News & Culture

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

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

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)

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

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

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

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