side benefits” we miss the point. When personal action is a reflection of natural justice a state of biological integrity is achieved. This is the condition we call health.
If we really wish to create a healthy world and communicate that message to others, we need to communicate values. If a person wants to lower cholesterol, then eliminating fats is a good idea. Yin and yang may come in handy in classification of different fats but the value of staying alive is the issue. The benefits of orthodox nutrition, biological function or environmental impact are all approaches that can be used to explain the benefit of good food. Yin and yang cannot describe the value of anything only its characteristics. The classification of foods must be concerned with making choices that lead to health in the individual, society and the environment.
We can always find a way to deflect our own resistance by pointing to how many people will not do something. Every change in social evolution has required a high degree of commitment to actions that could be seen as dangerous, eccentric or laughable. That process lies at the base of cultural evolution.
We are faced with the same challenge that many of us faced in the 60’s when we started eating this way. The food was not available, and people thought it was weird or repulsive and even unpatriotic. We persevered regardless and opened a new chapter in the social understanding of food. The rise of advertised “vegan” and “plant-based” cooking classes in macrobiotic circles means that the social acceptance for these ideas are certainly recognized. It remains to be seen if this recognition is reflected in general practice or simply serving a new market.
“Without struggle there is no progress” – Frederic Douglass
Following A Food Ethic Is Rigid
Dietary rigidity is not being able to change. In reality, people who follow the modern diet are the most rigid on the planet. They are totally resistant to trying anything new and addicted to poor quality, environmentally damaging, disease producing junk. That is the height of rigidity.
I am quite happy to eat with people who eat differently to me. I do not feel compelled to eat what they eat. I am respectful of other people; I accept that they made a decision to eat certain foods that I don’t eat. If they want to know why I don’t eat certain foods I am will tell them. I never produce any critical observations about their choices. I don’t get upset or defensive. It is usually those who eat the modern diet that get upset about someone else eating differently. I feel they would not become upset unless they knew that there were better choices.
If people are insulting or aggressive in their attitudes toward another because of food choices, why would I want to share the table with them. That has been my attitude for over five decades. I am happy with my choices.
Macrobiotics has always put itself forward as a beacon of self-determination and freedom. Freedom is certainly a valuable quality in life. Hopefully that freedom is an expression of the ability to do or not do. Everyone has the right to make their own choices. Our choices ultimately expose our consciousness (judgement). Where is our true north? If our goal is the creation of a Peaceful World do our actions show the truth of that goal? If we want to improve the quality of life on the planet, how firm is our commitment?
Non-Credo is often suggested as a primary guide in macrobiotic thinking. It is an appealing invitation to question beliefs. I agree. That means that the leaning on non-credo as a reason for action or inaction gets called into question as well. This particular issue is often a code for “anything goes” and not an invitation to a serious inquiry. This inquiry would also call intuition into question.
I hear macrobiotic people often claim that they are eating some unhealthy food because their intuition told them to. It usually means that they simply didn’t know how to interpret a craving and deal productively with it or that they simply reject the discipline required. People all over the world engage in all sorts of unproductive and damaging behaviour because it seemed intuitively right at the time.
Vegans Still Get Sick
Yes, some vegans lead an unhealthy life. Many vegan food products are junk food. Macrobiotics has much to offer the vegan community in service of social health. Macrobiotic people also have health challenges from time to time and I know many who have died and were not eating an unhealthy diet.
B12 is the only required nutrient that is deficient without animal food in the diet. It is not an artificially extracted or manufactured product. All B12 is made by bacteria. What is known is that while B12 is manufactured in the body there is no proof that it is taken up significantly. There were cases of B12 deficiency in the macrobiotic community in the 1970’s and this certainly influenced the use of fish as a regular option.
I personally supplement my diet with a small amount of B12 every few weeks. In a more natural environment small amounts of soil and water in streams would have been enough to fill the requirements. We eat many foods that are the result of bacteria such as miso and vegetable pickles. It is interesting to note that the greatest number of people with B12 deficiency are meat eaters.
Veganism And Elitism
There is no question that veganism as well as macrobiotics are largely elitist pursuits. Movie stars and rock legends are pointed to as representing dietary trends that are exotic and seemingly expensive. There is little in the way representation of people of colour or the poor in macrobiotics. It has been a deficiency in our community that there has been little active out-reach. This needs to change. A healthy macrobiotic vegan diet can be very economical, and it will be important to communicate this idea.
The lack of compassion for life other than our own, the lack of appreciation for nature, the fear of change and frantic searches for instant gratification that characterize our society are woven into our food choices. Unravelling them is fundamental to creating a human ecology that can allow us to reach our full human potential. To me that is the essence of macrobiotics and something that our community needs to constantly renew and nourish.
In good health
Virus And Animals
Disease is often described as an enemy. It is an invisible and mysterious adversary that surrounds us. This is reflected in the way we discuss illness. We are 'fighting' heart disease; we are 'battling' cancer and we will 'conquer' diabetes. Both America and the UK have declared war on the coronavirus. Who or what are we fighting?
As long as the enemy is concealed behind a cloak of mystery, we can leave the battle up to the cultural wizards of choice and hope for the best. It is often the case that we need a mirror to discover the true culprit. Our major antagonist may be hiding in clear sight.
We like to think that responsibility for our illnesses lies outside us. If my illness is caused by virus, bacteria or genetics, the punishment of an angry god or the position of the stars then I am blameless. When it comes to putting personal accountability, we rebel. Certainly, we would never act against our own self-interest!
The immediate concern is of course, that we all take responsibility for our own health and that of our family. Being responsible means, we need to protect ourselves and our loved ones from harm. Beyond that there is a message that is contained in all disease. It is an invitation to reflect on any personal and social adaptations for future protection and practical remedy.
Our Viral History
Influenza or the common flu is one of the worlds most common communicable diseases. Every year there are up to 5 million reported cases resulting in anywhere from 300,000 to 600,000 deaths[i].
We know that the disease is dangerous for the very young, the elderly or anyone with a compromised immune system. Sometimes these influenzas can become pandemics and spread like wildfire from country to country.
The last example of this was the H1 N1 virus popularly known as swine flu pandemic of 2009. Which killed over 500,000 people. The latest disease that threatens to challenge us is of course the Covid19 variety or coronavirus. As of May 23, there were over 340,735 reported deaths from the virus[ii]. Given the confusion around the criteria for deaths from this disease and problems with lack of reporting, this number could be either much less or slightly more.
I know that the common-sense instructions of hand washing, refusing to shake hands, social distancing, and building a healthy immune response have all been written about with many helpful suggestions. Immediate protection and treatment are important but what about the root causes? What has been missing is any curiosity about the origins of these periodic diseases.
About 60 percent of all human diseases and 75 percent of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, which means they originate from animals. Most of these infections come from livestock, including pigs, chickens, cattle, goats, sheep and camels. The influenzas are believed to have originated sometimes after humans began their intensive domestication of animals about 10,000 years ago. It is a simple fact that cannot be ignored.
Confining animals in small spaces creates a petri dish for disease. Regardless if in factories, cages or feed-lots we pack them in so we can fatten them up before killing them. Concentrating animal populations into small spaces allows communicable disease to spread rapidly, it makes no differences if the animal is a pig or a human. The animals we raise to eat are sick by definition, that is why up to 80% of all anti-biotics are used on domesticated animals. Our quest for pleasure has rebounded on us.
The same confinement with raised animals is happening with increased frequency in the kingdom of wild animals. As logging and mining operations expand throughout the world and cities expand, large areas of forest and grasslands are dissected cutting off migration and feeding paths. This is forcing animals to face extinction and adapt to new ways of feeding that brings them into closer contact with human populations. The balance of animal life within the food chain is also disrupted. Predators such as wolves and coyotes are often seen as a danger to domestic animals, hunted and killed allowing other animals to proliferate and throw of the natural balance.
A good example of this is Lyme disease, a serious disorder that is transmitted from ticks that breed on deer. The origin is a growing mouse population. The mice serve as a breeding ground, the ticks then leap to deer and humans[iii]. The mice are not kept in check because the coyotes or foxes that would have kept their population in check have been greatly reduced by humans.
Greenhouses Not Slaughterhouses
These diseases are a direct result of the sicknesses we impose on the animals that live in captivity for our dining pleasure[iv]. Billions of pigs, chickens, cows, and, increasingly, farmed fish not only suffer but live in an environment that makes them ill and diseased. Of the 76 Billion land animals killed each year for human food most have been specifically bred to be identical. This means that pathogens can more easily spread from one animal to the next. Even those who do not care about the welfare of animals are not excited about eating diseased animals.
The presence of disease in animals raised to eat will continue to be a problem regardless of the breed. A virus can spread from one animal to the next, mutating as it infects different species. Many in the West are are horrified by the fact that the source of the present virus was in a “wild animal” meat market. The fact that there are about 2,000 “wildlife farms” where many of these animals are raised in China really takes the “wild” out of the definition[v].
Does it make a difference if we kill a peacock or a turkey, a lamb or a civet cat? The difference is only a cultural one. We decide that certain animals are OK to kill and eat but not others. This is a clear example of culture bias. Much of the critique of the Chinese custom was simply racist. Just as many virus outbreaks have been generated from other countries
If we want to create a healthy world, one of the most important things we can do is stop eating animals and supporting the industries that provide them. It is essential to stop pretending that killing one species of sentient animal rather than another is anything other than cultural prejudice. It is an ethical, environmental and health disaster. There is no reason for this habit other than pleasure, it is not scientific or logical. We need to stop it now.
Please join Marlene and I in service for a healthy world for humans and non-humans alike. Take care, be well.
In good health
[i] Estimates of US influenza-associated deaths made using four different methods.
Thompson WW, Weintraub E, Dhankhar P, Cheng OY, Brammer L, Meltzer MI, et al. Influenza Other Respi Viruses. 2009;3:37-49
[iv] Tomley FM, Shirley MW. Livestock infectious diseases and zoonoses. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2009;364(1530):2637‐2642. doi:10.1098/rstb.2009.0133
[v] Coronavirus closures reveal vast scale of China’s secretive wildlife farm industry, Guardian, Feb 25th 2020
Mental Health & Diet
Improve The Gut & The Brain With Plant Based Nutrition
Each day mental health awareness is on the page of every newsfeed on the internet and in the newspapers. Bill and I have worked with clients and students for decades who have suffered from many mental health problems. The suffering could have been the result of them losing a loved one, a diagnosis of some terminal illness, the loss of their home, job or any other multitude of things that humans are challenged with daily. I am not suggesting you can wave a magic wand and heal your pain by changing your diet but connecting the gut/brain to mental health is a new and fascinating area of research.
The Gut-Brain Connection
The gut-brain connection is recognised as a basic tenet of physiology and medicine. There is no shortage of evidence of gastrointestinal involvement in a variety of neurological diseases. What has been discovered is that gut bacteria can play a significant role in your psychology and behaviour as well as your digestion. This is why nourishing your gut flora is extremely important. What a surprise, we have two brains, one inside your skull and one in your gut, and each needs its own vital nourishment.
These two organs are actually created out of the same type of tissue. This is why your intestinal health can have such a profound influence on your mental health, and vice versa. As a single system, the gut and brain are working together to keep your body functions operating at peak condition. They use the same methods and nerves to communicate. In fact, your “second brain” has all the same neurotransmitters and just as many neurons as the spinal cord or peripheral nerves. Almost 95% of your body’s serotonin are located in your gut. This is the neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and social behaviour, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression. It is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the global burden of disease making it a leading cause of losing healthy years of life as a result of disability. Why is depression so common? Aside from the foregoing, diet plays a huge role in mental health once we learn that our gut is in fact our second brain.
My friend, Dr. Michael Greger explains that the relationship between mental health and inflammation was first noted in 1887. The doctor who discovered this relationship was Julius Wager-Jauregg, the only psychiatrist to have ever won the Nobel Prize. Since that time more studies have shown the importance of this fact.
The modern diet is massively pro-inflammatory. Every client who comes to us for health counselling has a hotbed of inflammation in their colon. Literally, if your gut is “on fire,” your entire body is under attack and heading for many diseases. This inflammation directly irritates the Vagus nerve, the direct connection between the gut and the brain. The mechanism of result has been detailed in many studies  and the results are the same. Our gut biome (the colonies of microorganisms that live in the gut) can be contaminated by the food we eat. The prime culprits are found in the modern diet.
Inflammation and Diet
The foods that most exacerbate inflammation are those that are mostly present in modern processed foods. They include simple sugars, fructose, dairy foods, eggs, alcohol, meat, hydrogenated fats, palm oil and some fruits and vegetables such as tomato and pineapple. These foods are not only causal in disrupting the gut biome but if there is any inflammation in the body, they can feed the process.
Using data from two large studies, Danish researchers have found that higher blood levels of C-reactive protein, or CRP, are associated with a greater risk of psychological stress and clinical depression. Eating a diet with significant amounts of animal protein causes a burst of inflammation that can increase symptoms in an already depressed person. By eating a diet rich in antioxidants, a plant-based diet, has a profound benefit in stress reduction.
This is good news since the gut biome changes with your diet. A plant-based diet can cut the C- reactive protein by 30% within two weeks because of the anti-inflammatory properties of antioxidants. This is important since clinical depression can be accompanied by increased oxidative stress and the autoimmune inflammatory responses it creates.
Going vegan has multiple proven benefits. An exclusively plant-based diet is naturally higher in fibre and boosts bacteria that make short-chain fatty acids. These SCFAs improve immunity against pathogens, provide an energy source for our gut lining, maintain the blood-brain barrier, activate critical intestinal protection mechanisms, and help control our blood sugar and caloric intake.
Fermented Foods Are The Best Route To Optimal Digestive Health
Fermented foods have been traditional staples in most cultures, but modern food manufacturing has eliminated most of these foods. You can find traditionally fermented foods like miso soup, tempeh, naturally fermented soy sauce, sauerkraut or kimchi to feed your gut biome. When clients taste my ‘miso broth’ and fermented vegetables their eyes light up. Miso soup should be a daily staple. Happy gut - happy me.
Self-Help Tips To Do At Home
For congestion in the lungs try steamed greens and ginger – the steamed greens move energy up and the ginger moves energy out. Steam the greens until vibrant green and then squeeze some freshly grated ginger juice on top. Also, try parsley tea – the parsley moves energy up and out. Add a few sprigs of parsley to a cup of boiling water. Leave to infuse 5 minutes. Drink and eat the parsley.
Doing exercises that open up the chest and shoulder areas can get the lung energy moving again, as well as breathing exercises. It seems so silly to say it, but if you want to get healthy lungs there is one thing you must do – breathe! Doing aerobic exercises, such as fast walking, bicycling and swimming, is great. Here is an easy and effective way to energise not only the lungs, but the whole of the body.
Join Bill and I in service for a healthy world for humans and nonhumans alike. How to eat right and save the planet drives us both daily.
In good health
 Miller AH, Raison CL. The role of inflammation in depression: from evolutionary imperative to modern treatment target. Nat Rev Immunol. 2016 Jan;16(1):22-34. doi: 10.1038/nri.2015.5. PMID: 26711676; PMCID: PMC5542678.
 The role of inflammation and the gut microbiome in depression and anxiety. Jason Peirce, Karina Alvina, 29 May 2019 – Journal of Neuroscience Research
 Brain, Behaviour and Immunity. 2017 May;62:344-350. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2017.02.020. Epub 2017 Mar 1.
Association between C-reactive protein (CRP) with depression symptom severity and specific depressive symptoms in major depression.
 WHO fact sheet on depression, January 2020
Bloating & Fibre
If there’s one thing the Western diet lacks, it’s fibre. Daily recommendations are set at 25 to 30 grams, but less than 3 percent of people consume that much. In fact, most are getting an average of only 15 grams per day. By contrast, among more than 71,000 subjects participating in the Adventist Health Study-2, those consuming a vegan diet (5,694 subjects) consumed an average of 46 grams of fibre daily.
Fibre is essential for digestive wellness and performs other health-promoting functions, including binding and removing excess cholesterol from the body. Unfortunately, switching from a low-fibre diet to a plant-based diet naturally high in fibre can cause some uncomfortable—and sometimes embarrassing—problems. Why do these problems arise and what can be done to minimize those problems while enjoying the most nutritious diet possible? It takes a few days for your gut bacteria to shift to the species that feed on plant-based foods.
Getting to Know Your Fibre
Plant-based foods provide two kinds of fibre:
Soluble fibre, found in foods like beans and fruit, dissolves in liquid and feeds beneficial gut bacteria. It also pulls water into the stool, making it softer and easier to pass.
Insoluble fibre doesn’t dissolve in water but serves to add bulk to stool and help you stay regular. This includes resistant starch, a variety of fibre associated with the feeling of satisfaction and fullness experienced after a nutritious plant-based meal. Although both types of fibre promote digestive health, the paradox of plant-based diets is that increased fibre intake can make your digestion seem to get worse at first instead of better.
Beans, Brassicas, and Bloating
Switching from a western diet to a whole food, plant-based vegan diet may mean more than doubling your fibre intake almost overnight. Some of the highest fibre foods in plant-based vegan diets may also be the worst offenders when it comes to digestive complaints during the transition:
Beans contain resistant starch and cellulose fibres along with sugars like raffinose, galacto-oligosaccharides, and fructans. Brassicas, commonly called cruciferous vegetables, are also sources of raffinose. Fruit delivers a dose of natural fructose and sorbitol. All plant foods contain cellulose.
When you start to consume these fibres and sugars for the first time or greatly increase your intake, your body may be unprepared to deal with the sudden change. It takes a few days for your gut bacteria to shift to the species that feed on plant-based foods, and when they do, they get busy fermenting compounds relatively alien to your body.
The result? Some people experience digestive discomfort, bloating, or embarrassing flatulence, making them reluctant to continue with their plant-based vegan meals.
Dealing With Fibre Side Effects
Since all of the foods with the potential to cause fibre-related problems are big players in a plant-based diet, what can you do to minimize the risk of unpleasant side effects?
First, make sure you drink enough water. Remember that fibre pulls water into the stool, and this can increase your risk of dehydration and constipation if your overall fluid intake isn’t adequate. Don't drink whilst eating, drink before or after but not during the meal as it dilutes the digestive enzymes that are required for good digestion. Hydration is also key in assisting the hydrochloric acid in our stomach that diminishes with age. Drinking clean filtered water assists with the lack of hydrochloric acid and aids in better digestion.
You can also drink herbal teas containing ginger, fennel, or mint. These soothe the digestive tract in addition to providing more liquid. Kukicha tea is the tea we recommend and is a daily staple in macrobiotic dietary advice we give our clients.
Chew, Chew, Chew
Eat more cooked foods than raw as you transition to a plant-based vegan life. Add high-fibre foods slowly, working up to bigger portions over time. If you experience bloating or gas after large meals, try eating smaller amounts more frequently until your digestive system gets used to the increase in fibre and don’t forget to CHEW. You must chew grains, beans and vegetables for optimum digestion. Slowing down the rate you polish off your meals is also important. A good habit to get into is to put down your utensils between mouthfuls and don't pick up until you have completely emptied your mouth.
Be sure you’re including enough healthy fat in your meals. You don’t have to eat large amounts, but adding ground flax to rice or oatmeal porridge, some fermented vegetables or a miso soup to bean dishes or a sprinkle of seeds to your salad can ease problems associated with increased fibre intake.
It's also important to think about food combining, many add fruits and vegetables in salads or use in juicing which is not a good idea. It's also important to leave some time, at least one hour before you eat dessert.
One other thing you can use to relieve uncomfortable bloating right away is a yoga pose known as “wind relieving pose.” This pose compresses your abdomen and helps eliminate trapped air. As strange as it may sound, it does work!
Too Much Fibre?
In some cases, increased fibre intake causes more serious problems than simple social awkwardness. Signs you’re overdoing it on fibre include:
Persistent, uncomfortable bloating
If Problems Persist…
Taking steps to minimize digestive troubles during your plant-based vegan transition should ease your discomfort, but if it doesn’t, you should talk with your health counsellor. Persistent bloating, flatulence, nausea, or diarrhea could be an indication of other health issues:
Food allergy or intolerance
Leaky gut syndrome
Imbalanced gut bacteria
IBS or IBD
Addressing these underlying issues will allow you to enjoy nutritious meals without feeling uncomfortable or ill.
A growing body of research demonstrates a plant-based vegan diet is best for health, so don’t let temporary discomfort from increased fibre make you shy away from making the switch. By planning your transition so that your fibre intake increases slowly, you can enjoy the benefits of plant-based vegan living without digestive distress. Healthy intestinal flora equals longevity.
In good health
Disease is generally described as an enemy. Invisible and mysterious adversaries surround us. It is reflected in the way we discuss illness. We are 'fighting' heart disease; we are 'battling' cancer and we will 'conquer' diabetes. Both America and the UK have declared war on the Coronavirus. Who or what are we fighting?
As long as the enemy is concealed behind a cloak of mystery we can leave the battle up to the wizards and hope for the best. In order to discover the culprit all that we need is a mirror. Our major antagonist is hiding in clear sight. We like to think that responsibility for our illnesses lies outside us. If my illness is caused by a virus, bacteria or genetics, the punishment of an angry god or the position of the stars then I am blameless. But when it comes to changing daily habits we rebel.
The immediate concern is of course, that we all take responsibility for our own health and that of our family. Being responsible means we need to protect ourselves and our loved ones from contagion. Beyond that there is a message that is contained in all disease. It is an invitation to reflect on any personal and social adaptations for the future and not simply strive to get back to normal.
The Root Cause
Influenza or the common flu is one of the worlds most common communicable diseases. Every year there are up to 5 million reported cases resulting in anywhere from 300,000 to 600,000 deaths.
We know that the disease is very dangerous for the very young, the elderly or anyone with a compromised immune system. Sometimes these influenza’s can become pandemics and spread like wildfire from country to country.
The last example of this was the H1 N1 virus popularly known as swine flu pandemic of 2009. Which killed over 500,000 people. The latest disease that threatens to challenge these dangers is of course the Covid19 variety or Coronavirus. As of 6th May 2020 there has been 257,000 known deaths from the virus. Given the confusion around the criteria for these deaths and problems with lack of reporting this number could be either less or slightly more.
I know that the common sense instructions of hand washing, refusing to shake hands, social distancing, and building a healthy immune response have all been written about with many helpful suggestions. Immediate protection and treatment are important but what about the root causes? What has been missing is any curiosity about the origins of these periodic diseases.
Animals In The Food Chain
About 60 percent of all human diseases and 75 percent of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, which means they originate from animals. Most of these infections come from livestock, including pigs, chickens, cattle, goats, sheep and camels. The influenza’s are believed to have originated sometime after humans began their intensive domestication of animals about 10,000 years ago. It is a simple fact that cannot be ignored.
The simple fact is that confining animals in small spaces creates a petri dish for disease. Regardless of the fact, whether in factories, cages or feed-lots we pack them in so we can fatten them up before killing them. Concentrating animal populations into small spaces allows communicable disease to spread rapidly, it makes no differences if the animal is a pig or a human. The animals we raise to eat are sick by definition, that is why up to 80% of all anti-biotics are used on domesticated animals. Our quest for pleasure has rebounded on us.
The same confinement with raised animals is happening with increased frequency in the kingdom of wild animals. As logging and mining operations expand throughout the world and cities expand, large areas of forest and grasslands are dissected cutting off migration and feeding paths. This is forcing animals to face extinction and adapt to new ways of feeding that brings them into closer contact with human populations. The balance of animal life within the food chain is also disrupted. Predators such as wolves and coyotes are often hunted and killed allowing other animals to proliferate and throw of the natural balance.
What Have We Done?
A good example of this is Lyme disease, a serious disorder that is transmitted from ticks that breed on deer. The origin is thought to be a growing mouse population. The mice serve as a breeding ground, the ticks then leap to deer and humans. The mice are not kept in check because the coyotes or foxes that would have kept their population in check have been greatly reduced by humans.
These diseases are a direct result of the sicknesses we impose on the animals that live in captivity for our dining pleasure. Millions of pigs, chickens, cows, and, increasingly, farmed fish not only suffer but live in an environment that makes them ill and diseased. Of the 76 Billion land animals killed each year for human food most have been specifically bred to be identical. This means that pathogens can more easily spread from one animal to the next. Even those who do not care about the welfare of animals are not excited about eating diseased animals.
The presence of disease in animals raised to eat will continue to be a problem regardless of the breed. A virus can spread from one animal to the next, mutating as it infects different species. Many in the West are horrified by the fact that the source of the present virus was in a “wild animal” meat market. The fact that there are about 2,000 “wildlife farms” where many of these animals are raised in China really takes the “wild” out of the definition.
Killing is Killing
Does it make a difference if we kill a peacock or a turkey, a lamb or a civit cat? The difference is only a cultural one. We decide that certain animals are OK to kill and eat but not others. This is a clear example of culture bias. Much of the critique of the Chinese custom was racist.
If we want to create a healthy world, one of the most important things we can do is stop eating animals and supporting the industries that provide them. It is important to stop pretending that killing one species of sentient animal rather than another is anything other than cultural prejudice. It is an ethical, environmental and health disaster. There is no reason for this habit other than pleasure, it is not scientific or logical. We need to stop it now.
If you are interested in learning more about natural ways you can create a healthy immune system visit our website shop and download our free ebook called WHAT TO EAT and check out the many blog posts on healthy living.
Marlene and I wish you good health, stay safe and take care and of course, Go Vegan and join us in service for a healthy world, for humans and nonhumans alike.
In good health