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05/02/2011

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.

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