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The 1st Middle East Vegetarian (MEVEG) Congress - P3/5 December 7, 2010 Dubai, United Arab Emirates (In Arabic)    
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And now,I'd like to invite Anastasia and she's going to share how we can actually do our own little research. Because we can't be dependent on asking questions or attending forums, we have to do some of it. So it's going to be really interesting. And a little bit of information about Anastasia. She is an audio engineer, former librarian,IT developer and consultant, blogger,bookworm, the organizer of the Twit Book Club, a book club with a new angle on reading and discussing a variety of books. She has been a vegetarian for over a decade and like many turned to the lifestyle after serious health issues. Anastasia wears many hats,it would be an understatement. A bachelor's degree in IT from Wollongong in Dubai, she is also a certified English teacher and she holds an Audio Engineering Diploma and she's enjoyed producing a lot of live events. And currently Anastasia is working on her second bachelor's degree. Wasn't it enough you had quite a lot on your plate,Anastasia?

Anastasia (f): Never enough.

Zaufyshan Haseeb(f): And this one is in Mass Communication Media Journalism. And she is also working on her business degree in Intel business juggling two universities, book club,various research… My God. I don't know how you find time for yourself really. So let's welcome Anastasia.

Anastasia (f): Thanks. Okay,so I'll be talking about why doing your own research is an important thing, especially when it comes to choosing your own diet, because it is an important thing. So some of us actually when we hear the word “diet” some of us go, “Oh,God! Hide me! I've got to lose the weight because I need to get into the little dress to go out” or whatever. So you have to cut out your food, you have to watch what you eat.

But the truth is,it's not all about calories. Diet is something that's long term. It's not something that's only for one or two weeks. The common problem here is that most of us, especially the ladies; the ones who have to get into that little dress, they're thinking “Okay, I need to lose ten kilograms. Let's cut out all the meat, cut out everything, let me just have one glass of water a day,” I know that's a bit extreme but, fine. Two weeks go by, they lose the weight.

What happens when they get off the diet? They go back to their normal ways, their weight comes back. Most of the time the weight comes back with a little bit more interest than the ten kilograms that they initially wanted to lose. Why? Because they're under the impression of,“Well,I was on a diet,I deserve a little something like a chocolate, maybe another one. Maybe some ice cream.” Our diet is the most intimate connection to Earth. Ground yourself with the diet.

An ideal diet is something that works for you. A diet is not something where you have to force yourself to essentially cut out the foods that you don't need. It has to be something that you want to do. So,why research? Millions of us are constantly bombarded with messages on a daily basis. Some of the messages contradict each other. We've heard a few of those during the past few days.

So,where do you draw the line of whether “What's good for you? What's good for somebody else? What you should be doing?” Now,new studies show old food's bad for you. Every time you read a newspaper, so and so food is bad for you. A few weeks later you read,possibly even in the same paper, you read studies that say the exact opposite. For every expert that says one thing,you can find another couple of experts that say the complete opposite. So where do you draw the line? You draw the line from within,from yourself. You have to think rationally. You have to do your own research. And some useful links here,every diet - this is where I got the list of over 400 diets.

This site, everydiet.org, lists as the site says, every diet. But it lists the pros,the cons, the side effects,etc. It's built up by two professionals; one is a nutritionist. Their aim is to actually build up a database of, basically,diets so that people like you and I, we can go on there and we can research the diets in one place. And we can also send comments and reviews of specific diets as well. “Has the diet helped you? Has the diet not helped you?” Foodfacts.com, it's more US-based but it has a lot of information on things like nutrition, labels,reading the label. They've got videos on there as well and a lot of interesting things. You can even look up the E-numbers. Whatever is on the label, you can just enter it in there and it'll show up as what are the ingredients, “Is it healthy for you? Is it not healthy?”

Wikipedia. Probably not a good thing if you are in the education field but, come on,most of us can admit that we've at least used Wikipedia as a starting point, because Wikipedia, they do have references at the end of the article. You can read the Wikipedia info for yourself and you can also scroll down to the references and have a look at the references and follow the links. “Follow the yellow brick road,” as the saying goes. Additives 2 is an iPhone app that, you go out,you shop, you have your phone with you. This is an app that has all the E-numbers, the ingredients and everything built in within the app.

So,whenever you are looking on the shelf for a product,you can just go,“Let's see,yes,that's safe for vegetarians. No,it's not. Okay,that might cause cancer. That might cause asthma or whatever.” It's your body, your health. You take the responsibility. Do not put the responsibility on your doctor or your nutritionist or whoever else. Research is all about balancing the two sides of the story,sometimes more sides of the story, balancing the information, analyzing the data. Once you've got the data, you analyze it, you think about it, you discuss it with your friends, you discuss it with your family. Is it something that maybe we want to do? No? Okay why not? Because the more you analyze information, the more it makes sense to you. If you just listen in like a sponge and then walk away,it's not going to help that much, and at the end of the day, this is all about being informed.

Zaufyshan Haseeb(f): Thank you so much, a token of our appreciation. So guys,there is a saying, which says “Take care of your body,because that's the only place you have to live in.” Actually, there is no other, we can't rent ourselves some bodies. We are coming to a very interesting part of the MEVEG congress, and that is that we are going to go live via videoconference to Cancún,Mexico, where Supreme Master Ching Hai will be there addressing all the wonderful delegates to be a part of the MEVEG Congress. Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed guests, we would like to warmly welcome you all to this very special occasion. It is indeed an honor and a privilege for us to welcome to the conference via video-link the internationally acclaimed author, spiritual visionary, artist, Supreme Master Ching Hai. As many of you know,

Supreme Master Ching Hai is a lifelong vegetarian and vegan who is a powerful proponent of organic vegan living for millions upon millions of people around the world. Her activities range from various projects,such as being inspiration for the Loving Hut vegan restaurant. You know the restaurant that served us that wonderful lunch today? She is the inspiration behind that as well. Loving Hut has 150 locations worldwide.

And other than that, Supreme Master Ching Hai has promoted a lot of scientific basis for stopping and reversing climatical changes and preventing physical calamities through correct living, correct diet,and correct treatment of the Earth and all the Earth's inhabitants. This is a very interesting thing how she is linking to - when we bring about a change in our diet - how it has an impact, a ripple impact, on the rest of the world; added to this are her many publications, which show her deep love and understanding of animals and their importance in maintaining the loving balance to life.

We would like to convey through a video a glimpse of her unconditional compassion and love that Supreme Master shares with all those who come in contact with her. So let's watch the video. All right! We are very fortunate that Supreme Master Ching Hai has accepted our invitation. As you know,she has an extremely busy schedule, but she still found time to be with us on the first MEVEG Congress here from this wonderful city of Dubai, and she will be online with us through videoconference. And her speech is going to be on “Being a Vegan: The Environmentally Sustainable Food Choice.” I'm sure it will be a very engaging and inspiring presentation.

Supreme Master Ching Hai: Hallo,hallo.
Zaufyshan Haseeb,MC (f): Hallo, Supreme Master Ching Hai. How are you?
Supreme Master Ching Hai: Thank you. I'm well. Thank you. Allah is the Greatest. Allah is Great. I greet you in the name of Allah.

Zaufyshan Haseeb,MC (f): Thank you so much for being with us today. Master Ching Hai, we warmly welcome you to the first ever Middle East Congress,here in this amazing city of Dubai. Firstly, we at the conference would like to thank you and we have great respect for the three decades of work that you have put in, and engaging people all over the world to promote the healthy, compassionate, life-sustaining vegan organic diet.

Supreme Master Ching Hai: Thanks Allah. Thanks Allah. Thanks Allah. I hope you understand my Arabic.

Zaufyshan Haseeb,MC (f): I'm sure. I don't personally speak Arabic,but I've been trying to learn. I've been here for 10 years. So it's not (Supreme Master Ching Hai: Yes.) an easy language,and we truly appreciate that at least you're making the effort of speaking it. Thank you!

Supreme Master Ching Hai: Thank you ,thank you.

Zaufyshan Haseeb,MC (f): Supreme Master, we've heard a lot at this conference already about the benefits of the organic and vegetarian lifestyle from a wide range of speakers, dignitaries,presenters… And many people are intrigued by your topic today on the sustainability of the vegan diet. Moreover,we feel that it is fitting that in Cancún,Mexico, world leaders are discussing this very important topic of working together to come up with a global solution to global warming. We would love to hear your insights on what you see as the seriousness of global warming to continued life on Earth and what links there might be to diet, agriculture,and lifestyle.

Supreme Master Ching Hai: Yes. Greetings,all of you, from Cancún. I'm in Cancún,and so many great people are here,and they are still trying to help to change the climate change. I'm very pleased and honored to be in your presence in Dubai.

Zaufyshan Haseeb,MC (f): Thank you. The honor is all ours. Zaufyshan Haseeb,MC (f): Without further ado, we'd like to invite you to put your hands together once again for Supreme Master Ching Hai and her presentation on the topic, “Being a Vegan: The Environmentally Sustainable Food Choice.”

Supreme Master Ching Hai: Thank you ever so much. Thank you. May Allah bless you. I'm very honored and pleased,actually, to be in your presence in Dubai. It's a beautiful city; beautiful country. I have been there. I have been in your country. I love all the Middle East actually. The warmth and joy of the Arab people is so inviting,as I have found it everywhere - in your hospitality, your giving of charity, and your great religious faith. Well,I want to congratulate you, Middle East Veg Group, for your effort, for your exciting,historic first Congress. And a big congratulations especially to all of you veg heroes of the world and the Middle East.

“Allah sure will have mercy upon you for giving mercy to other beings.” This was the Hadith, the wisdom of the compassionate Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Through this excellent event and your talented and caring contributions, you have confirmed the many benefits of plant-based living, both for ourselves and our Animal co-inhabitants. And now we can go perhaps even one step further in considering the vegan lifestyle as necessary to actually save humanity and the planet. Some of you may be aware already,but just so that we all have the same understanding I would like to emphasize again that our situation is already very grave.

Human survival is at stake due to climate change and environmental damages. To grasp this urgency, we can pick any region of the globe, like for instance, the Middle East, to see how the climate change has affected our people, our world,our animals, our environment. Now,if you allow me, we shall go through some of the important events concerning your beautiful regions.

1. Climate Change and Environmental Issue in the United Arab Emirates. The Arab region is one of the world's most vulnerable to climate change. I'm very sorry to know this,and I'm sorry to have to tell you. It's not a very pleasant thing to inform your friends that their house is in danger, that their life is in danger. It could break your heart. Now,scientists have already reported on sea level rise in Egypt, desertification and climate refugees in Syria, dust storms in Iraq, floods in Yemen,etc.,etc. Pardon me,pardon me. I'm just too emotional when lives are concerned. You are all my friends, even though we haven't met each other. I have so much love for this world and for the people of this world, because I've met many of you,and you're so nice,so nice,so nice. And you don't deserve to suffer at all. None of us deserve any of this suffering, either from disease or from climate change. Now,since we are in the United Arab Emirates, we will focus on the major environmental issues your country is facing.

2. Water Shortage. Climate change has brought hotter temperatures and reduced and erratic rainfall to the Middle East, including in the United Arab Emirates. Making the situation worse now is the fact that current consumption rates of water are unsustainable. Even with several desalinization plants in place,suppose there was an emergency and more water could not be produced, then your country,the United Arab Emirates, only has about four days of fresh water supply for her people, or even less than that. Abu Dhabi's groundwater supplies have been reduced by almost one-fifth, just since 2003. I think you know that. Do you?

Zaufyshan Haseeb,MC (f): Yes,Supreme Master, they are now getting new information,because we live in an illusion that the water is going to be there,but thank you for sharing these statistics with us.

Supreme Master Ching Hai: Okay. Then I will continue to share more with you. You will be more surprised. I'm sorry,I wish I could bring you more pleasant news,but friends have to tell each other the truth, right? If you allow me. Now we go to number three section, which is “Groundwater Depletion.” We could have other kinds of water, but if groundwater is depleted and we are in deep trouble. I'm sure you understand this. Because of prolonged drought,coupled with higher use,it's quickly depleting groundwater throughout the Emirates, especially in Abu Dhabi, where this source is relied upon for 71% of the total supply, especially for agriculture.

However, water consumption is noted to be 24 times higher than the land's ability to recharge and replenish the water the natural way,and unusable saltwater is now found at shallow depths even. They are shrinking. All kinds of water, not just sweet water,even salty water is sinking. Instead of reaching water at a depth of 6 meters, as they did in the past in order to dig the well, now the well diggers currently have to go as deep as 100 meters below the ground before finding it,or in some cases,not even be able to find any water at all,after 100 meters deep,digging.

Number four concerns “Food Insecurity.” Agriculture is already difficult due to the shrinking water supply. Now we have extreme heat and increasingly salty soil, and salty soil we cannot cultivate. I'm sure you know that.

5. Desalinization of Water: Unsustainable. Very unsustainable. Okay. Meanwhile,Dubai's water is primarily human-made,I'm sure you all know that, through desalinization. The United Arab Emirates is the second largest user of desalinated water in the whole world, but desalinization plants use a lot,a lot,a lot of energy and emit a lot, a lot of carbon dioxide on top of that. There are also other side effects. I'm going to tell you. They will spew enormous quantities of hot brine and chemicals into the sea. This pollution accelerates the warming of the water while increasing its salinity.

In fact,the Gulf's salt concentration level increased by 40% in 30 years,creating an imbalance that threatens local flora and fauna. The general salt increase has another adverse effect, which is to make the desalinization plants work harder and harder and use more and more energy to purify the water. So it is an unfortunate cycle,you can see. Being dependent on desalinization also creates a water security risk, because it only takes one oil spill, one toxic algae bloom, or one big cyclone to have to halt the process immediately. That means we will have no water,and God knows for how long.

Now we go to number 6 section,which is “Marine Pollution.” The Persian Gulf is a contained environment where pollutants can accumulate, some of which take many years to disperse. These include more than one million barrels of oil spilled each year from oil leaks and accidents - and we're drinking all that in! - includes sewage discharge from other use, the households; includes harmful chemicals, including pesticides and phosphorus,heavy metals, such as mercury,copper and nickel,arsenic,lead, and many others. You see how we have to take all this, even though we are not aware?

Now, number 7, which is “Overfishing.” Commercially-fished species in the United Arab Emirates have declined an alarming 80% in 30 years! That means we have 80% less fish in your sea the last 30 years. Only within 30 years, we deplete fish supply, the fish population,80%. My goodness. Any of you know this?

Zaufyshan Haseeb,MC (f): I think we weren't really aware of this particular issue at hand because, as I shared with you, we live in a kind of an illusion,that just because we just get ample amount of seafood, or when we go swimming the water does not seem polluted (Supreme Master Ching Hai: Yes.) so we just believe everything is fine.

Supreme Master Ching Hai: Yes. You see, the problem is much of these chemicals or pollutants that run into our water are not colorful, not specially significant so that we can even know what it is,or we can even see what it is. And even the chemicals or the pollutant or the poison,even mercury for example,that goes into the fish that the people consume, they're colorless, tasteless. So people don't even know what they're eating until they've fallen ill or die.

Now,these include many more that are unique to the region, many more marine life. Fish,you know? Like,we don't have anywhere else in the world,except in your region we have this. Like,such as hamour, kingfish,sea bream, and emperor fish. In addition,you see,they are all kind of diminishing or maybe extinct already. These fish we cannot find anywhere else except in your sea.

Now they are going,gone. In addition,the sheer excess of fishing vessels and fishing gear also lead to a huge by-catch and damage to even more species. This is part of the global decline of marine life due to overfishing. It's everywhere, not just in your country. Everywhere marine life is declining,extinct,or going to be soon,sooner than we can imagine. Even if you love fish, I am not sure how much longer you are going to have fish on your table. So please be prepared to have vegetarian food. That would be a very wise choice.

MC(f): Well said, Supreme Master. I would definitely like to, first of all,thank and offer my humble obeisance to Supreme Master Ching Hai for agreeing to come on the video conferencing. The other great thing was that she was in Mexico, in Cancún, and at the COP - so extremely well informed about not only the UAE, the world facts,and all the environmental areas. So that was very impressive indeed. It was a great honor having her live,beamed down to the UAE. I'm Sandhya Prakash, Founder-Director, MEVEG, you're watching Supreme Master Television. Be Veg, Go Green 2 Save our Planet!

Harvey Ellis (Vegetarian)Senior executive in the IT field Speaker Coordinator,MEVEG CongressMr. Harvey Ellis (vegetarian) (m): I've been happy to be at the MEVEG, the very first MEVEG Congress, where I've had the opportunity to see for the very first time Supreme Master Ching Hai, who gave a fantastic speech with regards to the environmental impact of the Middle East region - some startling statistics with regards to the environment were presented today by the Supreme Master Ching Hai. The fantastic inspiration that she gave to the audience was a sight to behold, particularly in terms of her philosophy with regards to presenting veganism as a solution to all the environmental woes of the Middle Eastern Region.

“After the visit of [Supreme Master] Ching Hai, author and volunteer activist for the protection of the planet, young volunteers and members of the organization which she represents globally declared in favor of encouraging plant-based food and the gradual reduction of meat consumption. This is due to the high percentage of global warming that the animal industry produces as it is involved in the generation of methane gas, which retains the heat.... The work carried out by [Supreme Master] Ching Hai, the international leader born in Vietnam, is a legacy in which the goal is to benefit the planet though the consumption of plant-based food.

Thousands of young people around the world have chosen the alternative of organic food: Russia,China, Pakistan,and Argentina in Latin America, the representative groups that promote the spiritual leader [Supreme Master] Ching Hai's message, indicate that,in this way, the increase in temperature of the planet would be avoided. [Otherwise], there would be devastating consequences, such as tsunamis, seaquakes and the disappearance of some countries and islands of the planet sinking [into the sea].”
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