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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.