Optimistic Vegan


Behind Schedule
April 6, 2011, 1:28 pm
Filed under: Lifestyle, Personal, Scientists | Tags: , , , ,

I’ve recently realized that many of our great scientists had their passion since they were children. The two I’ll discuss are Jane Goodall and Aldo Leopold, who were both young naturalists from the start and accomplished great things later in life.

As we know, Jane Goodall went to Africa and made important discoveries about the life of chimpanzees. She didn’t just decide one day that she wanted to spend her life outside and with animals; she had started making observations of the animals in her backyard at a young age. There was one story she told at the speech in Houston, TX about how her discovery of how chickens laid eggs. She described how she asked everyone around her where the egg came from but she was unsatisfied with any response. She decided to take matters into her own hands and observe for herself. After running into a chicken coop, she realized that frightening the chickens off of their roosts would not be the best way to make a discovery. She rethought her process and decided instead to hide in the coop and wait for a chicken to feel comfortable enough to lay. Four hours later, after being searched for in vain by her mother, she ran out of the coop with a huge grin on her face and her mother couldn’t help but be excited too. Jane fondly remembers how her mother could have reprimanded her, but how instead she listened intently to her chicken observations, and in turn nurtured the little naturalist in Jane.

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Similar to Jane’s lifelong awareness of her love for animals and nature, Aldo Leopold also loved the outdoors from a young age. His parents were just as supportive and helped to instill ideas that would later influence the development of his environmental ethic. I watched a documentary about him last night called Green Fire (which is a decent film good for an introduction to Leopold) that described him as a young boy who loved to hunt and fish (a different way of appreciating nature that was more accepted in his time) and particularly to bird watch. The documentary explained that binoculars were uncommon for birdwatchers, as it had not developed into such as sport, so he borrowed his mother’s opera binoculars to study the birds near to him.

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I both love and hate these stories. I love them because of how inspiring it is that they were able to make their childhood games their realities. I also love how flexible they were in when it came to living their dream. I’m sure Jane never expected to study chimpanzees for twenty five years but when she had the opportunity I know she snatched it up. I’m sure the same goes for Leopold; he may not have expected to become one of the most prolific environmental authors but he was open to possible opportunities and he ended up doing what he loved. I hate these stories (maybe not hate, that’s a bit strong) because I don’t have the extensive background that they do in naturalist studies. I’ve grown up around animals but I haven’t spent a significant amount of time bird-watching or observing chickens. It makes me feel like I’m behind schedule!

I think that as long as I continue to take advantage of every opportunity and embrace my passion more, I’ll get there eventually. I might not make the same impact as those before me, but I’ll make one in my own way. (Jane Goodall didn’t go to Africa until she was 26, so I still have time to catch up!)



Vegan in Texas
April 5, 2011, 8:32 am
Filed under: Food, Lifestyle, Restaurants, Travel | Tags: , , , ,

When my dad and I went to Houston, Texas to see Jane Goodall we expected to have some difficulty finding vegan restaurants. Although we did have some difficulty and we relied heavily on Happy Cow, we survived!

As soon as we checked in to our hotel, we asked the hotel clerk  if there were any vegetarian places nearby. She said that her dad used to frequent the Hobbit Café and that he used to be a vegetarian. We then learned that the other clerk had tried to be vegetarian for a while, but ended up stopping. We didn’t expect to find anything promising, so that was good news! We did go to the Hobbit Café, and the food was great: Portabella Mushroom Fajitas. It was even voted “Best Vegetarian Restaurant” in Houston. We actually found this a little disconcerting because most of their menu contained meat products. It had a lot of character and it all worked out, but it was much different from the highest-rated vegetarian restaurant in good old Seattle.

In addition to the Hobbit Café we also went to a vegan Chinese buffet (decent, but not my favorite, but entirely vegan!) after going to the first few destinations listed at the Happy Cow–only to find out they no longer existed. We later found a Whole Foods Market and got some food for dinner.

Even though it was more difficult, I had a great time finding vegan food in Houston. I feel like if even Texas, popularly known mostly for its steak-devouring cowboys, is offering more vegan-friendly options then veganism must really be going somewhere!

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Happy Cow is a website that has a list of vegetarian and vegan restaurants. There’s a great app for Android (and I’m assuming iPhone) that uses GPS to tell you the nearest veg restaurants.

*My preconceptions about Texas food come from what I’ve heard about Texas being more about cattle raising and eating beef than vegetarian food.



Dr. Jane Goodall
April 4, 2011, 11:26 am
Filed under: Celebrities, Lifestyle, Personal | Tags: , , , ,

This is long overdue, but I wanted to make it sound right. I actually turned this in with an application. Ask me any questions you might have about my experience!

On March 9, 2011, I had the opportunity of a lifetime. My dad and I took three days off from our busy lives to fly to Houston, Texas to see Dr. Jane Goodall give a lecture about her life with chimpanzees. “Dr. Jane,” as she is affectionately called, is one of the finest I’ve had the opportunity to see. She realized her childhood dream of visiting Africa by taking advantage of all of the opportunities that came her way, working hard and never giving up hope.

Her first 26 years with chimpanzees were spent in Africa researching and making discoveries about their behavior. You can tell how fond her memories are; she speaks passionately and lovingly of all her chimpanzee friends. She even gave us a demonstration of how chimpanzees greet each other, and gave her call to the audience. I was reading the introduction of her book, Harvest for Hope, and she talked about how nervous she used to get giving public speeches (even Jane Goodall gets nervous!). She said that the way she calms down is by people watching, because she sees so many similarities between our behavior and the behavior of the chimpanzees she spent so many years studying. That’s why she decided, in 1986, that she couldn’t just stand by while their habitat and chance of survival was being destroyed. Since then she’s spent three hundred days of every year traveling around the world, spreading awareness and a message of peace and hope. She’s one of the most optimistic and inspirational people I’ve come across. Although faced with much adversity, she maintains a serene composure and an unwavering optimistic outlook.

When she realized that the habitat in Gombe was disappearing, she knew she had to do something to try and save it. One of the main reasons their habitat was being destroyed was because the villages around it were chopping down the trees for themselves. The people near Gombe were very impoverished and there was no way she would tell them they had to stop cutting trees (and lose their livelihood, warmth, etc.) so her chimpanzees could live. So she found some people in the villages that were interested in working with her to improve their quality of life. While working on this Jane got an invitation to a fair trade coffee conference and she mentioned the coffee production that was going on near Gombe. Turns out their coffee is pretty awesome (Green Mountain Coffee) and it completely turned around their quality of living. They set aside some protected land for the chimps with their new surge of profit and now their prospering as well. I love this story because it shows not only how animal lovers are human lovers as well, but that the best solutions can be very innovative. It also shows Jane’s ability to take full advantage of all her opportunities.

Dr. Jane started a program called Roots and Shoots, which is designed to give kids the support they need to change the world. Her goal is to inspire the next generation to care for the planet in all ways, and she does this by convincing them that each individual can make a difference. One of the great bits of advice she gave was to experience everything and take every opportunity that comes your way. Through these experiences, ideas and opportunities to make a difference will begin to manifest. She’s an inspiration to everyone, and the world is a better place because of her. I hope that I can make a fraction of the difference that she has.

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I’d like to add that Jane Goodall is also a vegetarian. She even wrote a book about it, Harvest for Hope.



Gluten-Free Adventure
April 2, 2011, 10:27 pm
Filed under: Food, Lifestyle, Nutrition, Personal | Tags: , , ,

Today I decided to try a gluten-free diet for a few weeks to see if I see any change in the way I feel. There hasn’t been a whole lot of research about gluten and especially if not eating it is beneficial to those who don’t have Celiac disease, but I figured I might as well try! Also, look for a long overdue Jane Goodall post tomorrow!

If we look back at what our early ancestors ate we can see what our bodies evolved to eat. They mostly consumed vegetables, fruits, nuts, and small game when they could get it. Upon looking this up I came across the “paleolithic diet” which sounds very intriguing. The idea is that you model your diet after the diet of our ancestors because we are adapted to it. Anyway, we didn’t start consuming grains until relatively recently when farming came around (in the whole scheme of things). Our body hasn’t had as much time to adapt to eating grains as it has eating fruits.

Even if a gluten-free diet doesn’t actually have benefits, I’ll at least be giving up a lot of processed foods that I know aren’t healthy. I reached for one of the many Newman-O’s that my dad bought me, but sadly they have wheat. So no cookies, cake, pie, bread, calzones (on Calzone Wednesday!) but we’ll see how it turns out.

My amazing friend, Kristin, is gluten and lactose intolerant and just started being vegetarian! She will be my inspiration for my gluten free journey.

Good bye gluten, hello tons of veggies! I’m so glad that potatoes don’t have gluten, because I don’t think I could give them up. Phew!

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I couldn’t think of any cute pictures related to gluten, so here’s a baby duck! Kaity and I saw duck rape for the first time yesterday, and it was so sad to see! But duck rape means baby ducks! (Some male ducks, such as mallards, do actually force penetration on the females. However, apparently female ducks are fighting back and have evolved long, twisted vaginas that can stop unwanted intercourse. You go girls! But someone has to make those baby ducks.)



Kudos to You, César Chávez

I am going to try and blog once a day for the entire month of April! Wish me luck, and have fun reading. I’ll start it off with a tribute to a wonderful activist:

As many of you know, yesterday was César Chávez Day. Unfortunately it’s not yet a state holiday in Washington state, but it is in California, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin! I’d like to discuss this phenomenal man and the great things he’s done for our country.

César Chávez lived in Arizona until his father made an agreement to clear 80 of his acres in excange for 40 more and that agreement was broken. They were unable to afford the interest on a loan to buy it back and they lost their house and land forever. This injustice made a big impact on Chávez and was only the first of many more. This is one of his famous quotes that relates to this, “The love for justice that is in us is not only the best part of our being but it is also the most true to our nature.” I love this! It reminds me of the common phrase children like to yell, “But it’s not fair!” Fairness makes sense to children, and we believe that bad things shouldn’t happen to good people. It’s only until we learn how the “real world” works that we slowly give that up. For injustice that is willful (compared to unfortunate events like car crashes) we shouldn’t be satisfied, and we should fight until it has been made right. Chávez did just that.

Anyway, Chávez and his family moved to California to make a living as migrant workers. To sustain his family he stopped attending school after 8th grade and devoted himself to migrant work.

He later founded the National Farm Workers Association to mobilize farm workers to enact change. He modeled his actions after Zapata, Gandhi, Nehru and Martin Luther King, using nonviolence to create awareness. You may have heard of the Delano grape strike, in which Chávez motivated grape growers to stop working and later for consumers to boycott buying them. He worked with the longshoremen who loaded the shipments of grapes and convinced them to not load any nonunion ones, resulting in a lot of spoiled grapes. His efforts ended in gaining union contracts and higher wages.

The list of accomplishments that Chávez had is vast, as well as the number of people he affected. He saw something that needed to be changed and he worked his hardest to make it happen, which I’m sure we can all find inspiration from.

I feel it necessary to add that César was a vegetarian. He included animals in his attempt to bring justice to all, which isn’t uncommon with nonviolent activists. Note that Gandhi was a vegetarian, and Martin Luther King’s family is vegan (his son is vegan and his wife was). I’m seeing a trend!

I hope you all took the time to think kindly of César and I thank him for all the steps forward he has taken for our country.

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*This information was found on United Farm Workers of America



Food Revolution
March 31, 2011, 8:21 am
Filed under: Celebrities, Food, Lifestyle, Personal | Tags: , , ,

We are living in an exciting time: we’re living in the middle of the Food Revolution. More and more people are examining their relationship to food and more and more people are finding themselves dissatisfied. Little by little we are changing our messed up food system.

A little while ago I started a Twitter so that I could stay more up to date with news, specifically vegnews. I love it and think it’s a great way to stay connected. I feel more up to date that I’ve ever felt, and I feel a community that I didn’t know existed before.

Just in the past couple of months:

  • Oprah’s show had a vegan special
  • Martha Stewart had a vegan special
  • An article in the Seattle Times about a vegan blogger
  • Seattle Vegfest
  • An article in Time about moral issues surrounding food
  • As well as many people in the spotlight who are becoming food conscious (my favorites: Olivia Wilde, Natalie Portman, Alicia Silverstone, Emily Deschanel, Ellen DeGeneres)’

I don’t know about you guys, but this makes me really hopeful. I don’t think the problem is convincing people to care about the environment, worker and animal rights or the difficulties small farmers face, but letting them know. Recently it’s been talked about in the media and I think this is the first step.

I know I’m excited, and I love that it’s happening now. I believe we can revitalize our food system, we just need to keep up the good work!

Aww!

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Staying Optimistic
February 6, 2011, 1:14 am
Filed under: Lifestyle, Personal | Tags: , ,

Considering the fact that the title of my blog is currently “Optimistic Vegan,” I felt it was only appropriate to talk a little more about that.

I think that most vegans are necessarily optimistic. Unless the reason you’re vegan is purely for health reasons, odds are that you are hoping to change something. Whether it’s putting your dollars elsewhere to encourage better alternatives that are sustainable or to end the cruel practices of factory farms, you’re hoping that your actions will affect change. This in itself is an optimistic way of looking at things, rather than apathetically thinking that nothing you do will help.

This is one of the reasons I love meeting new vegans. They’re usually very passionate, compassionate and happy people. They love life (and the lives of others!) and they’re enacting change by changing their lifestyles.

However, I’m not going to lie, there are definitely some depressing sides to being vegan. For one, if you’re vegan you know how terrible society can act. The people that surround you are contributing to the suffering of millions and most of them don’t ever think about it (or know?). You see how greedy industries can be, or how passive the government acts. And on top of this you get ridiculed by the people around you for not participating in the cruel practices that are considered normal. I’ve definitely had my times where I’ve been overwhelmed with all of this. But for me it’s worth it.

You’ll get no where if you all you think about are the negatives. If you’re vegetarian/vegan then something inspired you to get to that point. Just remember what it was and you’ll be fine. It can be hard sometimes, but think about all of the good that you’re doing! You are making a difference. You’re helping us get to a more compassionate world. One vegetarian at a time!

I hope this was coherent. It’s a bit late!