“I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”
The clarion call of 16 year old Greta Thunberg continues to inspire youth and adults alike through one of the most important environmental movements of our time. On June 7th, Greta and the student initiative she founded just last year were honored with Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award. “Every young person taking part in Fridays for Future,” Secretary General Kumi Naidoo declared, “embodies what it means to act on your conscience. They remind us that we are more powerful than we know and that we all have a role to play in protecting human rights against climate catastrophe.”
Even as ‘authorities’ escalate the repression of climate protestors in some quarters, there can be no turning back. The Extinction Rebellion activists recently pepper sprayed in Paris while peacefully occupying a bridge over the River Seine, for example, understood that the time has come to put their bodies on the line in order to encourage the actions necessary to avert full-on global meltdown. The record breaking temperature they were also forced to endure that day was a sweltering 45.9 degrees C. In neighboring Spain, a wildfire suspected of being caused by the spontaneous combustion of chicken manure was already raging, and at present time has consumed over 15,000 acres. There is no denying the fact that extreme high temperatures combined with dry conditions are increasing wildfire ignition and spread here in BC as well. Even the BC Cattlemen’s Association has encouraged ranchers to remove the metal shoes from horses in tinder dry terrain, to avoid the risk of striking a spark. Meanwhile, France, Canada, the UK and Ireland have already declared a climate emergency but continue to support the fossil fuel industry collectively to the tune of billions of dollars. Animal agribusiness, another leading cause of global GHG emissions (as well as habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, water use, pesticide use, and other pollution), remains widely ignored in climate discussions while also continuing to be propped up by massive subsidies.
Of course it is the increasing frequency of extreme weather events of all kinds that indicate how serious our situation is. We are learning to expect the unexpected. A few days before Guadalajara, Mexico was forced to dig itself out from under that freak summer ice storm, a tornado in Saskatchewan uprooted trees, flipped over trailers and pummeled campers with hail the size of tennis balls. In Oregon, unexpected hail did serious damage on a friend’s veganic farm. The stock-free growing techniques this woman employs are admirably climate conscious. But Mother Nature plays no favorites. The massive migrant crisis happening further south in the USA, for example, is driven in no small part by hunger following crop failure. Drought has destroyed staples like maize in El Salvador and other countries in the region for over five years in a row.
Since 2012, coffee plants grown all across Central America have been ravaged by leaf rust – a fungus that normally dies when temperatures drop down in the evening (warming nights have allowed it to thrive.) This has affected 70% of coffee farms in Honduras, leading to wide scale unemployment. Last year, reports the UK Guardian, the World Bank estimated that warming temperatures and extreme weather will force an estimated 3.9 million climate migrants to flee Central America alone over the next three decades.
It is incredibly unjust that those least responsible for climate breakdown – human and non-human alike – are the first to suffer its consequences. With no more time for ‘baby steps’, it seems incumbent upon all of us with the privilege of choice to cease our
unsustainable behaviors and demand the kind of bold system changes necessary for our collective survival. Switching to an environmentally conscious animal-free diet, as Greta Thunberg has made a point of doing, is one of the most immediate ways many of us can reduce our carbon footprints and respond pro-actively to the equally enormous problem of biodiversity loss worldwide. It isn’t moderate changes to our buying habits that will preserve our precious blue green planet. Rejecting human-centrism is critical to any livable future.
Couscous Summer Pilaf
(with thanks to Susan Voison)
– 1 1/2 cups whole grain couscous (sub brown rice if you are gluten-free)
– 1 heaping cup cucumber, quartered and thinly sliced
– 1 large stalk celery, strings removed and diced
– 2 scallions, minced
– 1/4 cup minced fresh dill, or more, to taste
– 10 to 12 basil leaves, thinly sliced, or more, to taste
– 4 medium firm, ripe apricots or 3 medium firm, ripe nectarines, pitted and diced
– 1 heaping cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes (red or yellow, or a combination)
– 1 medium firm, ripe avocado, peeled and diced
– 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or less if you’d like a lower fat dish)
– 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice, or more, to taste
– Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
– Mixed baby greens, as needed
– 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or 1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
- Bring 5 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the couscous and cook at a rapid simmer for about 8 minutes, or until al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water until the couscous is at room temperature.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the couscous with the remaining ingredients, except for the last two. Toss well to combine.
- Line a large serving platter with some greens. Mound the salad over them, letting some of the greens show along the edge. Sprinkle the top with the toasted nuts. Serve at once or cover with a light cloth and refrigerate until needed. Enjoy!