lifestyle

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 bout our current way of life is natural or sustainable. Merely the fact that there are 7 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 glimpse 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. 

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 glimpse 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 must be obligated 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”

 


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.


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.