environmentalism

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July’s volunteer night

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

For July’s volunteer night, eight of us met up in downtown Vancouver to do some summer outreach in the sunshine.  Armed with our Eating the Planet and Dairy: What you need to know leaflets, our volunteers spread out and began to work their magic.

Almira

Almira explaining the realities of animal agriculture.

We started the evening with 1000 leaflets…

Sophie

Board member Sophie catching commuters.

…and ended with exactly zero!

John

John hard at work.

Another month, another night with the best volunteers anybody could ask for!  A big thank you to Almira, John, Louis, Miriam, and Wilson for coming out!

August’s volunteer night has not been scheduled yet, but you can get the most recent updates on what we’re up to by checking out our Events page or by signing up for our Action Alert emails.

Leafleting on Meatless Monday

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

The Vancouver City Council declared June 10th, 2013 “Meatless Monday” as part of their Greenest City Initiative, giving us a great opportunity to do some outreach. Many people still aren’t aware that animal agriculture is one leading causes of climate change.  While the best way to help the environment–and the animals!–is to go vegan, even reducing one’s consumption of animal products is a step in the right direction.  And in a country where the majority of people still eat meat twice or even three times a day, one meatless day a week can make a difference.

While most of the city was in favour of the initiative (or in the very least, not opposed to it) a few angry voices came forward to make a fuss.   So please take a moment to write a quick note of thanks to the Mayor and City Council (Mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca) for making Vancouver the first Canadian city to have an official Meatless Monday–and hopefully it will happen again next year!

Onto the leafleting:

Brad

Way to go, Brad!

Twelve of us met at Granville and Georgia that afternoon and then spread out around the downtown area with our environmental leaflets, “Eating the Planet”.

pigeons

Leafleting amongst the pigeons.

In just an hour and a half, we managed to give out over 1000 leaflets!  Way to go, guys!  A big thank you to our wonderful volunteers for the day: John, Sandra, Miriam, Almira, Vivian, Ashley, Thai, Alissa, and Jamie!

 

Happy Meatless Monday!

Monday, June 10th, 2013

The Vancouver City Council has declared today “Meatless Monday” as part of their Greenest City initiative!

Here are a few facts:

There’s no way around it–animal products are terrible for our planet.  Here are a few snippets from our info page:

  • Producing one calorie of animal protein requires 8 to 10 times as much fossil fuel input—releasing 8 to 10 times as much carbon dioxide—than does a calorie of plant protein.
  • According to the University of Chicago, being vegan is more effective in the fight against global warming than driving a hybrid car; a vegan is responsible for 1.5 fewer tons of carbon dioxide each year than a meat-eater.

eat like an suv

  • About 500 million tons of manure is produced annually by farm animals, and every pound of methane is 72 times as effective as carbon dioxide is at trapping heat in our atmosphere. The Environmental Protection Agency shows that animal agriculture is the single largest source of methane emissions.
murrayville manure

Dead fish float on the surface of a pond after a pig farm allowed 31,000 pounds of manure to seep into a nearby creek in 2009. (Photo: Illinois Environmental Protection Agency)

  • Crops grown specifically for feeding livestock require a third of all arable land, and the land set aside for grazing takes up 26% of the earth’s terrestrial surface.  70% of previously forested areas in the Amazon Rainforest are now used as pasture.
deforestation pie chart
  •  In 2004 and 2005 alone, more than 2.9 million acres of rainforest were cleared, primarily to grow crops for chickens used by Kentucky Fried Chicken.
  • One litre of milk requires 880 litres of water, and one egg requires 200 litres of water. A kilogram of chicken requires 4325 litres of water, a kilogram of pork requires 5988 litres of water, and a kilogram of beef requires a staggering 15145 litres of water.  In contrast, a kilogram of vegetables requires 322 litres of water, and a kilogram of fruit requires 962 litres.
  • The Worldwide Fund for Nature described livestock as a “current threat” to 306 of 825 valuable eco-regions, and of Conservation International’s 35 “global hotspots for biodiversity” dealing with serious levels of habitat loss, 23 are threatened by livestock production.

You can see references and resources for all the facts listed here and learn much more at Animal Products and the Environment.

In the meantime, congratulations to the Vancouver City Council for taking a step in the right direction!

Meatless Monday is coming to Vancouver!

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Exciting news: thanks to the work of Eleanor Boyle, Trish Kelly, and others, the Vancouver City Council has chosen June 10, 2013 as “Meatless Monday”, and we’re going to be out leafleting to the public.  We’d love to have you join us!  Learn more here.

Why Meatless Monday?

 

Because the city of Vancouver is dedicated to developing food systems that are sustainable and that support community well-being; and the city is committed to its Greenest City Action Plan encouraging citizens to make choices that will add to environmental health. (link)

Meatless Monday might seem like a pretty small step, but you know what they say about the journey of a thousand miles.  Plus, Vancouver is the first Canadian city to make such a declaration.  So learn more about Vancouver’s Meatless Monday on Facebook, and leave a comment!

Birds in the Pacific Northwest eat the most plastic…so what can we do?

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

A study published this summer found that seabirds studied off the coast of British Columbia and Washington have “among the highest” consumption of plastic in the world.  Researchers examined 67 Northern Fulmars who washed up dead on the shores of Vancouver Island and Long Beach, Washington.  Fulmars are a particularly apt subject for this type of study because they almost always forage at sea and have enormous range; additionally, they “will forage almost anything from the surface of the water.”

Northern Fulmar

92% of Northern Fulmars have ingested plastic. (Photo: Andreas Trepte, Wikimedia Commons)

The results of the study found that each bird had ingested an average of .385 grams of plastic, up from .12 grams in 1987 and .04 in 1969 to 1977.   Back then, barely 60% of the fulmars studied had ingested plastic; in 1987, the number had climbed to about 85%, and by 2009/2010, it was at 92%.

“We have known about this problem for 40 years and not only have we failed to do anything about it, it has actually gotten worse.” (Dr. George Wallace, American Bird Conservancy)

So what can we do about it?  The study says that 95% of the plastics consisted of “twine, rope, fishing line, Styrofoam, hard pieces of discarded plastic (e.g., bottled caps), fiber sponge, and sheet plastic.”  An obvious answer is that we all need to be diligent about recycling, but that won’t be enough if we’re buying lots of plastic products or stuff with excessive packaging, plenty of which can’t be recycled anyway. (I’ve found Return-it.ca to be very helpful resource when it comes to finding a place to recycle all kinds of things in BC, including electronics.) “Reduce, reuse, recycle”–and in that order specifically–is still a fantastic motto, but we should add “repair” to that list too: don’t toss something when you could get it repaired or fix it yourself.  And don’t forget that “reuse” applies not only to our own stuff but to that of other people: you might be surprised by how many great finds (plastic or not) there are in your local thrift store.  Buying used is a win on every level: you don’t need to worry about overconsumption or environmental impact or supporting sweatshop labour, and it costs less.

drowned albatross caught on fishing line

This albatross became caught on a fishing line and drowned. Most species of albatross are endangered, but 100,000 are killed annually by longline fishing. (Photo: Tamar Brazil, Marine Photobank)

And when it comes to fishing line, well… it comes as no surprise that fishing hurts more than just its intended targets. Birds of all kinds, sea turtles, dolphins, whales, and many others are all killed by fishing lines, both those used by enormous longline trawlers and small-time recreational fishers.  Just this summer, a young humpback washed up on the shores of White Rock with fishing gear from a longline buried in her mouth. (Article here.)  So one very important way to make a difference is to stop fishing, and eliminate–or in the very least, reduce–your consumption of seafood.  And don’t fall for the hype about sustainable fishing.

Other quick and easy ways to make a difference include buying food in bulk, carrying cloth shopping bags, and bringing your own thermos or water bottle rather than utilizing a one-use cup that will be thrown out immediately after you’re done with it.  Oh, and if you buy a six-pack of soda or beer, please cut up the plastic rings that hold them all together.  I can’t tell you how many intact six-pack rings I find on the street in my neighbourhood.  (Actually, I can, because I am a little crazy and have been keeping track of how many I’ve had to cut up since the beginning of 2012–as of my writing this, I’m at twenty-three, and that’s absolutely ridiculous considering that I’m not looking for the things.) We live right next to the ocean, people!  This is elementary stuff!

turtle caught in plastic rings

Cut up those rings!

What other suggestions do you have for decreasing our reliance on plastic or reducing its environmental impact? What works for you?  If you have any tips, please leave them in the comment section!

 

The population explosion

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

As you probably know, the human population reached 7 billion last week.  Do you remember when it hit 6 billion?  You just might–it was only 12 years ago, in 1999.   But for thousands of years, our population was apparently pretty stable.

In 1800, there were 1 billion of us.  That’s when we managed to harness the power of fossil fuels, and the population explosion began.  By 1930, there were 2 billion people; by 1975, 4 billion.  That means that the number of humans on the planet has nearly doubled in the last 35 years; in 2020, we will reach 8 billion.  No large vertebrae animal has ever grown so much, so fast, and one of the many tragic results of our growth is the mass extinction of other species. Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson estimates that extinction claims 30,000 species a year–or 3 every single hour.  12 percent of mammals, 12 percent of birds, 31 percent of reptiles, 30 percent of amphibians, and 37 percent of fish are threatened with extinction.  There have been other mass extinctions before, but they were caused by planetary or galactic physical processes; the fault for this one rests entirely on our many, many, many, many, many (etc.) shoulders.  We are watching species are disappear at a rate approximately 1,000 times faster than is typical for the planet’s history.

Graph from the Center for Biological Diversity

From the Center for Biological Diversity:

  • Humans annually absorb 42 percent of the Earth’s terrestrial net primary productivity, 30 percent of its marine net primary productivity, and 50 percent of its fresh water.
  • Forty percent of the planet’s land is devoted to human food production, up from 7 percent in 1700.
  • Fifty percent of the planet’s land mass has been transformed for human use.
  • More atmospheric nitrogen is now fixed by humans that all other natural processes combined.

We now know that a major cause of all this resource-draining activity is animal agriculture, which does more damage to the planet than all the transportation in the world combined.  And we also know that one of the best ways to help the planet is to go vegan.  But is that really enough?  Even a planet with 7 billion vegans would be stretched way beyond capacity!   Canada has one of the highest per capita ecological footprints in the world.  It’s time for us to recognize the overpopulation crisis, and to consider very seriously what we can do to combat it.

By the way, I got a lot of the info for this post from the aforementioned Center for Biological Diversity, which promotes “the empowerment of women, education of all people, universal access to birth control and a societal commitment to ensuring that all species are given a chance to live and thrive” as a solution to the overpopulation crisis.  Be sure to check out their website for lots more facts and for fun stuff like their Endangered Species condoms!

Vote With Your Dollars

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

You don’t have to be out on a street corner holding protest signs to help the animals. Don’t underestimate the power that your purchases have on the welfare of animals. Each dollar that you spend is a vote telling suppliers what you want.

Sometimes we are so inundated with commercials telling us what products to buy and which products work better than others that we are afraid to try new products that may be both kinder to animals and the environment. Many of these items can be found in most regular grocery stores or available on line. Below I have listed some of my favourite brands that I use at home on a daily basis that can be found in most grocery stores.


7th Generation: Laundry detergent, dish soap and household cleaners; they are biodegradable and they also have the leaping bunny symbol on them so you know they are free from animal testing and animal by-products.

ECOS: Laundry detergent that can be found in Canadian Tire or Costco(hopefully coming to a grocery store near you). Also is biodegradable and has the leaping bunny symbol; cleans and smells great!

ALBA: Shaving cream; it comes is a coconut lime scent and chocolate mint! Great for guys and gals! Give it a try and I promise you, you won’t go back to the “foam in the can”. (Not all of their products are vegan but for sure the saving lotion is).

Down Under Naturals: Shampoo, Conditioner and hairspray.  They are vegan, biodegradable & inexpensive; try them and I bet you will love them!

Tom’s of Maine: Toothpaste & deodorant. The toothpaste even comes in a version for sensitive teeth and the deodorant is available in some great new natural scents.

Neolia: Olive Oil soap; lasts a long time, cleans without drying out your skin & smells great!

Arbonne: Facial cleansers, creams, make up and many other body care items. All of their products are vegan (even the makeup brushes)! The only thing is that they need to be purchased through an representative (like Avon) but they totally Rock! Check them out on line to find a rep near you!

I know that there are tonnes of other brands out there that are vegan and amazing so please, if you have any additional brands that I have not mentioned share them below!

Boycott palm oil for the love of orangutans

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Palm oil is a saturated vegetable fat found in many processed foods and household products. As vegans, we scrutinize labels to isolate animal ingredients but we give palm oil a pass – because it’s vegan. Or is it?

The palm industry has taken over Borneo and Sumatra, clearing rainforests and important habitat for orangutans. Each year, an estimated 3,000 orangutans (out of a population of only 50,000) are killed by the palm industry. Aside from destroying the homes of these endangered great apes, the palm industry is relentlessly going after the orangutans and purposely killing them.

I heard an interview on Animal Voices (Toronto) with Helen Buckland of the Sumatran Orangutan Society where she talks about plantation owners telling their workers to bring back the heads of any orangutan they encounter.  The interview can be heard here.

Orangutan bashing: Indonesian activists attending to an injured Orangutan that was attacked by oil plantation workers residents in Sampit, Central Kalimantan in May. Credit: Hardi Baktiantoro/AFP

Yes, this is really bad. But as a vegan who loves my Earth Balance and Dr. Bronner’s bar soap. I wasn’t ready to give up the products that make me so happy. So I set out like a concerned consumer in serious denial, to find my “ethical” palm oil.

My search for environmentally friendly palm oil, landed on RSPO (Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil). RSPO runs a certification program that claims to “meet the world’s most stringent criteria for sustainable production.” This sounds great, except for one problem. Under RSPO, the palm industry is clearing more rainforest than ever and they are doing it legally because the government in charge of these areas really don’t care about rainforests being cleared. Furthermore, an RSPO certified company can subcontract all the dirty work out to other companies and claim no responsibility for any “unsustainable” activity. So in the end, any certified “sustainable” palm oil is still as bad for the orangutans as any other.

In my research I also came across COP (Centre for Oranguatan Protection), a wonderful grassroots organization on the ground saving the orangutans in Indonesia. I learned a lot about the struggle of orangutans by reading their blog here.

I’m over my denial now. I’ve officially given up palm oil and it actually is not that hard! Being vegan, I already read labels like nobody’s business. Now I’ve just added palm oil to the list of ingredients to avoid.

Go vegan in 2011!

Sunday, December 26th, 2010
Teddy and Felipe, rescued dairy calves, at Farm Sanctuary.

Rescued dairy calves Teddy and Felipe at Farm Sanctuary.

Have you come up with a New Year’s resolution yet?   Maybe it’s time to make a change that will improve not only your life, but the lives of many, many others–and the environment, too!

Think of it this way:

  • Raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.  (Read more…)
  • Crops grown specifically for feeding livestock require a third of all arable land, and the land set aside for grazing takes up 26% of the earth’s terrestrial surface.  70% of previously forested areas in the Amazon Rainforest are used as grazing land. (Read more…)
  • The veal industry and the dairy industry are intimately connected–in fact, veal only exists because of the dairy industry.  (Read more…)
  • For every egg-laying hen, there is a male chick who was ground up alive because he was useless to the industry.   (Read more…)
  • Fish are far more similar to land animals than many people realize, and they suffer pain and fear, too–whether they are wild-caught or farmed. (Read more…)
  • Chickens are slaughtered at 45 days old, not even old enough to cluck. (Read more…)
  • “Humane” meat, eggs and dairy are not nearly as good as many people think, and have many of the same problems as “conventional” animal products.  (Read more…)

Are you ready to take the leap?  Pledge to go vegan in 2011 and have a happy, healthy, and humane New Year!

New research page on fish

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

This tuna has been caught on a long line. Like other fish caught in this way, he may be trapped for hours or even days. (Photo: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Greenpeace)

We’ve just published a new page on our website entirely about the suffering of fish and other animals we consider “seafood”.

Exactly how many wild caught fish do we consume (either directly, or as fishmeal) every year? …using the reported tonnage of caught species, and dividing by the average weight of each species, author Alison Mood has estimated the annual global capture of wild fish at one trillion (1,000,000,000,000) and possibly as high as 2.7 trillion (2,700,000,000,000). This does not even account for the number of fish caught illegally or as bycatch.

Learn about the environmental impact of fishing, the issues surrounding sustainable seafood, animal suffering, and much more at LiberationBC.org.