Being a woman; doubly impacted by the climate injustice

By 2050, there are expected to be 300 million climate refugees worldwide.  When we look at who is disproportionately impacted by climate change, women are the biggest group effected.  This is because they are usually at home when climate crises happen; looking after children and dependent relatives, which make it harder for them to escape.  Women in third world countries typically have less access to critical emergency information.  Therefore, empowering women is a key part of winning the fight against climate change.

 

The book ‘Why Women will Save the Planet’[1], gives advice about empowering societies through empowering the women, therefore, making it easier to tackle climate change.  For example, in Bangladesh, women are working to strengthen the land to reduce the effects of flooding and cyclones.

 

The difficulty of discussing climate change, is that it can be an abstract subject to talk about.  By finding out more about women; their names, faces and stories, it can humanise the stark reality.  ‘Hands on: Women, Climate, Change’,[2] shows the profiles of five women who are protesting and educating other women and societies about climate change, through education and innovation.  Their website also shows a documentary, detailing their perspectives and experiences.  It’s worth a watch.

 

What can we do?

 

The UK Government need to take ambitious steps in order to meet the 1.5°C goal that they agreed to in the Paris Agreement.  However, they are currently endorsing the Heathrow expansion and fracking.  Richer countries also need to pay their climate debts.  They can do this by supporting other countries’ resilience and infrastructure, therefore stopping the people that climate change would affect the most.  The Western world needs to stop supporting the big businesses that contribute the most pollution and waste.

 

As a woman living in a Western society, it is important to take individual steps against climate change, and also aim to help other women across the world.  Make sure that whenever you’re campaigning, you have the voices of those who are affected the most.  Work hard to be genuinely and meaningfully inclusive, because that’s the only way we can tackle global crises; if our own micro-movements are as diverse and as collaborative as they can be.  Let’s amplify our sisters’ voices.

[1] https://www.amazon.co.uk/Why-Women-Will-Save-Planet/dp/1786993147/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1541708890&sr=8-1&keywords=why+women+will+save+the+planet

 

[2] http://redlizardmedia.com/climateandgender/

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Paris (Dis)Agreement

A recent climate report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) believes that we must take drastic action in order to limit global warming to 1.5 °C. [1]

 

The article highlights the seriousness of this rise in temperature, and its effects on the planet; severe heat waves, extinction of coral reefs, and ice-free summers in the Arctic, to name a few.  The Paris 2015 Climate Agreement aimed to limit global temperature increase to between 1.5 and 2°C.  We are currently progressing to a 3°C rise by the turn of the century.  These conditions would make be extremely difficult for human survival.

 

The primary example the IPCC have suggested to combat these figures, is to eat less meat.  The Guardian agrees with this initiative.  Damian Carrington, Environment editor, wrote earlier this year that consumers should avoid meat and dairy in order to reduce our impact on the Earth.[2]

 

Carrington cites that a vegan diet helps decrease greenhouse gas emissions, global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use.  Rather than choosing not to fly, or buying an electric car, veganism can be the simplest and easiest lifestyle change.  To summarise, Carrington’s most poignant statement was that it is more environmentally beneficial to avoid all animal consumption, rather than purchasing ‘sustainable’ meat and dairy sources.

 

Meat and dairy products linked to the significance of climate impact are becoming more publicised.  More people are speaking about their boycotting.  But the system needs to be scrutinized further.  In order to meet the Paris Agreement’s targets, veganism needs to be promoted on a more global, and specifically political level.

 

Government officials’ reluctance to identify meat consumption as a link to climate change needs to be addressed.[3]  Animal Welfare Acts, the Agriculture and Trade Policy, and food taxation laws need to be discussed by politicians, and an action plan created.  I believe we require a sustainable food revolution, to work towards the Paris Agreement, and meet tomorrow’s growing demand.

[1] https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-06876-2

 

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth

 

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/30/meat-and-fish-protein-multinationals-jeopardising-paris-climate-goals

 

THE FOOD IS THE EASY PART

I became vegan almost two years ago.  I decided I wanted to make a small difference to our world, and now everyday, I make important choices that are directly saving the lives of animals; helping to reduce the supply and demand economics of animal-based industry and commerce (therefore not relying on multinational companies as often); and supporting local businesses, who are battling the inequalities of both killing animals, and the Zero Waste movement.

 

But for 18 years of my life, I ate meat.  For 19 years I was not vegan, and I know (alongside a couple of my best friends, who are an incredible support system for me, as they became vegan too) how hard transitioning to veganism can be.  The food is the easy part.  The difficulty is linked to your upbringing.  Childhood books lie to us about what dairy farming is like; there are stories depicting happy farms with happy animals and happy people.  We are taught that we are supposed to eat 5 fruit or vegetables a day, but when that’s the only thing we choose to eat, it’s ‘not good for us,’ and we ‘need’ the meat.  Our culture and the discourse surrounding food and its advertisement (‘milk will make your bones strong’) is how we are fundamentally socialised into believing that animals are ours to consume, use, and watch in circuses.  How can animal lovers love animals if they eat them?  Of course, because so many people are not vegan (and I do not want to vilify non-vegans, as I once ate meat, and have many friends who do so) the answers that veganism provides, in regards to how eating animal products make us ‘stronger’ or ‘healthier’, falls on deaf ears.

 

Some people don’t want to know.  But with consistency and kindness, you can explain how veganism benefits the individual and the masses.  Think about when you were not a vegan (or are on the cusp of transitioning).  What would you want to hear?  What would make you want to become vegan?  For me, the answer is how synonymous veganism is with environmental impact.  Everyday I feel like I am accomplishing a goal; lowering my carbon footprint, reducing water wastage and preventing needless suffering.  I am not a vegan to be better than anyone else, I am a vegan to be the best (still trying!) version of myself.

 

Other people (including some of my previous housemates, who I have discussed this topic with at length) are interested in veganism’s arguments, and can understand its moral positionality, but have decided that the La Vie Vegan is not for them.  They have got their own routines, their own likes and dislikes, or their own cuisine.  That’s okay.  Social conditioning is strong, and some people do not want to draw attention to themselves, or seem different in today’s society.  At social gatherings or parties or restaurants, people often target, mock or extensively question me about my dietary choices; people try to catch vegans out.  Therefore, as much as I enjoy my friends’ company, it is also important to surround yourself with people that do not think factory farming is an acceptable lifestyle to contribute to.

 

We are almost 30 years away from 2050 (is a vegan future possible?), and social media is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal to connect with other like-minded people.  Since I decided to cut my dependence on animal products, social media and the internet has allowed me to educate myself, and deepen my interest and awareness of the inequality, injustice, and unjust social movements; such as sexism, racism and ableism, that exist within the power structures that daily control our lives.  Seeing other people, of other nationalities, and cultures, and also similar ones to yourself, signifies how uniting veganism is, and how unnerving it can be against the people who see animals as money.  By watching protests, activists, and documentaries, I am continually inspired by what other vegans are doing to protect animals’ rights.  By 2050, there will be a rise of activists are celebrities and children using social media to present their own views on veganism and disseminating their understanding, and it is crucial that we listen; we need to elevate vegan voices.

 

 

Convenient Veganism: an Age of Social Progression?

This post is partly written in response to Jill Wooster’s article ‘Being a little bit vegan is completely oxymoronic.’[1]

 

In a society where our awareness as consumers has been heightened by social trends, fads and diets, it is questionable whether we treat veganism as a societal convenience, as opposed to a reflection of morality.

 

‘Veganism’ is not a flexible concept, and the danger of presenting ‘Meat-free Mondays’, ‘Fishless Fridays’ and ‘Veganuary’ as forms of veganism may be damaging to the label.  Wooster is not shaming non-vegans, but is clear about veganism’s steadfast definition.  Vegans don’t eat, wear or use any animal products, at any time.

 

REDUCTIONISM

 

But we are creatures of habit, and are learning more about how to terminate our dependence on animal products, especially if we are transitioning from eating meat, to eating vegan.  When I transitioned, I had stopped buying meat, dairy and eggs, but by occasionally eating a chocolate bar, I wasn’t embodying veganism, but instead, reducetarianism.  Veganism is all or nothing, but getting there is an important part of the process.  It’s part of the learning curve.  Although this stage helped me transition fully, I used the term ‘vegan’ too loosely.  And as Wooster explains, you can’t be ‘a little bit vegan.’

 

VEGAN FOR A REASON

 

Sean O’Callaghan AKA ‘Fat Gay Vegan,’[2] believes we need to practice what we preach.  His view is to remain dedicated to being 100% vegan.  Eating dairy once a week is better than eating it every day, however the aim should be to cut it out completely.  Sean says ‘we can congratulate people on their milestones and the small victories… but we should never convey the sentiment that reducing is the end goal.’  Animal exploitation cannot be justified.

 

SOCIAL PROGRESSION IS SHARED KNOWLEDGE

 

The more we learn, the more we can do.  By reading books, blogs, web pages and cook books, I have involved myself more in vegan and environmental activism.  It’s clear to see how many areas of my life have been corrupted by convenience.  Saying ‘no’ to a cake made with eggs, ‘no’ to a beer strained through fish swim bladders (if you didn’t know about that one, google it!) and ‘no’ to buying a plastic water bottle, you are taking an active stand against convenience.

 

Most people don’t want to think about the processes behind their daily commodities, or even want to change their habits, but in an age of social progression, I think it’s important to realise the disadvantages of what you may think think is a positive social trend.  Don’t dilute the label.  Do what you can, when you can, if you can.

 

VEGAN MEANS VEGAN.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/feb/03/being-a-little-bit-vegan-is-completely-oxymoronic

 

[2] http://fatgayvegan.com

 

BAMBOO TOOTHBRUSHES: A REVIEW AND REFLECTION*

*This is a product I enjoy using and is in no way endorsed.

We have a plastic problem.  By 2050, there are hints towards plastic outweighing the fish in our oceans. [1]  Most of this cannot be removed, as microscopic range fragmented plastic debris floats around, contributing to the mass.[2]  All sea creatures, including microscopic organisms, are ingesting the toxic chemicals from plastic decomposition.  If we then eat the fish from the ocean, we are ultimately eating our own waste.

REDUCTION

The Zero Waste movement is growing, its goal is to stop waste being sent to landfills or the ocean, by encouraging people to choose alternative options, or reuse their current products.

To combat the plastic problem, we need to invest in more sustainable, eco-friendly versions of the products we are already buying.

BAMBOO

I have been using a bamboo toothbrush for over a month.  They are available worldwide on the internet, mine is from: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B073TXCFDP/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1.  Which works out at £2.50 for each toothbrush.  It is currently out of stock, but I also recommend this brand: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bamboo-Toothbrush-Charcoal-Bristles-TEVRA/dp/B06XD9J43T/ref=pd_vtph_bs_tr_t_1?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B06XD9J43T&pd_rd_r=25cae126-732f-11e8-adc1-cfe7469a25ba&pd_rd_w=jJFCR&pd_rd_wg=8wBV3&pf_rd_i=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_p=3950386175001893296&pf_rd_r=AWA9C49Y7YA7R09P5R8Q&pf_rd_s=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_t=40701&psc=1&refRID=AWA9C49Y7YA7R09P5R8Q

4.7 billion toothbrushes are made annually[3], and we are advised to change ours every 3 months.  For me, it was an obvious purchase to help me reduce my plastic contribution.  The reason bamboo is so brilliant, is because it is a natural plant-based material that is completely biodegradable and decomposable.

The handle is made from 100% sustainable Moso bamboo; it grows quickly, is antibacterial and is water repellent.  The bristles are made from 62% castor oil, mixed with activated carbon, and help keep my teeth white.  They are BPA-free and recyclable.  The toothbrush itself is soft and enjoyable to use, and even the packaging is completely vegan and waste free.  I would definitely recommend it.

REPURPOSE

If you do decide to make the swap to a bamboo toothbrush, instead of throwing the plastic one away, you can repurpose it instead.  The plastic bristles are great for cleaning: shoes, kitchen appliances, car engines or wheels, or they can help lift stains from clothes with stain remover.

If we keep talking about the growing plastic problem, maybe we can help make it shrink.

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35562253

[2] http://plastic-pollution.org

[3] http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/the-bamboo-boys/article5079295.ece

Sustainability

The Psychology of Eating Meat

“Most people eat meat because most people eat meat.” – Leenaert (2016)

 

Growing up, I didn’t question my eating habits.  Living in a Western, consumerist society, we buy what is advertised to us.  It is ‘normal’ to have a burger from McDonalds, it is ‘normal’ to eat the same foods as your friends and family, it is ‘normal’ to eat meat.  Walker-Smith (2006) claims we are exposed to up to 5000 adverts a day; these subconsciously influence our opinions and behaviour in regards to eating meat.  In all aspects of our lives, we strive to comply to media standards in order to feel valued, whether that is pressure to join the gym, wear certain clothes, or choose better diets.  The companies promoting these ideals are competing for our money, but we internalise their messages, and they can effect every aspect of our daily norms and values.

 

Despite the increased knowledge of veganism in today’s society, most people have not altered their general behaviour, lifestyle or purchasing decisions.  This creates a problem called the ‘Attitude-Behaviour Gap;’ when a person’s beliefs, intentions or values are not put into practice.  The majority of people disagree with animal abuse, but continue to eat meat.  An explanation for this is the Cognitive Dissonance Theory.  Festinger (1957) explains that our brain produces a feeling of discomfort if we say we love animals, but eat chicken nuggets, for example.  By changing our attitude or behaviour, we can reduce this feeling of discomfort.  However, instead of not eating the chicken nuggets, most people change their attitude instead.  We tell ourselves that the chickens lived a happy life, ran around outside in the sun, and ate organic food.  By adhering to the labels of ‘free range’ and ‘organic’ when we consume animal products, it makes us feel less guilty about actually eating them.

 

McLoed (2014) concludes that only those people who are in a state of Cognitive Dissonance will take steps to reduce their dissonance.  Not enough people are stopping eating meat though, and we don’t act on our moral inclinations or feelings of guilt because the adverts we see tell us what we are doing is ‘normal.’  It is hard to break from our ‘normal’ routines; shopping, eating, consuming; but when we do, we can see the truth that these corporations are hiding from us.  And the truth is that animal exploitation is not ‘normal.’

The Science of Food

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey (UK Government 2018) states that well-planned vegan diets can support healthy living in people of all ages, however, there are currently no policies being used to implement this diet.  The World Health Organisation (2018) has also recognised a causal link between processed meat and cancer.

MEAT

The meat industry today produces a lot of meat from animals that are fed antibiotics, hormones and often have bad health; it is not cost-effective to remove the diseased ones.  This meat is universally available to buy at supermarkets and eat at restaurants, but once consumed it boosts bodily inflammation, with an abundance of omega-6 fatty acids, and a lack of omega-3s.

It is important to eat omega fatty acids; including alpha-linolenic acid, linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  They have strong anti-inflammatory nutrients and help with healthy oil production, for example well-hydrated skin, fewer blackheads, and healthy scalp and hair.  These omega fatty acids also assist in mood and hormone regulation, and are important for brain and eye health.  Food sources include algae, chia seeds, ground flaxseed, hemp seeds, nori and walnuts.

By continuing to eat meat, your body is increasingly prone to higher blood glucose levels, digestive problems like gas, diarrhoea, bloating or constipation, fatigue, eczema or psoriasis, or erectile dysfunction in men.  These symptoms are not always apparent in everyone, the the more omega-6 consumed can interfere with the health benefits of omega-3 fats.

DAIRY

Likewise, dairy products contain antibiotics and added hormones that spike insulin in the body, leading to breakouts.  The hormones in the dairy products also imbalance your body’s natural hormonal balance, and milk consumption can cause a 10-20% rise in key oil-producing hormones in adults that contributes to acne.

Dairy is also one of the most common food intolerances, with more and more people being categorised as ‘lactose intolerant.’  A protein called casein and a sugar called lactose are the two troubling components of this dietary issue.  They can cause bloating and gas, as well as digestive issues that prevent your body from breaking down and assimilating the essential nutrients from your diet.

A seemingly obvious statement that is overlooked by the majority of the world is ‘not your mum, not your milk.’  By drinking cow’s milk that is intended to increase the mass of a 65-pound calf into a 700-pound cow as rapidly as possible, may cause cause weight-gain and hormone imbalances in people, depending on their consumption rates.  Dr Michael Klaper explains that cow milk is brimming with estrogens, which can increase osteoporosis (especially in women) and cause levels of testosterone to decrease rapidly in males.

Instead of drinking cow’s milk, there are many plant-based alternatives.  From my experience, some plant milks are better than others.  For example, oat milk is the best in coffee, almond milk is tastiest on cereals, coconut milk works well in curries, soy milk is very good for baking cakes, and cashew milk gives home-made ice-cream the creamy texture.

RAW FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

To combat the negative impacts of these food groups, it is most effective to cut meat and dairy out of your diet completely.  However, whether you are plant-based or not, raw foods are excellent for your nutrition, as they contain living enzymes that help your body break down and assimilate their nutrients content.  These enzymes get destroyed during cooking (over 40°C) so it’s important to eat plant foods in raw forms to benefit from the living enzymes.

In order to maintain a balanced diet, it’s important to eat a variety of foods.  Foods such as avocados, olives, nuts and seeds provide the body with healthy fats, and help protect our vital organs.  Asparagus and leeks, for example, also have plant fibre that directly feeds the good bacteria in your digestive tract; even the bacteria need nourishment.  Raw plant foods are also important because they scrub your intestinal villi with fibre and keep elimination regular.  They also provide our cells with vitamins, minerals and essential oils.

Eating more fruits and vegetables also increases our Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, thiamine and niacin levels in the body.  The antioxidants present can also help your body counteract damage caused by toxic by-products (free radicals).  These antioxidants, like carotenoids, flavonoids and polyphenols can also help prevent health issues like cancer and cardiovascular disease.  Foods with high water content, like cucumbers, watermelons, strawberries, celery and tomatoes also hydrate the body efficiently and can even help your mood.

Overall, I believe in the saying ‘eat good, feel good’ and have worked out which foods give the most energy, and avoid those that cause breakouts or bloating.