My company would organise a social work trip annually. I believe it’s a form of corporate social responsibility. However for last year, instead of doing social work, the focus was on environmental protection. Sometime last year, my company organised an awareness trip to Tzu Chi (慈济).
Even though Tzu Chi is a Buddhist organisation, I believe that charity and the love for human beings and our earth transcends all religions. Hence, even though I’m a Christian (sort of a non practicing one I always tell people jokingly), I stepped into the simple white building somewhere in the east of Singapore with an open mind and learnt so much from the trip.
~*More about Tzu Chi*~
Tzu Chi strive to carry out the “Four Missions” and “Eight Footsteps” in the local community.
The eight footsteps include:
bone marrow donation
We learnt quite a bit about how Tzu Chi has helped in the 8 realms but as mentioned at the beginning of this post, our focus for the trip was on environmental protection. Read more on Tzu Chi’s take on environmental protection here.
It doesn’t need an arm and a leg to contribute to saving the environment.
We watched videos of all the recent natural disasters and learn more about how our human actions have impacted on the environment. Ever noticed how our weather climate is going haywire over the years and at the multitude of natural disasters of late? It is all due to our selfish disregard for Gaia.
We also watched a very entertaining yet poignant video on how a pig farmer could no longer bear seeing his pigs slaughtered and how he and his pigs became vegetarians eventually.
I will include the video and the translation at the end of my post so as not to break the flow. I hope all of you could take some time to watch the video and for my non-Chinese readers, I’ve spent some time including the English translation.
After that, we toured around the building to learn more about the other footsteps of the organisation. Finally, we had hands on experience sorting out the various types of metals and plastics to recycle as well as dismantling old casette tapes and sort out the parts to be recycled. I would have loved to stay to do more sorting but there wasn't enough time.
I managed to talk to a volunteer who explained how volunteering really helps people feel good about themselves and about helping others; how they have many Christians and Muslim volunteers devoting their time to help others via Tzu Chi despite it being a buddhist organisation.
Back in the hall, we learnt how to "sing" a song about love using hand signals which I personally did not like as I'm bad at it. I was thinking more of going back to the shed to help sort the recyclable materials. =P
I’m sure some of you know the reasons why people become vegetarian -- religious reasons, the love for animals, health reasons so on and so forth.
On the last pointer, many of you know that being a vegetarian not only serve as a preventive measure to human epidemics with animal origins such as mad cow disease or any avian flu. But do you know that being a vegetarian would help save the environment as well?
The primary benefit of adopting a meatless diet is the reduction of raising livestock which often costs excessive deforestation, ecosystem disruption, as well as air and water pollution. More importantly, the grains that were used to feed livestock could feed millions of people suffering from hunger.
To put it simply, you can do your part in saving the environment and keeping calamities at bay by going vegetarian.
I know it’s tough for many of us “meatarians” to go vegetarian all of a sudden and I’m not forcing any of you reading this to become a vegetarian.
For my part, I go vegetarian once or twice a week. I’m one who can’t live without meat so doing this is just something small which I can contribute to the environment. If more of us were to go vegetarian once or twice a week, I’m sure it would help in a way. As a Chinese saying goes '积少成多' (pronounced as ji shao cheng duo) loosely translated as many small things could accumulate into big things. Every small little effort counts and these could spread exponentially to people all around the world.
Another small effort you can put in to save our earth is to use your own utensils instead of using those disposable plastic forks and spoons and wooden chopsticks. This applies to all who often have “takeway” meals.
Imagine the number of such utensils you throw away in your whole lifetime should you eat takeway meals every day. That, times the number of people doing so, it adds up to lots of ammunition to kill Gaia.
I’m one who always buy my food up to my desk and I’m guilty of having killed many trees and contributing to those mountains of non biodegradable plastics cast away in some landfills.
My highly environmentally-friendly good friend xtina got me this pair of Winnie the Pooh chopsticks.
I’ve been using them for all my noodle meals in the office for the past 3 years. That probably saved half a tree? Nonetheless, if more of us could use our own chopsticks, we could save a football field size of trees or even more.
Winnie the Pooh saved the trees but it couldn’t decrease the number of plastics on our land. I was still using disposable plastic spoons to drink my soup with.
Hence, “mini pink DS Lite” comes to the rescue!
Now, I’ve got fork and spoon to go with my chopsticks. The set by the way also includes chopsticks but I can’t use my fork and spoon if i use them as chopsticks you see. From then onwards, Winnie the Pooh loves playing with mini DS Lite during meal times.
That answers all of you from the previous post. My dear friend citrella is a genius who guessed it correctly and I reckon it’s coz this travel utensils syndrome is gradually catching up in Singapore.
I bought my mini pink DS Lite from Tzu Chi’s environmental shop by the way. They also sell dri-fit clothes and blankets which are made from recycled plastics! I’m really amazed coz the dri fit fabric feels so cooling and smooth to the touch whereas the blanket feels so warm and snuggly. These blankets are exactly those which they use to bring relief to disaster-struck areas for the victims to keep warm under whenever Tzu Chi volunteers in national relief.
I also bought warm socks for both sets of parents and for kh and myself as sleeping with our feet covered promotes overall well-being. Unfortunately, the fabric for these socks aren’t made from recycled plastics. I thought I could help save the environment in the process.
Some mini books were handed out to us as a token of appreciation. I love some of the quotes in there. Though the teachings inside are buddhist-oriented, they are all-encompassing as long as you’re human.
~*Video on the vegetarian pig farmer*~
The video is in Mandarin and a little Hokkien but with a some help from a Singaporean vegan blogger and modifications on my part, I’ve included the translations below the video.
The man in the video was previously a pig farmer. During peak periods, the number of pigs could go up to 160. His family has been raising pigs for more than 20 years, but he doesn’t dare to eat pork. In 2009, he decided to forgo his pig raising business and become a vegetarian. He treat the remaining pigs as his pets now and feed them a vegetarian diet.
When asked why he decide to forgo his pig raising business
In a usual visit from the pig dealer to catch his pigs to send for slaughter, what is usually done is they will put a sack over the pigs' head and the pig dealer will pull the pigs by the tail up to the vehicle. The pigs will normally criy out loudly and resist. However on one of the visits, there was one pig that behaved very differently, it was silent when the pig farmer pulled it. It simply looked at the pig farmer with souful eyes as if asking, "Where am I going?" Then it walked up the vehicle itself with great pride and never once looking back at the man anymore. The farmer was taken aback by this reaction and thus was not able to sleep that night. At 3am, he sped to the abattoir determined to buy the pig back at twice the amount, but by the time he arrived, only the pig’s trotter was left.
The farmer felt anguished that he could not save that pig when it had actually saved him, allowing him to discover that animals are full of sentience.
When asked what do pigs eat to grow
He asserts that whether pigs are fat depends on how people feed them. If he wants the pig to be fat in a certain area, he can control it. If he wants the pig to sleep for more than 10 hours, he can control it. He controls by using medicine to inject the pigs with and also adding hormones in the pig feed. During cold or hot days when the pigs can't sleep, or if they don't eat as much, such hormonal stuff would be once again fed to them which will control their appetite to encourage them to eat again. It is not because the pigs are naturally hungry that they eat, but they eat because there is no choice, they are controlled.
Usually after eating meat, you may feel tired, want to sleep, or when women have their menstruation earlier, these are due to the contents in the pig feed. These contents are still widely used today as farmers like to use it due to the ease of controlling the pigs.
When asked what benefits are there letting the pigs eat a vegetarian diet
He showed three tubs of pig feed. One contained only vegetables which did not have worms/maggots in it. The tub with milk and egg grew some small worms. The tub with meat were infested with big fat worms.
His pigs have been vegetarian for four months and they have slimmed down and look better. Ordinarily, pigs will fall sick when they slim down, but not these vegetarian pigs. They were beautifully slim with a healthier coat of fur as what he claims. Even the farmer himself on his vegetarian diet slimmed down and some of his ailments resolved themselves. He also feels a lot more energetic and healthier. He showed one pig whose leg was almost gone from a big tumour growing on it, but after eating a vegetarian diet, the tumour disppeared.
When asked whether he considered letting someone else raise his pigs
He said he considers his pigs as his own children so he wouldn't just give them away no matter how difficult it will be for himself to raise all his pigs.
When asked how he faces challenges in rearing his pigs
He asserts that it’s not difficult at all and at times when he sits down and looks at his pigs, his stress dissipates and he feels at ease. He addresses himself as “daddy” when he speaks to his pigs.
I would be really impressed and grateful at the same time if you have read up till this point of my extremely lengthy post.
I hope that this sharing would motivate some of you to put environmental protection into action in your daily lives. I have shown that it could be as simple as what I’m currently doing and I hope that this isn’t a difficult practice to adopt for you.
You can get the ball rolling by throwing your unwanted paper, plastic, glass and metal into recycle bins instead of the dustbin for a start.
Remember, every little effort counts.
Credit: Some of the information in this post is taken from various parts in the Tzu Chi organisation website and has been put together and modified slightly by me.