“What We Know” – April 2020

     We know that earth has evolved over millennia as one living, breathing organism – from the Amazon Basin to Vancouver Island’s ancient rain forests. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that as the very lungs of our planet collapse under the suffocating weight of capitalism, a novel coronavirus has emerged to threaten the most vulnerable among us with the inability to breathe at all.  All coronaviruses are respiratory syndromes – they attack the lungs.

2 Screen Shot 2020-04-03 at 3.34.42 PM copy             And all coronaviruses are zoonotic in origin. While logging and other forms of human encroachment on wildlife habitat around the world have been rapidly depleting biodiversity, scientists have been warning us that human exposure to the pathogens that occur naturally in other animals increases under such pressures. Species left undisturbed within their home ecosystems, like bats or pangolins, are not responsible for COVID-19. Nor are domesticated chickens and pigs linked to deadly strains of Avian Flu and Swine Flu fairly blamed for the misery caused by those diseases. We know that human interference and opportunistic exploitation of other animals deserve credit for setting the stage. Forced confinement puts incredible stress on any sentient being and, from wet markets to factory farms, weakened immune systems are breeding grounds for contagion. The reduced freedom of movement currently imposed upon our own species can hardly compare, but does give pause for thought. Isn’t it time we recognized the elevation of human interests over and above other animals’ as ultimately self-defeating?

pig and pandolin

     Our relationship with other animals is certainly confused. The killing of lone wolf Takaya, recently relocated after leaving his home of eight years on Discovery Island here in British Columbia, has sparked an outpouring of grief around the world. Like the outrage that followed the senseless slaughter of Cecil the lion in Africa by an American trophy hunter, the visceral response to Takaya’s death is a powerful reminder that our inherent capacity for empathy is not necessarily constrained by species. But the degree of care and concern we feel for others is certainly either suppressed or encouraged by cultural norms and shifting societal values.

     For example, conservation biologists now use the term ‘charismatic megafauna‘ to refer to larger animals afforded ‘symbolic value’ or widespread popular appeal, with the understanding that recognized individuals can help inspire greater awareness of the need to protect wilderness for all. Indeed, environmentalists are calling on everyone mourning the death of Takaya to take action against the government-sanctioned slaughter of other wolves in our Province (https://pacificwild.org/action).

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photo credit: Ian McAllister/Pacific Wild

     Most of us have yet to extend that kind of respect to animals commonly killed unnecessarily for food, least of all the cows, pigs, sheep, chickens and other farmed animals extracted long ago from the ecosystems in which they evolved in concert with myriad other species. Of course, it is also through learned prejudice that those animals we now welcome into our homes as life-long companions are spared the early death billions of others are deliberately condemned to. The discomfort we feel when prompted to question these discrepancies is commonly referred to as ‘cognitive dissonance’ and could very well be fundamental to human survival on our finite planet.

     This pandemic will not be our last. We also know that global animal agribusiness contributes significantly to GHG emissions right alongside fossil fuels. And that continuing to warm the planet will only provide more frequent opportunities for dangerous diseases to emerge as the seasonal cycles and migratory patterns of wild species adapt. Learned indifference to the suffering of other animals has gotten us into this mess, and only widening our circle of compassion will get us out of it. Adequate protection of our mutual life support systems will surely depend upon rejecting objectification and commodification (fundamental to capitalism) in favour of a ‘new’ biocentric world view – one in which the value of individual animal lives, in addition to the ecosystems in which they are intended to thrive, are no longer reduced to their perceived usefulness and economic status in the marketplace. Challenging the systemic violence exacerbating climate collapse requires the same level of commitment necessary to flatten the curve of COVID-19. We know that what is good for animals is good for us. It’s time to open the cages, close the slaughterhouses and work towards equity and liberation for all.

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Red Jungle Fowl

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The Transition Kitchen is all about inspiring animal-friendly, climate-conscious food choices. There are few spring pleasures more enjoyable than fresh garden peas, but you can use frozen ones in this tasty recipe too. Bon appetit!

Pea & Pesto Spinach Salad          Screen Shot 2020-04-03 at 4.35.05 PM

Ingredients

1/2 lb. baby spinach (227 g)

1.5 cups green peas

3 T. raw sunflower seeds, shelled

one roasted red pepper, skin removed

optional: roasted zucchini rounds

Fresh Pesto Dressing:

1.5 cups of fresh basil leaves, stems removed, packed (about 70 g)

1/4 cup olive oil

3 T. raw sunflower seeds, shelled

2 – 3 T. fresh lemon juice

1 T. nutritional yeast flakes

1 clove garlic

1/2 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. black pepper

Directions

1) Oven roast a red pepper at 425 F. until it begins to partially blacken. Remove to a covered dish or paper bag to sweat. If you do this well in advance of making the salad, remove skin and seeds from the cooled pepper, cut into strips and refrigerate until needed 2) Toast all 6 T. of raw, shelled sunflower seeds in a very lightly oiled pan over medium-low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon to avoid burning until golden brown. Add 3 T. to your food processor and set the rest aside for garnishing. 3) If you are using frozen peas, defrost by adding to a bowl of warm water. 4) To make the pesto dressing, add basil leaves, olive oil, yeast flakes, 2 T. lemon juice, garlic clove and seasonings to the seeds already in your food processor. Blend until smooth, drizzling in another T. of lemon juice if needed to thin consistency. 5) If using thawed peas, strain them and lightly pat dry on a kitchen towel to remove excess water. 6) Place spinach in a large bowl and toss with dressing. Add peas and lightly toss again. Transfer to serving bowl or plates. 7) Lay strips of red pepper (and/or zucchini rounds) on top of greens and sprinkle with seed garnish. Serve immediately!

For article links and additional food for thought, please scroll down for other articles. ❤ 

“Martha’s Message” – March, 2020

     Bearing witness to a murmuration – the spectacular phenomenon of countless birds soaring together as one, dipping and diving in perfect unison – is an awe-inspiring experience. Profoundly under-appreciated is the fact that such remarkable animation also mirrors both the ‘group-mind’ and shimmering beauty of schools of fish. Huge nets are about to be dropped into our coastal waters to haul up millions of herring, and yet the act of tossing a similar trap up into the sky to bring down a flock of birds would surely be condemned as abhorrent. At least in today’s world.


illustration by James Audobon

     At the time of first settler contact there were an estimated 3-5 billion passenger pigeons in North America. Tree limbs would break under the weight of perching flocks, so abundant in flight that they filled the sky for hours on end and even days, blotting out the sun. Once a summertime resident in parts of Canada, the last wild passenger pigeon in this country was recorded in 1902 in Ontario. The death of Martha, a passenger pigeon at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, on Sept. 1St, 1914 marked the official extinction of a species that may have once been the most numerous bird on earth. Concentrating in great numbers has been a successful survival strategy for many species, until humans came along with the capacity for mass slaughter. After the arrival of settlers on this continent, passenger pigeons were maligned as crop destroying pests and relentlessly exploited as cheap food. They were not only trapped en masse with nets, but clubbed, shot, torched (the gruesome list goes on). According to the Audubon Society, however, two technological developments set in motion the species’ ultimate annihilation over the course of just a few short decades: the expansion of the telegraph and the railroad. These enabled a commercial pigeon industry to boom, fuelled by professional sportsmen who could track and swiftly communicate the birds’ whereabouts. Together with amateurs these skilled hunters literally “out-flocked their quarry with brute force.”

              herring spawn off Denman Island, photo by Hal Shulz

     As I write, spotter planes flying over Lambert Channel are tracking the herring that have returned to these shores to reproduce over millennia. Mammoth sea lions roll through the surf, while hungry eagles and seabirds of all kinds continue to gather for the primordial spring feast that this entire ecosystem depends upon. Islanders may be lucky enough to spot orcas, even humpback whales. On a sunny day, once the herring have spawned, the milky water will appear turquoise blue. This spectacle is always magnificent to behold, but the arrival of fishing vessels determined to make a killing at the expense of so many other species is not a welcome sight. It is widely feared that the refusal of government authorities to meet demands for a closure on this herring roe fishery could result in a population collapse with devastating consequences (the majority of other historic runs on our coast have been so badly assaulted that they can no longer support commercial fisheries at all.) One common factor in serial fisheries disasters, wrote journalist Stephen Hume last year, “is that regulators were convinced harvests were sustainable—until they suddenly weren’t.” It is the opinion of Stanley Temple, a professor emeritus of conservation at the University of Wisconsin, that passenger pigeons might have even survived their commercial slaughter if hunters weren’t also disrupting their nesting grounds. The double whammy, as he describes it, was the demographic nightmare of overkill and impaired reproduction. “If you’re killing a species far faster than they can reproduce, the end is a mathematical certainty.”

                      herring roe on seaweed, photo by Fireweed

     According to renowned marine biologist and pioneering oceanographer Sylvia Earle, we have ample evidence that large-scale extraction of wildlife has very narrow limits. She no longer eats fish of any kind, and instead advocates for thinking of them first and foremost as wildlife. “I have come to understand the value of fish alive in the ocean”, she explains, “just as we’ve come to understand the value of birds alive to keep the planet functioning in our favour. Imagine a world without birds. Imagine a world without fish. The oxygen that replenishes every breath you take comes from an ocean that is filled with life. It has developed over hundreds of millions of years. It has taken only a few decades [for humans] to disrupt and break those connections. The children of today will be really cross with us if we fail to act on what we know now.”

Please visit Pacific Wild, Conservancy Hornby Island or the Association of Denman Island Marine Stewards on line to find out how you can get involved in helping protect west coast herring and our marine environment.

                                             ………………………….

Green Goddess Dressing

Parsley is one of the first plants flourishing in west-coast gardens at this time of the year, and well worth incorporating into our daily fare. An incredibly versatile herb, it is rich in antioxidants, supports bone health, has anti-bacterial properties, contains cancer-fighting compounds and so much more! Parsley is particularly rich in vitamins A, C, and K. I allow it to self seed in the garden, so always have a plentiful supply. Of course the leaves can be either dried or used fresh in all manner of soups, salads, marinades and sauces. A great way to punch up the nutrients in your morning smoothie is to toss in a handful of fresh parsley. The following salad dressing is one of my favourites – delicious, and addictive!

Ingredients:

1 Cup fresh parsley, packed (twist off the stems)

1/4 Cup nutritional yeast flakes

1/4 Cup water

1/4 Cup olive oil

2 T. tahini

2 T. apple cider vinegar

1 T. white vinegar

1 T. miso paste

1 T. tamari

1 T. lemon juice

1 tsp. maple syrup (or a bit more, to taste)

1 garlic clove, crushed

Directions:

Place all of your ingredients in a high speed blender, and blend on high until smooth. Enjoy!

EVENT NOTICE: Join Denman Islander’s on March 8th, IWD for our next Climate Action Community Vegan Potluck! Full details HERE.

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In memory of the late Hal Shulz         Denman Island herring spawn, photo by Hal Shulz

 

 

“Call of the Wild” – Feb. 2020

    It’s notable that wild apex predators are rarely seen in places densely populated by our ownScreen Shot 2020-02-04 at 7.58.10 PM species. Biologists have discovered that around the world these animals are actually evolving to travel more frequently at night in order to avoid us. When a large grey wolf loped through downtown Victoria, BC, recently in broad daylight, one unsuspecting observer actually whistled from across the street. But within a matter of hours it had become widespread knowledge that this was no ordinary canid on the lam. After eight years as the lone wolf of Discovery Island, ‘Takaya’ had once again braved a long distance swim in the cold, choppy waters of the Salish Sea. Was he in search of food, or perhaps a potential mate? We can only be certain that navigating an urban environment was the next challenging leg of a dangerous journey.

     Survival to date for the approximately 70 pound male has depended not only on incredible strength and adaptability but on the mercy of humans. Named after the Coast Salish word for ‘wolf’, Takaya is venerated by the Songhees First Nation who share Discovery Island and considered his arrival there culturally significant. And thanks to conservation photographer Cheryl Alexander’s dedicated documentation of the normally elusive animal, Takaya’s story has inspired awe and appreciation over fear in the imagination of the general public. Perhaps it is for these reasons that the BC Conservation Officer Service, which doesn’t usually relocate apex predators, made an exception with Takaya. After being successfully tracked, tranquilized in a James Bay back yard and assessed to be in good health, he was released in a far more suitable Vancouver Island wilderness location. There are no guarantees, however, that this highly intelligent individual will remain lucky enough to avoid territorial ranchers, trappers, or other hunters who disrupt the key role wolves play in ecosystem health under the BC government’s dubious ‘wolf management’ program.

TAKAYA, photo by Cheryl Alexander

     The dominant narrative insists that most wild animals only ‘belong’ on the other side of our often arbitrary, self-serving boundaries. And yet, it is human encroachment into the dwindling natural environment that forces problematic encounters. For example, the introduction of farmed animals into ecosystems where they really don’t belong displaces indigenous fauna, playing a leading role in biodiversity loss around the world right alongside logging and mining operations. “Roads in forest habitats (and others) are the equivalent of open wounds in a human body,” an activist friend in Slovenia recently mused metaphorically about habitat fragmentation. “A single one is enough to start a deadly infection,” he added. There are many similarities between the pressures on large carnivores in bio-diverse Slovenia, I have learned, and here on the west coast of Canada.

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     Looking into the possible origins of the current coronavirus epidemic, I was reminded of the fact that many deadly human diseases actually originate with the stress that our species has inflicted upon other animals by holding them captive, denying them the freedom to keep their distance from us, and from one another. We know that forced confinement induces suffering, which in turn leads to weakened immune systems. This is as clear on factory farms (ie, concentrated poultry operations such as those in the Vancouver lower mainland that have experienced highly contagious avian flu) as it is in the ‘wet’ markets of places like Wuhan, China where live ‘exotic’ animals share crowded space with domesticated ones. The word ‘wet’ in this context indicates that vendors slaughter animals in front of customers, effectively aerosolizing the environment. Such sites are breeding grounds for pathogens that may jump the species barrier and create potentially lethal infections in humans also.

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     The ultimate irony is that ongoing obsession with eating animals in the 21st century is based far less on need than on capital gains and mythical social constructs. Is it not the epitome of hypocrisy to condemn the culinary choices of wealthy Asian men who boast prestigious access through the exotic meat trade to everything from horse penis to wolf flesh, while it remains acceptable for their western counterparts to frame masculine strength and sexual prowess as dependent on the flesh of cows occupying land where wild horses and apex predators like Takaya now face extermination?

     According to the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, livestockScreen Shot 2020-02-04 at 9.22.01 PM accounts for a whopping 60% of all mammals on earth today, with wild species having dwindled to a mere 4%. For a growing number of environmentalists with the privilege of choice, eschewing all animal products is an integral part of political resistance to ecocide.

 

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Chinese cuisine includes lots of 100% plant-based dishes, and this signature delicacy of northeast China combines potatoes, eggplants and peppers in a mouth-watering stir fry. Delicious served over rice or with noodles!

Di San Xian

(roughly translates to ‘three earthly bounties’ or ‘three treasures from the ground’)

Ingredients:

3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushedScreen Shot 2020-02-04 at 9.44.50 PM copy

2 scallions, chopped

1.5 T. cornstarch

3 T. water

2 cups long chinese or globe eggplant cut into bite-sized pieces

1 very large potato, peeled, cut into bite-sized

1/2 a red pepper and 1/2 a green pepper (or yellow for addiional color), cut into bite-sized pieces

4 T. oil

1 T. Shaoxing Wine (you can substitue pale dry sherry, or even white wine, if you like)3df6d069ce58a976bf8d4cfc9360bc6b

2 T. light soy sauce

1/2 tsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. white pepper

1/2 tsp. sesame oil

salt to taste

Instructions:

Mix cornstarch with water and set aside. Prepare garlic and scallions. Pat dry all washed veggies before cutting. Heat oil in wok or skillet over medium heat. Lightly brown potatoes first (for about 8 mins., or until cooked through, stirring to avoid sticking). Add bell peppers and stir-fry for another minute. Transfer everything to a dish and set aside. With oil left in wok add eggplant and brown slightly until cooked through. Transfer to a dish. Add garlic to medium hot pan with a bit more oil as necessary and cook for a few seconds before adding all the veggies again followed by the wine, soy sauce, sugar, white pepper, sesame oil and scallions. Stir cornstarch and water slurry again (it can separate while sitting), add to pan and toss all ingredients, coating well with the sauce. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

“The Devil in the Details” – Dec., 2019

It was the typo from hell for the advertising department of our bi-weekly regionalScreen Shot 2019-12-06 at 1.43.20 PM newspaper. But thanks to social media, “pictures with Satan” swiftly took on a life of its own, inadvertently spreading seasonal cheer across the land. Included as part of the Comox Valley Record’s promo for an annual Christmas parade, the amusing misprint ended up attracting both international attention and a motley crew of secret Satans to downtown Courtenay! Several of these colourful characters upstaged traditional Santa by hoofing it along the parade route on Dec. 1st for photo ops of their own.

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Mayors Wells, Baird & Arnott

One rouged rogue carried a sign falsely claiming that “hell has frozen over.” The mayors of Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland were all documented posing with Satan, so here’s hoping these politicians won’t need reminding that the devil is never to be trusted. The North Pole, according to Kris Kringle (and scientists at the Arctic Institute), continues to experience alarming rates of sea ice melt. And what happens in the Arctic definitely doesn’t stay in the Arctic!

It’s not as if we can’t all use a little comic relief. But as COP 25 deliberations heat up in Spain this week, it bears noting that our regional mayors represent communities that have already acknowledged the climate crisis. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could deny that Australia – where the Climate Emergency Declaration Movement began in 2016 – hasn’t experienced hell on earth over the past year alone with widespread infernos and soaring temperatures breaking previous records. Why we aren’t all responding far more pro-actively is the burning question.

Screen Shot 2019-12-06 at 6.18.42 PM Another “angry summer” is predicted to begin in Australia soon, with the threat of 50 degrees Celsius days looming large. More and more folks down under are concerned that their federal government has no credible climate policy in place. The continent has already lost almost 40 percent of its limited forest cover, and just as animal agribusiness is a leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon, the livestock sector is also the number one driver of land-clearing in Australia. And so a vicious circle of fire, meat markets, catastrophic biodiversity loss and rising GHG emissions continues – hastening the disappearance of vital carbon sinks our own species will also perish without. The burgeoning vegan movement is now well-rooted in Australia, and animal advocates are also angry. It isn’t only the plight of koalas and flying foxes (both species at risk of extinction) that concerns them. It is also the methane-emitting, farmed animals subjected to well-documented abuse in Australian slaughterhouses, and the egregious suffering wrought by drought on free-ranging livestock in the Australian outback. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Scott Morrison isn’t keen on critiques that challenge his country’s primary industry, preferring instead to label animal rights activists as “un-Australian green criminals”. Meanwhile, BC firefighters were recently deployed to Sydney in response to a request from Morrison for assistance in New South Wales. More Canadian firefighters are expected to follow them over the months ahead. We’re all connected.

Younger Australian environmentalists exposed to films like “Dominion” (2018), which shines an unforgiving light into the dark corners of animal agribusiness in Australia, are going to keep challenging the status quo. 16 year old student activist Sienna Stephens of YEA (Youth Environmental Action) here in the Comox Valley, credits the eye-opening Gretta QUOTEAmerican documentary “Cowspiracy” (2014) with inspiring her own shift to a fully plant-based diet, and with encouraging her friends to make changes also. When asked why she thinks so many others with the privilege of choice have yet to act on the link between climate change and the power of our collective food choices, she told me, “I think people are more comfortable staying in the dark than opening their eyes and being faced with the truth and having to make a change.” Sienna’s vegan peer, Greta Thunberg, would clearly agree. Now at COP 25 in Madrid the Swedish climate activist has lamented that in spite of the international plea from young people who have joined school strikes around the world for over a year now, “they have achieved nothing” because inaction from those with the power to make a difference is still the norm and GHG emissions continue to rise. “Some people are afraid to change”, Greta went on to say.  “They try so desperately to silence us.”

I was pleased to learn that Sienna has felt supported by her family in her own quest to reduce her ecological footprint in part by going vegan for the environment. With a deeper understanding now about the processes involved in animal-based food production her decision has evolved into an ethical stand for animals, also. All of us with the privilege of choice have an opportunity to begin 2020 with renewed commitment to the well-being of our planet and the myriad species with whom we share it!

Fireweed’s Mushroom Seitan (emphasis on the second syllable!)

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There are many 100% plant-based alternatives to conventional animal products on the market today, but why not experiment in your own kitchen? This tasty wheat meat, for example, is not difficult to make and is always a satisfying main course served with mushroom gravy, roast veggies and cranberry sauce as part of a holiday feast! There will be some available to sample at Denman Island’s annual Winter Solstice Vegan Community Potluck celebration on Sat., Dec. 21st. Come join us if you can for a delicious 100% plant-based feast! Click HERE for full details. ❤

Ingredients: 

2 Cups Vital Wheat Gluten (to start…add a bit more if you need to!)

1.5 blocks`of medium firm organic tofu

6 medium-sized crimini mushrooms

3/4 C. nutritional yeast flakes

1 whole clove crushed garlic, divided in half

1 T. olive oil

1 T. granulated onion

2 T. ‘poultry’ seasoning (mixed herbs)

2 T. organic vegetable paste bouillon

1/3rd C. Braggs liquid amino acids

a pinch of fresh ground pepper

Directions:

Press water out of tofu as much as possible, add to food processor with 1/2 the garlic, just 1/2 C. of the yeast, the granulated onion, 1 T. bouillon paste, 1 T. poultry seasoning, 1 T. Braggs, and all of the mushrooms (roughly chopped). Pulse until well-mixed, scraping down sides of the container with a spatula. Blend until smooth, taste, and correct seasonings. Add oil and blend again. Transfer mixture to a large bowl, and gently fold in gluten flour until fully combined. Turn out on to a non-stick surface and knead for one minute. If you find the mixture a bit sticky, sprinkle on a bit more vital wheat gluten powder and knead some more. Divide with a sharp knife into four or five pieces, and mold into lozenge shapes approx. one inch thick. Add five cups of water to large pot. Turn on high heat. Add the rest of your garlic, Braggs, nutritional yeast, 1 T. of the bouillon paste, 1 T. herbs and bring to a boil. Drop individual loafs into boiling broth, cover pot and reduce to a simmer for approximately 40-50 minutes. Flip seitan occasionally, adding more water half way through to avoid sticking. Remove pieces from pot carefully with tongs, and place on a lightly oiled cooking sheet to bake in a 350 degree oven for approx. 5 minutes on each side. Leaving it in a little longer will firm up your seitan, but you don’t want to dry it out! (This recipe makes a lot, by the way. It freezes well!) Cool slightly before slicing. Retain left over broth for thickening and flavoring mushroom gravy. Bon appetit 🙂
PS Try slicing this seitan thinly for use in sandwiches, too, with mustard and dairy free mayo!

 

Community Vegan Climate Action Potluck: details HERE!

 

“Tipping Points” – Nov., 2019

RESIST
photo credit: Fireweed

        The news that massive crowds are assembling around the world to demand action on our climate emergency is indeed heartening. “We’ve reached the tipping point!” an optimistic fellow islander informed me the other day.

       My partner and I had just returned from the Fridays for Future climate strike and march in Vancouver where Greta Thunberg and other courageous young people spoke truth to power alongside First Nations elders. The spirit of that impassioned gathering was definitely uplifting, but sharing solidarity with others in the face of ongoing injustice is bittersweet. Personal testimonials were a reminder to the thousands bearing witness that indigenous land and water protectors continue to be treated like criminals by the colonial interests still holding court in this province (and far beyond). The experience of seeing Thunberg and Severn Suzuki together asking us to unite behind the science felt surreal. After all, it has been nearly 3 decades since Severn, daughter of renowned scientist Dr. David Suzuki, delivered a powerful speech of her own as a child to the United Nations that reverberated around the world – long before Greta was born. The tipping point towards greater care and protection of our planet had seemed nigh way back then. And yet, so little has changed for the better that 15 youths from across this country who also joined Greta and Severn on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery on Oct. 25th, have launched a lawsuit against the federal government of Canada claiming that its ongoing contributions to climate change are tantamount to negligence. Legal representatives will argue, in part, that the rights of these children to life, liberty and security of person under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are being violated.

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Photo: Robin Loznak via Our Children’s Trust

        If we are to avoid the undesirable tipping point that would push us past a 1.5 C temperature rise within the decade, it is clearly not enough to gather in great numbers and march through the streets, as important as it is that we continue doing so. We must hold to account those who are ignoring the science, and demand the kind of climate emergency leadership that Canada’s dysfunctional First Past the Post (FPTP) electoral system has failed to deliver, by all non-violent means available to us.

DIET CHANGE
photo credit: Fireweed

        One growing shift in public con-sciousness that was evident in the wide variety of message-bearing placards carried by climate strike marchers through the streets of Vancouver concerns the environmental impacts of animal agriculture. Young people like Greta Thunberg who have identified veganism as a significant way those of us with the privilege of choice can help reduce GHG emissions are inspiring others to follow suit. By coincidence, my partner and I found ourselves sitting next to a member of the Sustainabiliteens, one of the organizing bodies of the Fridays for Future Climate Strike, at a Vancouver vegan restaurant later the same day. Now a university student, Carissa confirmed that the environmental impacts of our dietary choices are definitely on the radar of climate activists in her circle. Saj Starcevich, one of the plaintiffs in the federal court case, introduced herself at the rally as a 13 year old indigenous vegan activist from Treaty Six territory in Manitoba. Recognizing that climate change doesn’t only affect humans but negatively impacts all species, Saj has told reporters that it was her animal activism that led to her getting involved in climate activism. “I just felt they were so interconnected,” she said, “so why not do both? One affects the other.”

DENIED
photo credit: Fireweed

        Adults, it seems, have a harder time connecting the dots when it comes to accepting that climate change is real, and then following up with concrete actions. But according to a 2018 study published in the journal ‘Science’ on the power of committed minorities to help shift conventional thinking, the percentage of total population needed to reach the critical mass necessary to reverse a major viewpoint is just 25 – 30 percent. On the down side this does mean that populations can be easily co-opted by those with a selfish agenda. And if a minority group stays stuck at 24 percent, then their success in terms of affecting the larger population is the same as if they were at zero! According to a critique in Atlantic magazine, the implication of the study’s findings is that “activist groups will be unsuccessful until suddenly, they’re not.” In other words, we can be very, very close to a true tipping point and just not know it. As Greta and her fellow student strikers have shown, our individual commitments to a cause may hold far more power than we realize!

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November is World Vegan Month – celebrated internationally as a time to recognize how far the vegan movement has come, and to highlight how accessible and beneficial a vegan lifestyle is. This traditional Middle Eastern side dish is easy to prepare, delicious and fibre-full! Serve with toasted pita wedges or raw veggies like carrot sticks and cucumber rounds. Enjoy!

Baba Ganoush

Ingredients:

2 lbs. Italian eggplantseggplant

2 medium cloves garlic, minced

2 T. lemon juice, more if necessary

1/4 C. tahini

1/3 C. extra-virgin olive oil

2 T. chopped parsley

2/3 tsp. salt, to taste                                     Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 5.43.32 PM.png

1/4 tsp. ground cumin

pinch of smoked paprika and/or sesame seeds, for garnish

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Split eggplants down the middle, rub with oil and place cut sides down. Roast until tender (approx. 35-40 minutes…longer for larger eggplants). Set aside to cool. Gently scoop flesh into a bowl, removing unwanted seeds and leaving skins behind. Add eggplant, lemon juice and garlic to a food processor or simply stir together vigorously. Add tahini and mix again. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, continuing to mix until your baba ganoush is pale and creamy. Stir in cumin and half the parsley. Season to taste with more salt and/or lemon juice. Top with smoked paprika, sesame seeds and additional parsley. Bon appetit!

 

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“How Dare We!” – Oct. 2019

Clayoquot_Sound_1993_Protests_and_Arrests

“I want a future! All I want is a future!” the young protestor cried out as police physically removed her from the logging road. The place was Clayoquot Sound, BC, and the year was 1993. It would be another ten years before Greta Thunberg’s birth, and a quarter of a century before her Fridays for Future movement would galvanize a whole new generation. As I watched the scene unfold in the documentary “Fury for the Sound” again recently, I was reminded of all the young Gretas (and their allies) who stood up to be counted in what was then the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. That struggle – to protect some of the last remaining intact temperate rainforests on the planet – continues today, even as forests in BC no longer store carbon, but emit it. I was moved by a photo of Dr. David Suzuki gently shaking Greta’s hand in Montreal at the Sept. 27th climate strike there, remembering that his daughter, climate activist Severn Suzuki, had made an impassioned presentation of her own to the United Nations 27 years earlier. The elder environmental activist joined us at Clayoquot Summer in support of the blockades, having already declared the 1990s “The Turn Around Decade.”

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We certainly had the science to unite behind back then. In late ’92 the first World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity, signed by about 1,700 of the world’s scientists, and a majority of the Nobel Prize laureates in the sciences, began in no uncertain terms: “Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course.” And the women’s movement provided a useful framework for recognizing the patriarchal underpinnings of planetary destruction. A lesser known fact about the 1993 activists’ base camp in Clayoquot Sound (set up in a clearcut) was that it was influenced by an ecofeminist perspective that recognized violence against indigenous peoples, other women and marginalized communities, animals and ecosystems as intersecting oppressions. Not only did it offer non-violence training for people of all ages ready to put their own bodies on the frontline for environmental justice, but the camp kitchen deliberately served animal product-free meals all summer long to thousands of activists who arrived from around the world. It was a communal effort, and we were well fed.

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Nearly thirty years later, one apropos sign at our three thousand strong student-led Comox Valley climate strike read: “I can’t believe I’m still protesting this sh*t!” While Greta is being lauded for her bold leadership around climate action, and admired for her commitment to traveling only by the most ecologically responsible means available to her, her choice to embrace veganism for both animals and the environment is rarely noted in the media. It seems that how we feed ourselves is still a topic considered as deeply personal as any other form of bodily autonomy, in spite of the reality that animal agribusiness contributes as much or more GHG emissions globally than all transportation combined. Although it’s very good news that those of us with the privilege of choice can also greatly reduce animal suffering and even benefit our own health by shifting to a 100% plant-based diet, when mainstream journalists do acknowledge these connections, the tone is frequently apologetic. It’s as if we should pat ourselves on the back for practising Meat Free Mondays, and not worry about the other six days of the week we’re still contributing unnecessarily to extremely serious problems. Greta is ahead of the curve (and as her newly vegan dad has said, it is indeed a very steep curve downwards that we need to encourage to stay below a 1.5 C temperature rise.) So it comes as no surprise when climate collapse deniers, determined to discredit Thunberg’s efforts, are also prone to exclaiming that they have no intentions of ever giving up meat or any other animal products. The sense of entitlement that comes with believing animals and the rest of the natural world exist first and foremost to satiate our own species’ appetites is predicated upon a disconnect deeply ingrained over centuries by the dogma of human centrism and its direct offshoot, capitalism.

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Perhaps it is Greta’s unfettered refusal, even inability, to ‘compartmentalize’ the issues that has so many of us utterly captivated by her clarity. But one needn’t have an extraordinary ‘super power’ to see how personal choices and system change are linked. We need only see the world through a lens that recognizes all life on earth as connected and interdependent, and act on our conscience to defend it every way we can. There are, thankfully, countless other young activists equally deserving of our attention and support who understand that this is not an ‘either/or’ situation. They too, are leading the way forward. ‘The power of one,’ has always preceded the collective might of mass resistance to business as usual.

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Amazing Brussel Sprouts (with thanks to Pat McGilvray for the inspiration)

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Ingredients:
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups fresh Brussels sprouts, sliced in half
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt

Instructions:
Heat a heavy skillet (cast iron, if you’ve got one) over medium-high heat, add sesame seeds and toast for about 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown and fragrant. Don’t walk away and leave them…keep stirring with a spatula to prevent them from burning. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add 1 Tbsp olive oil and onions to hot pan and cook until caramelized – soft and nicely browned around the edges. Remove onions and set aside. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to hot pan and add Brussels sprouts, placing them face down. Cook for 5-7 minutes, and when Brussels sprouts are beautifully caramelized, turn over and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes. Add onions back to pan to heat up, stirring to mix with Brussels sprouts.

Season with toasted sesame seeds and coarse sea salt. These baby cabbages make a delicious accompaniment to baked yams, or other fall favourite veggies. Enjoy!

 

“More Trees, Please” – Sept., 2019

     Screen Shot 2019-09-05 at 2.55.08 PMThe scent of fall is always bittersweet. But here on the west coast of Canada this year, it comes with immense relief that our skies have remained relatively smoke-free – so far. What has been impossible to avoid, however, is awareness that the ‘lungs of our planet’ in the southern hemisphere are being devoured by raging infernos. In the Amazon and surrounding ecosystems, the stench of death hangs heavy in the air.

     Over 1,500 species of birds, 500 species of mammals and 550 species of reptiles have nowhere to flee. According to a recent article in the UK Guardian highlighting the disaster in eastern Bolivia, all of the firefighters there have been witness to terrified and burned animals. Luis Andres Rocahas, fire chief for Manacas, told reporters how incredibly difficult it has been for his crews to cope psychologically with the unprecedented devastation of wildlife. “My companions and I would cry, we felt so powerless,” he said. “It’s the worst tragedy we’ve ever seen here.”

     Deforestation for the purpose of grazing cattle and growing soy beans as food for livestock was recognized as a leading cause of ecosystem destruction – and GHG emissions – well before the recent increase in fires that have alarmed the world. But it has become much harder to ignore the fact that international 5x6 at 150 copydemand for beef and for soy as fodder is directly responsible for widespread habitat loss with global consequences. When the president of Bolivia attended an event at the end of August marking the very first shipment of beef destined for China, angry demonstrators chanted, “Behind every fallen tree there’s a laughing cattle rancher.”

     Wherever cows and other livestock occupy land as introduced species, indigenous flora and fauna are displaced and/or destroyed. When primary forests that have not evolved with fire are burned to the ground, whole communities of plants and animals, including countless unknown species, die out. Without fauna, such rainforests (along with the carbon storage, clean air and clean water they provide) would cease to exist. As Amazon conservationist Paul Rosolie explains it, “the animals are carrying seeds, pollinating flowers, moving things around – everything is interconnected, and the animals have created the forests that have allowed us to live on this planet.” According to a report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released earlier this year, a million species are currently under threat of extinction worldwide. The science is clear that biodiversity loss and climate change are mutually reinforcing phenomena, so we either commit to solving both, or we solve neither.

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Nahmint Valley, Vancouver Island – Ancient Forest Alliance photo

     While protecting nature in the first place is obviously the best strategy, halting deforestation is a daunting task. Despite public opposition, for example, our own provincial govt. continues to liquidate old growth at a rate three times faster than loggers are leveling the Amazon, with no legislation in place to protect the 1,807 species at risk of extinction right here in B.C.! The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that we would need to “plant 1 billion hectares of forest by 2050 to keep the globe from warming a full 1.5 degrees C over pre-industrial levels.” Ethiopia, Australia, Ireland, Holland, India, Armenia, New Zealand and China, among other countries, have already planted or are committed to planting millions of trees. We must all play a part, including on an individual basis. Fall is a great time to plan ahead for future food security and plant fruit and nut trees here in our coastal communities. And there are many NGOs we can support. I highly recommend A Well Fed World’s “Food Trees for Climate and Hunger” initiative, and Sadhana Forest, operating on three continents.Screen Shot 2019-09-04 at 8.22.24 PM

     Individual actions help spur societal change, but our climate and biodiversity emergencies are going to require massive disruptions to business as usual in order to spark scalable system change. To that end, a coalition of vegan groups and campaigners in the UK plan to mobilize thousands of their members next month and blockade the largest meat market there for two weeks! The goals of Animal Rebellion include highlighting the role animal agriculture and fishing industries play in the climate crisis, encouraging the shift to a plant-based food system in order to avert climate breakdown and mass extinction and ensure justice for farmed animals. Veganic agro-ecology (agriculture incorporating the cultivation and conservation of trees, sans livestock), multi-leveled community food forests, or natural regeneration/rewilding of the landscape can all be advanced by freeing the land of carbon intensive livestock. If you do nothing to a piece of land in a temperate climate, biologists tell us, it will become a forest. The forces of nature are always actively moving the land towards a balanced, sustainable and resilient ecosystem. Meanwhile, Canada subsidizes animal agriculture like it subsidizes fossil fuels  – to the tune of billions of dollars a year. This has to change. We could and should be helping farmers transition to sustainable plant-based food production, just as we should be advancing employment in the alternative energy sector instead of propping up pipelines.

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ROAST POTATOES & PUMPKIN SRIRACHA AIOLI

Cooler evenings are inspiring a bit of spice in this kitchen lately. Punch up your roast potatoes and/or other favourite root vegetables with this easy pumpkin Sriracha aioli! (credit to Jenn Laughlin)

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Ingredients (A):

– 1.5 lbs small bagged organic golden potatoes

– 2 T olive oil

– salt, pepper, and paprika, to taste

– 2 T fresh chopped parsley to garnish (optional)

Ingredients (B): Pumpkin Sriracha Aioli

– 2-4 T organic pumpkin puree (you can always buy a can and freeze the rest for later use in a pumpkin mousse or pie)

– 2-4 T quality mayo (I use homemade vegan mayo or organic Vegannaise)

– 2 T Sriracha or to taste (Simply Natural Organic is great)

– 1-2 tsp organic lemon juice

– pinch of salt

– dash of paprika

Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F, cut cleaned potatoes in half. Toss with oil, salt and pepper. Spread on sheet pan and roast for 40-60 minutes, flipping periodically for crispier potatoes. Whisk sauce together in small bowl. Toss your fresh roast spuds with parsley, and dip away. Enjoy!

 

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