One Year Anniversary of being a Vegetarian

A year ago I embarked on a new commitment to be a vegetarian. This last year has been easier than I thought it was going to be because I use to LOVE bacon and steak! Now I’ve found new foods to love like asparagus, brussel sprouts, and homemade smoothies.

To be honest, the toughest part of this last year was dealing with people. Most of the time, people were just naive and asked polite questions. But then there were some people who would try to tempt me with a steak or they would tell me I was stupid. I’m not sure what eating meat has to do with being smart?!?! But for the most part people were pretty supportive and after asking their initial first questions they dropped the conversation. Majority of the questions I was asked was why I became a vegetarian and if there was anything I could eat. This latter question makes me laugh a little and I wonder what people are taught or what people (don’t) know about food.

Regardless of the ignorant people I’ve dealt with, I’m so happy I became a vegetarian! I feel like I get to make a small difference every day by protecting the planet and saving the lives of animals, which was why I became a vegetarian in the first place! Cheers to another year!

The Games I Play

So I’ve been an avid Blackberry lover for 5 years, but I finally was persuaded to get an iPhone. I was determined to hate it, but it just so happens that I love this piece of technology, minus the texting. I still hate texting because I can’t feel the buttons, but that’s irrelevant at this point. Since having my iPhone, i’ve downloaded apps like it’s going out of style, but while downloading everything under the sun I came across 3 apps that I think are pretty interesting. The games are called Rescue Reef, Rescue Safari, and Fluff Rescue. The names are pretty self explanatory but it’s what the premise of the games are that I find so interesting.

In the Fluff Rescue game, their are too many dogs and cats and you need to rehabilitate them so they can get adopted. You don’t breed the dogs or cats because there’s already way too many of them for you to even rescue and take care of. This is true of real life, you shouldn’t breed cats and dogs because they are already way overpopulated. Example, over 2.5 million cats and dogs are euthanized a year because there’s already too many, yet breeders continue to pump more cats and dogs into the world, only to be abused, neglected, and eventually euthanized. It’s a very sad cycle that happens daily. But again, the beauty of the game is to rescue stray cats and dogs so they can be loved and taken care of and eventually adopted to live out the rest of their life with their forever family. There is no promotion of breeding these dogs and cats, at all!

The Rescue Reef and Rescue Safari games are very similar, except the scenery changes. In these two games you rescue, rehabilitate and then breed the different species to bring the species back from almost extinction. Again, this is true of what’s happening on our decreasingly beautiful planet. We are expanding and sprawling into rainforests and highlands, and technology and transportation are allowing us to expand into deserts and tundras. There are many consequences of expansion: we encroach on animal habitats, away animal food sources, pollute waters, and these animals eventually die off or are shot because they are “in our way”. This has happened to species in rainforests, deserts, the mountains, and so on. So the game premise is right in line with what is happening on the planet. People are finally starting to realize this impact and trying to rehabilitate species back from extinction. It’s funny because the basics of these games are what I did at Nat Geo a year and a half ago in the education department.

These games are called kid strategy games by iTunes and I like that they are educating people, not even just kids about the the overpopulation of domestic household pets and the the almost extinction of those species around the globe, including those underwater. I love these games!

The “C” Word

NO! Not that word, get your mind out of the gutter… I’m talking about the word Conservation. Geography Awareness Week has been great but the icing on the cake has been the WWF Fuller Symposium I attended the last two days. I’ve learned so much and the only way I can express that is to tell you that over two days I heard 26 speakers and took 17 pages of notes! I had a great time, learned a lot, and now I’m feeling very inspired to, yet again, save the world. I won’t bore you with all of the notes I took because I know people are not as fascinated by sustainability and the environment as I am (I think I border obsessiveness) but I do think the repeated messages are important to the future of us as a race, the biodiversity on this planet, and the planet itself.

A topic that came up, by almost every speaker I might add, was the need for more science and more data. According to Wolfram Alpha, the field of conservation science is growing about 6%/year. Having more data will allow scientists to see if certain forests are recovering as expected, how many different animals there are in a certain park by sampling feces, checking out the toxicology of a river, whether hydropower and damming are creating enough energy to be worth it, when the best estimate is that the last polar bear will go extinct and why, and so on. There will be a huge need to fill in this gap of information with accurate and precise data. This information will be important to policy and decision-making and with this information comes the need for collaboration.

Repeatedly, people brought up collaboration. Countries need to collaborate with one another to create change; one example of this is the Jordan-Israel Peace Park. These two countries teamed up to create a Peace Park to help migratory birds across this area, which is such a great idea because two countries now have a stake in seeing that the park is successful. Another area of collaboration that was discussed was that scientists need to be in communication with policy makers and the policy makers need to be in communication with people and communities. There needs to be cooperation from every level and every area to make a positive impact on the planet. Conservation needs to be a part of the planning process not a detail we go back and try to fix afterwards – this is clearly a route that isn’t working for us.

The last topic I want to point out was that all the science and data does no good if we can’t get people to change. But you can’t force people to change, you can’t force data and facts at people, you can’t convince people to change unless you make it personal for them. People connect with stories and journeys and learning how they make an impact or can make less of an impact on a personal level. One speaker, Randy Olson, in particular mentioned that we need to be less scientific with conservation and be more artistic with it – poems, videos, sitcoms, etc… This is in sharp contrast to the second point I mentioned above, but what Randy Olson meant was that we need to be able to communicate the science of conservation.We need to make conservation available to the masses and make it less boring. There are no exciting movies on conservation and the one real focused movie out there, The Inconvenient Truth, isn’t even that great. It was profound at the time it was produced, but it only made an impact at the moment it was produced because it was “sciency” which was great for right after the five hurricanes hit the United States – but it wasn’t personal. As a future teacher, this would be a great opportunity to get students involved personally by writing a poem or creating a story or making a short video to post to YouTube. The possibilities are endlessly beautiful to make it more personal for people and make conservation more exciting.

So those were the top three repeated topics. There were many other intriguing speakers and wonderfully thought-provoking topics presented and I wish I could share all of them but I would recommend checking out the WWF’s website to see a full list of speakers. AND I would of course love to discuss everything I learned!

My parting thought: conservation has to be an everyone thing, not a some people thing.

Got Soy Milk?

So last weekend I bought my first container of soy milk. All biases and stereotypes aside, it was pretty good. It was like a watered down version of milk, but I drink skim milk anyways, so it wasn’t that different and I thought it was pretty dang good. I bought the vanilla flavored as opposed to the regular flavor, just in case – I didn’t want to waste my money on something I wouldn’t enjoy or finish. According to Alex, it had a nut flavor – I didn’t think so, but it was my first soy milk, so what do I know? However, I intend to buy organic milk in the future. Besides drinking the organic milk plain, here’s what else I did with the organic milk… 

  • I added some chocolate and made some pretty tasty chocolate milk.
  • I also added it to my egg-white omelet.
  • I added it to my Cheerios.
  • I used it in my hot chocolate.
  • I used it in my smoothie creation.
  • I used it as creamer in my coffee.
  • I added it to my ice cream to create a “blizzard” type concoction.
  • I even added it to my White Russian – which totally enhanced the flavor of the coffee liquor! Each and every time I could hardly tell a difference, if at all.

I believe I mentioned in a previous post that I would be talking about organic stuff and so this was not a random purchase, but it was indeed very intentional. I’ve been reading up about conservation and sustainability and it’s hitting me pretty hard. I call it the I-want-to-save-the-world plan or in the great words of Wangari Maathai, “be a hummingbird.”

Anyways, I’ve been reading and learning a lot about the differences in organic vs. inorganic foods. Meat was one of the items to come up, hence a previous post, and now milk has come under my radar. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert in any way, shape, or form,which is why I like to list books and websites that will be helpful and educational to other people, but reading up on the differences between organic milk and regular milk is pretty crazy. The websites I listed below are from National Geographic, so there is only a few, but they list other articles to check out and stumble through. Having now worked at NatGeo I know every piece of writing, from TV scripts to what is printed in the magazine to what is posted on the educational website, is fact-checked about three times over, IF not more. So I do not see the need to list additional resources besides those of NatGeo. Side story: One project I was working on, each fact needed to be fact-checked by at least four reputable resources! Being on that side of the fact-checking was definitely not my funnest job at NatGeo, but I definitely have more respect for NatGeo and the people who fact-check all day long!!!! 

Anyways, back to the soy milk… For those who just want to save the world, switching to organic foods is a great way to save the body and the world. Organic products are better for the environment because they do not create as much waste and they are more sustainable for the long-term because they do not do as much damage to the land in which the products are produced, whether that be fruits, vegetables, meat or dairy products.

Eating Organic Food by NatGeo – this article lists steps to have a more organic diet in general.

How Do I Eat Healthy and Organic? by NatGeo – this article is a very short read and similar to the previous website but it too lists steps to become healthier and eat more organic foods.

Organic vs. GMO by NatGeo – this article talks about what GMO (genetically modified organism) is and how that relates to being organic and healthy.

How To Buy Organic Without Breaking the Bank by NatGeo – well this article is just like it sounds :)) which is great because at this moment in my life I’m a very poor, struggling college student just trying to make a positive impact on the planet.

So this whole organic thing started because I wanted to save the world, and now it has developed into also wanting to be good to my mind and body, as well as good to Mother Earth. I’ve been eating more fruits and veggies lately – we bought apples, celery, bananas, pears, and onions in just one shopping trip! Which is pretty excessive for me, but I feel good about it. This health/save the world plan definitely won’t get be to drop the large bowl of ice cream with chocolate syrup and sprinkles, but it definitely is making me re-think the other things I put in my mouth and into my body and the impacts it has on others.

Ohio Exotic Animals

I’m literally outraged by this situation! It could have been prevented 100% and instead this terrible tragedy ensued and over 45 exotic animals died. Personal bias aside, I can see why someone would want to keep exotic animals, there is a mystery and a lure to owning them, as well as excitement – hell, I  want to own an African Lion – they’re so cute and look so cuddly. BUT I think the difference is wanting one vs actually owning one and common sense should tell people that owning a Lion is not such a good idea. When you weigh the pros and cons of this situation I believe cons definitely over rule the pros – based on the sole fact that these animals in particular are exotic and majority of them are going extinct! A huge project I’m working on here at Nat Geo is The Big Cats Initiative, which works to help  preserve the remaining few big cats left in the world, including African lions, mountain lions, and Bengal tigers – and more than 2 dozen of these animals died in this event – not very promising results for the work we are doing at Nat Geo and around the world.  

Here’s my biggest issue though, this man was cited numerous times for neglecting his animals, abusing his animals, and for having his animals at large, yet no one stepped in to do anything. Unfortunately, Ohio is a state that allows exotic pets – but it makes you wonder should exotic pets be allowed at all?!?! I’m opening up a simple poll to see if others feel the way I do. I think it’s an interesting topic and definitely one that needs more public attention. So I guess the positive coming out of this situation is that we can enforce some stricter laws to prevent this from ever happening again in the future – or so we hope.  

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/10/pictures/111020-exotic-animals-zanesville-ohio-nation-science-zoo/?source=hp_dl1_news_animals20111021#/exotic-animals-ohio-survived-leopard_42296_600x450.jpg

http://www.bornfreeusa.org/b4a2_exotic_animals_map.php

http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2010/10/21/americas_5000_backyard_tigers/