Sierra

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. 

 


September 4, 2019
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Before the Industrial Revolution, it was not common for the majority of people to eat meat on a daily basis. Most people were farmers or foragers before urbanization and technological change made other occupations more common. If these individuals did have access to meat, it was infrequent (i.e. a pig is slaughtered annually for a Christmas feast), and treated like a luxury item. This notion remains popular in comparatively less developed countries, where the consumption of meat is linked to a higher disposable income and social status. 

The capitalist-consumerist doctrine that thrusted countries like the United States into wealth and global prominence provided a seemingly endless supply of meat products. The consumer quickly learned the lesson that no matter what, how much, or when they wanted it (provided they had the funds to back up their desires), the market would provide. Thus ushered in a frightening era of factory farmed animals – billions of animals in the U.S. alone enslaved and tortured so the industry can spend as little money as possible while maximizing profits. 

Our current global population is approximately 7.7 billion, and we are straining the world’s resources as it is. One in nine people are hungry, and one in three are malnourished. Demographic projections estimate that humans will number 10 billion by 2050, with the majority of growth centered around Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. 

Research and historical trends have shown that as the population grows and more people are brought out of poverty, the demand for meat will increase as well. Although we should be wary of paternalistic international policy that attempts to control consumption patterns of other nations, the ongoing climate emergency demands immediate collective action. If we look to culture and ancestral dietary patterns rather than dangerous fast food propaganda, we have a much greater chance of doing better by our health, the environment, and the animals. Let us focus on encouraging and celebrating healthy plant-based foods, rather than condemning others’ choices, we can share, educate and inspire. Provide the information, and let them choose for themselves. 

Our globalized economy has at least as many drawbacks as advantages. While consumers in wealthy countries may enjoy unprecedented access to food, wealth and services, this comes at a great human cost. Our clothes and smartphones are manufactured by slave labour in developing countries, most often in East and Southeast Asia. Western corporations benefit from the cheap labour while their customers clamour for the cheapest price points. 

The situation with the global trade is just as bad, if not worse. Cereals are grown en masse in poorer countries and shipped to wealthier countries to feed livestock, robbing local populations of their food supply while fattening the animals that inefficiently feed the West. It takes 25 kilograms of grain to produce 1 kilogram of beef. 

Animal agriculture is also hugely resource-intensive. The same kilogram of beef requires 15,000 liters of water to produce. Approximately 30% of global arable land is used for livestock farming. The livestock industry uses a third of the Earth’s freshwater. If we were to reallocate resources to feed the hungry rather than stuff the obese, our planet could actually accommodate the projected population increase. 3.5 billion more people could be fed on vegetarian diets, where grains would be consumed by humans directly, efficiently, and ethically. 

Beyond the argument of pure resource efficiency, the consumption of meat impoverishes the world by straining our environment beyond its limits. 2019 has seen dire climate news come to the forefront of public awareness. Every day it becomes harder to ignore that sea levels are rising, the atmosphere is brimming with carbon dioxide, and biodiversity is declining rapidly. 

The poor will be hit first and hardest by the disastrous effects of climate change. They will be poisoned by polluted water sources and further malnourished by the lack of food, dislocated from their homes, and suffer disproportionately from extreme weather events. 

When our eating habits are responsible for elevated emissions and excessive use of land and water, meat consumption becomes a human rights issue. Far from putting the interests of animals ahead of humans, we can simultaneously help humans, the environment, and animals. The only losers in this scenario are those who profit off animal cruelty, and we ought to stop paying our own executioners. 


September 4, 2019
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Traditional thinking has asserted that our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate copious amounts of animal protein. For modern adherents to paleo or keto diets, to follow in their footsteps is the perfect solution to our health woes. However, this thinking pattern neglects a vast body of anthropological evidence pointing to the contrary. 

Granted, humans have subsisted off an incredibly wide range of foods. It was to our evolutionary advantage to eat as broad of a diet as possible, particularly with the geographic range of our habitat and comparatively low position in the food chain. Yes, with tools, humans are adept hunters. We owe our status of predator to our brains, which have allowed us to use fire and weapons to circumvent our lowly prey status. However, this does not indicate that we are biologically designed to eat meat. 

For natural carnivores and omnivores, tools and fire are not necessary for transforming flesh into food. A lion has no issue tackling an antelope on the plains and eating the corpse raw. Carnivores use their incredibly acidic stomachs to break down the bacteria and parasites in raw meat that could poison herbivores with more alkaline systems. Humans are capable of eating raw meat, as sushi restaurants prove on a daily basis, but generally uncooked flesh can be dangerous and unwise for human consumption, leading to trichinosis, giardia, or toxoplasmosis. 

There are a few physiological characteristics which denote humans as something other than natural omnivores or carnivores. The length of our intestinal tract, approximately 6 meters, is much more closely related to that of herbivorous animals. Carnivores have shorter intestinal tracts that quickly expel rotting and decaying matter from the flesh they eat. 

While humans do have canine teeth, the majority of our teeth are flat-edged; better suited for crushing, grinding and chewing, rather than shearing. When humans do eat meat, knives do the work typically done by the sharp incisors and canines of a natural meat-eater. 

Before the widespread use of weapons, technology, and agriculture, humans would have had to rely on foraging through their natural environment for food. The majority of pre-agricultural societies were predominantly plant-based (with the exception of seaside settlements relying on seafood or northern communities that had little access to vegetation), with the occasional spoil shared amongst all members of the tribe. 

If humans were designed to eat meat, we ought to have more carnivorous instincts. Before societal conditioning kicks in at full force, presented by families, religious institutions, schools and media, children are generally compassionate to other forms of life. We will gladly take children to gardens and farms, but it would be traumatizing to take them to a slaughterhouse. Many children’s stories and movies feature farm animals as the protagonists. If we were honest with kids about how we serve up Bambi or Wilbur on their plates at dinnertime, we would likely have many more young vegetarians. 

An omnivorous diet was strategic in times of desperation. We cannot blame our ancestors for eating what was available in order to survive – we would likely do the same in their position. However, we live in an incredibly different world now. Simply because animals foods are available does not mean they are advisable. Given the environmental and ethical conditions of animal consumption today, the more humans that eat animal foods, the more we dig our collective grave. It is simply not sustainable or practical for 7 billion plus humans to eat so much animal protein. The nutrients that humans need from animal products (generally understood to be an assortment of amino acids, omega 3s, and Vitamins D and B12), are either easily supplemented or absorbed from plant foods with the right dietary planning. 

The decision to refrain from eating meat is an important, empowering, ethical stance. It means that you are willing to stand up for what you believe in – that you value compassion over tradition, and that you are in charge of your own health. In a society trying to turn us all into sheep, we must dare to break from the herd. 


August 30, 2019
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The lungs of the world have been burning for weeks. Keyboard and climate activists alike weep for the ecological and social catastrophe. It is eye-opening, to those who choose to pay attention. Therein lies the problem. For those that are aware of climate change, headlines like “Iceland holds a funeral for the first glacier lost to climate change” or “We have 11 years to reverse climate change”, serve only to reinforce the frustration and sense of urgency. For those that do not care or deny the effects of elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the news means nothing. 

Many are awake to the terrifying changes our world is experiencing. Yet many still feel powerless. As individuals, we have limited ability to solve the ills of the world. Big problems like a burning rainforest need big solutions and collective action. One online observer noted that in a handful of days, benefactors had raised $20 billion to restore Notre Dame when it was damaged a few months ago, yet all we could compile for the “lungs of the Earth” was $20 million. 

Fundamentally, the burning Amazon represents a question of sovereignty. Brazil’s far-right, populist president Jair Bolsonaro crafts policy which suits the economic growth of Brazil at any cost. To many developing nations, it appears hypocritical for Western countries to condemn their resource extraction-oriented economies that obscure environmental concerns, as the very same sacrifices enabled Western countries to become wealthy historically. For a leader like Bolsonaro, it appears absurd that G7 countries could question Brazil’s treatment of “its” resource, the Amazon Rainforest. Those who attempt to directly report on environmental policy in Brazil are frequently muffled or persecuted. Regardless, it is objectively clear that deforestation has accelerated rapidly within a few short months of Bolsonaro’s presidency. 

The primary driver of deforestation in Brazil and neighbouring Amazonian basin countries is the clear-cutting slash and burn activities that seek to transform forest into mining and agricultural land. If it were merely poor farmers seeking to feed their families and choke out a living with cattle ranching, it would be difficult to place blame. However, unsustainable cattle farming accounts for 80% of Amazonian deforestation. It is not one starving family; it is an industrial, international explosion of greed that drives this trend. 

Moreover, the shrinking Amazon and burning forests hurt more than the environment. The Amazon is one of the last hubs of biodiversity and true wilderness on Earth. Not only plant and animal life, but rare uncontacted indigenous groups populate this region. The fires we burn in the name of money condemn entire cultures, ecosystems, and have the unfortunate potential to shape our future for the worse. 

As many ecowarriors may be furious over the environmental catastrophe that is unfolding within the rainforest, there is a lag between sentiment and action. As is often the case, those who care the most have the smallest capacity to act. It does not serve those who profit off the beef industry to care for the trees, indigenous peoples, and rare animal species. Money speaks, and pollution whispers. If a tree burns 3,000 kilometers away from Brasilia, why should a corrupt politician care? He does not have to face the victims of his crime. 

To get through to the worst perpetrators of ecocide, we must begin speaking their language. Ecological guilt-tripping will not soften the industrialist’s heart. There is another path. Finland, which holds the rotating chairmanship of the European Union, has called on fellow member countries to place an embargo on Brazilian beef imports. This is an admirable start, but Brazil will need a more powerful sign from the international community that its activities are unacceptable. The top export markets for Brazilian products, China and the United States, should indicate that their trading relationships are endangered by politics of fear and coercion that put all humans at risk. 

There is also a route to salvation that runs independently of political action. On a global scale, we are greater than the sum of our politics. If enough people voice their disapproval, and let their actions back up their opinions, we may have a chance of fighting this ongoing tragedy. Let us financially support the farmers that feel they have no other option but to sacrifice forest for farms. Let us create art that calls attention to the crisis. If the public can inspire business leaders, celebrities, and politicians (and we can), we may just have a chance. The lungs of the Earth depend on us, and this is not the time to stand idly by while the last pillars of Mother Nature are burned to the ground. 


July 17, 2019
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More than the rest of us, athletes must be incredibly careful about what goes into their bodies. They know that the food they eat fuels their physical activity, which must be at a peak level. For the best training results, they know their diet must be optimal. We could all learn a little bit from athletes when it comes to health, even if we aren’t about to run a marathon. 

 

So why might athletes give up meat or other animal products? Don’t they need lots of protein to build muscle and keep their energy levels high? Doctors, researchers, and countless vegetarians around the world would beg to differ. The truth is, it is possible to get all the nutrition your body requires from a carefully planned, plant-based diet. Switching to plants could even make you healthier, while feeling great about your decision that also helps animals and the environment. 

 

The findings are in – humans definitely don’t need to eat flesh to be healthy! The overconsumption of fatty, cholesterol-filled animal products is actually linked to heart disease, atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. Those conditions would absolutely not be conducive to athletic performance. So it is easy to see why some may look for a better option. 

 

Plant-based diets, with their focus on whole, plant foods, tend to be much lower in fat and have much more fiber than the Standard American Diet (filled with highly processed, fatty animal foods and simple carbohydrates). 

 

Sadly, even those who are at the peak of physical fitness can be at risk for heart disease. One study found that 44% of endurance cyclists suffered from coronary plaque.  A great way to combat this buildup is to eat more plants, or leave animal products behind altogether.

 

Plant-based diets are known to reverse plaque build-up, lower blood pressure and reduce body weight. Because they are low in saturated fat and cholesterol, this diet can improve blood viscosity, helping oxygen travel through the bloodstream more efficiently. 

 

Without being bogged down by heavy, meaty meals, plant-based athletes have more energy at their disposal and have higher endurance levels. Inflammation, which is created through factors ranging from stress to high levels of meat consumption, can be a huge hindrance to athletic success. Studies have recently shown that a healthy-plant based diet can fight this inflammation by alkalizing the body and protecting it against the slew of diseases and discomfort that inflammation is linked to. Anti-inflammatory superfoods that some athletes swear by are turmeric, flax, hemp, dark leafy greens, ginger and blueberries. 

 

Flinging himself far from the fate of plaque buildup and heart disease, Adam Hansen, an endurance cyclist, claims that a “healthy, plant-based diet” helped him shatter the record and finish 20 Grand Tours in a row. He is not alone in aweing at the power of a plant-powered transformation. Record breaking, world-class strongman Patrik Baboumian credits his abnormally long career and natural-built buscles to his clean, vegan diet. 

 

Athletes from every sport are touting the success of their new lifestyles. One of the best female tennis players in the world, Venus Williams follows a vegan diet to manage her auto-immune disease naturally. Rich Roll, famous podcaster and ultraman, used a plant-based diet to overcome his addictions, lose weight, and completely transform his lifestyle. Tia Blanco, World Surfing Champion of 2015, cut out animals from her diet after being horrified by the treatment of animals in Cowspiracy. She now feels more energetic than ever before, and her diet and active life keep her effortlessly lean. 

 

Some will be in denial about the comprehensive benefits of a plant-based diet. They will ask where you get your protein, wonder if your muscles are withering away, and worry you will pass out from lack of chicken. You can breathe easy, run ahead and join the millions of others who are making the healthier and kinder choice – for the animals, the planet, and their own wellbeing.


July 10, 2019
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We didn’t listen to the warnings. We kept on using as much fossil fuels as we wanted, the companies kept on polluting the rivers and seas, and governments did nothing to stop them. The bad news about the climate kept on piling up, so we put our headphones in and turned away from the harsh realities we didn’t want to face. People displayed their sympathies and shares on Facebook, but never changed their habits. The worst of what we feared came true. 

Almost 90% of wild species went extinct. We ran out of topsoil, and the pollinators died off, so we started growing our food indoors. Farmland had been lost to desertification and soil erosion, but we simply didn’t have enough space to grow indoor food for the world’s population. Access to food became a class issue, people across the world lined up outside empty grocery stores for weekly rations that dwindled before their eyes. 10 billion mouths demanded more, more, more, while the Earth groaned under the weight of our greed. 

We didn’t listen to the whistleblowers. They prophesied of the dystopia to come, and we didn’t care. We were distracted by our phones, celebrity gossip, and gas prices. We were kept silent from revolution as the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.

The middle class was effectively wiped out by 2035. Fresh water has become as expensive as gold. Children have been poisoned, irreversibly damaged by the toxic water. But private companies seized up the dwindling freshwater stocks in the late 2020s, and the new underclass of the urban poor (which accounts for more than 90% of the population), have been left to fend for scraps on the street like stray dogs. The lucky few built their new estates up in the mountains, high above rising sea levels and class resentment. 

Everyone was fragmented into individuals. We failed to come together as a community, it was “every man for himself”. With the responsibility of caring for our planet diffused across more than 7 billion people, each person figured they couldn’t make a difference. The cancer we created in our own home had metastasized. It was too much for any one person to save the world, so we all gave in to the worst. Temperatures climbed while islands went underwater. Natural disasters and heat waves hit like never before, and the forests that remained untouched by agricultural expansion burned in endless wildfires. 

We kept on making consumer goods out of plastic, and our disposable culture lived on. We were obsessed with consumption – having the next big thing or “this Fall’s must-have”. The oceans filled with plastic, and quickly the garbage island became the garbage continent. Marine life choked on our 6-pack rings and drinking straws. Fragile coastal habitats were paved over for beachfront condos. Meanwhile, melting ice caps left polar bears homeless and another ecosystem fell to our greed and negligence. 

We thought about diversifying our energy sources. Some investments were made into solar, wind and hydro power. But the corporations had too much lobbying power. Grants and subsidies fueled the continued thoughtless extraction of the Earth’s dwindling natural resources. When we ran out of freshwater, desalination became the new profitable investment opportunity. What was once a natural human right, sanctified by the United Nations, decayed into just another way to control the poor. 

The world became a lot darker, and much bleaker. Our blue skies were traded for grey haze, and the endless sea of green that had swept across our planet melted away. We traded trees for phone towers, and rivers for sewer lines. Some remember what the world used to be, what it could have been, but they have been silenced by clever marketing campaigns. Virtual reality games have helped us forget what life once was when we were intimately connected to the natural world. Now, anything is possible, as long as it’s digital. 

But wait…

Of course, none of this has happened yet. We are still in 2019, and this dystopian world is one of nightmares, not our waking reality. But we must take warnings about climate change and overpopulation seriously. Many of the changes forecasted in the worst version of 2050 are the foreseeable conclusions of our choices today. It may not be too late, but we have a lot of work to do.