March 25, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 12, 2018

From hippies and hemp, to avocados and ashwagandha, Vancouver is the home to historic Rainbow Road and has been a longtime friend to vegetarians. The city hosts a modern reputation of yoga, hiking, and delectable healthy cuisine inspired by global culinary traditions, carrying its cosmopolitan green mindset into the 21st century. Although Vancouver was originally quite conservative with its pioneer population of loggers, industrialists, and fishermen, an influx of American draft dodgers and West coast ideology in the 1960s and 70s began to shift Vancouver’s values towards the liberal, green mindset that it is now renowned for.

A crucial aspect of this alternative lifestyle is to embrace more compassionate dietary options. Whether it be the collision of global cultures infusing the city with diverse dinner options, or an enhanced awareness triggered by our proximity to such beautiful natural wonders, Vancouver has come to be known as one of the most vegetarian-friendly cities in the world. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) named Vancouver the top city in Canada for vegetarians, and sixth globally. This reputation is supported by a multitude of comfort food, healthy, and indulgent staples served at local favourites such as the Naam, Heirloom, or Meet. The Naam was established on Rainbow Road (currently known as 4th Avenue), and became the epicentre of the hippie movement in Vancouver. It also served as a meeting place for those interested in Eastern philosophy and spirituality, ideologies that famously associate non-violence with abstinence from meat consumption. While the Naam may have opened in 1968, the real tide of vegetarian restaurants has swept over Vancouver in the 2000s and 10s, as popularity for the adoption of vegetarian or vegan diets has skyrocketed. Almost 40% of British Columbians under 35 now consider themselves meatless, so needless to say, there is an obvious demand for quality restaurants and services that avoid cruelty to animals.

Beyond food options, Vancouver is also home to a number of retailers and organizations that encourage community building and support animal activism. Shops such as Nice Shoes provide animal-free footwear and accessories, Willow’s Wax Bar offers vegan-friendly spa services, and charity organisations such as Earthsave and Sea Shepherd were established and maintain headquarters in Vancouver. There are many Meetup and Facebook events that cater to vegetarians, seeking to connect like-minded individuals who may otherwise feel isolated from the general community.

Given the burgeoning popularity of plant based lifestyles, made popular by celebrities like Ellen, Beyonce, Joaquin Phoenix, and Chris Hemsworth, it is likely that the movement may continue to grow over the next few years. Should the trend grow, Vancouver will be well-placed to cater to the plant curious and seasoned veggie veterans alike.

March 12, 2018

The annual Vancouver cornucopia of vegetarian food, education, and product innovation began humbly in 2014. Since Vegexpo’s inception, it has been a major attractor for local businesses with a vegan or vegetarian angle, and has drawn a number of celebrities and activists that advocate a cruelty-free lifestyle.

Part trade show, part festival of all things plant-based, Vegexpo is the preeminent destination for sustainable, ethical, and compassionate consumption. Past years have featured exhibitors as diverse as Tesla, PETA, Sea Shepherd, and Ben & Jerry’s. The event has expanded greatly over its four year lifespan, and is sure to draw an even greater crowd this year – if the surging popularity of local vegetarian businesses is any indicator.

This event serves as a wonderful opportunity for like-minded, animal loving individuals to connect. Many Vancouver businesses and international retailers have cited vegexpo as an unparalleled opportunity to showcase their products and services to eager audiences. Vegexpo is a unique reprieve for vegetarians where the products offered perfectly match the demand, and the community’s gratitude is clearly showcased by the excitement leading up to the May 27th event.

2018 stands out as the year when plant-based diets are entering the mainstream, with no shortage of thanks to dedicated activists like Kip Andersen and his challenging documentaries; Cowspiracy and What the Health. Andersen will be presenting at Vegexpo as this year’s keynote speaker, and is sure to inspire just as much in person as he does on screen, motivating people to make the best choice for their health, the environment, and the animals. Anderson will be joined by Courtney Dobbin of Mercy for Animals, Rajesh Narine of local gem Cartems, Emily Lavender of PETA, and many more fascinating leaders of the plant-based movement. The presenters will round out the event to fully cater to all aspects of a vegetarian lifestyle. With the range of attractions, Vegexpo even has the potential to sway those on the fence about going meatless, demonstrating that it is possible to be healthy, happy, and satiated on an animal-free diet.