Walking The Walk For Mother Earth
Date- September 11 , 2018
Written by George Balarezo, Intrepid Global Citizen
After cycling in many unforgiving parts of the world, I have become an environmentalist. My passion for tour cycling has led me to experience the reality of the world in its rawest form. I have pedaled along the world’s highest elevated highways (Karakorum and Pamir Highways) and hiked through other worldly jungles with the sounds of howling animals blasting in my ears. Conversely, the unforgiving deserts of Oman and Uzbekistan have scorched my skin while being food and water deprived. I have inhaled the fumes of overpopulated cities as the black dust that accumulated around my tear ducts created a dirty, black eyeliner. I have seen, felt and tasted the beauty of Mother Nature and deeply understand the importance of taking care of her. As a result of my worldly experiential education, I have made it my life’s mission to do my best to take care of the earth as best I can.
It was due time to apply my mission of being a good steward of the earth to my everyday life back in South Korea.
One of my favorite things to do in Korea is walk in the countryside and talk to people. Pots of fermented bean paste in grass fields, the smell of drying anchovies in the summer sunlight, stories from elderly people who witnessed the peninsula’s great transformation from a poor and ravaged land to a prosperous, booming economy make this one of my favorite pastimes. I am always fascinated whenever I spend time in the small villages in South Korea.
This time it would be different. Now it was time for me to deliver an important message as a global citizen living in this land of rich history and cultural heritage. I had my poster ready and spent two hours filling in the colored letters with multicolored markers. It was like working on an elementary school project. This child of Mother Earth had a bold mission. My stash of papers were all printed out in Korean, telling people exactly what they need to do in order to do their part to combat climate change and be good stewards of the world. Two things were emphasized in the printed handout- eating habits and consumer behavior.
My key points were as follows-
-Cows must consume 8 kilograms of vegetables in order to gain 500 grams of body weight. Raising animals for food consumes more than half of all water used in the United States. It takes 9,500 liters of water to produce 500 grams of meat but only 95 liters of water to produce 500 grams of wheat. Therefore, eating 500 grams of beef consumes as much water as taking a shower for two and a half hours.
–Producing just one hamburger uses enough fossil fuel to drive a small car 40 kilometers (The distance from Hoeksoek Dong to Osan). Of all raw materials and fossil fuels used in the United States, more than one-third are devoted to raising animals for food.
-To grow the cotton and manufacture a pair of cotton jeans it requires 2,000 gallons (7,570 liters) of water (this does not include the water used while washing the jeans over the time period when you own them.) This is more than the weight of a small airplane or helicopter.
-A typical pig factory generates the same amount of raw waste as a city of 12,000 people. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, raising animals for food is the number-one source of water pollution.
-Of all agricultural land in the United States, 87 percent is used to raise animals for food. That’s 45 percent of the total land area in the United States. About 1 million square kilometers (a land mass the size of Egypt) of forest have been destroyed to create space to produce feed for animals raised for food.
-The meat industry is directly responsible for 85 percent of all soil erosion in the United States. More than 80 percent of the corn grown and more than 95 percent of the oats are fed to livestock. The world’s cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people—more than the entire human population on Earth.
-According to the Worldwatch Institute, “Roughly 40 percent of grain produced in the world is fed to livestock, poultry, or fish; decreasing consumption of these products, especially of beef, could free up massive quantities of grain and reduce pressure on land.
I was so thrilled to hit the road and deliver my message. Everything I had worked for to this day came to a pinnacle. I was standing up for what I believe in while doing a good deed for society. It was my turn to pay back our Mother Earth and spread a message of peace to the local people while doing it. This was also a perfect opportunity to practice my Korean speaking skills as I would be forced to talk about more advanced subject matter. Walking and talking were the main goals of this trip and I was more psyched up than a kid who drank ten cans of Red Bull right before final exams. I have to admit I was a bit nervous and this challenged my comfort zones quite a bit.
Overall, reactions were great and people supported what I was doing. In restaurants along the way, many locals paid for my dinner and gave me offers of help whenever I needed it. I slept on the beach most nights or in 24 hour saunas along the way.
One particular memorable moment was when I found my way to a soccer game in a small village in the Masan area. There was an MC calling the game on a microphone to the whole community. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to spread my message in front of as many people as possible. I persuaded a man to let me borrow the microphone for a few minutes and gave a short speech explaining my mission to the crowd. My friend Jared was roaming the field below flashing his sign everywhere so the crowd could see as I spattered out my mission in fragmented Korean sentences.
The next thing I knew people were shoving watermelon slices in my face and asking all the normal questions regarding my age, workplace and hometown. I let them know my workplace and all of a sudden a look of excitement radiated from the man’s face who I was conversing with. “There is a kid here who attends that school. Where is Minseok?” he asked the crowd. The next thing I knew a kid came and shook my hand who said he was a friend of a kid that took my class. He instantly picked up his phone and got him on the other line. My former student was in utter disbelief that I was way out there in the village where his friend grew up. What are the chances a guy like me would have such an encounter a five hour bus ride outside of Seoul? This was simply incredible!
The kid invited me to his parents’ restaurant, which was originally closed for business as it was a holiday. A few minutes later they brought out plates and plates of freshly made food. There must have been at least fifteen dishes filled to the brim with fermented vegetables of all sorts. Minsoek and his family watched us eat with satisfaction as we cleaned out all of the food that was put in front of us. The innocent look of satisfaction on Minseok’s face will forever be etched in my memories. This was true hospitality and I was the recipient. What a great feeling to stand up for what you believe in and be rewarded in the end. All of my positive efforts were coming back to me at once.
How to Always Receive a Discount
After making so many great memories on my walking trips in the countryside, I was determined to bring my message forward in everyday life. I was ready to walk and breathe my mission every second I have on this planet. It came due time to talk about environmental issues and raise awareness in my own backyard, Daebangdong in Seoul. I suddenly morphed into a talking machine campaigning for a cleaner, more hospitable earth everywhere I went. After all, if we take care of our Mother, she will take care of us.
My first order of action was to voice my opinion on plastic usage at the local supermarket I frequent, Daebang Discount Market. Plastic bags are used without question when weighing and pricing produce at every market in South Korea. I refuse to buy anything packaged in plastic and tell all the store employees exactly how I felt about their standard practice regarding plastic bags. At first, people viewed me as simply a guy who was breaking the rules. “The scale will get dirty if you don’t wrap your carrots in plastic! I am going to have so much more work to do because of you!” the employees often pleaded. I have never been one to back down from a debate and the words fired out of my mouth without hesitation. “What about Korea? Have you noticed that yellow dust and fine particulate reports are now on the news every day? When I first came here nine years ago that was not the case. Isn’t it a human right to be able to breathe clean air? Are we really helping this situation by using plastic bags?” I fired back. The man became silent and stuck the price stickers to my cart without using any plastic bags.
Little by little the worker warmed up to the idea of me not using plastic bags. I had to train him and get him out of his old habits but it was really worthwhile. He often observed that I did not buy any meat or processed items. My cart was always full with fruit and vegetables and nothing else. He quickly picked up on this and we had several productive discussions about my eating habits. He was surprised to know about the large effect the meat industry has on climate change and admitted that it would be too hard for him to make the same personal sacrifices I do. From that moment on his attitude totally changed. From then on he gave me a thirty to forty percent discount on all of my groceries. I was now only paying $6 to $7 for every $10 dollars of food I bought. Sometimes I even receive a discount of 50 percent on my food and acquire extra free pieces of fruit as a gift. Everyday is a discount party whenever I go shopping at Daebang Discount Market. The employee compliments me on my eating habits and efforts for our Mother Earth. Indeed it pays in various forms to stand up for what you believe in.
Lesson Learned- People Respect You More When You Take a Stand
Often times others are afraid to voice their opinions and take a stand for something they believe in. Social pressure and fear of judgment are strong road blocks to speaking up in everyday situations. The desire to be accepted by others often overtakes the urge to speak your mind despite potential criticism from our peers. Therefore, the easiest thing to do is to stay silent and do nothing. If repressed, this creates nothing but inner turmoil that can stay with one for decades. Repressed inner conflict may manifest itself through other areas in life such as passive aggressive behavior, depression and sadness. For example, repressed anger manifests itself on the surface as sadness. I experienced this first hand during my meditation practice as repressed conflicts and emotions often come to light once again. Sitting still with my eyes closed can make the mind go wild and events I have not thought about for years resurfaced each passing moment. Through my meditative experiences I have come to the conclusion that the most important thing in my life is to stay true to myself. The only failure in life is not staying true to your beliefs. I must live and die for my truths or else my soul will slowly become weak and eventually reach a deathlike state. That deathlike state is a worthless existence and is the equivalent to being buried six feet under the ground.
The person who lives out their personal truth is one others trust more easily. Their peers know exactly where their boundaries are and respect them without question. This is the way one becomes more magnetic and polar. Those who share your truth become drawn to you and you will always have a tight bond that is difficult to separate. Others who oppose your truth will be repelled and distance themselves. You will become a leader and role model to people who do not know their selves and are curious about your path in life. They may share your values, but lack the courage to stand up and take action. Due to your transparency, people will try to help you along the way because they find you trustworthy and charismatic. Charisma is nothing more than making one’s intentions transparent and being consistent to one’s values.
During my walking trip and experiences grocery shopping, it became apparent that I was respected simply because my words and actions aligned with one another. I was literally talking the talk and walking the walk. An intentional life can only be lived when one’s thoughts, words and actions become one. When this is clear to others, respect comes very naturally. People become drawn in and fascinated by your path in life and try to help you any way they can. This is why I receive discounts at the grocery store and was treated to a full course restaurant meal during a holiday in the villages of Masan. People are good at reading others and know when they find someone living and breathing their truth. Everything you do in life must be aligned with your mission and truth. Settling for anything less will only lead to inner conflict that can send your mind into a tale spin. Life is too short to live outside the boundaries of your truth. Find your mission and live by it and you are bound to be successful at anything you do.
- How did Cho Chunsam become interested in the preserving the environment?
- Describe how eating habits relate to environmental issues.
- How much meat do you eat in an average week? Would you like to change anything about your eating habits? Why?
- How often do you go shopping for new clothes? Do you ever stop and think about how your consumer behavior effects the environment?
- How did Cho Chunsam get a free meal in Masan?
- Describe how Cho Chunsam gets discounts while grocery shopping.
- Describe how you can easily gain the respect of other people.
- What is your mission in life? Are you living by that mission?
- Describe a time when you stood up for something you believed in.