Life, Love, V

Nations Embrace Plant-Based Diets
Using 3D Printers To Save Lives
Mint Helps You Track Income And Expenses, For Free!
Leaders: Business Is The Future Of Holistic Change
Our goals and ambitions for Life, Love, V.

Operation Missing Link: Why We Aren’t Done Yet

Al Gore getting Nobel Prize.

In 2011, Kamal Prasad, editor-in-chief of LLV, and I started Operation Missing Link, a social movement aimed at getting climate leaders to speak openly about the harmful connection between animal agriculture and climate change. Al Gore was one of our targets, as his globally active Climate Reality Project is missing essential education about the importance of a plant-based diet in fighting climate change. Recent research shows that 80% of US land use is accounted for by animal agriculture, and 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the livestock sector. In other words, an elephant-sized piece of the solution is missing from Gore’s “reality” solution.

Gore adopted a vegan diet earlier this year, and this seems to have pleased the environmental and health communities. In a recent interview, however, Gore distinguished himself from those who go vegan for the climate, environment, or health, stating:

“Over a year ago I changed my diet to a vegan diet, really just to experiment to see what it was like,” he says. “And I felt better, so I continued with it. Now, for many people, that choice is connected to environmental ethics and health issues and all that stuff, but I just wanted to try it to see what it was like. In a visceral way, I felt better, so I’ve continued with it and I’m likely to continue it for the rest of my life.”

As a self-appointed climate leader who has global reach, influence, and real power to make a difference, Gore is still not serving his constituents well. He still isn’t speaking openly about why the shift to a plant-based lifestyle is critical if we are to solve climate change. In fact, he is distancing himself from the issue by saying that he just did it because it feels good.

Clearly, he can do better. So, Operation Missing Link continues, and you can sign a petition or submit a video to Al Gore, asking him to tell people about the number one thing they can do to solve climate change and show the world that he really can lead on this issue.

 

Image credit: Kjetil Bjørnsrud via Wikimedia

Cowspiracy: A Truth Whose Time Has Come

cowspiracy

Full disclosure: Editor-in-chief of Life, Love, V, Kamal Prasad, did some videography for Cowspiracy but does not have a financial stake in it.

On the evening of June 19, I attended the San Francisco premiere of Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, an environmental documentary about the elephant in the room that is responsible for 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions (drum roll)…animal agriculture.

I have been raising awareness about this issue for a few years and had high hopes for this film, because humanity really needs this conversation to be mainstreamed now. My expectations were exceeded.

The documentary follows the journey of Kip Andersen, co-director, who wants to figure out how to make a difference and live as sustainable a lifestyle as possible. What he discovers astonishes him, and he decides to ask some questions and make a documentary to track his findings.

Kip visits executives at major environmental organizations like the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), The Climate Reality Project, Oceana, Greenpeace, The Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Sierra Club and others to ask simple questions about what they think the impact of animal agriculture is on environmental degradation, habitat loss, climate change, and deforestation. The film captures awkward moments when executives falter as they attempt to give coherent responses. There’s a sinister feeling as we, the viewers realize that these leaders are either hiding something, or have completely missed the mark on letting their membership know the best way to stop and reverse some of the biggest environmental problems facing our planet today. Sailesh Rao of Climate Healers perfectly captures these organizations’ predicament in his recent review of the film.

Co-director Keegan Kuhn masterfully captures the compassion and eloquence of those who are not afraid (including a former board member of Greenpeace) to talk openly about the solution that is staring us all in the face. Perhaps most powerful is the transformation Kip undergoes while making this film.

I was getting goose bumps while watching this documentary, because I’ve never seen all the facts laid out so clearly and with such visual simplicity. I admire how vividly this duo has captured the reality of climate change and environmental degradation in our era. They have tastefully and beautifully illustrated the defining challenge of our time, including the failure of leading environmental organizations to see the issue for what it is and to align their actions with real solutions. When I was talking to Keegan after the premiere, he mentioned that their goal was not to shame anyone, but to honestly portray the current situation. They have certainly done that.

Basically, the current situation is that environmental organizations are doing a great disservice to those of us who donate time and money for causes that are sidestepping the real solution. If you donate to environmental organizations, you need to watch this film. On a more positive note, folks at the Center for Biological Diversity, after watching Cowspiracy, have taken the lead in telling its members about eliminating animal products from their lives.

No spoilers here. Suffice it to say that if you care about the environment, or children, or wildlife, or animals, you need to watch this film. Even if you don’t care, and want to see an exceptional example of good storytelling and exquisite filmmaking with disarming humor and touching depth, this could be the most important film you see this year.

This is a story of what it means for one person to have the courage and common sense to discover and act upon facts. It’s about how to face the reality we live in today, on the path to transforming that reality into a better tomorrow for all life. As Kip put it at the San Francisco premiere, “The transformation is already underway. Just enjoy the ride.”

Remember this conversation from The Matrix?

Neo: Why do my eyes hurt?

Morpheus: You’ve never used them before.

Find a Cowspiracy screening near you and prepare to see.

 

Image credit: Cowspiracy

Vegan Foods For Future Astronauts

Future astronauts will be vegan.We seem to have an abundance of resources to devote to raising animal foods for consumption here on Earth. However, astronauts, especially those who would be the first to set foot on Mars, will not have that luxury.

Any trip to Mars will be a long affair. Under the best case scenarios, travel time to and back from Mars alone would take about a year. Anyone willing to travel that long will not want to spend anything less than several months on the Red Planet. The long trip, and limited space and resources make it necessary to ensure efficiency during the trip. And, plant-based foods are the most efficient way of getting the best nutrition from the source to a person on Earth, and as it turns out, in space too.

It makes sense then, that NASA is testing different types of vegan foods for astronauts making the long trip to make sure that the new Martians will have a variety of tastes, and easy-to-prepare options with the ingredients that will be accessible to them.

Of course, they will be growing most of their food once they are established on Mars. And to make sure that their gardens are successful, NASA is also testing different growing environments for the fruits and veggies that astronauts will be consuming.

Source: IO9, International Science Times

Image Credits: NASA

Organic Standards Under Threat

clagett-farm-community-1237686-hOn April 29 in San Antonio, Texas, Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and March Against Monsanto San Antonio (MAMSA) representatives protested at the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting.  The protest is against changes being made to organic standards that would mean that more and more non-organic and synthetic ingredients would be allowed to be listed as organic.

As Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director for the OCA explains, “For more than a decade, the process for deciding what ingredients and materials are allowed in organic has been fairly democratic. Under the new provision, it will be extremely difficult to get non-organic materials and ingredients removed from the list. Our protest today is intended to draw attention to the threat this new process poses to organic standards, the arbitrary manner in which the process was changed, and to demand that the change be reversed.”

Some believe that this change was made to perniciously grow the organic market. In any case, the list of non-organic materials targeted for removal, including sausage casings made from the intestines of non-organic animals from factory farms, is enough to convince any reasonable person that this change must be corrected, and organic standards must be protected. You can support OCA in saving organic standards by signing their petition.

As MAMSA representative Cynthia Kurkowski put it, “It’s important to keep organic standards strong. Organic farming is the best alternative to genetically modified industrial agriculture. This change impacts everyone who is now seeking alternatives to GMOs, not just the people who already consider themselves to be part of the organic community. Organic has to be a system people trust in order to get them to buy in.”

 

Image credit: galant via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 

Guidelines for Life

crystal-kristall-meditation-2117704-hAs an entrepreneur, scientist, and spiritual healer, I often think about how to better integrate life and work. After all, my passion to heal the world drives my work, and work is a huge part of my life, so I see work-life balance as simply life balance, if you know what I mean. Whether I’m acting in a personal or professional context, I’m always looking for insights on self-improvement and harmony. It seems that prioritizing self-care, expanding creativity and sense of possibility, and cultivating uplifting relationships with healthy boundaries are essential to balance.  

Nurturing the self can include staying connected to good energy, staying away from negative energy, and knowing what feelings and responsibilities are yours, and which belong to others, so we don’t take things personally. On a more fundamental, physical level, self-care involves restful sleep, nutritious food, enjoyable exercise, and periodic cleansing of toxins. And, spring is a good time to do some inner spring cleaning. Just saying.

Creativity arrives easily when we are relaxed, so stress reduction is important and can be achieved through meditation, fun, and good self-care. Expansion of one’s creativity happens when we try out new experiences, embrace failures as lessons, and let go of the past to make room for more of what life has to offer. What did you let go of lately? What new experience did you enjoy this week?

Healthy relationships and solid boundaries include following our own and others’ actions more closely than words so we can see what’s really going on, offering and asking for respect from all the people we interact with, and giving back to communities so we can pay forward the goodness we have received. Another important aspect of healthy relationships is to surrender expectations so we can be present with people as they are, instead of interacting with our wishful versions of people, which always disappoint. We can also benefit greatly by focusing on the big picture instead of every little thing.

As we navigate an ever-changing landscape that is life, these rules of thumb can come in handy.

Image credit: alicepopkorn via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 

Cowspiracy, The Climate Change Solution Environmental Orgs Don’t Want You To Know

Cowspiracy, The Sustainability Secret

(Full Disclosure: I did some videography for the Cowspiracy – The Sustainability Secret. However, I don’t have a financial stake in the film.)

As someone who has embraced the plant-based lifestyle, you are probably already aware of the environmental havoc wrought by animal agriculture. Still, it is rare to see prominent environmental organizations talking about the elimination of animal products as a means of averting the worst effects of climate change. A soon to be released documentary, Cowspiracy – The Sustainability Secret, examines the extent of animal agriculture’s harmful effects on the planet and why environmental organizations might be afraid to address it.

Touted as a documentary that “will be as eye-opening as Blackfish and as inspiring as An Inconvenient Truth,” the film follows the journey of Kip Andersen, co-director (along with Keegan Kuhn) as he uncovers the truth behind the environmental impact of animal agriculture. While filming, they are informed that their funding of the project is being pulled due to the controversy surrounding the film, causing them to invest most of their own savings into the film.

In order to get Cowspiracy ready for theatrical release, the duo reached out for supporters via the crowdfunding site, Indiegogo. Within days of posting the campaign, they surpassed their initial goal of raising $54,000!  Now they are trying to reach their extended goal, which will help them translate the film into multiple languages to reach a wider audience across the globe. It will also include creating an educational edit of Cowspiracy that is 50 minutes long, ideal for showing in a classroom. There are some very cool gifts to be had should you decide to contribute to the project.

Cowspiracy is a documentary whose time has come. Increasingly, people are realizing the health, environmental and social benefits of adopting a plant-based diet. These are people who actively seek out ways to make this a better world for all. Cowspiracy will help the rest of the world awaken to this simple act of sustainability, and, who knows, it might bring along some environmental organizations with it.

A Bollywood Approach to Gay Rights

Bollywood WelcomeAs a gay rights activist with several gay friends, I’ve seen my share of campaigns. The one that is trending right now, though, is pretty unique. It’s the first Bollywood music video for gay rights from the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission’s Free & Equal campaign. Featuring Free & Equal ambassador and actress Celina Jaitley and playback singer Neeraj Shridhar of Bombay Vikings fame,  the video includes a catchy jingle that is a remake of a popular old Bollywood song. The video depicts Celina singing happily on what appears to be her wedding day, but then the story takes a twist when two gorgeous men show up, and there’s a stereotypical grumpy-pants grandma involved…but don’t let me spoil it – watch it for yourself!

The video is called The Welcome, and what a fitting name. It’s about time Indian culture not only accepted, but welcomed gay couples into their societies. The grumpy-pants grandma stereotype isn’t far from the truth, as elders are often quick to judge and reject gay family members. This video plays a small but important role in highlighting how that negative sentiment is shifting to one of warm acceptance. After all, love is love.

Image credit: Free & Equal

Science Catches Up To Ancient Wisdom

heart_light_blackground_518497_hAriana Huffington of Huffington Post fame has written her latest book, Thrive, about long-held beliefs and practices that science now supports. She orients these practices around four pillars: well being, wisdom, wonder, and giving & compassion.

The beliefs and their scientific foundations are as follows:

  1. Helping others can improve your health: research shows that helping others and having meaning in life, a eudaimonic (as opposed to hedonic) form of happiness, can produce more antibodies to keep the body strong.
  2. Acupuncture can balance and restore the body: working with qi or chi, the body’s own energy, this technique can relieve migraines, arthritis and chronic pain. Science now proves that acupuncture really works.
  3. We thrive in communities: the research indicates that people with stronger social relationships have a 50% greater likelihood of survival. These findings hold across age, sex and initial health status!
  4. Tai chi can improve many health conditions: another modality that works with the body’s own energy, tai chi can alleviate symptoms associated with heart disease, arthritis, breast cancer, and other conditions, according to studies.
  5. Meditation reduces stress and promotes peace: the research shows an actual biological effect in the body whereby meditation enhances gene expression that improves metabolism and insulin secretion, boosting immunity and reducing inflammation.
  6. Compassion cultivates a meaningful life: the science on this topic shows compassion can increase empathy and a more meaningful, purposeful, and healthy life.
  7. Accepting what we can’t change reduces suffering: this holds true especially for the aging, who must relinquish control over some aspects of their life, and adapt to others. Research suggests this ability to let go enhances their happiness.
  8. Love matters most: a 75-year study concluded that love, and the ability to stay open to loving relationships, is the most important thing in life.

And there we have it: science has caught up to the ancient wisdom of our ancestors.

Source: The Third Metric

Image credit: Victory of the People via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution

It’s Not Technology, It’s Behavior

bridge_water_road_21280_lRecently a very important study co-funded by NASA revealed that human civilization could be heading for collapse in as little as 15 years. The study consolidates risk criteria into two main indicators, an “us and them” situation between elites and the masses, and resources that are stretched to their limits and threaten the carrying capacity of the earth. These factors interplay to create a dangerous situation in which elites continue to live unsustainably and the rest of the world suffers. Sadly, the catastrophic collapse of food, water, and energy systems, as well as climate change will affect everybody, just not at the same time. As elites buy time, the masses continue to face increasingly severe impacts.

Technology, which many look to for a quick fix, tends to increase consumption, which counters its efficiency benefits. IT’s not technology that will save us, but our own actions, including how we use technology. The NASA study points to solutions that address the root causes: inequality and overconsumption. Increased demand for animal products as developing nations get wealthier is particularly problematic. These solutions include reducing social inequality, consuming fewer resources, and curbing population growth. The real solution is to change human behavior: if we can change how we live, share what we have, consume less, have fewer or no children, and begin to change our societal structures, we can turn this Titanic around.  There’s no time like now to begin!

Image credit: Chris Metcalf via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution

Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project’s First Annual Conference (Updated)

Duo Duo conference sign(Update: The article originally implied that dog meat meat trade still exists in Taiwan, which is false. Dog meat trade in Taiwan was banned in 2003. Also, Mr Chu Tseng-Hung’s activism is focused in Taiwan, not China as was originally stated. My apologies for the errors.)

Duo Duo is a very lucky dog! She was born in China for the sole purpose of being experimented on. When she could no longer serve that purpose she was to be sold to the dog meat market for about US $5. Then she caught the eye of Andrea Gung, a Taiwanese-American who was visiting China. That started them both on an adventure that, I am sure, neither of them would have expected.

Andrea was inspired to help end the dog meat trade in mainland China. Contrary to popular belief, dogs and cats are not part of a typical diet of the Chinese people. There are only two regions in China that consume the flesh of dogs and cats, and even there it’s not all year around.

There is a particular festival, called the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, once a year that sees the biggest demand for dog meat. All dogs sold at the festival are stolen from their caretakers. Many still have their collars and outfits they were dressed in when they were stolen. It is much easier for people to steal dogs to be sold for their meat than for them to be farmed like cows, pigs and chickens.

Andrea’s organization, Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project, named after Duo Duo (meaning extra) the dog, held its first conference to highlight this and other issues related to the exploitation of non-human animals in China and Taiwan on April 26th at the Golden Gate University in San Francisco. I was fortunate enough to attend.

Dr. Peter Li and Andrea Gung

Dr. Peter Li (HSI) and Andrea Gung (Founder, Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project)

What I learned inspired me and gave me hope for the future of our relationship to non-human animals everywhere. Western views of Chinese relationship with non-human animals are often seen as barbaric. And, we tend to believe that there is no changing that. Dr. Peter Li of Humane Society International (HSI), speaking at the conference, however, showed that there has been over a three-fold increase in the amount of organized animal rights/welfare groups since 2000. While eliminating and reducing existing forms of non-human animal exploitation, they are preventing the import of other cruelty products and activities, like seal meat from Canada.

Increasingly, as the one-child policy generation (children who have no siblings due to government mandated one-child per family) comes of age they are getting more involved in the better treatment of non-human animals. For many of these kids growing up, their only friends were non-human animals.

And it isn’t only house animals that are benefiting by these new generation of activists. Chu Tseng-Hung, a Buddhist monk who gave up his religion to stand up for farmed animals in Taiwan talked about the strides activists are making in reducing and eliminating the exploitation of farmed animals in East Asia.  This is of great importance, considering the harmful effects of animal agriculture on the environment and the increased demand for animal foods as Chinese people become wealthier.

Developing nations like China have an opportunity to leap-frog the western nations as they have done in other areas like renewable energy in eliminating cruelty and exploitation of non-human animals. Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project is helping make sure that it happens.

Image credits: Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project (header), Mike Marvel (inset)

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