Money & Society

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

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

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

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

IKEA Going Green?

ikea-cart-magic-1797389-lI 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.”

We, at LLV, couldn’t agree more.

Source: Forbes

Image credit: kobaku via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution

The Future of Global Aid: Global Collaboration

kigali rwanda students1441085-hEver feel like giving aid to developing countries is a bit elitist, paternalistic, or corrupt? Research says you may be right. What would global aid look like if it was more humble and egalitarian? Doga Makiura set out to discover just that.

Makiura is from Tokyo, and at 13 he went to study in London because he wanted to be around a more diverse group of people. After high school, he took a year off and went to Rwanda to work on a project that would empower 1.2 million people living in poverty. His motivation: “Rather than just helping them out, I wanted to go and work with them together as equals, as business partners.”

Working with a friend who ran a similar project in Bangladesh called e-Education, Makiura started producing DVDs of chemistry experiments to allow Rwandan students to learn experiments from any location. Results were encouraging: “In 2013, national exam results in chemistry increased by an average of 46% in 5 rural schools with over 700 students using DVDs from e-Education.”

Makiura hasn’t stopped there. He has gone on to work on the food supply and distribution issues in Rwanda in response to the influx of refugees from Congo:

“So I became a middleman, coordinating with agricultural cooperatives in Rwanda to understand how much surplus each cooperative or farm has, and finding out how much food the UNHCR was needing where. I went to the farms with a truck, purchased their surplus crop, and transported this food to the UNHCR refugees. The farmers now had extra income, and the refugees had more food. Win-win. The team I set up with the cooperatives work on this even when I’m not there.”

The next step for Makiura has been to connect smart-ag technology producers in Japan with Rwandan famers, allowing the information and communication technology (ICT) to improve food production efficiency in Rwanda. Another win-win.

The fundamental difference in Makiura’s approach to global aid is to look for ways to honor and value people in the developing world on equal terms with people in the developed world, and to discover and implement win-win solutions that benefit the developed and developing world. This creates collaborative relationships on equal terms instead of one-sided situations that create more separation. It sounds like the future of global aid, perhaps better phrased “global collaboration,” is finally here!

Source: TED Blog

Image credit: schacon via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution

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

(Dis)connected: Overcoming Distraction, Isolation, and Separation with Connective Technology

apple-mobile-phone-149689-hIncreasingly, our connectedness is mediated by technology. I know I’m guilty of being an email and Facebook addict; this is how I connect with my parents, relatives, and friends abroad. But what about the relationships we cultivate face to face? Are they suffering? Are we tuning out of life as we flit from our smart phone to the next gadget?

Research suggests yes. And Professor David M. Levy is on a mission to do something about it. He wants to get his students to do one thing at a time, as a way of becoming more present.

Levy’s goal is to reverse the connective technology paradox. The current dilemma is that in our desire to be connected to distant people and events, we use technologies that distract us from connecting with the present moment and the people around us. Levy is using those same technologies with meditation to help his students be more present, and focus on one task at a time, even if that task uses technology. For instance, one of his assignments is to do only email for 15 minutes. For those of us who check email constantly (yes, I mean me), this is an important shift. He also has his students practice meditation in class, which, although at first awkward, eventually helps them mentally declutter.

Says Levy, “A good deal of my focus in recent years has been on exploring how to use our digital tools differently, to connect us to one another and to sources of information in deeper and healthier ways.” Amen to that!

Source: NPR Blog

Image credit: blakespot via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution

Gift Economy Allows Abundance

everystockphoto-417134-h gift econWhat if you made trust your medium of business transactions? One Philadelphia-based web designer did just that, and the results have been “life-changing.”

Adrian Hoppel decided he would not charge money for his website designing skills; instead he would trust clients to pay what they felt was fair. Hoppel was fed up of a system that valued hard work for the smallest fee possible, so he decided on the gifting path. He read Sacred Economics and then started offering his services as gifts.

His results have been incredible. He created 22 websites in 2012 and was paid for every one of them; in many cases he was paid more than he would have been in the traditional market system. Now that’s uplifting!

In a recent interview, Hoppel states he and his wife, who has qualifications in engineering and law but directs a nonprofit, are working things out so they can support their family of four. It’s inspiring that this couple has placed trust and doing good at the heart of their professional lives. It takes courage, hope, and aligned action — qualities we can all admire in them, and strive to better embody in our own lives.

Source: Adrian Hoppel

Image credit: Tirch via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution. 

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