Marilyn is co-editor of and contributor to Life, Love, V. Her full time work is at Alchemus Prime where she integrates behavioral sciences, design thinking, biomimicry and meditation through a science-based model to develop solutions that address climate change and wellness issues. Marilyn works with a diverse range of professionals in nonprofits, universities, schools, companies, and interdisciplinary conferences to help them build resilient teams, manage change, communicate more effectively, and implement research, programs and projects for sustained positive impact. Learn more about Marilyn.
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.
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.
On 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
As 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
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.
Ariana 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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Recently 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
Have you ever dumpster dived? I have; it’s pretty fun, especially if you find kale and other greens to steam for dinner. I used to live in an ecological nonprofit’s residential community and we had an agreement with a local health food and grocery store to salvage soon-to-expire and wilting food items. Why do I bring this up? Because dumpster diving is about avoiding waste.
There’s no waste in nature – everything has a purpose. When food is good, it’s eaten; if it rots, it decomposes and goes into the soil to power other living things. Humans are not often as efficient or thorough. But here’s a story that is waste-reducing, hunger-eliminating, and heart-warming.
Ben Simon, a senior at the University of Maryland College Park, saw all the food that was about to be thrown away in a campus cafeteria and asked a simple question: “Could it be donated?” The answer was yes. Food Recovery Network (FRN) was born. Simon founded FRN to collect food from college dining halls at the end of the day and donate it to hungry Americans. Perfectly fresh and nutritious food that would otherwise be thrown away. A simple and powerful service and all because Simon saw an opportunity where most of us don’t even look: college cafeteria leftovers.
Through Simon’s outreach work, FRN has spread nationally via connections with forty campuses who deliver their leftovers to nonprofits, religious organizations, and other institutions that feed the hungry. A beautiful, win-win solution. Simon’s my hero!
I have a strong radar for greenwashing, so when I started reading a recent interview with IKEA Chief Sustainability Officer Steve Howard, I was fully expecting my eyes to glaze over. It didn’t happen.
Three aspects of IKEA’s sustainability strategy stand out as authentic: IKEA’s management team apparently understands climate change as a long-term risk management issue, goes after transformative change instead of just incremental tweaks, and puts its money where its mouth is.
Howard describes IKEA’s view on sustainability as a way to build resilience for an uncertain future, based on solid values, concomitant strategies, and investment to back it all. The company is building its own wind, solar and geothermal capacity to ensure it can meet its own energy needs. Another strategy is to invest in paradigm shifts instead of improving on existing inefficient technologies; rather than improving on CFLs and halogens, IKEA has invested in 100% LED technology. IKEA is also implementing cost-effectiveness and efficiency measures to save money and energy, and proactively considering its role as a furniture provider in a resource-scarce world with a burgeoning middle-class population, and an unstable climate.
Says Howard: “All the challenges are solvable with the solutions we have today, but we don’t have the right leadership, policies and priorities in place. Most political and business leaders are in a state of denial. Sustainability will be a decisive factor in terms of which business will be here in 30 years time. It’s also the future of business.”
New research shows that salamanders are shrinking in size as part of an adaptive response to climate change. The study measured the lengths of salamanders, finding them on average shorter, especially in warmer and drier conditions. This is a relatively novel area of research, as previous studies on the decline of amphibians, including salamanders, have rarely focused on climate change. The team that made this discovery had set out to study salamander population decline, and finding that disease was not the cause, were curious about whether climate change had anything to do with it. Their hypothesis turned out to be correct.
Scientists haven’t isolated the biological process that is at work; it could be plasticity, the ability of an organism to adjust its biological features based on changes in its environment. Alternatively, the reduced length of the salamanders could be due to changes in gene activity. Models suggest that compared to their ancestors, salamanders now need to burn more energy to stay as active, and spend more time finding food and hiding from predators.
All in all, it’s a difficult state of affairs for the little critters: hotter, and drier. Think of how all you want to do during a heat wave is lounge around under a tree with a cold drink; these little guys don’t have that luxury, and are shrinking just to keep up. At least we’re learning more about how they’re being affected, and hopefully we can ease their plight, especially the endangered ones, by fighting climate change.