Kamal S. Prasad

Kamal likes to think of himself as a Renaissance man.
He has a degree in Physics, taught high school, worked for NASA, written a children’s book, made movies, made a phone app, founded People Powered Peace and still has a ton to do. Besides writing for and managing LLV, he is working on starting his own plant-based butter business while working as a information technology specialist. His personal blog can be found at kamalprasad.com.

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

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.

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)

Thank Benjamin Franklin For Bringing Tofu To The U.S.

Ben Franklin Introduced Tofu To The U.S.Benjamin Franklin could be considered a true renaissance man. In his seemingly awesome life, he was an author, journalist, diplomat, scientist, founder of a country and an adventurer, among other things.

During one of his trips to London, he was introduced to a cheese made of soybeans. His excitement at having discovered this “Tau-fu” prompted him to send his friend, John Bartram in Philadelphia, some soybeans along with the recipe on how to make it. And thus, tofu was introduced to America in 1770.

Franklin, a vegetarian most of his life starting at age 16, had the following to say about a vegetable diet,

My refusing to eat flesh occasioned an inconveniency, and I was frequently chided for my singularity, but, with this lighter repast, I made the greater progress, for greater clearness of head and quicker comprehension. Flesh eating is unprovoked murder.

Even when he decided to start eating fish, it weighed on his conscience.

So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable Creature, since it enables one to find or make a Reason for every thing one has a mind to do.

It is almost like an addict who, knowing better, will still choose to feed his addiction to the detriment of his values. No one is perfect and while people stray from their values, the great capacity we have as people is to correct ourselves where we have stumbled.

OK, back to tofu; soy products have been criticized heavily for their adverse health effects and while there is some data to show that more than FIVE servings a day might do more harm than good, soy, on the whole, is a pretty healthy food, especially when compared to animal protein. Besides, East Asians have been consuming tofu and other soy products for centuries and have been doing really well.

Anyway, next time you are enjoying tofu with friends and family, they might find it interesting as to how tofu was introduced the the Americas.

Source: Mother Nature Network

Help Factory Farming Awareness Coalition (FFAC) Win Contest

FFAC tries to pull a hat trick by winning contest three times in a row.As its name implies, Factory Farming Awareness Coalition (FFAC) was created to bring attention to the health, environmental and social impact of industrial farming of non-human animals. They do this via giving presentations to schools and community organizations. They also plan and execute campaigns like Ditch The Dairy.

One of FFAC’s most successful projects has been securing $40,000 worth of advertising on BART, the San Francisco Bay Area’s public transit system. The prize is awarded via a public voting contest on Facebook.

FFAC has won this contest two years in a row and hope to pull off a hat trick this year by winning it again.

Over 300,000 people use BART daily, so winning this contest will allow FFAC to bring the ill effects of factory farming to a whole lot of people who would otherwise remain oblivious to this important issue.

For people who may have seen the ads in the past and not taken action, winning this contest will allow FFAC to remind them of the power of their food choices. As they note on their website, “Every meal we eat can be a powerful form of activism.”

Not everyone has the ability or means to take part in protests or other types of social action. But, everyone has to eat. And by making conscious choices about how we nourish our bodies, everyone has the power to create a better world for all living beings.

It takes only a few seconds to participate but your vote in helping FFAC win this contest will make a world of difference to someone who might otherwise never see this message. Please vote for Factory Farming Awareness Coalition on the BART Blue Sky Contest page on Facebook and share it with others who may be interested in raising awareness of this important issue.

Image credit: Factory Farming Awareness Coalition

Doug Kreitzer: A Musician And His Music

Doug KreitzerDoug Kreitzer is a singer songwriter living in Cincinnati, OH.  He has been writing songs for over 16 years and has performed all along the east coast and in California.

I feel it is my destiny to create music and share it with the world, and for my music to uplift people and help us all to realize our oneness. All wish to be Happy and Free. – Doug Kreitzer

Describe Dream, Love Life, Consciousness. Actually the album is called Dream Life Consciousness, and it basically is a reminder for me to always keep my dream life in mind. Its sort of a way of manifesting the reality I wish to see, to believe that I am already living my dreams and on my way to seeing more of them fulfilled. The album is mostly inspired by encounters of love with magical people and expressing my spirituality subtly through each song. So is not over the top spiritual, but is tied into each song a little bit, kind of like my life, physically based with moments of divine intervention here and there.

Is Dream, Love Life, Consciousness your first album? If not, which other ones exist and where can we find them? DLC is the first album that I made entirely on my own. I used to be in a band called Rookie that produced three CD’s where I wrote a majority of the lyrics and sang. They were more of the pop-punk rock n roll genre. You can hear one of them for free on spotify under Rookie, and the album is A Lot to Live.

You play all the instruments and sing. How long did it take you put this album together? This album took me a couple years to completely finish, and there are plenty of parts I would love to redo in a nice studio, so it’s a little unfinished. But I recorded it all on my computer using garageband and tons of time listening and re-listening. The drums are all digital beats which I had to find and arrange, but other than that I played all the guitar parts, bass parts and vocal harmonies. Though my girlfriend sang with me on the song Shine Through Me, which has been one of my favorite bass lines I’ve ever written. It was so fun to play.

Where do you find your inspiration for writing songs? My inspiration comes from myself and from friends and animals. I like talking with other musicians and music lovers about what they love to hear in songs and I try to apply them to my music. But when it comes to writing I just start strumming a few chords and then start singing and a melody comes out, then I attach a few words to the melody. Then from those few words a theme for the song starts to develop. Then before you know it a whole song comes together from just one idea. A lot of ideas lately come from the image of creating heaven on earth and seeing all being living freely and in harmony.

Which track do you think is the best, technically speaking? Technically speaking, I don’t know which song is the best, maybe Heaven on Earth, but my self-criticizing mind says they’re all a little sloppy, but I had to let go at some point and say, ‘that’s the album.” There’s only so much I could do with my producing experience.

What is your favorite track? Why? I think the first song is the best, Flashbulb Memory. There’s just something about the imagery and the places that it takes me to mentally. It means a lot to me. I really enjoy listening to all of the songs, but there are a lot of different feeling songs throughout. A little country rock song, a little reggae, tribal sounding drums on Heaven on Earth which is another favorite of mine due to the lyrics and all the vocal harmonies I did. A few of the harmonies really hit me in the gut, so I was really satisfied with the performance when a lot of times I’m very hard on my self.

You decided to release DLC under a “pay-what-you-want” model. How did you decide on this and would you recommend it for other musicians? I did a pay-what you want model because I wanted people to hear it no matter what they could afford. I still don’t feel like many people have heard it though. I was burning copies and giving a lot out for free just to spread the music. Most music is free these days through digital streaming sites and I just want to be out there, too. But if people want to pay for it they can, and I’m totally into that! Thanks to those who have.

Music is not your full time job, right? So, what do you do when you are not making music? I work full time now at Whole Foods. I was teaching yoga full time when I made this cd, but it was hard to keep it up financially and energetically, so I just teach a couple of classes a week and play live music in a yoga class every two weeks with my new band mate, guitarist, Danny Schneider. Other than that I love to work out, lift weights, practice yoga and walk my Jack Russell Terrier friend Mardi.

What’s next? Are you working on a new album? I am playing with a full band now called The Peace and we are working on recording our album soon. I’m really looking forward to finishing it. We are working with one of the top producers in Cincinnati, grammy nominated and very experienced. The Peace plays songs that are very intentionally driven with the purpose of liberating all beings and uplifting all. So keep an eye and ear out for The Peace. We plan to play at a lot of Veg Fests and rock the animal rights crowds.

Lastly, which non-human animal species is your favorite? Why? I’m definitely most connected to dogs, because I have one curled up in front of my legs as I sit cross legged here on the couch, but that answer just seems too easy. I always find inspiration from sea turtles and dolphins. Sea turtles live so long and breathe so slowly. Its a nice reminder to breathe slow and live long, and dolphins are just badass….though there’s something to learn from every animal so I really can’t play favorites.

Editor’s note: My apologies to Doug for getting the name of his album wrong. Check out his album, Dream Life Consciousness, on Bandcamp to listen and download for free. If like what you hear, please consider purchasing it for yourself or a loved one for any price you see fit.

The Case For Driverless Cars. Part IV: The Hurdles

Mercedes Intelligent Drive Driverless CarThis article is the final part of a 4-part series in which I discuss that making driverless cars mandatory will be a good thing for our social well-being, the environment and economics, and lastly what hurdles may exist in the way of making driverless cars ubiquitous. Last week I wrote about the economics of driverless cars. In this final piece, I talk about some of the obstacles of a driverless car future and how to overcome them.

Hurdles to a driverless future

Any new technology that has the potential to shift how things have worked thus far will come under special scrutiny and face many obstacles, especially if it requires what people might consider as giving up some of their freedoms.

The biggest obstruction to driverless cars will be public perception, the biggest being the perceived right to drive. While we take it for granted, driving has never been a right. And even if it were, wouldn’t we want to give it up, as we have given up riding horses to get around, to glean the social, environmental and economic advantages of driverless cars?

The second and more valid concern is safety. While it is easy to imagine what could be, the safety of driverless cars is still undetermined. Replacing the unnecessary parts like the driving wheel, pedals, gear shifters and related automotive parts with second and third failsafe mechanisms will be a no brainer.

The software to manage all the various components of autonomous vehicles will need to be fool-proof and unhackable. It will need a high level of artificial intelligence to not only deal all the sensors that will be feeding it data about the environment, communication from other cars but also for heuristics to identify and fix or report issues before they become a problem.

And while there will be pushback from people against mandating driverless cars for public roads, legislators will need to recognize the greater good at stake in the long run and have the courage to make adequate laws transitioning us to an affordable driverless future.

Discouraging the rapid development of driverless cars and delaying their adoption will cost us socially, environmentally and fiscally.

What do you think? Should we hasten the driverless car future or halt it? Why? Let us know in the comments below.

In case you missed it:

Image credit: © Mercedes-Benz

The Case For Driverless Cars. Part III: Economics

Google driverless carThis article is part 3 of 4 in which I will discuss that making driverless cars mandatory will be a good thing for our social well-being, the environment and economics, and lastly, what hurdles may exist in the way of making driverless cars ubiquitous. Last week I wrote about the environmental benefits of driverless cars. This week, I address how driverless cars will shift the paradigm of transportation economics.

Economics

By now, if you have read my other posts about driverless cars, it shouldn’t be hard to realize the many financial benefits that await the average citizen in a driverless future. The elimination of motor vehicle related death and injury, repair costs associated with accidents, more productive time during commutes, increase fuel efficiency and range, and cleaner air all highlight the great economic advantages of driverless cars.

As the world population increases and people need mobility to go about their respective businesses, be they professional or personal, we can’t just keep building more roads and using more fossil fuels, both of which require huge amounts of capital to sustain, if they can be sustained at all.

More cars on the road will mean more accidents, more fossil fuels consumed, more frequent maintenance of the roads and the infrastructure to support them. Driverless cars will greatly reduce some of these costs and completely eliminate others.

Robotic cars, more efficiently using the lanes available to them, and without the need for large buffer spaces between cars to account for human error, will require less road real estate. More efficient transportation systems that allow vehicles to move much faster will also encourage the use of road-based public transportation.

There will also be people and businesses who suffer. For example, people who drive for a living will no longer be needed, the need for car repair and maintenance shops will be greatly reduced, oil companies will see their profits plummet (boo hoo), lawyers who rely on motor vehicle accidents for their daily bread will lament, and billboard manufacturers and advertising mediums will lose business, to name a few.

Driverless cars will not replace conventional vehicles overnight. This will give ample opportunity for people whose jobs will be affected in the new autonomous vehicle future to transition to other employment.

It may seem scary now but these types of transitional shifts are always happening. Telegraph operators were replaced by the telephone, ice delivery men were eliminated by the refrigerator, email has greatly reduced the need for postal workers, and online shopping is eroding brick and mortar stores.

All of these advances in technology has meant a better standard of living for the general population and jobs eliminated more than a couple of generations ago are no longer even missed.

Next week, the finale of our series on driverless cars: hurdles we have to overcome before they become a reality.

Image credit:  mariachily via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

Using 3D Printers To Save Lives

3D PrinterThere is a medical revolution happening using 3D printers that could have barely been imagined a few years ago. Printers are being used to build human organs and tissue to replace those that may have become damaged or those that were flawed from the beginning. So far, 3D printers have been used to print 75% of a man’s skull, prosthetic nose and ears, and a splint to help a baby breathe. It has also been used to model a baby’s heart to help doctors determine the proper treat for multiple heart defects. Body parts built using 3D printers typically don’t have the issue of rejection by the human body because it is not seen as foreign bio-material. In some instances, stem cells from the patient themselves can be used to regrow organs and tissue.

The first 3D printer was built in 1984 by Charles Hull. However, it wasn’t until recently that the technology has become affordable enough for the average DIYer to start playing with it and unleashing its true potential.

3D printers work by precisely laying down raw materials in a configuration specified by a 3D model made in a computer. Each product is printed layer by layer from the bottom up.

While there are many recreational uses for 3D printers, such as creating sculptures, there are also beneficial uses. Most 3D printers are used to quickly and efficiently build prototypes. This cuts down on energy use and waste that would be created using conventional methods. This method has been used to build simple things like cellphone cases, and more more complex items like spare parts for the International Space Station. A Dutch company has even built a 6-meter (20-foot) 3D printer that can be used to build houses.

As 3D printer technology advances, it will only become more useful. In addition to the things that can be created using 3D printers, their benefits will also lie in the things that are eliminated, like waste and excessive energy use.

Perhaps, most importantly, they will eliminate the need to breed and kill non-human animals, many of whom are genetically modified, to provide spare body parts and tissue for human use.

The Case For Driverless Cars. Part II: Environment

Nissan has said it will be selling driverless cars by 2020.This article is part 2 of 4 in which I will discuss that making driverless cars mandatory will be a good thing for our social well-being, the environment and economics, and what hurdles may exist in the way of making driverless cars ubiquitous. Last week I wrote about the social benefits of driverless cars. This week, we see how their adoption will help the environment.

Environment

While cars powered by alternate fuel sources are on the rise, nothing beats efficiency since it can be useful whether your car is powered by renewables or fossil fuel.

Cars that can talk to each other by communicating their course and speed won’t need stop signs or lights. They will be able to travel at high speeds at distances of only a couple of feet from each other. This will greatly increase the fuel efficiency of cars thereby putting fewer pollutants in our atmosphere.

Granted, a lot of cars will likely rely heavily on electric engines by the time all this goes into effect but the electricity to charge those batteries in the plug-in hybrids and electric cars will, in part, still come from fossil fuel power plants.

For all-electric cars powered by completely renewable source, the distance traveled per charge will greatly be increased requiring fewer stops in between “fill-ups” allowing the extra energy generated by said renewable sources to feed into the electric grid, further reducing the amount of fossil fuels needed to generate power for our other electricity related needs.

In addition, the multiple 360 degree sensors that will be part of autonomous cars to help them detect unexpected events, like a person walking into the middle of the street without looking, will also help greatly reduce the incidences of wildlife deaths from vehicles.

Another fringe benefit will be the elimination of those ugly billboards that litter the road sides. The only reason they exist is because, currently, drivers have to keep their gaze ahead on the road. When they are no longer doing so, it wouldn’t make sense to put up any signs on the roads because no one will be looking at them. The internet-connected driverless car of the future have all the maps and directions it needs to properly transport its passengers to where they are going.

Since cars will be traveling more efficiently with better safety in tighter configurations, fewer lanes will be needed to accommodate the same number of cars. Eliminating lanes and unneeded signs will allow that land to be returned to nature, and the foliage that claims that space will not only beautify the landscape but help suck up atmospheric pollution, which will help us all breathe a little better.

Vehicles that run more efficiently, don’t brake unnecessarily and accelerate reasonably will wear less, requiring other car related consumables like tires and various belts to be replaced less often. Reducing the need to buy new things to replace old, worn-out ones is a cornerstone of a solid environmental policy.

Next week, I will discuss the economics of driverless cars.

Image credit: © Nissan. The company has said that it will be selling driverless cars by 2020.

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