#8 The Yin and Yang of Climate Crisis: Treating Internal Climate Change

The connection between what we eat and the condition of the planet as I see comes again from the Chinese assumption that the little picture and the big picture are in fact the same picture. That what we eat, what we ingest fundamentally affects our own internal condition and our internal condition affects the culture around us and the culture around us affects the environment. So one way to really address internally the causes of climate change is really to look at the food that we eat. And there’s lots of very good discussions from a Western view about the importance of addressing food issues to address climate change. The importance of eating locally, the importance of eating natural food, the importance of not eating unnaturally grown food from far-off places that are then shipped to us, all of that is really important a very big advocate of eating locally, eating seasonally, eating from your neighbors, eating from local farmers, that’s a perspective that I very much believe in and encourage other people to act on.

But that’s only part of the picture, another part of the picture is that in an overstimulated culture, that is over stimulating and warming the planet. It’s essential to look at our own internal stimulation, that eating local food is important and essential both in terms of ecological well-being and in terms of individual well-being but there’s more to it than that. I believe it’s also essential to understand at least on a basic level, again the ideas of Chinese medicine about yin and yang, the over stimulation in the environment is being mirrored by the over stimulation or the heat within us. So it’s very important in my view both looking at environmental issues and working with people in the treatment room, to not eat foods that are overstimulating or not to eat too much foods that are overstimulated. So foods that are overstimulating increase the heat will increase the yang in the body. So too much spicy food for example and I know it’s not always something that people want to hear or are always willing to act on, but too much spicy food warms up the body, it overstimulates the body.

And another very important part of the discussion about what’s happening internally is the consumption of coffee. Now this is again not what everyone always wants to hear but I feel compelled to talk about it so much so that I wrote a chapter in my book about it. I have a whole chapter on the connection between coffee and climate change. Now just to be clear, I’m not against coffee shops, I’m not against coffee growers, I’m not against coffee companies, I’m not anti-coffee but Chinese medicine has I believe a very clear understanding of the energetic nature of coffee, coffee is extremely stimulating, coffee is extremely hot and the amount of coffee that we drink is really extraordinary. We as a country, just the United States drink about a hundred and sixty billion cups of coffee a year. For those adults that drink coffee, that’s about three cups of coffee a day, every day for the year. That’s again not a coincidence. It’s not a coincidence that coffee is so stimulating, coffee is so exciting to us internally and that our culture is so over stimulated and that our planet is so hot and over stimulated. So coffee is one of those things, if you look at the history of Chinese nutrition you look at the history of Chinese medicine, there’s a lot of different discussion about substances and Chinese nutrition, Chinese medicine is very open-minded about things, it doesn’t have categories of these are good foods and these are bad foods, it really depends on the person. Coffee is one of those substances interestingly that was thought to basically have no redeeming value. There was so little upside compared to all of the significant downside. So again I’m not against coffee. I’m not against people who drink coffee. I’m not against coffee companies. But I do think it’s important to look at how our consumption of coffee is over stimulating us and how that over stimulation internally can then become the new norm. With a hundred and sixty billion cups of coffee and just in each year that buzz that over excitation internally can become normal. But it’s not normal. It’s clearly pathological and that over stimulation encourages us to favor yang over yin. It encourages us to do rather than relaxing, encourages us to want more than we need, it encourages us to favor yang over yin.

So one way that we can address climate change externally is to address climate change internally. And I think one very important thing that we could do really would be just to eliminate coffee. And I don’t say that lightly and I don’t say that casually. And I know a lot of people like coffee and I’ve had this discussion literally with several hundred people in the treatment room. So I write a chapter about it the book and I talk about people’s different possible responses to it. The green tea is okay, green tea is cooling, black tea is okay even though they both have caffeine but coffee is just so hot in overstimulating in a hot over stimulated culture. It really has significant consequences. And as I list in the book there are several dozen symptoms, physical, mental, emotional symptoms that I think coffee can contribute to or create. So lots of responses I’ve had in the treatment room, I like coffee, like the ritual of coffee I like the stimulation of coffee and I understand all of that. But if we’re really serious about addressing external climate change, we have to address internal climate change. We’re not going to address what’s happening outside of us until we address what’s happening inside of us. So coffee would be one thing that really even more so than reducing because it is so stimulating. My suggestion would really be to cut it out and to work with the Chinese medical practitioner if you need help to balance things internally to make coming off coffee easier.