Author: Daniela Araujo, Ph.D.
I wake up early, and after my morning meditation practice, I go to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. I open the brown paper bag and pause to inhale the aroma. The Colombian coffee beans were a gift from a dear couple of friends from Aotearoa, New Zealand, who are now immigrants living and working in London. My heart warms up in gratitude for them – who had embraced me and invited me into their friendship circle when I was an immigrant in their home country. I savor their friendship in my cup of coffee.
As I grind the coffee beans in the very same way I saw my grandfather do every morning, I listen carefully so I can hear when it is time to stop. As I think of my grandfather, my mind wanders to his wife’s parents, my great-grandparents, and the scent of coffee beans being roasted in the morning. They were farmers and coffee growers, and I used to play in the terreiro where the green coffee beans were put to dry in the sun. I savor my ancestry in my cup of coffee.
I also remember when my grandfather first arrived in the region where his future wife’s family had settled, the last bits of the original Atlantic Forest were being cut down to make way for coffee and cattle farms. Now, most of those farms have been taken by sugarcane monoculture to produce biofuel, while only between 11.4 to 16% of the biome remains (Ribeiro et al., 2009) and is still subject to deforestation.
As I pour the hot water over the ground beans, the steaming hot coffee starts to drip into my favorite mug. The coffee cup is a gift from dear Tlingit friends from the Yukon. As I enjoy the aromas of the coffee, I open my mind and heart to the memories of my time there. I notice grief and worry about the wildfires that are ravaging the northern regions of this continent, to the hundreds of thousands of people being displaced, all the living beings that are being consumed by the fire. I ponder about the natural fires being a part of the cycles of the land. I am also considering how much the ways we choose to relate to the land and the other beings that share it with us are disrupting the cycles of fire, water, ice, and life to the point that it is producing the Sixth Mass Extinction (Cowie et al., 2022; Finn et al., n.d.). I savor many ways to relate to the land and the planet in my cup of coffee.
I remember the smile on the face of the lady cleaning the tables at the Guatemalan cafe in Spain where those beans came from, when she noticed the indigenous necklace I was wearing to honor my ancestors. I returned her smile, wondering if she could sense in me some of the familiarity or safety I found in her smile. I think about history, how it has created inequality, and how the vast majority of people who work in the countless jobs required until this steaming coffee mug could be in my hands are unlikely to afford coffee that tastes this good. I consider my privileges. I taste oppression and the urge for liberation in my cup of coffee.
As I savor my drink and feel its warmth spreading through my body, I also open my heart to sense awe, respect, joy, and gratitude for this gift. When I drink this coffee, I benefit from and become a part of the generosity of a vast network of beings and the generosity of life itself. I remember to thank my teacher Jan Chozen Bays, for letting me know that it is also a mindful eating practice (Bays, 2009).
Every sip of coffee puts me in relation to life, from the very first organism to appear on this planet, to the coffee shrubs, the clouds, the first person who found out how to make this beverage, to the history of colonization, the plantations, our current food systems.
I send my gratitude, compassion and loving-kindness to all beings, humans and non-humans, to the sun, the soil, and the rain, to the bugs and coffee shrubs, to all my relations. I wonder how to best care for them, and how to give back, and how to reduce their suffering and the injustices they are subjected to.
Every mindful sip of coffee can help me choose how I want to walk this earth.
If you have never come across a similar practice before, it is also possible that you might have been a bit puzzled by what you’ve read so far. If this is the case, I invite you to bear with me for a bit and perhaps invite your curiosity to tag along. In the very same way, mindfulness is not just about paying attention to the present moment experience, mindful eating is not just about paying attention to the present eating experience. To paraphrase Thich Nhat Hahn, mindful eating is also about clearly seeing the whole universe supporting our existence in a plate of food (or a cup of coffee). In this spirit, I would like to invite you to consider some possible connections between the practice of mindful eating and the subject of climate change.
Mindfulness, Mindful Eating And Environmental Awareness
The relationship between the practice of mindfulness and environmental awareness has been sparking interest for a long time. While it is unclear if the correlation between mindful and environmental consciousness also includes some causation, some studies have suggested that connectedness to nature (Howell et al., 2011; Wang et al., 2019), pro-environmental behavior (Panno et al., 2018; Thiermann & Sheate, 2022), belief in global climate change and decreased inclination towards social dominance (Panno et al., 2018) are related to, mediate or may be enhanced by mindfulness.
By increasing awareness about how the food production systems in place are aligned or at odds with our values, mindful eating may support ethical food choices. Some mindful eating protocols, such as Eat for Life (Rossy, 2016), explicitly include a component about the impact of food choices and food systems. Mindfulness has also been linked to sustainable food consumption (Hunecke & Richter, 2019).
Changing our current food systems is essential to achieve the reduction of carbon emissions to mitigate global warming (Clark et al., 2020; França et al., 2021; Shafiullah et al., 2021; Vermeulen et al., 2012). While all these consumer choices do have a direct impact on carbon emissions as they become more popular, they are insufficient in creating the shift in our food systems that would be required to significantly mitigate climate change (Sundkvist et al., 2005). Sustainable food systems can also promote food security and benefit health outcomes, creating a virtuous cycle (Berry et al., 2015; Clapp et al., 2018), but it is unlikely that such change will be created by consumer pressure alone.
Being able to make ethical food choices is a privilege for very few people in a world where food insecurity is increasing and where social and economic restraints vastly limit access to food (Gonzalez, 2014). Therefore, to produce a significant influence on climate change, it is essential to take into account social justice issues and social or political engagement (Allen, 2010; Ricketts et al., 2010; Townsend et al., 2020). Being aware of the privileges and power we might hold, might assist us in using those privileges to make a difference through mindful and compassionate leadership (Ramstetter et al., 2023), allyship, and accompliceship.
Historically, major changes in our national and global systems emerge from social movements and collective action. We can use our mindful awareness to help us to engage in the world to support social change aligned with our values and dreams about the world we want to live in the future.
Some suggestions on bringing our intentions to care for the climate into the world:
Just opening to the awareness of the challenges and uncertainties about climate is already a lot of work. However, you might decide that going a step further is aligned with your values and intentions. Here are some suggestions of resources that may assist you on your path. Please feel free to choose the ones that are compatible with your values and possibilities. The resources below do not necessarily reflect TCME’s positions.
- Become conscious consumers to contribute to climate harm reduction. E.g., meat-free Mondays https://www.ncronline.org/earthbeat/justice/can-one-meatless-day-out-week-make-difference https://meatfreemondays.com/facts-and-figures/
- Educate ourselves about how our current food systems and policies affect the climate, and consider what you can do to influence policymakers and stakeholders.
- Learn about possible solutions proposed by social movements towards a more just and balanced system for the people and the planet. A few possible examples: regenerative agriculture (https://regenerationinternational.org/why-regenerative-agriculture/), Community Supported Agriculture (https://www.nal.usda.gov/farms-and-agricultural-production-systems/community-supported-agriculture); Fridays for Future (https://fridaysforfuture.org/) ; support indigenous associations that are fighting deforestation, such as Kanindé https://kaninde.eco.br/#
Daniela Araujo PhD, MSc is narrative therapist, mindfulness and mindful eating teacher and mentor, based in Campinas, Pindoretá Brazil.
As a Lecturer, she has taught in diverse settings such as the University of Auckland (Aotearoa New Zealand), Mackenzie Presbyterian University (Piratininga São Paulo, Pindoretá Brazil), IPOG (Pindoretá Brazil) and in Eating Behaviors at IPGS (Pindoretá Brazil) in undergraduate and post-graduate levels.
She has been working in the field of eating disorders since 2001 both on research and treatment provision. Member of the team that envisioned, implemented, and ran the outpatient eating disorders at the State University of Campinas' Hospital until 2010, and worked at the residential eating disorder’s treatment service in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland), Aotearoa New Zealand.
Certified mindfulness and mindful eating teacher and a pioneer in the introduction of mindful eating in Brazil in 2015, Daniela is one of the co-directors of The Brazilian Center for Mindful Eating since 2017 and a teacher trainer in Neurocognitive Foundations for Mindfulness Teachers (Mindfulness Centre of Excellence, UK).
Citations in APA
Allen, P. (2010). Realizing justice in local food systems. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 3(2), 295–308. https://doi.org/10.1093/cjres/rsq015
Bays, J. C. (2009). Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food--includes C D. Shambhala Publications.
Berry, E. M., Dernini, S., Burlingame, B., Meybeck, A., & Conforti, P. (2015). Food security and sustainability: Can one exist without the other? Public Health Nutrition, 18(13), 2293–2302. https://doi.org/10.1017/S136898001500021X
Clapp, J., Newell, P., & Brent, Z. W. (2018). The global political economy of climate change, agriculture and food systems. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 45(1), 80–88. https://doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2017.1381602
Clark, M. A., Domingo, N. G. G., Colgan, K., Thakrar, S. K., Tilman, D., Lynch, J., Azevedo, I. L., & Hill, J. D. (2020). Global food system emissions could preclude achieving the 1.5° and 2°C climate change targets. Science, 370(6517), 705–708. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aba7357
Cowie, R. H., Bouchet, P., & Fontaine, B. (2022). The Sixth Mass Extinction: Fact, fiction or speculation? Biological Reviews, 97(2), 640–663. https://doi.org/10.1111/brv.12816
Finn, C., Grattarola, F., & Pincheira-Donoso, D. (n.d.). More losers than winners: Investigating Anthropocene defaunation through the diversity of population trends. Biological Reviews, n/a(n/a). https://doi.org/10.1111/brv.12974
França, F., Solar, R., Lees, A. C., Martins, L. P., Berenguer, E., & Barlow, J. (2021). Reassessing the role of cattle and pasture in Brazil’s deforestation: A response to “Fire, deforestation, and livestock: When the smoke clears.” Land Use Policy, 108, 105195. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2020.105195
Gonzalez, C. G. (2014). World Poverty and Food Insecurity. Penn State Journal of Law and International Affairs, 3, 56.
Howell, A. J., Dopko, R. L., Passmore, H.-A., & Buro, K. (2011). Nature connectedness: Associations with well-being and mindfulness. Personality and Individual Differences, 51(2), 166–171. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2011.03.037
Hunecke, M., & Richter, N. (2019). Mindfulness, Construction of Meaning, and Sustainable Food Consumption. Mindfulness, 10(3), 446–458. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0986-0
Panno, A., Giacomantonio, M., Carrus, G., Maricchiolo, F., Pirchio, S., & Mannetti, L. (2018). Mindfulness, Pro-environmental Behavior, and Belief in Climate Change: The Mediating Role of Social Dominance. Environment and Behavior, 50(8), 864–888. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916517718887
Ramstetter, L., Rupprecht, S., Mundaca, L., Osika, W., Stenfors, C. U. D., Klackl, J., & Wamsler, C. (2023). Fostering collective climate action and leadership: Insights from a pilot experiment involving mindfulness and compassion. IScience, 26(3), 106191. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2023.106191
Ribeiro, M. C., Metzger, J. P., Martensen, A. C., Ponzoni, F. J., & Hirota, M. M. (2009). The Brazilian Atlantic Forest: How much is left, and how is the remaining forest distributed? Implications for conservation. Biological Conservation, 142(6), 1141–1153. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2009.02.021
Ricketts, T. H., Soares-Filho, B., Fonseca, G. A. B. da, Nepstad, D., Pfaff, A., Petsonk, A., Anderson, A., Boucher, D., Cattaneo, A., Conte, M., Creighton, K., Linden, L., Maretti, C., Moutinho, P., Ullman, R., & Victurine, R. (2010). Indigenous Lands, Protected Areas, and Slowing Climate Change. PLOS Biology, 8(3), e1000331. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1000331
Rossy, L. (2016). The Mindfulness-Based Eating Solution: Proven Strategies to End Overeating, Satisfy Your Hunger, and Savor Your Life. New Harbinger Publications.
Shafiullah, M., Khalid, U., & Shahbaz, M. (2021). Does meat consumption exacerbate greenhouse gas emissions? Evidence from US data. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 28(9), 11415–11429. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-020-11331-9
Sundkvist, Å., Milestad, R., & Jansson, A. (2005). On the importance of tightening feedback loops for sustainable development of food systems. Food Policy, 30(2), 224–239. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2005.02.003
Thiermann, U. B., & Sheate, W. R. (2022). How Does Mindfulness Affect Pro-environmental Behaviors? A Qualitative Analysis of the Mechanisms of Change in a Sample of Active Practitioners. Mindfulness, 13(12), 2997–3016. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-022-02004-4
Townsend, J., Moola, F., & Craig, M.-K. (2020). Indigenous Peoples are critical to the success of nature-based solutions to climate change. FACETS, 5(1), 551–556. https://doi.org/10.1139/facets-2019-0058
Vermeulen, S. J., Campbell, B. M., & Ingram, J. S. I. (2012). Climate Change and Food Systems. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 37(1), 195–222. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-environ-020411-130608
Wang, J., Geng, L., Schultz, P. W., & Zhou, K. (2019). Mindfulness Increases the Belief in Climate Change: The Mediating Role of Connectedness With Nature. Environment and Behavior, 51(1), 3–23. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916517738036