Category Archives: Environmental

Dallas teenagers articulate connections between veganism, reduction of methane and conservation of water

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Below are some articles written by the pathshala students on veganism and related topics

VEGANISM

Not only does the dairy industry cause immense pain to the tortured animals like cows and chickens, but it also leads to a large amount of water consumption, land degradation, climate alterations, and gas emissions. While it only takes one acre of land to produce 40,000 lbs of cherries, potatoes, and other fruits and veggies, one acre of land can only produce 250 lbs of beef. At the same time, there is more land necessary to maintains animals rather than planting fruits and vegetables. 70% of water is used on farming and of that, the water that is used to clean waste is dumped into the ocean which pollutes the water and kills many sea creatures. From a Jain standpoint, the cows and chickens which produce milk or eggs receive horrible treatment and are forced to live in confined areas where they can’t even move. Most of the time these animals are beaten by the farmers and the cows are continuously kept pregnant to maintain milk production. The calves are then sent to slaughter houses. While many Indians may question the health aspect of becoming a vegan, it is proven that dairy products are not necessary for the survival of a human after the stage of a baby. There are many alternatives to dairy such as soy and almond milk, soy cheese, and various other products from whole foods or central market. By converting to veganism, you would be saving the environment as well as  shedding the karma that each soul acquires by encouraging the dairy industry.
– Shivani Daftary

METHANE
Methane is an odorless and colorless gas made by anaerobic bacteria on land and deep in the ocean. It is the 2nd most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere second to CO2. Natural gas and petroleum systems are the largest source of CH4 emissions from industry in the United States. Domestic livestock such as cattle, sheep, and goats produce large amounts of CH4 as part of their normal digestive process. Methane is generated in landfills as waste decomposes and in the treatment of wastewater. Upgrading the equipment used to produce, store, and transport oil and gas can reduce many of the leaks that contribute to CH4 emissions. Methane can be reduced and captured by altering manure management strategies at livestock operations or animal feeding practices. Not eating foods that promote this industry to grow will also help. Emission controls that capture landfill CH4 are an effective reduction strategy. Also, reducing the amount of waste that you produce can decrease the size of landfills over the years.

– Reena Maheshwari

WATER

Even though 75% of the earth’s surface is covered in water, only 2.5% of it is fresh and 2/3 of that it frozen. This makes water an extremely precious resource, something that many people fail to understand. A huge number of large rivers including the Colorado, Rio Grande, Ganges, and Nile are no so over tapped by humans that they discharge little to no water into the sea for months. In addition globally our water use has been growing at twice the rate of population growth in the last century and here in the United States, twice the global average is used. Over tapping also causes countless freshwater species to die and they are becoming extinct at twice the rate of saltwater species. Clearly, over using water is a huge crisis and measures must be taken in order conserve water. Vegetarianism is actually very beneficial in conserving water; livestock accounts for more than half of all the water consumed in the United States.

– Prachi Shah

Dallas Jain pathshala students shine a Jain lens on Veganism, Energy, Water and other Environmental Issues

Environmental Fair PosterThe Jain Society of North Texas’ (JSNT) high school  age youth (Pathshala Group 6), with the help of  Joseph R. Otterbine,an  M.S. Applied Environmental Anthropology Candidate  from the University of North Texas, recently held  the JSNT Environmental  Fair. The Fair  brought a Jain lens to bear on  energy and electricity, veganism,  transportation, water usage, and methane production. The youth decided on these topics and researched them thoroughly.  They split into five groups and prepared presentations, visuals, and takeaways (e.g. vegan brownies [yummy!] , pamphlets, fact  sheets, water usage calculator, etc.) for their booths at the fair.
The Fair started with time for the community to walk around and see the booths, followed by a  presentation from Dr. Pankaj Jain (University of North Texas) on the topic of Dharma and  Ecology.

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After his short lecture the community members were urged to visit the five different presentations at the booths set up around the hall. The community was extremely receptive to the
youth’s efforts and proud of all the work that they had done in putting together all the intricacies of the Fair. When it came to the scheduled end of the Fair, some community membewer asked for more time to explore all the work that the youth had done! 

This event was successful because the youth wanted to do it,  and OWNED it!
This enthusiasm was palpable in their presentations, their attitudes, and interactions with the  community. The Fair got the Jain Society of North Texas to look at environmental issues and  how they, as Jains, are poised as natural environmentalists.
For a slide show of the event please see http://www.dfwjains.org/
and  keep reading this post to hear more about about environmentalism and energy use in a state traditionally known for its economic dependence on oil from these amazing Jain students. And for more on veganism, methane and water use, see the next post… Continue reading

THe New Incarnation of Jivdaya: The Ahimsak Eco Vegan Committee of JAINA

In the late 1990s, the Jivdaya committee actively promoted veganism. It was clear that animal sanctuaries, the traditional institutions for Jains to give money in India to express their ahimsa, was not addressing the root of the problem of animal suffering and slaughter. I have posted some of the material from this era on this site.

This year was have a newly approved JAINA committee to represent these views and link them with our growing awareness of environmental choices that we make that can hurt or help animals and other living beings. Dubbed the Ahimsak Eco-Vegan Committee, our objective and goals follow.

 

Objective

The Ahimsak Eco- Vegan committee, as an expression of ahimsa, support veganism which we understand to mean not eating, wearing, or using animal products, because we object to both animal suffering and animal killing. We do not support animal use that is supposedly “humane” and we do not support the marketing of animal products labeled as “humane”.

The  Ahimsak Eco- Vegan committee, as an expression of ahimsa,  supports the reduction and elimination of activities contributing to harm of all life, global climate change and destruction of the planet.

Goals:

  • Promote local education and implementation of initiatives in support of ahimsak diet (veganism) and lifestyles (eco-friendly and non-use of animal items in clothing or other use)
  • Move towards fully vegan and eco-friendly YJA and JAINA conventions  events
  • Publicize activities and provide global leadership for the Jain lay, scholar and ascetic community toward an ahimsak diet and lifestyle
  • Provide health related education to the community on a plant based diet and conduct research benefitting our community and contributing to scientific knowledge on benefits, risks and risk mitigation of the modern vegetarian and vegan diet as consumed by Jains in North America.
Video

Sanjay’s JCNC presentation on Ahimsak Diet and Lifestyles

Based on the combined work of 15 Jain Center of Greater Boston volunteers and his own personal stories, Sanjay provides a compelling case for Jains to become vegan as the true expression of vegetarianism based on ahimsa.

Presentations on Ahimsak Diet and Lifestyles at JCNC, Aug 4,2013

Sudhanshu and Sanjay gave two excellent powerpoint presentations at JCNC this weekend as part of the 13th Anniversary celebrations. Here are the links.

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Ahimsak Life Style

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Profiles of Vegan Jain children

In the words of a 4,7 and 9 year old (with their loving parents behind the camera), why, if you love animals, you should be vegan.
And how you can still enjoy mint chocolate chip soy ice cream cones and vegan shakes!

 

Lower Your Himsa Footprint

This thoughtful post is contributed by Mahersh Shah and the Jain Vegans Team, which moderates a web forum that is separate and complementary to this blog. I (drJina) was struck by the appropriateness of the term himsa footprint when I saw this term discussed in the web forum, and Mahersh graciously agreed to write more about it for our blog. Here’s his piece:

Most of us are familiar with the current-day concepts of “eco-footprint” and “carbon footprint” – these terms and concepts have become part of our everyday vocabulary and thought processes.Today, we are being encouraged to reduce our carbon footprints (to help slow down, if not reverse, human-induced global warming and climate change), and to minimise our eco-footprints in a bid to reduce our destructive impact on the environment.

At a Young Jains UK event in  Feb 2008 that started as a conversation about why a vegan rather than vegetarian diet would be consistent with Jain values with  keynote speaker and longtime US based vegan Saurabh Dalal,  the term himsa footprint spontaneously emerged.  The group that was to become the Jain Vegans team  discussed ahimsa and eco-footprints as a reason for going vegan.  Very soon, Kewal Shah shouted out the phrase himsa footprint as it simply appeared in his mind, and the Jain vegans have been using it extensively since.

So how does the term himsa footprint help us?  Well, the beauty of this neat and powerful expression is that it speaks volumes.  To me, when we talk about “lowering our himsa footprints”, we are speaking in a holistic sense, covering the direct and indirect himsa inflicted, by our actions, on all life around us. And by extension, this includes himsa on the environment, since harming or destroying life damages the environment, and damaging the environment harms or destroys life.  Thus, to me, the general concept of himsa footprint covers the more specific concepts of eco-footprint and carbon-footprint, for example, as well as many others.

Jains have a long and prominent tradition of embracing ahimsa (non-violence, compassion, peace).  In fact, the concept of ahimsa is at the very core of the Jain lifestyle.  For Jains, and others who believe in karma, practicing ahimsa is also a way of developing spiritually and purifying one’s atma (soul).  Therefore, lowering one’s himsa footprint would be an important activity for a Jain from a karmic standpoint too.  But even if one doesn’t believe in karma, leading life so as to consciously reduce one’s himsa footprint would surely bring about positive inner development, as well as benefiting all life and the environment around us.

Perhaps if we all begin to think in holistic terms of consciously and actively reducing our himsa footprints, then we’ll see many of the global issues facing us today being addressed in one go (e.g. human-induced climate change and other environmental issues).  Indeed, if most human societies, policy-makers and governments around the world started thinking in terms of himsa footprints, then we might even see a dramatic reduction in human-human conflict, bloodshed, war, abuses of human rights and animal rights, poverty, starvation and so on.

Continue reading

On the Plight of Cows in India- our fond memories of the Indian family cow are outdated

My friend Dr. Tushar, a family doctor in Canada,  organizes a wonderful volunteer opportunity to teach school children about health issues in rural Gujarat, as part of the Bidada health camp. He recently reached out with an email regarding the plight of Indian cows.
I volunteered with him in 2008 and remember visiting a panjra-pol at that time, and talked with the caretaker who informed me sadly that the capacity of the panjra-pol was limited, and that ultimately many of the cows had to be sold to slaughter.
Dr. Tushar’s post  follows:
 India has the highest population of cows in the world, over 280 million (or 28 crores).  This is a massive number.  Now here are a few facts.  A cow in India can live for around 23 years.  She starts producing milk at the age of around 4, and milk production lowers down at the age of around 12.  Each year, as our slave, she must be forced to become pregnant and have a baby, which is taken away by force.  Most cows are now brought up in very crowded conditions, and the percentage in humane conditions is becoming the exception rather than the norm.  These cramped places are out of the public eye, because businesses do not want people to see what goes on there.


Confusing Vegan and Environmental Messages at JAINA 2011

Despite the support of many Jain leaders and JAINA convention attendees, there was no clear response to our call for on all vegan menu. At one point, we heard there would be one all vegan day, then a few all vegan meals. An email came out to all attendees prior to the convention regarding the need to sign up for vegan meals, and letting them know to register. I emailed back to suggest that since they had invited vegan speakers, and people may be convinced to try vegan items, to have some excess capacity. But there was no reply, and at the actual event, several people who were persuaded by talks such as Prof Gary Francione’s, and Dr. Neal Barnard’s were turned away from the vegan line. Unfortunately, for those of us who did sign up before the convention, it was difficult  to ascertain what was vegan even in the vegan lines.The volunteers had a lot to handle at this convention and this is not intended to downplay their efforts, but it was very disappointing that they didn’t know what was vegan, and I think the the convention leaders could have been more clear,so that the meals and the message of the talks could have been consistent.
Another disappointing vision was the ubiquity of plastic water bottles, which, even if recycled, create unnecessary environmental resource use, and in many cases were not recycled. Also, as seems to be the norm for JAIN events, there was  egregious use of styrofoam plates with a milk compartment used to serve meals(as pictured on a previous post here about the Jain Center of GA). If we as a community are doing so well financially and hold ahimsa so dear to our ideals, why can’t we figure out a way to replace styrofoam with washable or at least compostable or biodegradable alternatives?

We did appreciate the efforts of Asha Jain to make the meals healthier and all the volunteers’ work. We certainly did not leave hungry or thirsty. Bringing our own water bottles and food containers to the conventions, we participated in the events, without generating so much waste (washing our plates with Dr. Bronner’s soap in the hotel room and reused them for each meal). We met friends and family and had a nice time at the convention.
We will post some of the talks on this site this week to inspire or reinspire our readers!

Green Jainism! Taking inspiration from our sister traditions…

At the JCNC 10th Anniversary celebrations a couple of Jain leaders expressed their intention to change the food served at the next JAINA convention to become vegan. They didn’t addressing the styrofoam issue. Both aspects would enable us to realize our practice of ahimsa. Communities from our sister traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism provide some inspiration. Continue reading