Home & Wellness

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

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 

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

Waste Not Want Not

salad_lettuce_romaine_674198_hHave 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!

Source: Upworthy

Image credit: moria via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution

Fermented Clothes: A New Frontier?

fermented clothesTED fellow Suzanne Lee is writing a book called Fashioning the Future and in the process, investigating how bacteria can be the next generation’s clothes manufacturers, through the same process that gives us beer: fermentation.  In an interview for TED’s blog, she explains that like Maya, whom we featured earlier on LLV, Lee wants to improve upon the current toxicity and environmental degradation that is associated with producing textiles. Lee has turned to fermentation as a source of fiber production.

So, if bacteria are producing clothes, you need to feed them, right? Right. Lee is exploring feeding bacteria with what they thrive on: sugar. Now, this sounds a little shaky and short-sighted at first, a bit like using corn for biofuels, which raises corn prices and disadvantages the poor when it comes to using corn for food.  However, Lee is looking at agricultural waste materials that are sugar-rich to avoid spiking the price of sugar for her fermented clothes. Reduce impacts on the environment and close the loop? We approve!

Lee is interested in creating products that are highly functional. However, fermented shoes and accessories aren’t about to appear in your stores just yet, because much more work is needed to make such products competitive and fashionable.

Image credit: mconnors via MorgueFile

Toward a Sustainable Future

wind farm_286327_lForum for the Future is a bit like us at Life, Love, V: interested in good news. The Forum works on sustainability issues, and was recently featured by Grist for one of their founding director’s books about a vision for a sustainable future. Jonathan Porritt’s book, called The Future We Made, talks about a future world in which population stabilizes at 9 billion and the economy is fueled mostly using renewable energy, among other features.

In his interview with Grist, Porritt explains his intentions:

What I’m trying to do in the book is to demonstrate to people that this innovation pipeline is bulging. There are new ideas and brilliant breakthroughs and all sorts of technological opportunities emerging on a daily basis. Which means we can free ourselves from fossil fuels, we can get incredible resource efficiency, we can learn how to manage water far more efficiently than we do now, we can turn waste into raw materials, we can deal with sanitation problems. We need that as a starting point, just to give people a sense of doability — it is doable. At the moment, too many people think it isn’t doable.

Such emphatic positivity is admirable. Porritt also emphasizes the importance of including connection to nature in education systems, and making the connections between our food and its impacts on the world; he describes these as issues he wishes we had already resolved. Porritt explains how humankinds’ food choices have put the world in a state of imbalance:

We seem to have got ourselves into a very bad place when it comes to our understanding of the importance of food, how it gets onto our plates, our relationship with the animals that we consume so thoughtlessly, and our relationship with the land that we pay no attention to at all. There are many, many people in our world who believe that that relationship between land-food-farming-health is absolutely at the heart of what a sustainable world has to mean.

For Porritt, resolving this dysfunctional relationship is critical to a sustainable future. We at LLV couldn’t agree more.

Image credit: dbking via Flickr Creative Commons Attribution. 

Source: Grist

Swedes Go Veg

Swedes go veg.One out of ten Swedes is vegetarian or vegan, according to a recent poll by reputed research firm Demoskop.

Out of 1,000 Swedes interviewed, 6% self-identified as vegetarian, and 4% as vegan. In the last 5 years, interest in purchasing vegetarian products has increased by 11%.

The poll indicates that 21% of those interviewed who identified themselves as vegetarian or vegan, their choice was mainly due to animal welfare concerns, while 28% claimed that animal welfare was only partly responsible for their decision. The remaining 51% of people are likely to have made their dietary choices for sustainability, health, or religious concerns.

The poll also suggests that this trend is supported by the increasing availability of vegetarian options in major cities, including Stockholm and Skåne.

Given our previous post on how the Chinese, Taiwanese, and Israelis are embracing plant-based diets, it looks like the Swedes are in great company!

Source: The Independent

Image credit: galant via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution

Gratitude: A Priceless Habit

card-handmade-thank-1207660-hSometimes it can feel like life is tough. One quality that is really powerful in changing our attitudes from negative to positive, and reframing what happens day-to-day, is gratitude. Gratitude is a practice of appreciation for what life brings us. Research suggests that expressing gratitude can strengthen relationships, improve psychological wellbeing, promote altruism and pay-it-forward style giving, and make you happier.

Cultivating certain practices or habits can promote gratitude. For example:

  1. Contemplate death: this helps us not take life for granted, but enjoy our lives (as someone who volunteers in hospice, I can attest that this really works)
  2. Savor good experiences: this helps anchor positivity in your mind
  3. Avoid entitlement: instead, cultivate a practice of receiving life’s gifts and giving to others in ways that acknowledge how interconnected life is
  4. Appreciate people: not just things, because showing our gratitude can uplift loved ones and strangers too
  5. Be specific: say exactly what you are grateful for
  6. Be grateful when it feels like you can’t: sometimes appreciating hardships can transform them

Expressing gratitude is important to maintain a positive mindset even in times of stress; some ways to express gratitude include writing thank you notes, keeping a gratitude journal, praying, and meditating. The benefits of are myriad and can improve our personal, social, professional, emotional, and physical lives. Gratitude is a priceless habit to build; time to give it a go if you haven’t already!

Image credit: Laura Manning via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution

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