Sierra

July 4, 2020
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What is this utopia that the extremists campaign for? Would it ever even be possible to diversify human behaviour, push our neighbours and friends to forgo the pleasures of eating animals for the good of all life on Earth?

The environmental realities of 2020 leave human societies with some very crucial decisions to make. Although it is no small challenge to overhaul global diets, significant adjustments may become necessary to ensure future human prosperity. We cannot ignore the deforestation, desertification, pollution, sea level rise, biodiversity loss and countless other global crises as we favour wealth, greed, pride, and inaction.

Many who have chosen to follow a vegetarian or plant-based diet feel that meat consumption is linked to a larger carbon footprint (mainly due to the larger proportion of land needed to support livestock, in growing their feed and providing grazing/pasture land). In fact, in 2019 the UN and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that drastically reducing worldwide consumption of animal products will help curb greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change. Livestock require more freshwater, land, and grain than the calories they provide. By 2050, Earth will face the enormous challenge of providing enough food and freshwater for 10 billion people. Even if one completely ignores the ethical realities of factory farms, the future of humanity depends on a radical dietary change.

If every person on planet Earth adopted a plant-based diet, global food-related emissions would drop by 70%. This could be a massive boon to the economy, as these emissions are valued at more than $700 billion. The diet of a meat-eater requires 17 times more land, 14 times more water and 10 times more energy than a vegetarian’s, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In facing the demographic and environmental realities of our changing world, we must not ignore these remarkable statistics. As we learn to accommodate billions more humans within a planet of already dwindling and poorly distributed resources, any strategy that encourages energy, land and water conservation while saving billions of lives should be the obvious choice.

The populations of our favourite livestock species; cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, goats, etc., grossly outweigh natural ecosystem levels. This was facilitated by removing these animals out of their habitats and sheltering them in human habitats for our own gain. Interfering to such a drastic degree in the population levels of these animals has had a profound effect on biodiversity levels of non-domesticated species, their habitats desecrated to serve the ever-expanding territory of factory farms.

Without the steep subsidies that fund cruel, overzealous slaughterhouses and meatpacking companies which enable them to keep consumer prices absurdly low and continue to profit off of torture, governments may actually be able to subsidize healthy plant foods for their citizens. Livestock subsidies could be redirected towards regenerative farming initiatives, support wildflower replanting efforts to provide pollinator habitats, and fund food programs for the food-insecure.

Additionally, as the over-consumption of meat is linked to heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and obesity, the move away from this diet could save billions in healthcare costs, or trillions globally. Heart disease and strokes alone cost the American healthcare system almost $200 billion annually. It is also worth accounting for the lost economic productivity that the sick populations could have otherwise provided. As a smaller country with a socialized medical system, Canada spends more than $20 billion on cardiovascular disease through direct and indirect costs. With a healthier population adequately nourished by plant foods, countries could redirect the exorbitant health expenditures towards more practical investments. The most vulnerable and poorest communities could be supported by national health and nutrition programs. Reorganizing and redistributing investments in food security could be particularly advantageous to the indigenous peoples of Canada’s North. The Inuit are considered by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food to have “the highest documented food insecurity rate for any aboriginal population in a developed country”. In 2014, almost 47% of households in Nunavut were reported as food-insecure.

Collected savings from healthcare and animal agriculture will not only support the millions suffering from food insecurity but will ultimately fund relief efforts for the negative implications of climate change. We all deserve an egalitarian society that cares for its suffering and vulnerable populations, while providing everyone with the option for a healthier future. This future is not only possible – it will be for the betterment of billions of lives. 700 million people do not need to live on less than $2 USD a day. Our planet has ample resources to provide for sensible, conscious lifestyles for 10 billion humans, we need only adjust our standards of consumption. A better world is possible when cruel, unsustainable, selfish behaviours are left behind. When we value the lives of animals and respect the environment, we can ensure the livelihood of future generations and reverse the catastrophic climate change that would otherwise doom us.


May 20, 2020
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Today’s post was written by guest author Lindsay, who manages our Instagram page!

After being a vegan or a vegetarian for 20 years, I’ve had a lot of time to think about our relationships with different species and the system of morals or ethics that we’ve established as a society. It’s a complicated issue that could be discussed until the end of time but ultimately I feel it can best be explained through one of my childhood experiences:

If you had a sibling growing up then you remember asking your parents why they got to do something awesome and you didn’t. I know for me, if the explanation was valid and concise then I would respect the ruling and grumble under my breath as I headed back to my room to read Nancy Drew. If the argument was weak then I ignored the authority of my parents and did whatever I wanted.

Essentially I believe that the moral code of our society is only as strong as the concessions we make. That ultimately it doesn’t matter if our society punishes a person who abuses his dog or starves her horses if we are all willing to accept animal abuse in the name of our food or entertainment. If we can excuse behavior that is below our general standards of ethics for reasons of convenience, vanity, apathy, or gluttony* then the entire system is flawed because those excuses can be used for any situation. If we are going to establish guidelines of morality or ethics but only apply them for certain situations, then why bother at all?

One of the reasons there are so many inconsistencies in how we apply our ethics is because I don’t think we’ve ever taken the time to determine what the requirements are for compassion. How do we decide what deserves basic rights? Is it based on intelligence? Ability to feel pain? Domestication? One question I struggle with myself is how we have simply assumed we are the superior creatures but have mostly avoided the responsibility to protect lesser beings. Ultimately I think that just because we can capture, consume, hunt, and inflict pain doesn’t mean we are entitled to.

That doesn’t mean that our ethics can’t change as we continue to grow and learn more about our planet but we need to have conviction in what is right or wrong. I think we want to believe that there are a lot more grey areas but most of the time it really is that simple.

We are in a transition point in terms of accepted morality when it comes to animals, we’re beginning to acknowledge that many animals can experience pain, emotional depth, cognitive dissonance, and foresight but we’ve only begun to acknowledge that these traits deserve a certain amount of respect and even then we’ve only give that privilege to a select few species.

In the end we need to spend more time thinking about why we feel so passionate about humane treatment of some animals and are completely apathetic to the plights of others. As a society we only stand to gain by refusing to accept weak justifications for defying our own moral code. When it comes to ethics, I want to take pride in living with the highest standards of living for all inhabitants.

(I’ve been asked many times about my feelings of hunting since it can be considered more humane than animals raised by consumption and my answer depends on whether the hunter is hunting because of one of these traits or because their own convictions on factory farming).

 

 


May 18, 2020
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Dear humanity, this isn’t working.

We’re in the middle of a global pandemic; the economy is hanging on by a thread while lockdowns persist, millions are food insecure, and millions more will go hungry if we don’t face these issues head-on.

As COVID-19 disrupts international supply chains, limits farmers’ access to markets, and disproportionately damages the livelihood of those most fiscally vulnerable, we experience the consequences of passive inaction.

Granted, there are some positive effects of the pandemic. The air quality of the most polluted urban areas of the world is improving. Waterways are cleaner than they have been in decades. Less marine traffic has allowed ocean life to return to occupy their own environment. Yet these accolades rest unsteadily upon the shoulders of the victors. The moment we return to life as “normal”, any positive changes could quickly be reversed.

This is precisely why we must take this time in lockdown to consider which of our activities are incompatible with a desirable future for humanity. Only a mindset of ignorance suggests that we must persist in destructive behaviour. Memes published lately suggest that “humanity is the real pandemic”. As we see the natural world uniquely bereft of our disastrous interference, this could unfortunately prove true. However, we have the power to rewrite our destiny. We have the option of improving ourselves, our society, and our relationship to the natural world.

For humanity to thrive in the future, we must learn to be more adaptive, cooperative, and respectful. Otherwise ignorance, selfishness, and greed will ensure our own destruction. We have already seen the damning effects that human activity has wrought upon the Earth. We act as if all resources are infinitely deposited. Endless oil, fresh water, food, land to deplete, deforest, and pave over. Yet, we live in a finite planet. Short of terra-forming Mars or relocating human society to man-made space stations, there is not much we can do but change our ways for our own good.

Sustainable business and sustainable living do not have to be incompatible with economic growth. New and existing companies can tap into consumer interest and adapt their service to match demand for eco-friendly products and practices. We already see this happening across industries all over the world. Energy companies that rely on fossil fuels to enrich executives and please shareholders can diversify their projects to include or even shift completely into clean energy pursuits. Even animal agriculture titans can invest in plant-based “meat” products, diversifying their portfolios to address the blossoming vegan movement.

When consumers are educated on the problems of the world and potential solutions, new markets arise. In fact, this is part of our hope with the Vancouver Vegetarian Society! We know it is possible for people to live fulfilling, enjoyable, successful lives while making ethical choices. Our team and followers are made up of such folk. Why would we actively choose to pollute and condemn the Earth when our dollars, efforts and thoughts could vote for a better world?

Living in Vancouver, we are lucky enough to have access to food, clothing, vehicles/bicycles, public transport, community gardens or farmers’ market, products all made ethically, or that promote more sustainable and ethical habits. We can support our local economy, vote with our money for a more compassionate society. We should not pay for slaughter, slave labour, corruption, and environmental disaster. We have the responsibility as educated citizens to choose a better world for ourselves and our children. When we treat our planet, our neighbours, and animals with respect we have the beautiful opportunity to forge a new way. One that provides us with a genuine future, while ensuring we can feel good about how we are spending our precious time.


April 22, 2020
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In the face of a global pandemic, everyone but non-essential workers are recommended to stay home and avoid social interaction. What are we to do with all our new free time? The thought of returning to a “normal” society when the coronavirus blows over has inspired some to seek meaningful change and use the pandemic as an opportunity to revamp their lifestyles, pursuing health, fitness, personal development, education or redefining relationships. Let us do our part to share our favourite easy and healthy, protein-packed vegetarian recipes that can be whipped up in a few minutes. If you try them out or have any questions about the recipes, please let us know in the comments!

Protein Pancakes

For breakfast, try these undeniably nutritious, yet fully delicious almond chia pancakes. This breakfast has all the essentials for a balanced meal to start your day of self-isolation off right.

Of all the vegetarian substitutes, eggs can be one of the trickiest ingredients, particularly in baking. Chia seeds create the ideal egg replacement in this pancake batter – not only are they packed with essential omega fatty acids, when mixed with water they create a sticky, gelatinous substance which we can use to our advantage and delight when baking. One thing we ought to keep in mind is that chia does not produce the same light and fluffy effect of eggs, so it is helpful to add cornstarch or baking powder to our batter for a traditional pancake texture.

Almond butter is rich in protein and healthy fats, so it is the perfect base of flavour and creaminess to achieve the ideal pancake hitting all our bases. Mix in 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp. of salt, 1/4 tsp. baking powder, 3/4 cup of plant milk (cashew, almond, coconut, soy or oat), 2 tbsp. nut butter, 1 cup of oat flour and 1 tbsp of chia seeds ground into a flour. Add 1 tbsp. maple syrup/agave/honey to taste. Mix batter until fully combined. Chocolate chips or blueberries folded into the batter can take your pancakes to the next level.

Melt some coconut oil on a heated frying pan and pour out 3-4 pancakes of manageable size. Flip when the bubbles pop on the sides of the pancake or the underside is a golden-brown colour (approximately 2-3 minutes per side).

Top with berry chia compotes, fresh jams, maple syrup, coconut whipped cream, or whichever other delicious condiments you can think of!

Power Salad

One of the principal meals every vegetarian cook should have in their wheelhouse is a phenomenal healthy and delicious salad recipe. We might as well lean into the stereotype, as everyone could afford to eat some more vegetables.

The crucial think to consider before putting our salad together is caloric density. Omnivore salads usually involve a green leafy vegetable (i.e. lettuce or spinach) with a couple other raw vegetable components. Perhaps they sprinkle a few nuts, some meat pieces, raisins or croutons on the salad. When preparing plant-based salads, we must be mindful that raw vegetables and fruits traditionally are much lower in caloric density than meat or other animal products. 100 calories of spinach versus 100 calories of bacon will take up significantly different amounts of plate real estate. While this differentiation is helpful for those hoping to lose weight, healthy active individuals adhering to vegetarian diets ought to consider replacing animal proteins with legumes, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and herbs to meet all our daily nutritional requirements. The pundits who criticize a vegetarian diet for its lack of protein or variety do not understand the infinite combinations of healthy, satisfying, robust and decadent plant-based foods that can satiate any palette.

Let us present to you the flawless formula for salads that will keep you energized, focused, satisfied and healthy while you fight the good fight of peace and justice for all creatures of the Earth.

Start with some leafy greens. The darker the better. Think kale, arugula, swiss chard, mustard greens, watercress or spinach. Be generous with your portion size as this is one of the most neglected yet beneficial types of foods we can possibly consume.

Add 1 can’s worth (approximately 1 cup) of a legume. Beans are calorically dense and rich in protein to help you power through your home workout and stay full longer. Some favourites include chickpeas, French brown lentils and kidney beans.

Next, you will want to chop up and add in your favourite fruits and vegetables. Just a few ideas are celery, carrot, peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, beet, apple, pear, broccoli, and cabbage; but don’t let us limit your imagination.

For extra fat and protein, you may want to top your salad with chopped walnuts, almonds, pepitas or sunflower seeds.

Now, the piece de resistance. This will take your salad from boring cafeteria side to showstopping main course. Done correctly, your dressing will be tangy, creamy, spicy and delicious. Not to mention incredibly healthy! Take 2 tbsp of tahini (sesame butter), 2 tbsp of hemp seeds, the juice of 1 lemon or lime, 2 tbsp of water and 1 tbsp. of miso paste (the probiotics in fermented foods like miso are incredibly helpful for boosting immunity and gut health). Next you can add in some aromatics like a piece of ginger or half a clove of garlic. Customize the dressing to your preference. Season with some salt, pepper, chili, turmeric, cayenne, or any other herbs you enjoy. Fresh cilantro or basil will add a lovely flavour to the mix if you have them on hand. Blend on high in a high-speed blender or food processor until you’ve reached a smooth consistency. Add water in small quantities to thin out the dressing if it is too thick for your salad.

Once your dressing is up to scratch, drench your salad in the delightful concoction and serve up a bowl of veggie heaven.

Coconut Chickpea Curry

Inspired by South Indian flavours and ingredients, this simple curry recipe can be thrown together in less than 30 minutes and is composed of affordable, healthy ingredients that are typically shelf and fridge staples.

Start up a pot of rice to cook while you work on your curry. For more protein, try cooking brown rice, wild rice, or even quinoa.

Mince 1 onion, 3-4 gloves of garlic, and 1 small piece of ginger (skin peeled off). Sautee in an oiled frying pan on a medium heat until onions are translucent. Next, toss in your spice mixture. This could be as simple as a couple tablespoons of a packaged “curry powder”, or you could grind up a mixture of turmeric, cumin, chili, fenugreek, coriander, paprika, and cinnamon. There are many different variations of a “curry” spice blend, so your creativity and food intuition will come into play here.

After sautéing your spiced onion, garlic, and ginger mixture for 5-10 minutes (until aromatic and sizzling), you will add in 3 tbsp. of tomato paste. Then, pour in 1 can of coconut milk. Simmer and stir the mixture on a low heat for up to 30 minutes. You can use this time to add in your favourite vegetables (cauliflower and carrot work beautifully in this recipe), rinse and drain your chickpeas, and locate some cashews and cilantro to garnish your curry with (these are optional ingredients but certainly pack a flavour and nutrition punch). The chickpeas are pre-cooked, so you will only need to add them to your prepared curry mixture near the end of the cook-time. Raw vegetables like cauliflower and carrots will need about 15-20 minutes to cook through.

That’s it! Who knew it was so easy to be a chef? Serve up a bowl of rice and top it with the curry and optional garnishes, and you will be ready to enjoy your feast.

 

 


March 25, 2020
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The world is on lockdown – it’s epidemic time. In a few short weeks, the previously dismissable coronavirus has gone from a benign Chinese contagion to a global monolith with grave health and economic implications. 

Coronavirus is not the problem, it’s a symptom of the problem. We have a careless attitude towards our planet. Although this Earth is our home, we do not value it for everything it provides us. The reason we are here today with such prosperity and “infinite growth” is because we ravaged our planet. We have got it completely wrong. In this mindless quest to satisfy every desire, we have doomed our own species’ future livelihood. 

The Earth cannot sustain the harsh demands of our bloated industrial and technological empire.  Our greedy lifestyles have evolved to strip innumerable natural resources from our planet and doom entire ecosystems.  

Nothing about our current way of life is natural or sustainable. Merely the fact that there are nearly 8 billion people with economic activity that creates widespread extinction events shows how unreasonable we’ve become. So many of our daily habits are toxic to our home environment. 

One should consider our lifestyles in comparison to the rest of the animal kingdom to grasp how absurd we truly are. We are too many revolutions removed from a lifestyle that our ancestors thrived in. It would be simple for someone to defend our current society – to talk about progress, technology, communications illuminating our lives. However, the lives we enjoy in the 21st century came at a steep price that we are still paying. 

Even Vancouver, our seaside gem of glass and emerald, suffers from chronic issues that bear healthy consideration. The wealth disparity between the West Hastings penthouses and the street markets of Strathcona is unsettling to say the least. Our neighbours are experiencing debilitating poverty, yet we consider the vulnerable in our population no more than a nuisance. We have rejected the condition and environment of our natural human communities. Cities of 1 to 20 million people are the norm, yet alienating to our natural state. 

Simply put, we have overcomplicated our lives. Monks and Buddhists, ascetics and minimalists are seen as extremists, while the lawyers, bankers, and politicians are the everyday-man. We are ignorant and careless regarding the natural world, when in fact it should be our first priority. We do not value the plants and animals, the environment around us when we would be nothing without them. 

Technology has bought us time; it has bought us Band-Aid solutions, but one must only peak at the chaos that is unfolding around us in March 2020 to understand that there’s a fundamental issue in the way we operate our lives. 

We ought to take stock of our immediate surroundings – to disconnect ourselves from the world economy to build self-reliance. Our global network brought a pandemic, a climate disaster, countless wars, and countless other casualties. We have alienated ourselves from our innate condition and forgot every aspect of what used to anchor us to our ecosystems. How could people be healthy when they’re fed deep-fried battery-cage chicken tenders, greasy fries, “diet” cokes, and carcinogens wrapped up in deli rolls? Our diets in the West are not nutritious. They have nothing to do with their local environments, and rely on society’s love of convenience and speed to barely fuel our busy lives. 

Once this virus runs its course, we have to reassess. We ought to seriously consider how we source our food, clothing, raw materials, technology, and household products. The origins of these possessions define our global economic system. We are mutually dependent. This has spelled success for many a businessman and export-oriented economy, yet with a tangible cost that may be too much for us to bear. The shock waves of our irresponsible lifestyles reverberate throughout the world to the tune of COVID-19. This pandemic ought to be the wake-up call we need to live more mindfully, sustainably, and well. Once the social isolation measures are relaxed, we have a tremendous opportunity to source more food locally, support our local economy, and build community resilience. These changes are absolutely possible and beneficial in our ongoing fight against climate change as global health scares radically shake up every societal norm we once took for granted. 


January 11, 2020
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We have a waste problem. To anyone with even a cursory understanding of human consumption patterns, it is frustratingly apparent that we use and dispose of things in the worst way possible. In our mad dash for riches, to cram our lives with possessions to distract and numb ourselves, we have left behind reason and sense. 

To have any hope of remedying this metastasizing issue, we must completely overhaul our relationship with things. Why? To give the planet a fighting chance in the war against climate change. 

When buying gifts for others or items for ourselves, we ought to be mindful of the manufacturing process and consumerism we are actively enabling. When we shop the biggest brands, our hard-earned money goes directly to supporting the corporations in their ongoing assault of the planet’s natural resources, while lining the bulging pockets of the wealthiest individuals.

As we accumulate unnecessary knick knacks, we fill our homes with useless garbage that doesn’t sustain us but distracts us. Far too frequently, these toys, decorations, novelty mugs, $5 t-shirts, etc. follow a damning path from big box store, to a brief period of glory used for its intended purpose, before their truly nefarious fate is realized. When discarded, these items either add to the endless accumulation within a landfill or they occupy the overflowing shelves of a secondhand shop, destined to curse another’s home. Best case scenario, someone finds true value in this hastily manufactured thing. However, we would be ignorant to believe this happens to every piece of junk that once graced our lives. 

Unfortunately, the manufacturing-marketing-buying-accumulating complex operates on far too grand a scale to be remedied by passing off a few possessions here and there to Salvation Army. We need systematic change within several industries to pull this off. More importantly, consumer culture at large must be disrupted. The intent is not to dismantle people’s generosity or hobbies, but to elicit a healthy reconsideration of why we buy what we buy. It’s a worthwhile question to ponder as our environment suffers the consequences of our thoughtlessness. There is simply too much production of disposable and cheap products for a sustainable recycling system to do more than band-aid our waste problem. 

The global shift towards urban living has radically changed the norm for billions of humans. While our ancestors subsisted off the land for millennia, either foraging, hunting, cultivating crops, the city lifestyle of services and automated production has severed us from responsibility and knowledge of self-sufficiency. 

A longitudinal analysis of British children reported that teenagers raised in the city were twice as likely to experience psychosis as those from rural environments. Factors such as the lack of neighbourhood cohesion, social isolation, pollution, noise, and exposure to higher crime rates are associated with depression, anxiety and mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse. City life is primarily characterized by removal. We are not involved in the production of our own food, limiting our sense of ownership and challenging the very nature of what historically made us human. Of course our food system is dysfunctional, it relies on our ignorance and greed. We have more abundance and indulgence at our fingertips than ever before, but this bounty comes at a great price to ecological stability and our own health. 

One could easily argue that all our subsequent technological and information revolutions have done little to serve us. Naturally, our lives on the whole appear to be much richer than our ancestors. Blind nature would suggest that we have succeeded in the Darwinian battle for domination of our habitat. Infant mortality has plummeted in the last few decades, our population has exploded to nearly 8 billion, we have unprecedented access to food, energy, and the ability to cure or combat diseases that could paralyze less sophisticated civilizations. Yet with all these gifts, we concurrently ravage the very planet we depend on in the mindless quest for more. 

To make it through the climate crisis that poses one of the greatest known risks to humanity, we need to reassess, redirect and refuse that which does not serve us. As diverse as our interests are across the world, as different as our perspectives may be, the ongoing health of Earth is a genuine call for unification. Rich and poor, right and left, every race, creed and culture – we all suffer from a neglected environment and benefit from a healthy one. 

To fix our grand predicament, we need to face the reality of our behaviour. Removal has enabled our apathy, but this sentiment is unsustainable in every sense of the word. The future of our species cannot afford our prolonged ignorance. It is time for governments, businesses, and individuals to hold themselves accountable for their actions. Consumers can question what they buy and which companies they support – fortunately we have the internet to inform us and provide transparency. Businesses should be scrutinized for their practices, while governments are kept in check by the collaboration of concerned citizens who actively strive for a better world that benefits future generations. No longer should it be our priority to consume more, more, more, but to critically think about what kind of world we are leaving for our children. The world is burning, glaciers are melting, and the ocean is brimming with plastic. Is this the legacy we want to create? 

 

Documentaries and Resources for further study: 

The True Cost

Broken: “Recycling Sham”

 


December 9, 2019
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If one is even a casual observer of population statistics or sensationalist headlines, they will know that humanity has stressed the natural bounds of our habitat. The warnings of an overpopulated Earth projected to be inhabited by easily 10 billion humans by 2050 will have signaled their panic from YouTube to National Geographic to university theses. It seems we have reached the Earth’s carrying capacity. A term coined by Thomas Malthus in the 18th century, this intangible limit would be surpassed when a species was so numerous that its food and natural resources would be insufficient to match their excessive needs and wants, and an extreme decline in population would logically follow. In the last couple centuries, the human population has increased exponentially, from 1804 to 2019, we soared from a manageable 1 billion to the nearly 8 billion as we stand today. A few million over-complicated and overstimulated primates are a light tax on the Earth’s bounty. Several billion with their glacial impacts of industry and greed are a bank robbery. 

It is not that we dominate our ecosystem, but that we so viciously isolated ourselves from the natural order of animals and habitat that we are a threat to life itself. This could be easily dismissed as hyperbole were there not grim facts to support a grave conclusion. The level of biodiversity loss in the past century alone is unprecedented. Humanity has been responsible for 52% of biodiversity loss in the past 40 years alone. We could selfishly think that only Nature and animals suffer for this slaughter, but we will be grievously affected ourselves. One need only assess the frightening decline of the global bumblebee population, the vital pollinators that we depend on to facilitate a large proportion of our agriculture. 

Now, as we always have, we could adapt to the changing and shrinking biodiversity of our planet. Animal species will continue to fracture away into extinction, as they have for the millennia that humans have been assaulting the Earth. This pattern has repeated throughout history. While early hominids were confined to the African savanna where our species originated, we evolved in tandem with the other large mammals. However, in other continents where human settlers arrived after the isolated evolution of large mammals, we were brutal conquerors who became solely responsible for their demise. In North America, mega fauna included giant sloths, peccaries, an American lion, saber-toothed cats, dire wolves, bison, a stag-moose, mammoths and mastodons, a giant armadillo and giant condors. In a rapid extinction event referred to as the “overkill hypothesis”, humans are theorized to be responsible for a mass extinction event that the mega fauna were powerless to stop. 

Human civilization has caused irreversible change to the planet as we know it. Future generations will know through records and photos that a natural bounty once existed – that the woods rang with birdsong, jungles were once dangerous places to venture into, and that we once entertained a beautiful unknown called “wilderness”. Our descendants will walk through memorials that glorify the richness of animal life as it once was, cursing their forebears’ selfishness and greed. 

It may be possible to engineer our way out of this. There is likely to be a technological solution to alleviate the symptoms of our consumption problem. Our polluted and depleted freshwater sources could be filtered and purified once the consumer demand is high enough to justify such a resource-intensive process. Vertical indoor-farming and lab-grown meat may satisfy the nutritional needs of an inflated human population once we succeed in sucking the soil dry of its remaining fertility. When all the fossil fuels are extracted from the Earth’s crust, nuclear power or alternative energy sources may light our homes and fill the batteries of our cars.

However, simply because technical solutions to humanity’s greatest challenges exist and could be implemented, does not mean we are off the hook for our crimes. The animals that vanish into memory as we steal their habitats and eliminate their food sources will receive no reparations for the genocide we’ve committed. The plants whose applications are numerous and beneficial, the benefits of which we have only scratched the surface, will be thoughtlessly eliminated. We amputate ourselves in the name of progress. 

Naturally, this would signal a troubling trend indicative of a broader pattern our society is currently following. We are increasingly trading away our individual liberties for convenience and ease. The existence where we govern ourselves is one of great responsibility, with a huge margin for error. If we must manage the growing, collecting, or hunting of our own food, sourcing water, health and safety concerns along with the stresses and dangers of everyday life, we are too busy to consume. How could there be time for the mindless accumulation of things, property, and dietary indulgence in this scenario? At this point in human history, we could have never been a threat to the planet. It took capitalism, scientific revolutions, and consumer pressure to drive us towards an unforgivable fate. 

Earth could survive without human beings. If our entire species were wiped off the face of the planet tomorrow, Nature could regenerate itself. The only rule that life abides by is to cultivate survival whenever possible. However, this does not mean that life will continue as we know it. We have forever altered the natural equilibrium of species, ecosystems, and resources on Earth. The desertification we have caused, sea level rise, river-rerouting, plastic oceans, are merely a few examples of the cataclysmic impact we have had upon our environment. Even if humanity were to suddenly vanish, the death and destruction we have caused with our apathy and negligence would outlive us. 

Our main responsibility is to halt this war of attrition and explore a new possibility that may give our species, but most importantly the countless other species that populate this planet, a second chance. We only must be willing to apply the findings of activists, scientists, innovators and policy-makers to give ourselves some hope of success. 


November 11, 2019
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Far from a millennial fad, vegetarianism as a philosophy and practice has existed in some form since ancient human history. In fact, there is significant anthropological evidence to suggest that our Neanderthal ancestors subsisted off plant and fungi-based diets. We were not always the pinnacle of the food chain – for this lauded status we relied on the leap that technology and weaponry facilitated. Early scavenging humans could count on vegetation to support their dietary needs when hunting was not possible or animals were not plentiful. 

Beyond scientific conjecture, classical texts from the Mediterranean basin and Mauryan dynasty suggest a legacy of meatless diets. Philosophers, kings, and emperors alike espoused notions of ahimsa, or non-violence, as they applied religious and social ideas towards animals.  The Buddhist and Jain philosophical awakenings promoted vegetarianism as an ethical, practical, and healthy lifestyle. Pythagoras was the main proponent of vegetarianism in Ancient Greece. He presented the idea of kinship between animals and humans, with the rationale that human benevolence depended on mercy towards other creatures. In fact, before the 19th century, those who practiced what we now consider a vegetarian diet were known as “Pythagoreans”, so influential were the considerations of Pythagoras. 

On a holistic level, monotheistic religions and their respective societies have been less likely to advocate vegetarian diets. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (the dominant monotheistic religions of Western society) have subjected certain limitations on diet, but generally have encouraged the reign of men over animals as a guiding principle. These faiths guide humans on a moral path governed by interpersonal relationships and responsibility towards ‘God’ or ‘Allah’, disregarding our connection to animals and nature. Larger, organized religions obscured the pagan values and folk religions of cultures they colonized, bringing humans away from our natural habitat and under the control of the power-hungry elite. 

By the start of the Renaissance, a resurgence of vegetarianism as an ideal occurred, as some artists and intellectuals revisited the classical values of ancient Europe. Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas More, Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, and Rene Descartes all were known to practice or advocate cruelty-free lifestyles to lessen harm towards animals. The philosophic, scientific, and political awakening of that era naturally connected with an expanded consideration of sympathetic behaviour. 

Within Europe, the dawn of the Enlightenment spurred new perspectives on animals and humanity’s moral obligations to fellow creatures. Social and political organization evolved rapidly during this era as new ideas flourished. Darwin’s incredibly impactful Theory of Evolution encouraged the widespread adoption of the ideology that animals and humans are interconnected, which was extrapolated upon by philosophers such as John Locke, who believed animals could communicate, feel pain, and express emotion, thus they were deserving of empathy and consideration. In the United States, the abolitionist (aim to end slavery) movement was largely supported by Quakers, who were also likely to discourage meat consumption. 

Between the 18th and 19th centuries, the age of Enlightenment ushered in the “Romantic” art movement. This era featured a renewed sense of connection to the natural world, as the prominent artists and thinkers called for an “aesthetic experience” linked with compassion and communion with nature. Eating meat was largely associated with indulgence and elitism. While the poor subsisted off of potatoes, vegetables, milk and porridge, the wealthy could afford to regularly consume meat. Vegetarians, therefore, were almost exclusively middle class intellectuals who hoped to emulate their values through their consumption choices while affording their own livelihoods. In their viewpoint, a simple vegetarian diet would be the keystone feature of an egalitarian society, as it would increase food supply, decrease land competition, and theoretically discourage class conflicts over these resources. Romantics were likely to denounce the class-ism, consumerism, and moral hypocrisy that animal agriculture produced. By establishing this connection, this artistic movement was grounded in harsh political and economic realities that influenced many subsequent thinkers and leaders. 

A parallel development in England produced the Vegetarian Society in 1847. A utopian spiritual community known as the Concordium, the Christian Bible Church, and readers of a popular journal at the time, the “Truth-Seeker”, were the founding members of the charity. They believed the movement was popular and influential enough to merit a formal organization. Gandhi was one of the society’s most popular members, as his philosophies of nonviolent resistance and compassion for animals influenced many around the world. The Vegetarian Society has operated consistently since its inception, advocating for cruelty-free policy and social movements through documentaries, publications, and celebrity endorsements. 

Still mostly a niche lifestyle movement, vegetarianism was brought into the spotlight in 1971 with the publication of Francis Lappe Moore’s highly influential Diet for a Small Planet. Moore advocated a simpler lifestyle that excluded meat due to its taxing effect on the environment. Her groundbreaking argument was that world hunger resulted from ineffective food policy, and the solution to food insecurity is the worldwide adoption of a vegetarian diet. Peter Singer introduced the animal welfare viewpoint into the discussion with his 1975 work, Animal Liberation. Singer popularized the concept of “speciesism”, a discriminating practice that involves treating animals from one species as superior to another for arbitrary reasons. 

A remarkable uptick in vegetarianism has occurred throughout the 2010s as the Internet and social media have made sharing information about climate change, animal treatment, and health effortless and incentivized through social approval. For the first time in history, vegetarianism is flooding mainstream culture as more people wake up to the harsh realities of these global issues. With an abundance of foods available year-round in all climates, fast food restaurants and grocery stores constantly broadening their offerings for plant-based customers, and parallel developments across consumer industries, there are fewer excuses than ever to ditch meat.


October 25, 2019
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Health is a powerful weapon. It may not be a violent, conventional weapon, yet it is a tool that can be equipped to maximize human potential. The journey to health is one of self-discovery, empowerment, peace and renewal. 

There are many reasons people give for transitioning to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Often they cite a combination of factors, related to the ethics of consuming or harming animals, the environmental degradation associated with animal agriculture, and negative health effects of consuming animal products. Although the final argument is contentious within health circles, with opposing parties all eager to claim they hold the antidote to humanity’s nutritional woes, there are many proven health benefits linked to a vegetarian diet. 

In 2018, the Progress in Cardiovascular Disease report showed that a vegetarian diet lowers an individual’s risk of heart disease by an average of 40%. When properly planned, a whole foods plant based diet can stave off some of North America’s greatest health culprits, such as; osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and heart disease. Animal protein is rich in saturated fat, which can build unhealthy levels of cholesterol within the body and endanger the heart through arterial narrowing. Vegetarians are found to have lower BMIs on average, as plant-forward diets typically feature more nutrient-dense and less calorically dense foods. 

Particularly when departing from the Standard American Diet, the journey to a plant-based diet has the potential to completely shift an individual’s relationship with food. This lifestyle is empowering, as it enables vegetarians to mindfully choose each day which foods they will eat. No meal is a given, as it may have been prior to this change. When following the ways of our parents, culture and religion without question, we blindly subscribe to notions of familiarity. Inhabiting this mindset, there is little space for independent thought. Conversely, a plant-based diet involves a conscious shift towards a new way of life. In this daily decision-making, we have no choice but to be mindful. New questions enter our minds, and new solutions are discovered. 

Community is a vital component of the health equation. VVS is one example of a healthy, sustainable and compassionate community, but we are only one player in Vancouver’s prolific wellness scene. If it is possible to surround yourself with individuals who share your values, then you are much more likely to follow through with your goals. What better opportunity exists for your path to self-improvement than to be encouraged by like-minded peers? You deserve to be part of a group that supports and reinforces your beliefs, rather than having to fight against the tide of negativity that floods our world today. 

It is not a universal phenomenon, but for many, changes in diet can be the first domino to fall in the path of pursuing health changes in all directions. There is power to be enjoyed in the knowledge that you are capable of changing something as fundamental to your existence as the food you consume. If this is possible, why should other lifestyle changes evade you? 

Many individuals who have made the switch from omnivorous to plant-focused diets report higher energy levels with an increased desire to exercise. Living in a place as beautiful as British Columbia, there are ample opportunities to explore the natural environment. With your newfound energy and stamina, you will be well-equipped to make the most of the mountains, forests and bountiful bodies of water that endow our province with its spectacular reputation. Fortunately, regular exercise is linked to improved mood, better sleep patterns, lower stress levels, and a slew of physical health benefits.

For those who prioritize health, the benefits need not be limited to individual gains. When we are able to take care of our own needs, we are better able to care for our friends, family and community. We know that we have benefited from positive lifestyle changes, so we can wholeheartedly recommend these pursuits to those we care about. There is no underestimating the power of influence, which is as effective in the online world as it is in business or politics. 

Moreover, why should we stop at meeting our own health needs? Empowered by the positive feeling of eating well and exercising, we have the potential to be better stewards of our natural world. Compassion and diligence engineer progress towards a kinder future. If we are not crippled by our own doubts and problems, we can ambitiously tackle the issues facing our world. Individual wellness sparks the opportunity to pursue societal wellness. Let us move consciously in the direction of our dreams, for there is no mountain too steep for human potential.


October 23, 2019
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The stereotypical image we hold of people surviving in cold climates includes consuming high amounts of meat, dairy and eggs. This cultural practice stems from a geographic and ecological necessity. In harsher climates, plant foods are typically difficult to cultivate because they cannot survive the intense temperature lows that humans or animals could. 

Many human health problems of our modern world can be attributed to lifestyle factors. Namely, our sedentary way of living in 21st century hyper-industrialized North America is a great leap from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle that was practiced by most humans for the majority of our evolutionary timeline. Both omnivores and vegetarians alike have difficulty obtaining the right amount of Vitamin D during the colder months, which is why supplementation is the smartest strategy to avoid unwanted health complications. 

At colder temperatures, the human metabolism must expend more energy to keep us warm. Thermogenesis is the process by which certain foods produce a warming effect on the body. These foods are typically ones rich in protein and carbohydrates, which involve more energy expenditure to digest. Thus by burning more calories, our bodies feel warmer, just as if we were exercising! 

For some vegetarians, the holidays can be a lonely or isolating season. Many holiday meals in Western culture feature animal centrepieces, and if family or friends eat an omnivorous diet, this could be alienating for their local friendly vegetarian. One great way to bridge this divide is to bring a plant-based dish to dazzle and share with everyone, while ensuring you have something delicious to eat. Alternatively, you could seek out vegetarian friends or dedicated events that cater to your interests specifically. This is the perfect time to build community around shared values. 

Make sure to drink ample hot teas, coffee or cider between meals if you are feeling cold but don’t want to be eating all day long. This is a great way to keep hydrated without the chilling effects of downing cold water, and can help improve blood circulation. 

Another smart strategy for thriving throughout the winter is to follow seasonal availability of produce. Dietitians actually recommend this helps strengthen the immune system to keep winter colds or other sicknesses away. In British Columbia, look out for farmers’ delightful selection of pears, apples, squash, persimmon, brussels sprouts, broccoli, potatoes, beets, and so much more throughout the winter months. The beauty of eating with the seasons is that your food does not have to travel as far to reach you, meaning you can eat fresher and healthier food and while producing less transport-related emissions. Most importantly, you can support local agriculture, ensuring food security and building community. 

Many of the best vegetarian winter recipes feature these seasonal produce options. Try out a curried pumpkin ginger soup, borscht, apple crumble, roasted brussels sprouts, pear compote, or any other ingenious combination you can dream up! 

Beyond diet, there are great ways to mindfully embrace the cold. For this practice, we should look to the timeless wisdom of our Northern cousins. Norway may as well be Europe’s Canada, but they dare to enjoy their cold weather. This country embraces winter to the extent that they even have a specific word for the sense of coziness that can be indulged during the colder months – koselig. Norwegians look forward to skiing, fireplaces, hot drinks, and awing over the majestic natural landscapes that are at their peak of brilliance blanketed in snow. 

Even if Vancouver is not blessed with the snowy winter wonderlands that grace other Canadian cities, this by no means suggests that we should be left out of enjoying the cold. Let us embrace ice skating, plan the friends’ ski trip to Whistler, go tobogganing in Squamish, or simply plan special hot chocolate dates with our loved ones. If there is something to be cherished, to anticipate, to mindfully enjoy, the winter can fully inhabit its own special place in our hearts.