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Beef Casserole or Lentil Stew?

‘Eat less beef casserole. Try lentil stew instead’. That was a suggestion made by a lecturer we heard this week speaking about the increasingly serious degradation of our planet by man-made activity. So serious he said that we must not dismiss the question: Is it already too late? The battle of the stews came in the Q and A session in response to a question about what three things we could do during Lent to help nurture our planet.

The idea was that we should eat less meat because it takes much more of the earth’s resources to produce a pound of beef than it does to produce a pound of any plant-based food. Cut out the middle man…the cattle! The second idea was that we should use the least fuel-hungry means of transport to go about our business even if that involves a little inconvenience. The third was that we should plant something and nurture it. This way we remind ourselves that the products we buy in supermarkets do ultimately stem from the land – obvious but the fancy packaging easily deceives us. We must be kind to the land and not exploit it endlessly or cover it all over with concrete.

The lecturer used a slightly alarming example. Twenty years ago, if we went on a long drive somewhere, the car windscreen would be covered with crushed insects. Not now. Numbers have tumbled spectacularly. And that is alarming because insects are a vital part of our fragile ecosystem.

Lent is not actually about giving up things which may be bad for us, like smoking or gallons of coffee. It is about giving up things which are essentially good for us. And it is not about self-improvement or self-denial. The point of the fast is to humble ourselves – to take a good honest look at our pattern of living and do some long-term recalibration.

I have not heard the word ‘Lent’ mentioned on any media outlets yet though it is true I have not been listening very carefully. Self-denial or self-discipline are not fashionable in a world where we are encouraged to indulge ourselves a little because, to quote the L’Oreal ad, ‘you’re worth it’. In a world much given to taking ‘selfies’, it is difficult to think beyond our tight circle to act in a way to benefit the wider, largely anonymous, community beyond.

That’s hard! So let’s try thinking about another community ‘beyond’. Think about our grandchildren or great-grandchildren and the world we are bequeathing to them. Then lentil stew wins every time!

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