Help Create a Humane World: Celebrate Buy Nothing Day

On the day after Thanksgiving, most people will be joining the hordes that make up “Black Friday” — the biggest shopping day of the year. But, of course, we know that the path to a humane world isn’t paved by consumerism. So, if you’re looking for a way to encourage others to consume less, consider participating in Buy Nothing Day.

Buy Nothing Day is an annual observance held on “Black Friday” in order to encourage others to “opt out of consumer culture completely, even if only for 24 hours.” In addition to encouraging you to buy nothing for a day, the campaign also promotes events around the world, from hosting credit card cut ups, to zombie walks to other ways of bringing attention to the impact of our consumer culture.

Buy Nothing Day is sponsored by Adbusters. Visit their website for more information, resources, video clips, and to find out about their Buy Nothing Christmas campaign.

~ Marsha

Thanksgiving: In Remembrance of Turkeys

turkeyOn this day of Thanksgiving, when most people in the U.S. are sitting down together to consume enormous quantities of food, many of them will be eating turkeys. So, here’s a little food for thought, in remembrance of those being eaten today:

A quote:

“Think occasionally upon the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

A passage from a naturalist who had spent time with turkeys and has this to say about them:

“As we leave the confines of my language and culture, these graceful creatures become in every way my superiors. More alert, sensitive, and aware, they are vastly more conscious than I. They are in many ways, in fact, simply more intelligent. Theirs is an intricate aptitude, a clear distillation of purpose and design and is beyond by ability to comprehend.” (from The Pig Who Sang to the Moon, p. 72)

A poem (it says Christmas, but the sentiment is the same):

Talking Turkeys

by Benjamin Zephaniah

“Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas
Cos’ turkeys just wanna hav fun
Turkeys are cool, turkeys are wicked
An every turkey has a Mum.
Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas,
Don’t eat it, keep it alive,
It could be yu mate, an not on your plate
Say, Yo! Turkey I’m on your side.
I got lots of friends who are turkeys
An all of dem fear christmas time,
Dey wanna enjoy it, dey say humans destroyed it
An humans are out of dere mind,
Yeah, I got lots of friends who are turkeys
Dey all hav a right to a life,
Not to be caged up an genetically made up
By any farmer an his wife.

Turkeys just wanna play reggae
Turkeys just wanna hip-hop
Can yu imagine a nice young turkey saying,
‘I cannot wait for de chop’,
Turkeys like getting presents, dey wanna watch christmas TV,
Turkeys hav brains an turkeys feel pain
In many ways like yu an me.

I once knew a turkey called…….. Turkey
He said ‘Benji explain to me please,
Who put de turkey in christmas
An what happens to christmas trees?’,
I said ‘I am not too sure turkey
But it’s nothing to do wid Christ Mass
Humans get greedy an waste more dan need be
An business men mek loadsa cash’.

Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas
Invite dem indoors fe sum greens
Let dem eat cake an let dem partake
In a plate of organic grown beans,
Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas
An spare dem de cut of de knife,
Join Turkeys United an dey’ll be delighted
An yu will mek new friends ‘FOR LIFE’.”

I am grateful for all the people who are choosing a compassionate Thanksgiving this year.
I rejoice for all the turkeys who are lucky enough to live out their lives naturally and joyfully.
I mourn for every turkey whose life has been stolen from them for this day: you are not forgotten.

~ Marsha

One Tube of Toothpaste…

toothpasteLast week I was at the dentist, and it reminded me of an argument that my husband and I once had…about toothpaste. To get a better picture, it might help to know that John and I have (as of this post) been married for almost 23 years, and that we’re one of those couples who almost never argues, whom people point to and say “Soulmates.” or “Gosh, you’d think they’re newlyweds.” We have always traveled the humane path together. Our values are near mirror-perfect. People call us JohnandMarsha because we are, often, as one. (In a touching, inspiring way, not a sad, co-dependent way.)

So one day John came home from the dentist with his baggie of floss…and a little tube of toothpaste. From a multinational corporation. Who still uses animal ingredients. Who still uses toxic ingredients. Who’s responsible for creating a Superfund site. Being the loving, compassionate communicator that I am, I calmly asked why he hadn’t left the toothpaste at the dentists’ office (like I always do). He replied that he hadn’t thought much about it, and besides, it would be handy for travel, anyway.

I’d like to say that I handled the rest of that conversation with love and compassion. After all, this is my soulmate. My beloved. The guy who walks the same walk with me. I didn’t. Although I was trying to be calm and non-judgmental, I questioned him in a way that made him feel defensive. And I felt betrayed. How could someone who has made a long-lived habit of making humane choices make such an unconscious choice? Suddenly, this little tube of toothpaste had blown up into a GIANT BIG DEAL. He was upset. I was upset. It took us a good hour of talking it out (or not) to discover that our shared humane perspective wasn’t quite as in synch as we had thought.

My take: Our (his and my) humane choices are a journey. In different areas (food, clothes, transportation, recreation, etc.) we’re at different levels. Once we achieve a certain level of MOGOness in a certain area – once a new choice has become an old habit, that’s the default choice (until we’re ready to continue up the humane/MOGO path).

His take: Our (his and my) humane choices are a journey. In different areas (food, clothes, transportation, recreation, etc.) we’re at different levels. Although we continue to strive to make more MOGO choices, we’re nowhere close to perfect in all areas, so what’s the big deal about an occasional backslide, if it’s not actively causing harm?

I’m not sure I agree with his take, but I certainly understand the reasoning behind some of his choices much better. And we both agree that:

  1. It’s waaay too easy to demonize people for their choices – even (especially?) those we dearly love.
  2. While we might be on the same (or a similar) level with someone, we might each interpret the choices for individual circumstances differently.
  3. Forward progress is ideal. A little backsliding may not be ideal, but it’s not the end of the world. And, a little wiggle room is necessary.
  4. Clear, calm, compassionate communication: GOOD. Talking things out until everyone feels understood: GOOD.
  5. In the grand scheme…it was one tube of toothpaste.

~ Marsha

Mini-MOGO Habit: To Book or Not to Book

stacksbooksI absolutely adore reading. I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and I love stories of all sorts (which is why I also love movies). My babysitter taught me to read (and potty trained me at the same time) by plopping me down on the toddler pot with a bunch of books. (Sorry if that’s TMI.) Books have a fond place in my heart,  but I almost never buy them anymore, because I’m not fond of the environmental impact. It takes a lot of resources (and kills a lot of trees) to produce and transport books; they take up space in your house, and then there’s the issue of what to do with them when you’re ready to let go of them. So what are some MOGO options when it comes to books?

As a former librarian, of course I’m going to recommend that you check out your local library as your primary source for tasty reading material. If your particular library doesn’t have what you’re looking for, there are often library-sharing options available. (I live in an area in which libraries around the county have formed a cooperative to share their resources.) You can also get most any title you want through Interlibrary Loan (your library borrows the item from another library, and then you borrow it from your library). If you haven’t been to a library in awhile, you might be surprised at all the materials and resources you have to choose from (some libraries even make it possible to download books to listen to on your computer or mp3 player). Of course, there are options like borrowing from a friend, too.

If you absolutely must own the title in question, then consider some different options. If it has to be brand spanking new (because it’s a gift or such), then try to buy it from an independent book store, rather than one of the big chains. If it doesn’t have to be in pristine condition, thrift stores and used book stores can often provide the book you want. You get a lower price, and you’re helping give the book another life. Online book sharing and swapping sites like Book Mooch and Book Crossing mean that you can give away books and get books from others. Plus, it’s fun to share.

When you’re ready to pass your book on, there are plenty of choices, from sharing it with friends or family, to swapping it, to donating it to your local library’s used bookstore or to a thrift store. There are also social entrepreneurship businesses like Better World Books, which collect used books and sell them in order to fund literacy programs, and plenty of non-profit programs that seek to collect books and share them with people who need them.

If your book isn’t in reusable condition, then you can contact your local recyclers to see if it can be recycled. If it can’t, then consider searching online for art project ideas (ones that are actually useful, not ones that will just add to your collection of stuff).

You can also contact organizations like the Green Press Initiative and Eco-Libris to find out how to encourage book publishers to make sustainable choices. And, you can encourage online book sellers to provide more e-books.

Of course, there is something positive in buying the books of authors you want to support and having books at home that you know you’ll refer to repeatedly; just make your book choices conscious ones.

~ Marsha

Take a Bite Out of Global Warming: Go Vegan!

burningplanet

Reading about the connection between eating animals and global climate change in the media has become an almost weekly occurrence. Yet Westerners are still extremely reluctant to give up their burgers, nuggets and shakes, and government and organizations are still primarily focusing on other contributors to global warming, such as the impact of transportation. Because this is still such a controversial topic, it’s important to be well-informed. Below are a sampling of research reports and news articles that have covered the topic.

Another Inconvenient Truth: Meat is a Global Warming Issue
Commentary from E Magazine that includes references to several studies about the connection between meat & global warming. Includes a link to their 2002 feature on reasons for environmentalists to go veg.

Climate Change: The Inconvenient Truth About What We Eat
Looks at the role agriculture plays in global warming and advocates a plant-based diet.

Cool Foods Campaign
A new campaign from the Center for Food Safety. Learn about steps you can take to reduce your “food print.”

Diet, Energy & Global Warming
A 2005 report from the University of Chicago compares the impact of our dietary choices and reveals the
significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions of eating animal products.

Factory Farming & Environment
A list of links to news stories about meat eating and the environment.

Hoofprints: Livestock & Its Environmental Impacts
A report from Friends of the Earth about the impact of livestock production on the environment.

The Impact of Animal Agriculture on Global Warming and Climate Change
A research report from the Humane Society of the U.S.

Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options
The 2007 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations that reported about the enormous impact of animal agriculture on global warming.

Meat & the Environment
Quick info on the impact of eating meat on land, water, global warming & other environmental issues.

Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America
The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production has released a report (2008) about the impact of animal agriculture on health, the environment, animal welfare and family farms.

Rethinking the Meat Guzzler
A New York Times article about the environmental impact of eating meat.

Take a Bite Out of Climate Change
Information, analysis and more about the connection between the climate crisis and what’s on our plates.
(from Anna Lappe & the Small Planet Institute)

~ Marsha

Tips for Terrific Thanksgiving Celebrations, Part 3: 7 Tips for the Vegan Hosting Meat Eaters

If you’re a vegan cook having omni guests over for Thanksgiving, it can be a bit worrisome to wonder if they’re going to pre-judge the food before they’ve even walked in the door. For omnivores traversing the path of a vegan-only meal for the first time, dining with vegans — especially for a big holiday like Thanksgiving –- can provoke feelings of trepidation. They may be asking: “What on earth are they going to feed us? How’s it going to taste? Will I starve?”  You as the vegan host want everyone to have a good time and enjoy the delicious food, so, here are a few tips for making sure that happens.

  1. Ask guests about food restrictions or dietary preferences. Just as you’d want them to be aware of your special needs, be sure to ask them about theirs.
  2. Make dishes you KNOW omnis will find delicious and enjoyable. You can’t please everyone’s palate, but a special day like Thanksgiving is not the time to experiment with something new.
  3. Consider providing a faux turkey entree AND other entrees. Tofurky and other faux meats are often either love ’em or hate ’em kinds of foods; don’t assume that your omni guests will find them as tantalizing as you do. However, if your omni friends have a major attachment to a turkey as the center point of the holiday, they may be pleasantly surprised to try one of the faux options.
  4. Be sure to include some traditional favorites. If your omni guests find some of the foods that they’re “used to” at your Thanksgiving feast (mashed potatoes, pies, cranberry something or other, etc.), it may help them to feel more relaxed about trying vegan dishes.
  5. Spend some time on the ambiance. You don’t have to create a centerpiece reproduction of the “First Thanksgiving” a la Martha Stewart, but some natural decorations that evoke thoughts of harvest, and a well-laid table can show them you’re serious about having a good time.
  6. Refrain from comments about people who are serving animals and/or their products for Thanksgiving (“Thank you, Creator, that we can all come together and not have to endure looking at some poor tortured creature.”) Make your omni guests feel just as welcomed and appreciated as your veg friends.
  7. Relax. If you’ve done your best to provide tasty food and a good time, the rest is up to them.

~ Marsha

Life Can Be Fair If We Make It That Way

scalesSomething I remember my mom telling me quite often as a child is “Life isn’t fair.” I would always argue with her, because I didn’t believe it had to be unfair. If everyone just treated everyone nicely, then life would be fair, darn it!

I’ve heard people use the “Life isn’t fair” refrain to excuse all manner of atrocities and injustices. People are homeless? That sucks, but life isn’t fair. Your corporation just cut 5,000 jobs, including yours? Dang, that’s rough; but that’s the breaks, dude. As an adult, I’ve come to respond to that “Life isn’t fair” statement — which gets tossed out as an easy, blithe way to absolve us all of any personal responsibility – with the following: “But it can be.”

The other day, when reading a book by fantasy author Mercedes Lackey, I came across this passage of dialogue between two characters:

“Life isn’t fair.”
“Why not?”
“Because it isn’t.”
“And the more people that say that, the more people there are who use that as their excuse to be cruel, mean and ugly. ‘Life isn’t fair’ is nothing but an excuse people make to justify bad things they do. But why shouldn’t life be fair? What’s keeping it from being fair? Those same cruel, mean and evil people….And the more people there are who try to make life fair, the more likely it is that it will become fair.” (Foundation, p. 51)

I wouldn’t judge others quite so harshly as to widely proclaim that all roads to injustice point to “cruel, mean and evil people.” There are plenty of ways that we all condone and cultivate injustice without meaning to. But what especially resonated with me was the last sentence: “And the more people there are who try to make life fair, the more likely it is that it will become fair.”

If we want a world that’s compassionate, sustainable, kind, just and fair, then it’s up to us to make choices in our daily lives that nurture and support such a world (and to help create systems that do the same).

So, the next time someone gives you the old “Life isn’t fair” platitude, show them differently. Make life fair.

~ Marsha