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.


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.


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!)


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.


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!


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.)

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!



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!

A Change of Opinion: Is it Unnatural to Eat Animals?
February 3, 2011, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Animal Rights, Lifestyle, Personal | Tags: , , ,

After some recent conversations about whether or not it is “natural” to eat meat, I have revised my stance on this topic. In passing one day, one of my friends said that one of the things that bothered them being vegan is that it is “unnatural.” We decided to postpone the rest of our conversation, which gave me a chance to think about it. I then talked to my dad about it (also vegan) and told him how easy I thought it was to dispute that. How could factory farming and drinking milk intended for baby cows be considered more natural than fruits and vegetables?

The conclusion I’ve come to is that, as much as I hate to admit it, there is nothing wrong with consuming animals for food. However, the way that we are currently consuming them is wrong. Like my dad pointed out, humans have been eating animals as soon as we could catch them. He used the term of opportunistic carnivore, and I think this is accurate. We would rely on plants and things we could gather, but when an animal came around, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity of an energy-rich meal. We didn’t used to subject animals to the cruel practices of factory farming and industrial slaughterhouses, we put them to their death as natural as another animal consumes another.

That being said, the way that we are eating animals today is nothing like that. The way we get our meat now is about as unnatural as you can get: treating animals like machines, hooking them up to machines, caring more about the end product than the animals’ dignity, and putting them through unnecessary pain.

This is a big change in the way I look at things. Instead of advocating for a world where no animals are eaten, I will instead advocate to limit our intake to avoid excessiveness and go towards a more sophisticated, more dignified, and more conscious food system.

Even though I have modified this way of looking at things, I think the best way to achieve the ideal food system where animals are spared suffering and a loss of dignity is to speak with our wallets. I will not support any food industry (factory farms, industrial slaughterhouses, etc.) by giving them my dollars.

So there you go! (For the record, I’m still a vegan and probably always will be.)


This is a Duiker. Isn’t he adorable?

The Vegan Title
January 30, 2011, 8:49 pm
Filed under: Food, Lifestyle, Personal | Tags: , , , ,

I’m sure you’ve heard me rant about this before, but I think it needs to be reiterated. I hate the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian.” (I really feel like I’ve already talked about this, but I can’t find it!) It puts those people in a little box and they feel like they can’t move, they feel the need to define themselves, and other people don’t have as much “respect” if they aren’t completely in their box. Let me explain.

From what I’ve seen, most people don’t think they can be completely vegan/vegetarian so they don’t try at all. (Read my post titled Every Bit Goes a Long Way for more about that) This is why I hate the titles of vegan/vegetarian. It’s like you have to have the title to prove to others what your beliefs are or something. I think that we should care less about what other people think of us and stay true to ourselves and what we believe. If you think that factory farms are terrible and you feel you can give up red meat but never chicken, give up red meat! You might not be able to call yourself a “vegetarian” but at least you know you’re doing what you think is best by doing what you can.

A lot of new vegans/vegetarians get discouraged because they slip up/forget/take a break or whatever, and some even quit altogether. You have to cut yourself some slack! For the people my age, you’ve been eating meat for almost 2 decades! It’s not easy for everyone to make a lifestyle switch that quickly! If you slip up a couple of times, understand that you’re still making a difference.

So I think that you should stop caring about getting that title and instead do what you can.

Baby cow picture for you!

baby cow