World Water Week advocates a meat-free future, for humanity’s survival  »

We’ve talked about the ridiculous amount of water needed to sustain our national (and increasingly international) meat-heavy diet, and by “meat-heavy” I mean “20 percent meat-based.” Well, the scientists in charge of World Water Week, happening right now in Stockholm, are now predicting that a meat-heavy diet is an “impossible alternative” to our continued existence.

Duh, World Water Week. Just, duh.

If you want to read this year’s WWW report, which is really long but also very interesting, here’s a pdf. If you don’t, definitely read the Guardian's analysis (and the internet is full of analyses), which tells you things like “Animal protein-rich food consumes five to 10 times more water than a vegetarian diet. One third of the world’s arable land is used to grow crops to feed animals.”

My main question is, why not just advocate a vegan diet? Those dairy cows don’t spring from the foreheads of their mothers, fully formed and ready to make milk.

People hate a smug vegan because people hate smug. So maybe this isn’t a reason to be smug so much as a reason to worry. Will our rich, privileged peers* change their diets to support the future of the planet? I hate selling veganism with the “lose weight, feel great” line, but if that’s what it takes to get people to stop eating so much goddamn meat, then fine. Maybe we should start lying to people. “I used to be 1,000 pounds before going vegan!” “I had a vestigial skull attached to my neck from the twin I absorbed in the womb before going vegan!” “I was a horrible selfish jerk who was almost incapable of empathy, and it showed on my hideous face, before going vegan!”

Because there is no reason to eat animals. Science is on our side. And it’s just disgusting that, in the face of facts like these, people continue to do it.

[Photo: ILRI/Dorine Adhoch via World Water Week]

*By which I mean, people who aren’t starving to death.


The Hidden Costs of Hamburgers update: Is it even worse than they said?  »

Can’t see the video? Watch it on!

Hello! Remember the above video we posted last week (which is now full of commercials)? Well it may not be telling the whole story. An anonymous source has alerted me to these points: 

The following comments were sent to the producers—who’ve apparently seen fit to take no action. 

The video says: “Livestock are a major contributor to greenhouse gas pollution. Right up there with cars, trains, and planes.” But the authors of that livestock-transport comparison have retracted it.

The video says: “Livestock use 30 percent of the earth’s entire land area.” But the true figure is 45 percent, according to the International Livestock Research Institute.  

The video says: “Methane has 21 times more climate-changing power than CO2.” But the true figure is apparently higher—as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change uses a figure of 25 in a 100-year timeframe and 72 in a 20-year timeframe, while others use figures even higher than 72. 

The video says: “Grass-fed beef does less damage to the environment.”  But the lead author and a co-author of Livestock’s Long Shadow, a key source for the video, specify that grass-fed beef does more damage than corn-fed beef—as grass-fed cows emit up to 400% more methane, according to Gidon Eshel, another source for the video. 

In fact, after the FAO tried for years to correct the misperception that Livestock’s Long Shadow prescribed less factory farming (when it actually prescribed more), it announced last month that it will lead a new partnership with the meat industry, to be chaired by Frank Mitloehner, perhaps best known for his criticism of Livestock’s Long Shadow

Yet Livestock’s Long Shadow was written by livestock specialists employed by just one of 19 UN specialized agencies. 

Conversely, environmental specialists employed by two other UN specialized agencies, the World Bank and IFC, have authored analysis that better supports the video’s general direction. Not even all of the FAO supports Livestock’s Long Shadow, apparently, as the FAO invited those environmental specialists to deliver presentations at their headquarters in Rome and later in Berlin. Those presentations are on the Chomping Climate Change website along with links to numerous citations of those environmental specialists’ analysis.   

The New York Times recently published an assessment of the FAO’s new partnership.

Sometimes it seems impossible to get the figures right with the environmental damage of meat. At this point I’m generally just like, “I don’t know which figure is right but they’re all super-terrible enough.” But when you have something like that methane figure, jeez louise! That’s crazy! People are happily chomping down on their “happy beef” all piously while those “happy cows” are farting the planet to hell. Sorry, bros, factory-farmed or free-range, beef spells disaster for the environment. 


A new study finds that greenhouse gas emissions from the UK’s meat and cheese trades add up to half of all the emission’s from Britain’s cars. Translation: If everyone goes vegan, it’ll have the same effect as if everyone drove half as much. Or half of everyone drove the same amount. Or one quarter of people drove twice as much. See, math is fun!

Some more numbers (quoted from The Independent), because I know you can’t get enough of them:

"[Fresh] meat has a carbon footprint at the checkout of 17kg of carbon dioxide per kilogram. Cheese has 15kg. Cooked meats are also high at 11kg per kilogram, with bacon at 9kg. Exotic vegetables* and mushrooms are high, largely because of freight and hothouse heating costs. Wine** has a carbon footprint of 2kg per kilogram, and potatoes, apples, milk, bread and cereals are under 2kg. Home baking comes in at just over 2kg."

*What counts as an exotic vegetable in England? Do they find our American stuff like blueberries exotic? Wait, that’s a fruit. Chayote? Yucca? Kabocha squash? Stop exoticizing our vegetables, England!

**I think that means wine is better for the environment that home baking? Also wait, are they saying it’s better to buy your bread than to make it? That’s confusing. DAMN YOU SCIENCE YOU ARE COMPLICATED!


People’s Grocery goes solar!  »

You knew West Oakland’s People’s Grocery was awesome,* but now it’s getting even awesomer: As of today, Jan. 23, the joint will run on solar power. And not just any solar-power, but uber-progressive, crowd-funded solar power from Solar Mosaic.

If you want, you can pretend like you’re a reporter and sneak into the media event they’re having today — at People’s Grocery, 909 Seventh St. in Oakland, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. — for the installation. Or you could just actually be helpful: Go fund some solar projects at Solar Mosaic (you basically give a small, zero-interest loan on behalf of solar power); buy some stuff from People’s Grocery (supposedly they’ve even got a grocery store coming later this year!), or find an organization in your area doing rad stuff. 

I’m off to feel bad about myself now, since I haven’t done anything to help the world today beside make sure there’s one less Field Roast Apple Sage Sausage around to terrorize our nation’s youth.

*You did know that right? If not, don’t admit it, you’ll look seriously out of the loop. It’s basically a pioneering social-justice org focused on access to healthy food.


Freakonomics wonders why all environmentalists aren’t vegan and I’m like, “for real!”  »

Here’s a nice link for you guys!: Agnostic Carnivores and Global Warming: Why Enviros Go After Coal and Not Cows, by James McWilliams.

I think it’s a must-read. Freakonomics summarizes and discusses a recent report (link to PDF, FYI) by the World Preservation Foundation in which they make the case for a vegan diet in the fight against climate change: “As the WPF report shows, veganism offers the single most effective path to reducing global climate change.”

Graph from WPF report

Now, unlike some people suggest, no one is saying you shouldn’t get your Energy Star appliance once it’s time to replace the washing machine—you still should—what it does mean however is that society needs to pay at least as much attention to diet as it does to fossil fuels when it comes to climate change. And maybe it does mean that, in such a dire situation, we should prioritize. 

It also seems substituting one meat for another isn’t going to do much good: “Eating a vegan diet, according to the study, is seven times more effective at reducing emissions than eating a local meat-based diet.” And while substituting chicken for beef may do a little, it pales in comparison to going vegan:

According to a 2010 study cited in the WPF report, such a substitution would achieve a “net reduction in environmental impact” of 5 to 13 percent. When it comes to lowering the costs of mitigating climate change, the study shows that a diet devoid of ruminants would reduce the costs of fighting climate change by 50 percent; a vegan diet would do so by over 80 percent. Overall, the point seems pretty strong: global veganism could do more than any other single action to reduce GHG emissions. 

This brings Freakonomics to their real question: in the face of information like this, why aren’t environmentalists taking a strong stance on veganism? One reason suggested is that veganism just doesn’t grab headlines, it’s ”an act poorly suited to sensational publicity.” What do you think? I think it grabs headlines, they are just usually, “OMG vegans are annoying!”

Another suggestion is that free-range meat pastures aren’t as ugly as giant pipelines. This part is great:

[Shifting from feedlot farming to rotational grazing] all sounds well and good. But if the statistics in the WPF report are to be trusted, the environmental impacts of this alternative would be minimal. So why the drum beat of support for rotational grazing? I would suggest that the underlying appeal in the pasture solution is something not so much calculated as irrational: pastured animals mimic, however imperfectly, symbiotic patterns that existed before humans arrived to muck things up. In this sense, rotational grazing supports one of the more appealing (if damaging) myths at the core of contemporary environmentalism: the notion that nature is more natural in the absence of human beings. Put differently, rotational grazing speaks powerfully to the aesthetics of environmentalism while confirming a bias against the built environment; a pipeline, not so much.

The last hurdle, the article suggests, is one of personal agency. Meat equals freedom! USA! USA! USA!

Finally, McWilliams gives environmentalists some advice: “trade up their carnivorous agnosticism for a fire-and brimstone dose of vegan fundamentalism.” Amen! Normally I just read linguistics stuff on Freakonomics but I think I will have to stop by there more often. Besides, agnostic carnivore is a great term! 


Livestock may account for 51% of annual worldwide GHG emissions! Dang.  »

A new 2009* report from Robert Goodland, former lead environmental advisor at the World Bank Group, and Jeff Anhang, research officer and environmental specialist at the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation, revisits the question of the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industries. Previously, Livestock’s Long Shadow made the claim that livestock contributed 18 percent of the annual worldwide green house gas emissions. This new report, Livestock and Climate Change, estimates that it’s more like 51 percent, at least. Which is, to put it clinically, a shit ton. And because of issues with data that’s available, they kept the figure as conservative as they could. Fifty-one percent is conservative! 

Goodland and Anhang say this discrepancy with the older study comes from overlooked sources of GHGs and underestimating recognized sources. Apparently Livestock’s Long Shadow saw fit not to include breathing in their calculations. The newer report says that livestock is a human-creation and “a molecule of CO2 exhaled by livestock is no more natural than one from an auto tailpipe.” And because of the growing masses of livestock combined with deforestation, there is no equilibrium such as the older study puts forth. Land use is another issue this report feels is an underestimated source of GHGs. They say that if we reclaim some of the land currently used for grazing or feed production and allow the forest to regenerate, this would significantly reduce GHG emissions. So “free-range” meat isn’t the environmentally sound alternative to factory farming people like to think it is. They also say that choosing a meat that accounts for less GHGs is not going to do much, it’s more important to focus on alternative food sources.  

Goodland and Anhang propose that alternative food sources would reduce GHGs faster than replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. Word, fellas! I mean it seems to me that individuals having a veggie burger instead of beef is easier and faster than redesigning our power infrastructure. But these guys know it’s not going to be that easy (relying on people to accept personal responsibility never is!). The second half of the study goes deep into marketing and business strategy. 

Basically, if this report stands up, it’s a major boost to our movement! We knew that the meat and dairy industries were bad for the environment but we didn’t know how bad. So give the report a read, it’s not that long. Here’s my abstract for it: LIVESTOCK IS DESTROYING THE ENVIRONMENT SO PUT DOWN THE CHEESEBURGER, JERKS! And that’s why I’m the Super Genius.

*OMG the report is not new, it’s from 2009! Can I do anything right today?! WTF? Don’t be mad at me, my dog is sick, I’m distracted. There is a more recent commentary discussing which number is right, the 18 percent or the 51 percent or something totally different! But if you haven’t read the 2009 report, it’s still worth a read. 


Book review: Thrive Foods by Brendan Brazier!  »

You know who Brendan Brazier is, right? He’s a Canadian-born professional Ironman triathlete, international bestselling author, and creator of VEGA natural whole food products and supplements. He’s pretty much a vegan superhero, and he just released a brand new, ultra-informative book called Thrive Foods, which was ever-so-kindly sent to me for review.

The perfect follow-up to his acclaimed vegan nutrition guide, The Thrive Diet, Thrive Foods covers some of Brazier’s original material and delves into much more detail. The first four chapters cover everything you’d ever need to know about the foods we eat and how it translates to fuel and well-being in the body. Chapter one, Health’s Dependence on Nutrition, discusses nutrition’s effects on the body and mind, from stress levels to sleeping patterns. Chapter two, Eating Resources, discusses in glorious detail the effect of our diets on the environment—did you know that livestock production uses 70 percent of all arable land, and 30 percent of all land surface on the PLANET?

Chapter three, An Appetite for Change, explores what Brazier calls the Nutrient-to-Resource Ratio, which analyzes the total amount of each natural resource that goes into a food’s production in exchange for the amount of nutrients it offers. He presents the most beneficial foods based on personal health and environmental preservation. Brazier introduces the Eight Key Components of Good Nutrition in chapter four, and suggests some nutrient-dense pantry essentials for any healthy vegan’s home.

The recipes arrive in chapter six, and they are pretty incredible. Thrive Foods features 200 recipes, from Brazier himself and also a slew of celebrity vegan chefs like Amanda Cohen (Dirt Candy), Chad Sarno (Saf, Whole Foods’ Health Starts Here program), and Tal Ronnen. Some of the recipes are straight from the menus of some of our favorite vegan hotspots, like Candle 79, Millennium, and Fresh. Candied grapefruit salad! Baby zucchini and avocado tartar! Wild rice with kabocha squash and sage butter! Chocolate-chip maple maca ice cream! OK, I’m drooling.

Brazier has created a consummate guide to health and nutrition for every human being, regardless of athletic prowess. Thrive Foods is an encyclopedia of well-being and I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from its wealth of information and incredible food. The Thrive Diet caused me to question the effects of my diet in my body, and now Thrive Foods has taught me about its effects on the world.

Wanna get your learn on? Watch the book trailer, buy the book, and like Brendan Brazier on Facebook to download a Thrive Foods introduction and three free recipes! You can also enter to win a trip to Hollywood to meet Brendan at the Alive! Expo on Friday, Sept. 16!


CLOSED! Vegansaurus Giveaway: Swimsuit from Eco Swim by Aqua Green!  »

Hey errrybody! There’s still time to get into a hot suit for summer! A hot PLANET-FRIENDLY suit! This super cute Eco Swim bathing suit can be yours, my friends. Just answer me this: What’s the best vegan food for summer? Leave your answer in the comments and I will drunkenly randomly select a winner next Thursday!

Eco Swim is a very cool company. Here’s their mission statement:

Our mission is to provide fashionable, excellent quality, and planet-friendly swimwear. We will achieve this by embracing sustainable technologies and methods, hence reducing our carbon footprint in the sand. Our vision is to be the most sustainable swimwear manufacturer on the planet.

As you know, saving the environment is a good endeavor for vegans as that’s where the animals live! And those animals love that environment, I’m telling you. And Eco Swim promises not to make uggo swimwear just because they want it to be sustainable. Check out their site for more cute suits!


Every day is Earth Day when you’re vegan  »

For Earth Day this year I celebrated by attending Berkeley Vegan Earth Day, hosted by eco-friendly event planner Karine Brighten. Though you may be thinking, “Earth Day was soooo last week, why are you getting around to this now?” I have two reasons: One is that I am a slacker. Two is that it doesn’t matter because EVERY DAY SHOULD BE EARTH DAY! And the information is still relevant!
What was special about this particular Earth Day event was the link Brighten emphasized between veganism and its positive impact on both animals and the environment, as well as exploring “reasons and ways to take that commitment even further.” Mission accomplished, girlfriend! 

Berkeley Vegan Earth Day included a screening of the documentary Call of Life: Facing the Mass Extinction, followed by a panelist discussion and catered reception. 

To put it mildly, Call of Life was intense. Really, read its tag line: “If current trends continue, scientists warn that within a few decades at least HALF of all plant and animal species on Earth will disappear forever.” We live on a planet full of ecosystems that depend on each other for survival. When one species, whether plants or animals, begins to dwindle or become extinct, it causes a ripple effect to which human animals are not immune. The scientists, anthropologists, philosophers and psychologists featured in this documentary are hypothesizing that if we don’t fundamentally change our behavioral and societal patterns (RIGHT NOW) we are going to contribute to both the extinction of the plants and animals on our planet as well as ourselves.

Another point this movie touched upon was that as humans, we are not oblivious to this going on around us and may suffer from feelings of terror, anger, and despair. Yet our society is adept at pushing consumerism as a way to suppress those feelings, or block them out entirely. We buy the things we “deserve” to feel better, and indulge in meat though we know factory farming is vicious and inhumane, as well as a direct reason for clear-cutting rain forests. The longer this movie sat with me, the more powerfully my thoughts centered around throwing myself off my second-story balcony, but then I remembered I was hosting Easter this year, which would hopefully save at least one pig sent for slaughter this spring (nothing like an agave-brown sugar seitan roast). Activism, people! It saves lives!

Next up were the vegan panelists: David Vlansey, the executive producer of Call of Life, Lauren Ornelas of the Food Empowerment Project, Hope Bohanec of In Defense of Animals, and Alex Eaves of Stay Vocal.

My favorite points from the discussion include:

Lauren Ornelas:

  •  In the US farm workers are not paid overtime, though in pretty much every other professional it is mandatory. There are laws against compensating them for overtime.
  • Environmental racism—it’s no coincidence that oil refineries, land fills, truck depots,etc happen to be located around low income neighborhoods and communities of color. These areas have higher rates of cancer and pollutants along with less access to health care or healthy foods. Examples of these regions in the SF Bay Area include Richmond and Martinez.

 Hope Bohanec:  

  • The only difference between organic beef and conventional beef is what they are fed. Eating organic beef doesn’t effect green house or fossil fuel admissions.
  • It’s not feasible to have enough grass-fed, free-range meat to feed 6 billion people (the Earth’s population). There simply isn’t enough room.
  • Eating vegan is eating green. Two vegan meals a week is better than eating an organic, locally sourced lifestyle.

Alex Eaves:  

  • Recycling is failure to reuse.
  • It takes 400 gallons of water for all the cotton that goes into one new t-shirt.
  • If his friends that own coffeeshops were to charge everyone that brought in their own travel mug $1 and $5 for every paper cup, people could then pay for their ignorance and denial.

The reception was catered by Millennium, which was great for me, as I’ve never eaten there.

Brighten said she is “extremely happy to have had such an amazing turnout, and so much support from the community.” Sign up for her newsletter to receive updates on upcoming events here! I may have heard a rumor about vegan speed dating in Berkeley in the near future.


What to Eat: The Environmental Impacts of our Food voiced by Jason Schwartzman. That damn Schwartzman is all kinds of sexy. You heard me! I’d totally tap that. I might even make him tofu scramble in the morning. If I let him sleep over. Men are so clingy!

The video appears to be part of Farm Sanctuary’s Plate to Planet project:

Small decisions we make every day about what we eat can make a huge difference. Going vegan may be a big step, but simply lessening our meat consumption still goes a long way. If we all pledged to eat meat-free meals throughout the week, we’d not only be healthier individuals but our planet would benefit too.

Plus, did you know that 50,000 pigs on a factory farm create as much waste as Salt Lake City! That’s crazy! And so depressing! The site is pretty great and has lots of tips for your average omni to become more veggie friendly. This video is kind of cute, not amazing. If Schwartzman weren’t voicing it, I prob wouldn’t post it. What are your thoughts? I think it’s cool to offer a view of your average American family man and how you can make a change just for one day and it’s not going to ruin your life.

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