climate change

2 Years as a Veggie

The first week of May marks two years since I decided to change my diet from omnivore to vegetarian. Two years since I watched the Cowspiracy documentary and decided that I no longer wanted my diet to play a part in the destruction of our planet. Two years of learning how to maneuver through restaurants and parties for something plant-based. Two years of learning that sometimes there was nothing for me on the menu and that I would just have to wait to eat something when I got home. Two years of committing myself to something and never once going back on it.

I do not eat meat of any kind and YES this includes fish. I can’t tell you how many times people ask me “well what about fish?” when I tell them that I do not eat meat. Yes, of course there are some people who do not eat chicken, beef, pork, etc. but do continue to eat fish, especially when out at restaurants. I just hate fish. Always have. Plus, fish is not a victimless food. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, overfishing endangers ocean ecosystems and the billions of people who rely on seafood as a key source of protein. Without sustainable management, our fisheries face collapse – and we face a food crisis.

A lot of people like to claim that they eat meat because eating plant-based is just too expensive. This can be true, but really only if you are spending on imitation products such as Tofurkey. These are very expensive, but are also not that good for you. Besides, now that I don’t eat meat, I don’t miss it enough to spend my money on something meant to imitate the texture. Canned beans, rice, and frozen fruits/vegetables make up 95% of my diet and are accessible at every grocery store and are extremely inexpensive.

I am the only vegetarian in my family. I know a lot of people who cite this as as a reason it would be hard to go veggie, and yes it would be if your heart was not in it. Decide why you are doing it: to lessen your environmental impact (mine), for the welfare of animals (has now become mine as well now that I’m veggie) or maybe you need to make a health change.  In the beginning you may be jealous about the chicken your parents and sister are eating and ask “well why can’t I have some too? What difference does it make?” It actually makes a big difference. For one thing, you are proving that the mission is important to you and what’s that saying again? “What difference can one person make? – Asks 7 billion people”.

Two years on, I plan to be vegetarian for the rest of my life. There are statistics out there that say something like 95% of vegetarians go back to eating meat at some point in their life. I do not plan on ever eating meat again and am thankful to live in a time when different diets can be more easily catered to (both at home and at restaurants) as I think that will help my goal a lot.

The benefits are vegetarianism are endless: good for the planet, good for your wallet, and good for your health. If you are interested in vegetarianism then I highly suggest the following documentaries: Forks Over Knives, Cowspiracy, and Vegeducated (PSA: none of these films contain disturbing or graphic images of animal slaughter so if that particularly affects you, watch with no fear!)

It’s Time for a Fashion Revolution

Every year since 2013, the week of April 24th has been known as Fashion Revolution week in the sustainable fashion world. I wrote about it a year ago and you can read that here. I love this campaign. With a tagline of “We love fashion, but we don’t want our clothes to come at the cost of people or our planet”, how can I not?

We all know that for over a year I have been trying to make a conscious effort when it comes to buying clothing (and things in general). I love shopping at thrift stores and seeing what cool things I can find. I love discovering new sustainable fashion brands and perusing their websites for hours. I follow so many Instagram accounts of awesome ladies who are killing the style game while also lessening their impact on the planet. But sometimes I waver. Sometimes I need/want a very specific item that 1. cannot be found in a single trip to my local Savers 2. is not something people tend to donate as much (plain white t-shirts, jeans that go past my ankles, shoes that are not worn through) and 3. doesn’t cost the equivalent of a ten-hour shift at my minimum-wage job.

Sometimes all I want to do in walk freely into my local H&M (or Zara, or Topshop, or sometimes even Forever 21) and find something I like and spend about $20 on it. Cheap, conviennent, probably trendy, and provides a source of instant gratification. No spending a lot, no perusing eco websites for hours, no paying for shipping and then having to wait a week for the thing to arrive.

This is where Fashion Revolution Week comes in. It reminds me that I am not the only one impacted by my fashion choices and that is it not a harmless hobby. Workers (who are mostly women) that make the clothes for the retailers I find myself caving to live on less than $3 a day, work tortuously long hours doing a monotonous task, and do it all in ramshackle buildings that are prone to collapse. They are exposed to toxic chemicals and fumes on the daily. And those are just some of the effects on humans. Forget about the impact on the planet – according to EcoWatch, the fast fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, second only to oil.

So thank you to Fashion Revolution for helping to remind me of why I care so much about the clothing industry in the first place. Thank you for reminding me that 95% of my wardrobe can come to me secondhand. Thank you for getting me back on track when I slip up and for giving us a week to really reflect on the impact our seemingly harmless clothing addiction has on the world.

A Climate Change Activist on Why Giving Up Isn’t an Option

This post originally appeared on Man Repeller and when I read it I knew I had to share. Sometimes the problems seem so big and people so uncaring and indifferent that I feel completely overwhelmed about the idea even bothering to do anything about climate change. This article really helped me see things in a different way. The woman interviewed in this article has been a climate change activist for decades and she’s not tired of fighting the good fight despite so many people not bothering or wanting to listen. Truly an inspiration.  

By Jackie Homan

An increasing number of young people are identifying as activists, but to call this a new trend would not only be naive, it would also be a missed opportunity. Older generations offer an important perspective on what it means to be politically and socially active. In an effort to soak up their knowledge, we’re speaking to activists who have been doing this work for decades. We’ve previously learned from 74-year-old Sally Roesch Wagner, 66-year-old Jackie Warren-Moore, 71-year-old Felicia Elizondo and 68-year-old Faith Spotted Eagle. Today, we speak with 67-year-old Nancy Cole.

Though she considers herself more of a “behind-the-scenes type of activist,” there’s no doubt Nancy Cole deserves to stand in the limelight. Cole has spent over 25 years working in outreach and activism with the Union of Concerned Scientists, where she focuses on climate and energy issues. She oversees the group’s campaigns, which hold corporations responsible for climate impact and unite scientists to incite policy change. She’s not afraid to publicly call out companies that are detrimental to the earth and demand better, and while she’s not a scientist herself, she supports them by translating their knowledge to the public.

Cole admits that her job can be frustrating in our current political landscape, with people in power trying to undermine the credibility of climate science despite the research being clear. Her number one piece of advice — essentially, “power through the hard times” — comes as no surprise then. If her decades of campaigning tirelessly for the future of the planet have taught her anything, it’s that none of us has the luxury to quit.

What first sparked your interest in activism?

One thing that was important to my mom and is now important to me is that we all leave the world a better place. I’ve always had a lot of interest in science, but in the ’60s, women were not encouraged in [science, technology, engineering and math]. I grew up on a farm in Illinois, and my small-town high school’s guidance counselor told me girls just didn’t do science. So I wound up being a teacher for my first job.

After I realized I wasn’t going to be a very good teacher, I went to work at the Legal Aid Society, where I was kind of like a paralegal. I really enjoyed that work, and I thought that social change happened through the law, so I decided to go to law school. But three years of law school taught me that that’s not how it works; I realized that social change really comes from activism, citizen engagement and people who care passionately about making things change. That’s where I wanted to be. Law school gave me important skills, really valuable friendships and the self-awareness that I wanted to work in grassroots organizing.

What was your first activist endeavor after law school?

Around 1980, I started at an organization called INFACT [now named Corporate Accountability], which stood for Infant Formula Action Coalition. INFACT ran the Nestlé boycott, which was a campaign to stop infant formula companies from peddling a product in developing countries that they knew could not possibly be used safely there. It was killing hundreds of thousands of babies every year. I thought that transnational corporations really got away with murder, and they weren’t being held accountable for what they were doing. We had a successful conclusion to that campaign — it resulted in the first International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes through the United Nations’ World Health Organization.

I became the executive director of INFACT, and our next campaign focused on companies that were making nuclear weapons. That was in the early to mid-’80s, when we were really worried about nuclear war. We thought we could try to reduce the influence of the big nuclear weapon makers, focusing on General Electric. I worked on that campaign for several years.

How did you transition from corporate accountability activism to climate activism?

I decided I wanted to be a parent and needed a different style of organizing, so I got a job at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in 1992. It was perfect for me to work on issues at the intersection of science and policy because I could work with scientists and bring my skills as an organizer and activist to this arena. UCS helps [scientists] take this complicated stuff and communicate it to the public. One of the contributions we’ve made in the world is helping scientists find their voice and speak it powerfully.

What is the biggest challenge you face in climate activism?

I’ve been working on the climate issue for what seems like forever, and it is just beyond frustrating to see where we are today. If we, as a country, had taken steps just a few decades ago to reduce our carbon emissions, we might not be seeing storms like Hurricane Harvey. We would not be seeing sea level rise ravaging our cities. We would not be seeing climate migrants around the world. That’s one of the most challenging parts — figuring out how to keep going and how to keep being creative enough to find new strategies. We have to tap into what we think might move the public to care about climate and energy issues. In the face of the terrible political climate we’re in today, it’s really a challenge.

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I Just Do Not Understand

 

I do not have a lot of fears. I am not afraid of heights, flying, spiders, the dentist, needles, snakes, water, clowns, germs, thunder, or the dark. But lately I have been feeling something that is absolutely fear: fear that within my lifetime the effects of climate change will be so great that life as we know it will cease.

Now, I don’t think the world will end, or that all of the catastrophic things that are coming (and they WILL come) will happen at once, but I do think that we as humans are going to be tested like never before. Natural disasters will continue to get worse and more frequent. They will also start to happen in places that they previous have not. Sea levels will rise – it is not out of the question that Boston, NYC, and London will be underwater within my lifetime. Forget about fighting over the ever-dwindling supply of oil, drinkable water will be the next thing to cause mass panic (look at the recent price gouges during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma – taking advantage of people’s panic and the very real chance that access to safe drinking water could be compromised, some stores were charging up to $50 for a case of bottled water).

I am SO afraid that society will just dissolve into chaos, even though the effects and consequences of climate change have been known for decades and we have had YEARS AND YEARS to get our acts together and change our ways.

I try SO hard to lessen my impact of the environment, with my biggest contribution being that I went vegetarian in May 2016. There is so much evidence that finds going veggie to be a key factor in dramatically lowering CO2 emissions. Science Daily states that “If Americans would eat beans instead of beef, the United States would immediately realize approximately 50 to 75 percent of its GHG (harmful greenhouse gases) reduction targets for the year 2020…without imposing any new standards on automobiles or manufacturing.”

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