Wednesday, July 13, 2016

BEAR NECESSITIES - July 2016

               by Fireweed for the Island Word, May 2016 issue


Jordan & Athena
       Here's hoping that Jordan and Athena are already neck deep in mountain blueberries by now! Thankfully, the black bear siblings were in very good health at the time of their June release on Vancouver Island. Sufficient fat stores should help ease any difficulty transitioning back to life in the wild after their year-long stay at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre. Orphaned at just a few months of age in Port Hardy, the cubs gained notoriety after it became widely known that the Conservation Officer responsible for their mother's death had refused an order to destroy them also. Bryce Casavant's defiance cost him his job, but today Athena and Jordan are back where they belong, roaming free.

click on image to enlarge
      Contact with humans was strictly prohibited while the cubs were in captivity in order to increase their chances for long term survival. Six other young bears who haven't shared the media spotlight were released the same week, but Jordan and Athena were fitted with GPS tracking devices. A bear's search for food is such a driving force, it's no surprise that their incredible sense of smell can also lead to their demise. Sadly, conservation officers destroy hundreds of so-called “nuisance bears” around the province every year. The village of Cumberland, here in the Comox Valley, is particularly challenged because it just so happens to
be on a main migratory route for the regional population. Senior Conservation Officer Dan Dwyer has stated that bear encroachment into urban areas seems to come in cycles (lack of rainfall being one precursor of note.) The recent, widespread devastation wrought by fire in northern Alberta pushed bears into the evacuated city of Fort McMurray, beckoned by the aroma of rotting garbage and thawing freezers. We can only hope to learn, in time, that Jordan and Athena are managing to survive as far away from human activities as possible.

Fort McMurray, May 2016
        Cumberland , and many other communities here in BC and beyond, are to be applauded for promoting public awareness campaigns aimed at reducing human/bear conflicts at the local level. Understanding the bigger environmental picture is also crucial. Shrinking habitat is the most serious threat to natural food access for wildlife all over the planet today. Yes, that problem is tied directly to human encroachment (of all kinds), but it is also exacerbated by the myriad ways we are collectively contributing to global climate change. Scientists predict that as the planet continues to warm, we can expect an increase in, and frequency of, the kind of terrifying wildfires that wiped out thousands of creatures and their homes in bone dry northern Alberta this spring (spreading toxic ash from the incineration of human habitat in their wake.) As that ravaged landscape slowly recovers, its entire ecology is likely to change. According to researchers with Audubon and World Wildlife Fund, rising ocean and air temperatures are already forcing animals to “chase” the habitats they are accustomed to. Astoundingly, roughly half of the world's species are currently on the move. The situation is already so dire that an estimated one in six is predicted to go extinct if warming continues at its current pace.

Ken Wu of the Ancient Forest Alliance in the Walbran
        It's all connected. Ottawa is finally recommending marine protected areas and fishery closures to try and help save the threatened killer whales off our coast. Vancouver Island black bears depend on those fish too. And they play a major role in the redistribution of salmon nutrients vital to the health of our temperate rainforests. That these biologically diverse ecosystems remain under attack is utterly unacceptable- we need to stop logging the old growth right now! Conservationists recognize that doing so would have the potential to significantly help reduce BC's overall carbon dioxide emissions and enhance the function of our natural carbon sinks. We've been duly warned that the world is on a path of catastrophic global warming and that we should seek to reduce emissions as much and as quickly as possible.

James Cameron
       China recently showed the world it's paying attention by going where no western government has dared to tread so far- it is alerting its citizens to the fact that animal agriculture is responsible for more GHG emissions globally than all transportation combined and urging major dietary reform. Movie director James Cameron (lesser known as the vegan owner of Beaufort Winery here in the Comox Valley), is one of the celebrity spokespeople recruited to help spread the word. “China's move to cut meat consumption in half would not only have a huge impact on public health,” he told the UK Guardian, “it is a massive leadership step towards drastically reducing carbon emissions and reaching the goals set out in the Paris agreement."

      There are so many wonderful new 100% plant-based products on the market today, that it's easier than ever for those of us with the privilege of choice to make compassionate, climate-friendly food choices seven days a week. The all vegan sausages, hot dogs and amazing burgers from “The Very Good Butchers” on Denman Island are one more great reason to come explore our wonderful Farmer's Market any Saturday morning this summer. And here's a novel, incredibly tasty recipe to make at home, then introduce to others at that next barbecue!

CARROT HOT DOGS 
(with special thanks to Deborah Cooper 
for her original recipe on Blacks Going
 Vegan!)

thx to HighCarb Hannah for this photo


You'll need:
8-10 medium sized organic carrots
2 cups water
Marinade Ingredients:
2 TB. Liquid smoke
1/4 cup Bragg's Aminos or Tamari
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup Veggie bouillon (or non-chicken) broth
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 TB. maple syrup

Instructions:
Peel carrots to uniform shape, rounding ends (size to fit your buns.) Simmer in boiling water only until fork tender (approx. 8-10 minutes, don't overcook!) Combine marinade ingredients. Drain al dente carrots and run under cold water to cool. Lay all carrots flat in the marinade (a zip style plastic freezer bag works well) and marinate for 6-24 hours (no longer.) Place carrots in a hot non-stick skillet with a bit of the marinade to caramelize and brown the exterior. Serve with all the traditional fixings on an organic bun, and enjoy!
                                                              ...............

Please visit the LINKS column on the right hand side of this page for article references along with more great summer recipe ideas. And thank you in advance for sharing The Transition Kitchen column!



Tuesday, May 3, 2016

SELECTIVE COMPASSION - May, 2016

                                          by Fireweed for the Island Word, May 2016 issue

 5 dogs rescued by Soi Dog now in BC
Five lucky dogs rescued from the illegal dog meat trade in southeast Asia arrived in BC recently, attracting the kind of media attention hard to come by for Canadian-born canines.

Some 2 million homeless dogs already reside in this country, leading to approximately 600,000 being euthanized each year. Busy rescue transport operators AirAngels Canada are concerned about the fact that for every dog they are asked to help relocate here at home, they receive a minimum of three requests to import foreign-born dogs. “It's trendy to support local farmers and home grown, organic produce” they say in an online missive that questions the inconsistency of adopting companion animals from abroad. “We're proud to tell everyone at the dog park about the animal we've rescued from an exotic land, but did we consider the homeless pets in our own province and country?”

Of course it's fantastic news that Buster, Cherish, Trayat, Satia and Woodpecker have been blessed with a new lease on life. According to the Soi Dog Foundation, the Thai organization responsible for saving them, prior to 2011 some 500,000 stray dogs (and others!) were illegally exported to Vietnam for human consumption every year. Trucks intercepted en route to the border are still typically stacked with cages jam-packed with terrified animals. Many die from suffocation or other horrific injuries before they ever reach a slaughterhouse. Given the revulsion and outrage we feel over such cruelty, should we not be equally disgusted by the fact that the legal transport of chickens and other livestock right here in Canada results in similar suffering and mortality? Why is their fate any less disturbing?

photo from CETFA
It's been well documented that spent hens, for example, are very roughly handled, carried upside down several at a time, and crammed into crates for transport. Not only are bruising and broken limbs common place, an estimated 1.6% die in transit in Canada from such injuries or the extreme weather conditions to which they are exposed. Of course we are appalled by the dog meat trade first and foremost because dogs are off the menu in this area of the world. But selective compassion is absolutely socially constructed. Just as AirAngels Canada wants us to pay as much attention to the exploitation, neglect and premature deaths of Canadian dogs as we do to those killed for meat elsewhere, a growing number of animal activists are bearing witness as livestock transport trucks roll up to slaughterhouses in order to draw attention to the fate of the animals generally commodified for consumption in this country.

Anita Krajnc giving water to pigs at a
Toronto Pig Save vigil      
These conscientious folks are inspired by Anita Krajnc who co-founded Toronto Pig Save after encountering pigs on trucks bound for slaughter while out walking her dog. Recognizing an eerie similarity to her beloved companion in each set of eyes looking back through the slats in those vehicles, Krajnc knew she had to do something. Five years later, after providing water as an act of mercy to animals clearly suffering from heatstroke in a transport truck just outside of Fearman's Pork Inc. in Burlington, Ontario, Krajnc was charged with criminal mischief (and faced with the possibility of a ten year sentence). She'll be back in court this August with no intention of paying any fine, prepared to suffer imprisonment instead. Krajnc believes that treating living animals like pigs as property - “no different than a toaster” - is morally wrong and that compassion is not a crime.
   
Bill C 246 will
ban the sale of dog
 & cat fur
When it comes to protecting animals from cruelty, abuse and neglect, Canada's antiquated Criminal Code is woefully inadequate. Compassionate citizens would do well to urge their Members of Parliament to support Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith's private member's bill, the Modernizing Animal Protections Act. As Barbara Cartwright, CEO of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies explains, it aims to close loopholes in current animal cruelty provisions like those that “allow chronic hoarders, repeat abusers, puppy mill operators and dog fighting perpetrators to get off with a slap on the wrist.” At the heart of the Act she adds, “is the proposed creation of a new offence for individuals who cause unnecessary pain, suffering, or injury to an animal through gross negligence of the animals' welfare.” The Bill will prohibit shark finning in Canadian waters and ban the import of dislocated fins, and it will ban the sale of dog and cat fur, requiring animal fur products to be labeled with country of origin and species identified.

Contrary to the fear mongering from certain corners (namely industries and individuals who exploit animals and are therefore wary of welfare reforms), Bill C 246 is hardly radical. While I am whole-heartedly on Anita's side myself, I know we are a long way from affording rights to animals that would liberate them from their status as property, where applicable, under existing Canadian legislation. However, Bill C 246 will address some long-standing problems. Tune in to this excellent interview on Vancouver Co-op Radio's Animal Voices with Erskine-Smith, and find out how you can do your part to help make sure the Modernizing Animal Protection Act becomes law.

For additional details, please see MAY 2016 LINKS on the right hand side of this page. Now, here's a tasty Thai salad recipe to spice up your next picnic lunch, or to enjoy for supper on a warm summer evening... bon appetit!

SUMMER - THAI SALAD  (with thanks to Linda Wagner for the original recipe!)                                                
                            
DRESSING INGREDIENTS:
1/4 cup tamari
1/4 cup white or balsamic vinegar
3 Tbs. finely minced ginger
3 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. almond butter
2 Tbs. Hoison sauce
1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. spicy chili oil (optional)
1 tsp. sriracha or more if you like it spicy!
(sriracha is a type of hot chili sauce)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
a bit of agave or maple syrup to taste
3 chopped green onions

SALAD INGREDIENTS:
thinly sliced red & orange bell peppers
thinly chopped or shredded kale and cabbage
shredded carrots, chopped green onions
1.5 cups frozen edamame, thawed
1/4 cup cashews, chopped
1/2 a lime (more to taste)

INSTRUCTIONS:
Combine all dressing ingredients in a mason jar, screw on the lid and shake. Prepare your veggies and toss with your freshly squeezed lime juice. Add your coarsely chopped cashews, plate and serve with the dressing poured over top and garnished with green onions. Enjoy!





Friday, February 5, 2016

PULSE POWER! - FEB., 2016

                                                    by Fireweed for the Island Word, Feb. 2016
"nutritious seeds for a sustainable future"
     The UN has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses. Could we really heal the world with dried peas, beans and lentils? The founder of Salt Spring Seeds Dan Jason sees incredible potential in these versatile superfoods - and he is in very interesting company!

     First of all though, pulses deserve to be appreciated as members of the legume family that have been cultivated for thousands of years. In his wonderful new book The Power of Pulses, Jason praises these nutrient-dense plants as “the epitome of renewable energy.” They are nitrogen fixers, so actually increase soil fertility. They can be grown organically anywhere with very little water, and are both “the food you eat plus the seed for next year's crop.” A recipe for food security if ever there was one!

Visit Salt Spring Seeds HERE
     The Power of Pulses is a must read for anyone thinking about growing, harvesting and eating their own. But along with gorgeous photos, the book includes 50 organic wholefoods recipes that simply inspire the inclusion of far more of these nutritious plants in our diets. Jason is very serious about addressing climate change so of course there are no meat dishes included. This long-time organic grower is well aware of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization's findings that livestock production alone is responsible for more GHG emissions globally than all transportation combined - approximately 18% of the total (considered by some to be a very conservative estimate).

     A growing number of culinary entrepreneurs concerned about climate change, as well as the widespread pollution and cruelty connected to animal agribusiness, are finding a way to meet many food-lovers half way. They are creating alternative products with the help of pulses and other plants that so closely resemble the taste and texture of animal-derived meats that even devout carnivores are won over. The CEO of Beyond Meat, Ethan Brown, is proud of the fact that his 'Beast Burger' also packs more protein than beef and more omegas than salmon. But what about the taste? “Fooled me badly,” admitted New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman. “Livestock is an outdated technology,” Patrick Brown of Impossible Foods has declared. His latest creation is poised to go head-to-head with conventional ground beef in the mainstream marketplace with investors like Bill Gates behind him. As Dan Jason notes in his new book, “There are some excellent processed pulse products already and it's strikingly clear that one of the best slow foods around has the potential to take over the fast-food market.”

     The old guard is paying attention, determined to protect its turf. “Vegan Butcher - Just Plain Wrong!” reads a headline in the National Hog Farmer. The editor of the 50-year-old business magazine for the U.S. pork industry seems to have found it noteworthy that a small-scale, 100% plant-based meat shop managed to attract some 5,000 patrons over its recent weekend-long grand opening in Minneapolis.

     The Herbivorous Butcher is serving up cruelty-free versions of the kinds of sausages, barbecue ribs, pepperoni, chorizo and other meats customers would find in a traditional butcher shop. Pulses, other beans and grains are key ingredients in  their recipes. And it seems that just doesn't sit well with  National Hog Farmer editor Cheryl Day. She argues that a butcher is supposed to be a person who “harvests animals and handcrafts the meat into desirable cuts we all love to devour.” Totally missing the irony in her statement she continues, “I think that is some special kind of creative word-smithing and marketing, right there...just plain unethical and wrong on all levels.” She could choose to reflect instead on the fact that over 100 million pigs are killed for food in the U.S. alone each year (over 30 million in Canada) - 99% of which are raised on factory farms. But Ms. Day ponders: if meat “is such a bad thing, then why mimic it? If the term [butcher] is so negative, why use it as your brand?“

Kale & Aubry Walch, of The Herbivorous Butcher
     Aubry and Kale Walch, the sister and brother duo behind the Herbivorous Butcher, are in effect 'repurposing' the word. Their offerings cater to the palates of people who enjoy the taste of meat – not the fact that it was once a somebody. It isn't their goal to encourage people to forget the animals spared. “We're here to bridge the gap so that omnivores can switch over,” Aubry told a reporter with the UK Guardian. Added Kale, “we'll stop calling ourselves vegan butchers when they stop calling it 'humane slaughter'.”

     'Mock meats' have actually been around for a very long time. They date back at least as far as 13th century China when Buddhist monks had already mastered the art of flavouring wheat protein. But thanks in significant part to the versatility of pulses, today's culinary wizards are taking food science to a whole new level. High stakes competition in the marketplace should guarantee that we see ongoing improvements in the selection of healthy varieties of prepared convenience foods meant to replace animal products of all kinds.

     Thanks to Dan Jason for reminding us through The Power of Pulses, however, that these nutritious plants can help us both reduce our ecological footprints and embrace more compassionate choices by simply making their way into our own home-made fare. Any of the vegetarian recipes included by co-conspirators Hilary Malone and Alison Malone Eathorne are easily veganized. Look for Salt Spring Seeds at Seedy Saturday in Vancouver on Feb. 27th, in Courtenay on March 5th or at Seedy Sunday in Nanaimo on March 6th (as well as at other such events throughout the region). Jason carries hundreds of varieties of heritage and heirloom seeds, including over 70 varieties of pulses to get excited about! 
 
Fireweed's Favorite Coconut Dahl

INGREDIENTS:
2 T. organic coconut oil
1/2 a large organic yellow onion
3 cloves organic garlic, pressed
1 T. ginger, peeled and minced
2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. tumeric
1/2 tsp chili power
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 cups organic red lentils, uncooked
1 can organic coconut milk
3 cups water

INSTRUCTIONS:
Sautee, stirring the ginger, garlic and onion lightly in oil. Rinse, then add the lentils with spices, coconut milk and water. Cook covered for half an hour over medium heat, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. Test for seasoning, add a bit more water if required. Delicious served with brown rice and a side of steamed greens. Bon appetit!
For additional recipes & references for this month's column please visit the FEBRUARY 2016 LINKS, on the right hand side of this page.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

BORN TO BE WILD - NOV., 2015


                                    by Fireweed for The Island Word, November edition, 2015

photo by Fireweed, Nov. 1st, 2015
     Exhausted but triumphant, the salmon are returning! Their silver scales shimmering in the late afternoon sun, my partner and I encountered several spent coho along the banks of Beadnell Creek today on the east side of Denman Island. Others waiting just off shore to complete their own perilous life journeys will have the opportunity to traverse the shallow gravel bed linking ocean with fresh water spawning grounds during the next high tide.

 The fascinating ability of salmon to return to their place of origin (sometimes after navigating thousands of miles) is a phenomenon only recently understood to involve the earth's magnetic field. Those born in the wild are reportedly far more successful than their hatchery-born counterparts. Scientists speculate that the electrical wires that surround such facilities may disrupt the magnetic fields that guide salmon. Competition with hatchery fish, the construction of hydro-electric damns, habitat destruction and excessive predation, are among the other hazards perpetrated by humans that affect wild salmon migration and health today. Perhaps most controversial overall, however, is the potential for illness through exposure to open net-pen fish farming.

     Denied the biological urge to migrate instilled over thousands of years of evolution, farmed salmon are forced to swim in endless circles in their own excrement (feces and food accumulating on the seabed as oxygen-depriving sediment laced with chemicals and antibiotics). As exposed in the must-see 2014 documentary:“This Pristine Coast”, risks to wild salmon and the environment from what is essentially marine-based factory farming are indeed numerous. All are grounds for protest by coastal BC wild salmon advocates, like Anissa Reed and her daughter Freyja. Unwavering from their own moral compass, the two have been in the media spotlight lately due to their clear opposition to Marine Harvest Canada, one of the world's largest salmon-farming companies and a newly acquired sponsor of Freyja's now former elite youth soccer team.

Whether in open water or on land,  fish farming is factory farming
     The young goalie's dismissal from that team, resulting from the Riptide Soccer Association's inability to reconcile its 'differences' with the Reed family, is a disturbing reflection of the power of corporate control. Marine Harvest claims that it's donations to community groups “have not, and will not, and will never, restrict a recipient's right to voice their opinions or their ability to speak freely.” But Riptide and other clubs dependent upon financial assistance from businesses with an interest in gaining social license understand full well the costs of going against the grain. Brand association with sports has always been a business relationship. It's not philanthropy.

     
Freyja Reed in CBC interview
Hopefully, both the emotional and financial support Freyja Reed has received from actual allies will help temper her loss and the difficult backlash she has been subjected to from some of her former teammates, their families and others. Paul Watson, no stranger to controversy himself, posted the following message to the fourteen year old on social media: “Freyja, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society applauds your taking a stand on this very important issue. Salmon farms are destroying wild salmon populations. We recognize your courage and sacrifice. Thank you.”

     Watson has been pointing to aquaculture as the economic engine driving the intensive exploitation of small fish decimating our oceans for years. He is in synch with scientists who have revealed that resulting, widespread malnutrition is affecting the fish, bird, and animal populations of marine environments world-wide. “I can't think of anything more important than the preservation of diversity in our oceans,” he wrote in 2009. “Perhaps we can adapt to global warming, and perhaps we can survive a mass extinction even of species on land. But I know one thing to be an ecological certainty and that is if we kill the oceans – we kill ourselves.”

     According to the new World Wildlife Fund report, marine populations declined 49% between 1970 and 2012. It states, “The picture is now clearer than ever: humanity is collectively mismanaging the ocean to the brink of collapse.” Noting that only 3 to 4 % of the ocean is currently protected, the report emphasizes that the establishment and enforcement of more marine reserves is one of the most important things policy-makers can do to counter the trajectory we're on.

Sockeye returning home to spawn on the Fraser River
     Meanwhile, putting the financial interests of the fish farming industry ahead of sound conservation measures on the BC coast willfully courts calamity. We need more Freyja Reeds willing to swim upstream against the current on the side of justice for wild salmon. And we need far more people with the privilege of choice willing to join vegan Paul Watson in leaving whatever fish are still left in our ravaged oceans off their dinner plates altogether.                                                                   
                                                               …..

Please visit the NOV. RELATED LINKS 2015 LIST on the right hand side of this page for article references and more. Thanks to Isa Chandra of the Post Punk Kitchen for the original version of the following tasty chowder recipe, so perfect for a blustery fall day! Bon appetit!

Vegan Sea Chowder                                       

Ingredients: 
Visit the Post Punk Kitchen for more tasty recipes by Isa Chandra
1 cup cashews, soaked for at 
   least 2 hrs.
5 cups vegetable broth
4 teaspoons organic cornstarch
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
4 oz shiitake mushrooms, 

   thinly sliced
8 oz white or brown button 

   mushrooms, sliced
2 russet potatoes, peeled and 
   cut into small chunks
3/4 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
    fresh ground black pepper
1 to 2 sheets of nori, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste & 2 

   tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Instructions:
Put just 2 cups of your veggie broth in a blender (you can use veggie or herbal bouillon to make this) along with the cornstarch. Drain, then add cashews. Blend with the lid on until smooth, scraping the sides often (may take up to 5 minutes, depending on blender). Set aside. In a 4 quart pot, saute carrots over medium heat, then onions, until just slightly tender. Add mushrooms, celery and repeat. Pour in the remaining 3 cups of broth, add seasonings, nori and potatoes. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat until the potatoes are done but remain firm. Stir in cashew cream and heat gently, uncovered, for about 7 minutes until thickened. Fold in tomato paste, lemon juice & additional seasonings. Garnish with parsley or chives, and enjoy!






Tuesday, September 8, 2015

CHANGES - SEPTEMBER, 2015

                               by Fireweed for The Island Word, September edition, 2015


life expectancy for a fin whale - approx. 94 years
     The presence of a fin whale in north Puget Sound recently has been cause for excitement! Second largest creature on earth after the blue whale, this endangered mammal was once common in the Salish Sea. Commercial hunting over the past century devastated the species' population, so the new sighting has marine experts hopeful about the potential for a comeback in the region.

     The young male appeared healthy but a bit on the thin side, according to marine biology professor Jonathan Stern. The unusually warm weather that led to a huge algae bloom extending from California to BC this summer resulted in a “major reduction in food availability for whales,” says Michael Harris, managing director of Puget Sound Express whale-watching. If, as a result, this particular marine mammal was forced to swim further afield in search of fish, it is well within reason to connect his appearance with climate change.


it's not looking good for polar bears
      We know that many life-forms are moving north or into deeper waters as their habitats shift at an ever increasing rate. According to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, animals and plants that can expand their ranges stand the best chance of survival. Those that are highly specialized in what they eat or where they live, especially those whose habitats disappear completely, do not have time on their side. “Species have experienced swings like this in the past,” explains environmental biologist Peter Alpert in National Geographic, “but [the changes] have probably taken a thousand times longer.”
  
millions of hectares of BC forest habitat burned
  Ravaged by extreme weather and a startling number of intense fires this summer, BC is transforming before our very eyes. While late rains eventually relieved us of a protracted dry spell, California's climate is definitely expected to continue advancing in our direction. Without sufficient snowpack this winter our watersheds will struggle to sustain flora and fauna again next year. As Ray Grigg wrote recently, “the old ecologies of the Pacific Northwest are being reshaped as climate change begins the long and disruptive process of altering weather and remaking the biological structure of the region.”

       Most privileged people are conditioned to feel far removed from the social unrest that has already come with climate change in distant areas of the world. But the tragic drowning of three year old Aylan Kurdi, his brother, mother and others fleeing the crisis in Syria has recently brought Canadians face to face with the life and death struggle of 'climate refugees.' While analysts are quick to emphasize that climate change is not solely responsible for the drought in Syria and that drought is only one of many stressors that led to the humanitarian crisis and civil war, the need for far more widespread recognition of the complex ways in which drought, resource scarcity, and conflict in general intersect seems urgent.
    
Syrian children in refugee camp - Northern Iraq
      According to Francisco Femia, director of the Washington, DC-based Center for Climate and Security, the international community is not looking into environmental stress nearly enough. Five years of extended drought in Syria, he says, forced massive population displacement from rural areas into urban areas. “Those dynamics may have contributed to social unrest,”says Femia, “ and the sustainability of the revolutionary movement.”
     
      It is also important to note that poor agricultural practices, like over-grazing by livestock, have contributed to desertification of the ecologically fragile Syrian steppe for decades. According to biodiversity conservationist Gianluca Serra, “a major role in the unfolding disaster was played by affluent urban investors who threw thousands of livestock into the steppe turning the grazing into a large-scale, totally unsustainable, industrial practice.”


Syrian drought exacerbated by climate change

     Even if Syria recovers politically, it is estimated that it will have lost nearly 50% of its agricultural capacity by 2050. The circumstances are far more complex than can be adequately addressed here, but if global greenhouse gas emissions continue at current rates, water shortages and droughts will only worsen.

      While we will never be able to precisely calculate the contribution of climate change to any one geopolitical event or human crisis, we can and must take responsibility for the myriad ways in which we collectively add to it. The necessity of reducing animal product consumption, particularly by those of us who have access to alternative sources of nutrition, is an ongoing theme in this column for a very important reason. Animal agribusiness produces more GHG emissions globally than all transportation combined.

     Anyone lucky enough to eat three times a day has the ongoing opportunity to respond pro-actively to the realities of global climate change, endangered species, and vulnerable people around the world by making compassionate food choices. For more on this topic, and thanks to the generous support of actor Leonardo deCaprio, Netflix subscribers can tune in for the important documentary “Cowspiracy: the Sustainability Secret” starting on September 15th!

For additional references and links, please see SEPT. 2015 RELATED LINKS, on the right hand side of this page.

MUHAMMARA– Syrian Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip (thanks to Jeanette!)

INGREDIENTS:

2 cloves garlic, mashed

1-2 red chili peppers, chopped, seeds removed

Juice of one organic lemon

4 red bell peppers, roasted

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
2 T. Pomegranate molasses
1 C of organic whole grain or gluten-free bread crumbs)

DIRECTIONS:
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until mostly smooth, like pesto.
Depending on the heat of your chili peppers, you may wish to use more, or less.
Serve with fresh pita bread, or as a sauce on baked tofu kabobs... Bon appetit!


Thursday, July 2, 2015

FOOTPRINTS - JULY, 2015

 
                            by Fireweed for  The Island Word, July/August edition,  2015


Coconut Bliss - one of many delicious dairy-free alternatives!
     Given that hot summer days are known to scream: “ice cream!”, it's a very good thing that delicious dairy-free alternatives are now so widely available. Vancouver Islanders and others in the Comox Valley Regional District heeding the call to voluntarily reduce water usage under our current drought conditions, may or may not appreciate knowing that an estimated 159 litres of water go into a single scoop of ice cream. Or that approximately twice that amount goes into an equivalent serving of frozen yogurt! Calculating the water footprint for any one animal-derived food item must take into consideration not only the water requirements of the animals over their lifetime, but of the crops raised to feed them.

      For far too long mainstream media attention around the severity of the drought in California has been highlighting almonds as problematic while completely ignoring the elephant in the room. Social media campaigns like “Truth or Drought” and the popular documentary “Cowspiracy” are helping raise awareness about the reality that animal agribusiness is by far the biggest consumer of H20. The fact that a significant percentage of the alfalfa grown in California is shipped to China to feed animals there reveals how complex calculating agricultural water usage has become.

     “Virtual water” is the total sum of water used in the production of a good or service. And “virtual water trade”, explains Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, “refers to the embedded water transferred across borders when these goods or services are internationally traded.” According to the Council's 2011 report, “Leaky Exports”, Canada's export of water-intensive commodities (including cattle and livestock products) has resulted in a virtual water deficit of just under 60 billion cubic meters – enough to fill the Rogers Centre in Toronto 37.5 thousand times (the Council's report notes that this figure was already quite dated at time of publication, so it would be much higher now). The document contends that over the past few decades the Canadian government has pursued a trade and development agenda that continues to put our country's fresh water resources at serious risk. It's shameful that so many communities are facing some sort of water crisis today yet nowhere is our groundwater adequately mapped. Policymakers continue to emphasize the significance of household water consumption while paying little attention to the water-intensive industries that have led to water shortages and contamination.

     Water-wise food choices (animal-product free) are not enough, but for those of us with the privilege of choice they are part of highlighting the priceless value of clean water, responding pro-actively to global warming and countering public apathy that impedes the potential for systemic change. No less important, of course, are the other environmental impacts of raising animals for food and the lives of the animals themselves.

     “No one injured”, declared part of the headline about a devastating barn fire that killed more than 250 cows on a dairy farm in Monteregie, Quebec in early June. Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Farmed Animals (CETFA), quickly encouraged the general public not to tolerate such insensitive reporting. The CBC was actually swift to oblige – their online account of the event has been adjusted to read: “Only a handful of cows managed to survive fire on dairy farm”.

     The National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) has been far less responsive to pressure from
CETFA and its supporters. In an ongoing petition
6/9/15-  dairy barn fire kills over 250 cows in Quebec
that has collected nearly 29,300 signatures to date, CETFA continue to ask the NFACC to develop barn fire codes which would better protect Canada's 700 million farmed animals from preventable tragedy. Meanwhile, barn fires continue to inflict tremendous suffering from one end of this country to the other – CETFA counted almost 60,000 animal lives lost this way in one year alone! In the three weeks that have passed since the Quebec fire, and in addition to the Courtenay tragedy where more than 60 heifers died on June 14th, dairy barns and others have burned to the ground in Falmouth, N.S., Bellville, Ont., Abbotsford, B.C., Gananoque, Ont., and Truro, N.S. Many more animals have perished and I don't dare to imagine what the predicted long dry summer has yet in store.

     It seems to me that an honest accounting of animal ag's water footprint should not ignore the massive quantities of water required to contain and thoroughly extinguish the barn fires that seem to come with the territory. Please visit CETFA online and support their important work @ www.cetfa.org For additional links and references related to this article, please see JUNE 2015/Related Links, on the right hand side of this blog!
                                                     ………………..

Keeping well hydrated will help you beat the heat this summer! Cucumber is a wonderful vegetable to include in a water-wise, 100% plant-based diet - it is rich in vitamins K, A, and C and minerals like phosphorous, magnesium and calcium. I don't grow my own cukes, so am always thrilled when an organic local supply becomes seasonally available. They are an integral part of the spicy red gazpacho I make all summer long- until I run out of home grown tomatoes! But there is just something about the fresh color green that exudes that 'made in the shade' summer feeling…so I hope you enjoy this variation on a theme!

Cool as a Cucumber Green Gazpacho
with thanks to Angela Thompson for the original recipe

Green Gazpacho- photo credit: www.vegangela.com
Ingredients (organic preferred!):
1 English style cucumber
1 yellow bell pepper
3 yellow tomatoes
1/4 small sweet white onion           
1 ripe avocado
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tsps. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 T. Olive Oil
3/4 cup cilantro
1 clove garlic
1 Thai chili (or to taste)
1 tsp. Salt and a pinch of pepper
optional garnish: croutons, nasturtiums

Instructions:
Peel, seed and chop your veggies in chunks and add to your Vitamix or blender with the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth, and chill for a few hours to enhance flavor. Correct seasoning, garnish and serve. Bon appetit!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

COMMUNITY- June, 2015


                                    by Fireweed for the Island Word, June edition, 2015

The desire to belong is universal. From our extended family of origin to the biotic whole of our planet, “community” is clearly vital to our wellbeing.

     The word itself is derived from the French comunete, stemming in turn from the Latin communis, meaning things held in common. No longer bound together by our ancestral tribal affiliations alone, most of us recognize the myriad communities we identify with today as overlapping, and/or contained within larger circles of extended community on a global scale.

     Author and social thinker Jeremy Rifkin has noted how over the course of human history technological advances (like means of travel, the printing press, and now the internet) have liberated us from isolation, encouraging eventual acceptance of others originally excluded from our communal allegiances. But contemporary research in neuropsychology, childhood development and related fields has shown Rifkin and others that it is our biological capacity for empathy that lies at the heart of all relationship building and that that, too, is an evolving part of the human story.

from the film, 'Live & Let Live'
     The first basic human drive is to belong, says the acclaimed author, crediting mirror neurons with allowing humans (and other animals) to learn and bond through mirroring another's actions. Mirror neurons also enable the ability to resonate with another's plight (anger, frustration, joy, etc) almost as if we are experiencing those feelings ourselves. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that we are not soft-wired for aggression, violence, self-interest and utilitarianism, says Rifkin, but that we are soft-wired for sociability, attachment, affection and companionship. When we think about the times that we have empathized with each other or our fellow creatures, he notes, it's always because we felt their struggle connected to what we recognize as the fragility of life, and we show solidarity with our compassion.

     We remain challenged however, by our adeptness at rationalization and self-deception. Our empathic natures are at odds with a dominant paradigm heavily invested in seeing the consumption of animal products as normal, natural and necessary, for example. Many of us 'live in community' today with companion animals we regard as family members, yet willfully deny the animals we choose to eat the compassion we so easily extend to our loved ones.

     In a recent article, journalist Chris Hedges noted how farmers who feel genuine affection for the animals they raise then send to slaughter have to “normalize” their own behaviour by convincing themselves that what they do is a “practical and unquestioned necessity.” A culture that kills, including for food, he writes, “must create a belief system that inures people to suffering.” Hedges adds that the refusal to emotionally confront the fate of the 70 billion land animals killed for food each year across the world is a willful numbing – and the only way the slaughter of other sentient beings is possible. He adds that this loss of empathy and compassion for other living beings was something he encountered frequently in the wars he covered as a reporter: “Prisoners could be treated affectionately, much like pets – the vast disparity of power meant there was never a real relationship- and then killed without remorse.”

former animal farmer, turned animal sanctuary operator
     Cognitive dissonance is the term social psychologists use to describe feelings of uncomfortable tension when our behaviours are at odds with our deeply-held values. Recognition of this state is also the doorway to change, and there is a growing, supportive community on the other side of that threshold when it comes to animals. 

     “Community” is the theme for this year's Summer Sustainability Festival  here on Denman Island, and our Community Vegan Potluck Series will be screening the documentary “Live and Let Live”  German director Marc Piershcel examines our relationship with animals and the various reasons people choose to abandon eating them. His film tells the stories of six individuals (including former animal farmers) and shows the impact the decision has had on each of their personal lives. It also showcases the evolution of veganism from its origins in London in 1944 to one of the fastest growing international social justice movements, with more and more people recognizing the impact of their dietary and other lifestyle choices on animals, the environment and themselves. “Live and Let Live” also includes interviews with well-known ethicists, philosophers and scientists like Melanie JoyTom Regan, T. Colin Campbell and Jonathan Balcombe.
click to enlarge image

     If you're close enough to attend, our Summer Solstice feast will get underway at 6:30 pm in the Denman Community Hall on June 21st.  Admission is by donation, and all are welcome! Please bring a 100% plant-based entree, salad or dessert (free of gelatin, honey, eggs and dairy, please) that all may share. Thanks for including an ingredient list for the benefit of folks with food sensitivities. Our events are also 'scent-free for inclusivity.'

Vegan potlucks are a great place to pick up new recipe ideas, You can also visit Denman's Virtual Community Vegan Potluck page on Facebook for endless inspiration. It's the height of strawberry season here right now and the following tasty dessert is a delicious, super easy treat to enjoy on a warm summer evening!
                             
STRAWBERRY VEGAN MOUSSE

INGREDIENTS:
2 or 3 cups organic strawberries, sliced
2 cups silken tofu,  or organic medium tofu (squeeze and press out excess moisture in the latter by wrapping in a clean dish towel)
3 T. agave sweetener, or pinch of stevia to taste
optional: 1 T coconut butter,  shaved organic dark dairy-free chocolate, shredded organic coconut, crushed organic walnuts

INSTRUCTIONS:
 fresh picked organic beauties!
place 2 cups of sliced strawberries in your blender, and pulse into a paste. Add the tofu a bit at a time,blending until creamy. Add sweetener, and blend again until perfectly smooth.  If you want to be decadent (and are fine with the calories) add in one T. of organic coconut butter at the same time for an extra velvety texture. Layer your mixture in parfait or other suitably tall glasses alternating with additional sliced strawberries or other fruit in season (sweetened or unsweetened). Sprinkle your remaining optional ingredients between layers, or just on top. Chill before serving, and enjoy!
                                                                ……...

To build community requires vigilant awareness of the work we must continually do to understand the socialization that leads us to behave in ways that perpetuate domination.” 
                         - Bell Hooks, in Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7AWnfFRc7g