An open letter to the graduating class of 2021
A 30 minute read:
If you didn’t already know it, you may be learning it now. That life turns on a dime. Without a moments notice, the rug can be pulled right out from under your feet.
That may be the biggest lesson of the past year.
In taking a look back at my childhood, I have fond memories of traveling to visit my grandmother, and then walking down a flight of creaky old steps into the basement of her little home. Once downstairs, I would find boxes full of old photographs, and artwork, and all kinds of antique objects,- it was a magical world for a little boy!
The main attraction for me were the shelves where she had neatly stored hundreds of back issues of “Readers Digest.” They had a series of stories in them called ‘Drama in Real Life,’ that I really loved reading, all containing courageous stories of survival!
On the way in and out of the basement I would pass by a shelf full of paper towels, covering the entire length of an old, dank cinderblock wall.
We used to lovingly refer to my little grandmother as a ‘pack-rat.’ As a little girl she had grown up in extreme depression-era poverty in the hills of South Carolina. She didn’t throw anything away if there was the slightest chance that it could be useful one day. And I do mean, the slightest!
Well as the story goes, one day we were all gathered around in the living room of her small home, shamelessly teasing her about her pack-rat ways, when someone turned to her and said, “What do you think is gonna happen? Do you think we’re going to run out of paper towels??”
And we all started laughing our asses off.
But then I have this super vivid memory of her,- this sweet, kind, quirky little old lady looking over at me, knowingly nodding her head, and with a twinkle in her eye, she said;-
“Well,… it can happen.”
In the blink of an eye, everything that is normal, can be not so normal.
God promises us nothing, but the here and now.
We get so comfortable in the present, sometimes we forget that it can all disappear in an instant.
At this time in your life, you may be struggling with choices regarding career, and continuing education, and where and how you should live your life,- all of the things a person would normally be wondering about at your age,-… but amidst the fear and uncertainties created by a global pandemic. Like everyone else, you have no precedent to look to. No guide. And you may be asking yourself,- “how will I find my place?,”… “How will I fit my life into this world?”
You may be feeling as if you just stepped out of a cave, your eyes blinking in the sunlight. It’s a strange, new world.
On top of all of these things, it’s possible that you may be looking around and recognizing that there are some very important issues facing the world. These can include things you learned about in class, or perhaps things that you learned about on your own:- things like the slow destruction of our planet, and the impacts of air pollution, and water pollution, and global warming. And you may be feeling dwarfed by the enormity of it all.
And wondering,.. “Is there anyway I can live my life in this world,.. in a way that actually makes a difference?”
The reason I am writing you today because I want you to know the answer is yes!
You can make a difference!
But should you choose to take on the challenge,- really take your shot at making this world a better place,- there’s something you should know about. Something you should be prepared for, so you’ll recognize it when the time comes.
Just to give you a little heads up.
See, the thing is,- let’s say you’re an idealist, for lack of a better word,- beginning as soon as you graduate, the ‘system’ that rules this world is going to try to make you forget about the ideals that are in your head right now.
Nope,- it’s not anything spooky or weird.
And nope,- it’s not a conspiracy theory.
It’s just a plain simple fact of life.
And here is how it works:
The world is going to try to make you forget the questions you are asking. It will try to make you forget the things you want to change. It will try to make you forget about any form of activism or risk-taking.
Responsibility will rear it’s ugly head!
The world will try to get you to lower your vision; to drop your eyes away from the distant future, and it will try to get you to narrow your focus right down to the path at your feet. The way it will do this is by using your own good common sense against you.
As you move into the next stage of your life, there will be student loans to pay, there will be utility bills to pay, and planes to catch, the next house to show, and expensive healthcare payments to make.
There will be some practical issues that you will need to pay attention to. And they will be competing with the desire you are having now, to make the world a better place.
Using these practical things, the system will make you feel just like you’re in a little spaceship. Like you’re flying close to a black hole that’s trying to suck you in! Get its hooks into you! Keep your mind on making the next sale. Getting the next paycheck. Making you forget where you were headed.
That’s how it starts.
And then there will be the fears.
What if you waste your life? Focusing on the goal of making the world a better place, when you could have been focusing on acquisition? And accumulation?
The people around you who experience these fears may even project them onto you.
Try to get you to wake up. Snap out of it!
You see, when you start to feel small in the world, you start to feel vulnerable. When that happens, you shift your focus to self-interest.
It will be a wake-up call. The cozy confines of school, with it’s sheltered community and lively discussions of academia,- those things will be a thing of your past life. Out in the real world, things work different.
Welcome to reality my friend!
And speaking of friends;-
There may be pressure from your friends.
You may see them scratching their heads,- wondering what to do with you!
There may be pressure from your family.
Possibly from romantic partners.
The people around you will need you to fall in line.
But don’t listen to them! Instead, the best advice I can give you is listen to your own inner voice, and listen to your heart.
My first wish for you today, and the main reason I am writing to you, is that no matter what challenges life throws at you, I hope you will always remember who you are at this time in your life. Never forget that child that’s inside of you,- and never stop believing that you can make a difference in this world!
You are a one-in-a-million person, and I want you to know that I believe in you, and that I truly believe that this pandemic, or anything else that helps you find your inner strength, can be the best thing that can ever happen to you and to this world.
My generation, like every generation before it, has dropped the ball. You may be our last hope.
This time is your calling!
“You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way.”
…. (Jonathon Livingston Seagull)
As I’m writing to you today, I’m sitting on the beach on the outer banks of North Carolina. It’s a bright sunny day with a cool breeze: my toes are buried in the sand and I’m surrounded by all manner of seabirds. Yellowlegs, standing like sentries at the surfs edge. Seagulls flying all around me, and pelicans diving down from high above, smacking straight down into the ocean headfirst!
Best of all, there’s a cute little sand crab about 10 feet away from me. His eyes are like two little black dots, perched on top of two long stems. He’s very shy, and I know that he wishes that I would just go away! He keeps peeping up out at me from his little hole, and cautiously scooting out around about a foot or so.. Then if I move even just one little finger, he just zzzzips back into his hole! I’ve named him “mr. skittles!” 🙂 🙂 🙂
As a child, for years I spent my summers here, vacationing on the outer banks with my family. Names like ‘Manteo’ and ‘Wanchese’ were like household words to me. I grew up collecting shells at Nags Head. Scampering around the lighthouse at Hatteras. Skipping stones on the Roanoke sound. Exploring the wonders of the tidepools. Everywhere falling in love with nature..
Now as an adult I am reading that the oceans are threatened by acid rain, the sea levels are rising because of global warming and melting icecaps, and the coral reefs of the world are slowly dying away. Experts are predicting that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish!
And I’m asking myself,…
“What are we doing here?”
A Few Things to Cover
A science class experiment:-
bacteria in a petri dish.
Bacteria are one-celled (unicellular) microorganisms that can only be seen with a microscope, but as they reproduce they can form rapidly into huge, fuzzy colonies that can be easily seen with the naked eye. The purpose of doing this science experiment is to demonstrate to students how quickly bacteria can reproduce, in a geometric progression, when one cell splits into two cells through a process called binary fission.
This process of growth can begin quickly,- in as little as 20 minutes!
The way the experiment works is that, under the care of a qualified instructor, sterile powdered agar is mixed with water and nutrients, and heated and poured into an empty petri dish. Then a source of bacteria is added. The most common method of adding bacteria is to place a dirty coin right in the middle of the dish. The bacteria will start to grow immediately, and over a period of days the students can watch as the dish fills up with the fuzzy bacteria.
As the nutrients are devoured, the fuzzy bacteria completely fill the dish. And then finally, when the nutrients are depleted, the colony dies off.
End of experiment.
Global warming, is a real thing.
Habitat destruction, is a real thing.
We are living in a closed system.
Are we are nothing more than mindless bacteria? Gobbling up our resources and expanding? Until there is nothing left?
Is building a future for our great grandchildren on Mars the best plan we can come up with?
The adults of my generation, just like every generation before us, are spending our days sitting on a set of railroad tracks with our heads down. We are looking at our phones, checking our graphs to see how our stocks are doing, plotting our next move, planning our retirement, paying our bills, mowing our lawns and trimming our hedges, and all-in all, doing well in keeping up with the Joneses.
Presently using our charts and graphs to determine how we can maximize earnings during covid.
Should I buy?,- or should I sell?
And all the while, there is a headlight of a train that has appeared in the distance. It’s just a faint twinkling-star kind of light at the moment; a bit far away. And with a few drips of water from a melting glacier,.. (going plink,.. plink,.. plink,..), and a few photographs in a magazine of a lonely, isolated polar bear living out his life in some faraway land of melting ice,.. there’s nothing really to worry about. It’s all too distant. The train is only a faint tremor in the ground at our feet.
Will we wait, to turn our heads at the very last moment?
When the ground at our feet begins to shake and rumble with a roar?
I’m writing you today because our world needs a generation of brave, young, fearless leaders. A generation that is not afraid to be different, not afraid to be looked down upon by their elders or their peers for doing something different, and pursue something other than the greed and lust for gold and power and comfort, that so much characterizes our world. A generation that is not afraid to break ranks.
Don’t let anyone, or anything, tell you that you can’t do it!
Now is your time!
“A group of people live under the earth in a cavelike dwelling. … The people have been trapped in this cave since childhood, shackled by the legs and the neck.. Thus, there is only one thing they can look at. [They watch straight ahead as a fire casts shadows on the wall.] And these shadows, the flickering images of puppets on the wall, are the only reality they know.”
… from Plato’s “The Republic”, 375 BC.
“Their power of illusion is so great, we can’t be sure of anything we do, or anything we see.”
… from Star Trek “The Menagarie”, 1966.
“The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. A prison for your mind.”
… from “The Matrix”, 1999.
“But I recycle!” is what people say,-
“I do my part!”
Recycling: the opiate of the masses.
There are so many things that can distract us from the consequences of our actions. Keep us feeding this carbon-burning machine with our hard-earned dollars!
That is why I refer to recycling as the “opiate of the masses.”
See,- when us ‘adults’ (as we like to call ourselves) are in our survival mode, that’s when we are most vulnerable to these kind of things. And I am just as guilty as everyone else,- and that’s why I want to talk to you about it. Because when I look in the mirror I recognize it in myself, I want to pass along what I’ve seen.
Figuring out how to keep life moving forward from one day to the next. Making our mortgage or rent payment, and our health insurance payment. Finding something extra to put into our retirement account. And hoping to have a little something left over to pass along to our kids when they’re all grown-up. We need to have something in our mind to help us believe we are on the right side,- something to help us believe we are doing the right thing for the world.
And that is the need that recycling serves!
It’s not about us though, or our children. It’s about our grandchildren.
The truth is that new production of plastic far exceeds the impact of recycling. There is no magic wand that saves the garbage we throw in recycling bins.
It is an illusion.
As you move on to this next step in your life, what I am asking you to do, is consider embracing the role of being a conscientious consumer. A primary form of activism that we should all undertake.
Carry within yourself the recognition and belief that everything you buy, from your coffee in the morning, to your food in the afternoon, to the automobile that you drive to school or work, has an impact on this world!
I want you to know that you have an amazing energy passing through you! And you can use this energy to make this world a better place. By connecting your personal purchases with their past, as well as to their future consequences. In this way, you are doing something more!
This is the vote that counts the most,- more than anything!
Every dollar you spend on an environmentally friendly product helps spawn and grow that industry!
So what I’m asking you is,-
Please keep recycling! Especially if you have a plastic water bottle! Or, just rinse it out and use it over!
But every time you drop an item in that recycling bin, I’m asking you to let that act, in the very essence of that moment, be a reminder that recycling is only a small first step! Just a drop in the bucket!
Your purchasing power is the sacrifice that you make, and the vote that you cast, every single day, and every single moment of your life!
The money that you spend has the power to bring life or death to the animals, planet, and people of this world. It is your energy, and your connection to the past, present, and future. And as this energy flows through you, it shapes and creates the world around you.
Your life is interconnected with this world!
Forgetting about this connection is one of the biggest problems in the world today. The primary foundation for apathy.
When we start to believe that our lives as individuals have no meaning, and no impact on the world, this is the beginning of the loss of hope, and the onset of skepticism.
But your life does have meaning!
Don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise!
This piece is about lifestyle and our choices as individuals. Setting an example for others. We have to join together in halting the buying, producing, and use of single use plastics. We have to stop cutting down ancient forests, stop polluting our air with fossil fuels, and stop polluting our water with chemicals.
And we have to stop waiting for someone else to take the first step.
And the time is now.
Because we are out of time.
We know, as a race, how to produce clean energy. We simply choose not to. While we pursue the scientific advances necessary to make things better, and easier, and cheaper to implement, we have to remember that it’s not really our science that’s lagging behind,- it’s our social institutions. Our social constructs regarding profit. And most of all, our choices. As nations. As states. And as individuals.
And in the meanwhile, …
We need you now, more than ever.
We need a generation of awakened, wise youth, who can turn their eyes away from the shadows on the wall, smash thru the glass of the menagerie, disconnect from the matrix, and walk out, into the sunlight. And most of all, cast your eyes up from the concerns in the path right at your feet, to connect with a more distant future.
Every time you invest your money, or your efforts, in an environmentally friendly product that’s expensive now, you help make it cheaper for the next generation. You grow that industry.
Conscientious consumerism is not dead. The hope that springs from it starts with you. The things that you pay for, pay for an energy that you create, that you feed, and a future that you have the power to give life to…
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all.”
One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
A Few More Things to Cover:
Perspectives – Galileo – Walls
Among the most important social-cognitive abilities a child develops as they grow, is the ability to step out of one’s own perspective to view another perspective. One of the primary differences in higher reasoning differentiating humans from animals is that we can put ourselves in the ‘‘mental shoes’’ of others and imagine how others perceive, think, or feel about an object, event, or situation.
Depending on one’s level of cognitive development, the same object or event can be seen or construed in multiple ways, and in the study of child psychology and developmental psychology in particular, researchers have derived a number of different techniques for addressing the question of how and when children come to acquire an understanding of perspectives. Their progress can be mapped along the way.
In one study, a researcher places a simple arrangement of objects in front of a child, placing a cone-shaped object on a table right in front of the child, and a cube-shaped object at the opposite end of the table, away from the child. The researcher then asks the child to draw a picture of the objects.
After the child draws a picture of the objects, the researcher then asks the child to draw the objects, “as if” they were sitting on the other end of the table. This question requires the child to imagine what the objects would look like from the opposite perspective. Although it’s not always easy to quantify the results, a child’s progress in understanding different perspectives can be understood and mapped in this fashion.
Studies differ along a wide range of indicators, but many have found that the development in the ability of children to understand perspectives often accelerates between the ages of 3 to 5 years.
This development continues into more advanced emotional and cognitive stages throughout life..
Once upon a time,…
When I was in high school as a student traveling in Europe with my family, I once had the honor of standing alone for one beautiful moment, in front of the tomb of Galileo Galilei, in the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence, Italy.
In a state of awe,- probably with my jaw hanging open!
This moment was one of many memorable moments in time that I experienced during my visit to Italy.
Attractions like the statue of David, the Sistine Chapel. Rome and the Vatican and St. Peters, all visions etched into my mind forever… The reason this particular moment stands out to me though, is not because of anything so special that really happened while I was there that day,- it was just more because of the sense of honor that I felt for this amazing human being.
If you didn’t already know, Galileo was a brilliant man,- convicted and sentenced in 1633 by the Roman Inquisition to live out his life under house arrest.
For what crime?
Galileo stated that the earth was not the center of the universe.
Galileo was a proponent of what we call the ‘heliocentric theory’.
Like Copernicus and as well as a few other early astronomers, Galileo believed in models of our solar system that suggested that, instead of the sun orbiting around the earth, which was the prevalent thought of the day, it is actually the other way around: he said that the earth is in orbit around the sun.
As you may know, during the time period of history that Galileo lived, the Church was considered to be the most powerful entity of the day.
It had the power to take life.
The power to torture.
The power to imprison.
And yet in spite of all of these risks, Galileo stood up for his beliefs, and publicly stated what he knew to be true.
It was an act of incredible bravery.
I remember standing there and asking myself,- who amongst us would have the strength and courage to do that?
Where is this going?
There is nothing quite like the feeling of putting your hand on the bricks of an actual oven used to incinerate people during the holocaust.
That was the moment when it became real for me.
Before that, I had only read about it in books. It didn’t seem so real.
This was another of my experiences traveling in Europe with my family as a teen.
In Germany, the historical remains of Hitler’s concentration camps have been preserved, and serve as a reminder of what can happen, hidden unseen behind walls. In remote locations outside of our view.
There is some debate over how much ordinary German citizens knew about the atrocities being committed in Hitler’s camps. And at what stages they became aware of it. But in any case, historians believe it is almost certain that in the beginning they knew less than they did later, as the agenda was developed and advanced.
When things happen in a way that is hidden from us,- what I am asking you to do, is to remember that they are hidden for a reason!
Ask yourself,- why is the perpetrator of this act keeping things hidden?
The answer is they are hidden so that they don’t trigger us!
So they don’t trigger our thoughts, and our emotions, and our awareness. Our actions. Don’t get us thinking too much.
If we don’t look, it makes it easier for us to go along with things. Be at peace with ourselves. Just go with the flow.. Block it out of your mind!
We can pretend certain things are not happening, even though we know, (in the back of our minds), that it really, truly is happening. We just don’t want to think about it. Gradually, we just accept it.
A wall blocking things out makes it easier for us to function in a day-to-day sense, and stay comfortable and cozy.
Bringing Things Together
“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” ….. Nikola Tesla
Did you know that Nikola Tesla, the man we consider the mastermind of frequency and vibration,- would not sit down and eat a steak dinner?
Did you know that Albert Einstein, the Nobel Prize winner regarded as the founder of modern physics,- was a firm believer in animal rights?
Buddha, Tolstoy, Da Vinci, Gandhi, Twain, Plato, Pythagoras, Socrates, Shelley,.. the list goes on. History is littered with the names of brilliant people who were either vegan, or vegetarian, or who shared a belief somehow in the concept of animals as sentient beings.
And then there’s me! Lol!
The North Carolina vegan web designer & blogger, slash server extraordinaire!
On a more serious note,- at this point I would like to introduce a personal belief that I have held dear to my heart for for quite a long time;-
And that is, I believe people are hard-wired to detect insincerity faster than anything…
We are all programmed for it.
I believe our inner voices send us messages, tipping us off, letting us know when we should be wary about a person or situation.
Don’t you believe this as well?
Have you ever said to yourself, “I don’t trust this situation,- something seems a bit off.” ?
Or maybe,- “Feels a bit sketchy…”
That was your inner voice talking to you. Your intuition.
Because I hold this belief close to my heart, as I’m writing this note to you I’m asking myself,- how can I represent myself honestly and straightforwardly in this blog? In this letter?;- share my thoughts, my hopes and dreams, all without a false veneer?
Not pretending to be something more, or something less, than what I am.
The reason why?
I wouldn’t want you or anyone else to trust my words here today, only to find out tomorrow that I had a hidden agenda the entire time. At that point, I would risk losing your trust forever.
Therefore in the interest of transparency, I would like to discuss and share upfront how my personal diet and lifestyle choices speak centrally to this message.
In my own mind, I refer to the effort as an attempt at ‘living a higher life.’ With the primary goal of acting as a ‘benevolent caretaker’ of the life on this amazing planet.
This is at the crux of the my life philosophy. The point of sharing it is my reason for writing.
In this effort, I became vegetarian 28 years ago, and transitioned to a fully vegan lifestyle around 10 years ago.
There’s hardly a day that goes by, that someone doesn’t ask me,-“Why did you do it?”
“What do you eat?”
“How do you get your protein?”
And it may surprise you how often someone says, “I tried it myself once, and I only lasted for about three days!!”
In speaking to these ‘frequently asked questions’, I would like to discuss the ways in which I believe lifestyle choices have the greatest impact on your personal health, and your energy, and importantly, the ways in which this energy passes through you,- in the same manner as being a conscientious consumer, reaching back from the past, to the present and future; including as well how it sets an example for others, as well as impacts the world around you.
If you care about recycling, or being a conscientious consumer that doesn’t purchase a plastic bottle, how could you not care about what you eat? It is the same connection only ten-fold!
The reasons I became vegan are for the animals;- for the planet;- and for my health!
And it is so easy!
And so rewarding!
Vegan for the animals
Some people say you have to be uncomfortable to grow. I just say,- sometimes life can be a rollercoaster,- and you have to hold on tight for the ride!!
In explaining vegan for the animals, I like to answer a question with a question:-
The Question: What is vegan for the animals?
The Answer: What’s the difference between a piece of smoked tempeh on your plate,- and a piece of bacon?
The answer is that the piece of tempeh didn’t have to be forced down a dark hallway with an electric shock wand, shrieking and crying and begging for its life the entire time, only to end up watching as its friends get their throats slit right before its eyes.
Or get gassed. Or get boiled squirming alive.
That energy,.. is what you are eating.
Did you know that an adult pig has basically the same emotions, and intelligence, of a 3 year old child?
Did you know that cows are basically big dogs?
But while the cows get repeatedly “inseminated”, or whatever choice of words you prefer,- spanning the course of their entire lives,- their bright, playful puppy eyes just gradually grow dim. The light goes out, and they lose all hope. We keep them perpetually impregnated, so that our species can enjoy the luxury of milk and cheese.
When it’s possible to do so, the mother cows may attempt to hide their newborn children, because they know from past experience that the handlers are coming to take the newborn children away. After they are taken anyway, the mothers will cry for days,- just like your mother would.
This process continues over and over until the day comes when, just like their egg-laying counterparts, their abused bodies, like spent cogs in a machine, just give out and they get slaughtered and ground up.
Animals beg us, and plead for their lives. They are as smart as our children and as emotionally sentient as all of us. Yet the majority of us feel and hear nothing when they speak to us.
Believing that this mass assembly-line treatment of animals is ok, is a construct that we get indoctrinated into beginning with our own births. We are taught to see only the final, packaged product, rather than the history of energy infused into it.
People say things like,-
“But we have the right to use the other species!..” (utilitarian).
Or,- “God put the animals here for us to use!..” (religious).
Or,- “We are setting their souls free!..” (new-agey).
Occasionally someone will scamper up to me, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and with a gleam in their eye they will say,-
“But plants have feelings too!”
These are all great topics for future discussion, (for the blog for sure),- but to stay focused for now, I think what I am asking of you here at this moment, is that whatever choice you make for your own life, (and I do believe it is your choice, and your own life!) and for your own diet, (and I do believe it is your own choice, and your own diet!) what I’m asking is please don’t let a wall go up in your mind, blocking you from making an informed decision, and blocking you from seeing the truth for what it really is. A wall keeping you from getting uncomfortable.
I feel that inside of many of us, there is an inner child that can feel the pain that we put animals through.
But to continue with our behavior we have to suppress that inner child and block it out. Justify it.
“I don’t want to think about it!,” is the most common phrase people say to me. By not thinking about it, they can pretend it doesn’t exist.
This is why I ask you to peek behind the wall.
If you can’t face what’s there, if you don’t want to watch a video, or see the truth with your own eyes, just be aware that you may be protecting something. A dissonance. Between your heart, and your mind. A wall protecting your thoughts and emotions.
Make it real. Discover your truth and live it steadfastly!
And don’t trust any authority that tries to keep things hidden from you.
Animal rights activists take great risks upon themselves by taking video behind these walls.
It’s all about gaining a perspective from another viewpoint.
It seems to me as if we are still acting as if we are at the center of God’s universe. As if we are something special. Centered.
As a race, we have established a set of utilitarian, religious, and new-age viewpoints that have not changed their essential position since the days of the Inquisition.
As we think of ourselves as the center of the universe, we glorify ourselves as a superior species. When we can just as easily act as humble, kind, loving and benevolent caretakers.
“Be kind to every kind,- we are here to serve.”
This is my symbology,- the motto of my life,- the karma that I hope to pass along to you in this letter and in this site…
My reason for being.
“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it.”
Vegan for the planet
If you don’t wish to become vegan for the animals,- what about becoming vegan for the planet?
There is a growing body of evidence that indicates animal agriculture is a primary contributor to the deforestation of our planet, as well as a major contributor to the greenhouse gases causing global warming.
Forests cover more than 30 percent of the land area of our planet. They help purify the air we breath and the water we drink, and they provide a home for an amazing diversity of wildlife. They also play a critical role in preventing climate change because they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Unfortunately the world’s forests, and especially the tropical rainforests, are under siege. The tropical rainforests, in fact, are at the epi-center of the fight to save the environment. They’re being cut down to make room for cattle to graze. In addition, the forests are also being cut down to grow crops,- to feed the very same cattle!
There is evidence to suggest that if this land, and those crops were simply used to feed humans in the first place, it could be done in a more sustainable manner, feed more people, cut down fewer trees, and help us slow the progress of global warming.
The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that an area approximately the size of Switzerland is lost to deforestation each and every year.
Agricultural animal waste poses yet another challenge to the environment. When toxic contaminants from farm waste find their way into groundwater and waterways, they pollute our drinking water and kill off aquatic life, contributing to oxygen-deprived dead zones along the coast.
Most importantly, the animal agriculture sector, which includes the production of feed crops, the manufacturing and use of fertilizer, as well as the shipment of meat, eggs, and milk, is pointed to by scientists as a primary contributor of green house gas emissions and the warming of the Earth. Many experts agree that animal agriculture is unsustainable, and slowly choking the life out of our planet.
Vegan for your health
If you don’t want to go vegan for the animals, and you don’t want to go vegan for the planet,- what about going vegan for your own health?
It is now widely accepted that a plant-based diet offers numerous benefits when compared to a diet based on animal products, and can be helpful with the prevention and treatment of a host of modern lifestyle diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and hypertension. As well as promoting beneficial weight loss.
I can personally attest to this benefit of weight loss!,-
For me, the last time I ate a burger, the calendar said 1992!
Since that day, I have shed over 60 pounds!
At 55 years old, I feel like I am literally in the best physical condition of my entire life. Except for the last phase of my workout routine when I attempted to ‘rip out’, I have never gone on a strict diet, and never felt hungry. I lost weight gradually the entire time for years as my body leveled itself out. My workouts are light, and airy, and enjoyable. And I never had to train like I was going to an Olympic weight-lifting competition!
I feel great, I sleep great, my mind feels clear.
That same satisfaction you get from eating a steak or burger? I get that feeling every day,- from eating very hearty, very satisfying plant-based meals! Without eating beef, chicken, pork, or fish. Or wearing any accessories composed of their by-products.
Don’t get me wrong,- I approach you with all humility.
I’m no superman!
And I leave much to be desired. I’m not tall, and I’m not rich! I don’t have the biggest muscles and I don’t have the rugged good looks of a movie star. Let’s just say it is doubtful I will ever run an iron man competition. And I am not a macho-man who can strap on 50 pounds of fire-fighting gear, and clamor up a dozen flights of steps!
Nope! Not me!
But in spite of my shortcomings, at 55 years old, what I have found is an energy that vitalizes me, sustains me, and has me in the best physical condition I’ve ever been in. Nothing makes me happier than sharing this aspect of my lifestyle with you!
Working in the restaurant business as I do, I frequently work 10 to 12 hour shifts on busy weekends,- physical, hard work,- without taking a break. No worries!! My dogs may start barkin’ a bit, but that’s about the only bad thing that happens. Lots of energy!
Several times a week, in the middle of the summer, I run before I go to work, for miles in 105 degree heat index temperatures through the North Carolina forest. Barely break a sweat.
And my immune system? So far it’s a beast! (knock on wood!)
In over 20 years now, I have experienced flu-like symptoms only a few times, and for just a grand total of just a few days,- barely even catching a cold!
And that’s while I’m working in restaurants, where I’m handling cash, and being exposed to the breathing of hundreds of people, at close range, every single day. Every time a bug nips me my immune system seems to fight it right off.
I am convinced that a vegan diet is the best thing you can do for your health. I have heard similar stories from other vegans as well. And all of this goes without even mentioning the issue of pandemics, originating in wet markets, where viruses mutate and leap from animals to humans in crowded livestock conditions.
There is nothing that makes me happier than sharing this lifestyle with you, and answering your questions!
In light of this, if you are curious about the vegan lifestyle, whether it’s for the animals, for the environment, or for your own personal health, I want you to know that I am here for you, passionately encouraging you, and watching your back by providing the best advice that I can!
But don’t just trust me. Here are a few resources you can check out:-
The first resource is the website provided by the animal rights organization, PETA. Their website features a variety of short videos you can watch, as well as articles to read. This site includes a number of videos taken from behind the wall.
For me personally, the individual who first introduced me to this lifestyle of love and compassion for all of these lesser species of our world, passed away a long time ago. Therefore early on in my own conversion experience, I found myself alone in this learning effort, trying to find my way without a guide.
The main reason why I recommend Peta is because, even though the internet was just a baby back then, the Peta website was a great resource. All these years later, it has developed so much, and has become so much better! And the best thing about it,- it fits almost any schedule. You can be in and out in as little as twenty minutes with something to get you thinking.
If you have a bit more time on your hands, I recommend watching the 2018 documentary film “Dominion.” (Please write that down!)
In this documentary, you can learn more about the lives and treatment that a number of different species face in life as ‘products’ of our modern-day animal agricultural system. A total of six facets are illuminated: farm animals, wild animals, companion animals, entertainment animals, fur animals, as well as animal experimentation.
If you would like to learn more specifically about the environmental impacts of the animal agriculture industry, I recommend beginning with the 2014 documentary “Cowspiracy: the Sustainablity Secret.” (Write that down too!)
This documentary explores the impact of animal agriculture on the environment in terms of global warming, water use, deforestation, as well as oceanic dead zones.
If you choose to take this journey of learning, during this journey you may learn things that surprise you.
Specifically about terminology.
The way we use words, and how words can be used to mislead us.
Cruelty-free? …. Not likely.
Free range? …. Ask yourself, what does that really mean?
(Three question marks for that one!)
These are all labels given to keep you comfortable,-
To keep you from looking behind the wall.
“The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” …. Mark Twain
A friend of mine once said, it’s amazing to see what you can do, when you pour love and kindness into your body.
I find these words stirring because they echo one of the highest goals that I would hope to attain in my life;- in pursuing a higher life, shedding limitations and trying to set a good example,- by acting as a benevolent caretaker of all the beautiful life on this amazing planet.
That’s one of my wishes for you, but only if it’s of your own choosing,- and your own free will.
If you have any interest in trying out an eco-friendly, vegan lifestyle for yourself,- my promise to you is that I will be always be here for you.
In what ever way I can be.
So that you won’t have to go it alone like I did.
And so you won’t have to give up after three days either! 😉
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”…Mahatma Gandhi
Personally, I believe that God’s promise to us is that we all have freedom of choice. Freedom to decide for ourselves.
Choice is what defines our existence.
Regardless of your own personal stance on God, and religion, and philosophy, and lifestyle, and whether you are Christian or Muslim or Atheist or whatever you may be,- the philosophy that I am promoting here begins with the choices made by the person you see looking back at you in the mirror.
And the idea that it is never too late to change the path that you are on.
This is the only thing that’s real to me. Life is choice.
As you move forward in your own life from this day forward, and as you launch yourself on this amazing journey navigating the waters of this uncertain world, what I’m urging you to do is consider a form of lifestyle and conscientious consumerism, that involves some added expenses, added sacrifices, of your own personal conveniences, in investing yourself into living a higher life,- of caring for the animals, caring for the planet, for your health, and for our distant, unborn grandchildren.
Making a connection with future generations.
This silly dream that I have, is that one day our capitalist system can, instead of reaching its tentacles out to all of the corners of the globe, in it’s ever-expanding search for resources, and money, in the process leeching out the nutrients from every corner of the world, enslaving and using its animals, children and life, can instead set a noble, sustainable example. As individuals, cities, states, and as a nation.
We can be more than bacteria in a petri dish.
Please don’t ever forget the power of example.
Don’t wait for anyone else to go first.
It all starts with you.
Several months have passed since I first put pen to paper sitting on that beautiful North Carolina beach.
The leaves have dropped from the trees, and covid is still everywhere.
Casting it’s long shadow…
As I was out running today, all alone on a beautiful trail around this lake in my backyard, reflecting in the sunshine on how precious life is,… I thought of one last thing I want to share with you.
From ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.
You see, time is the most valuable thing that any of us have. God promises us nothing, but the here, and now.
I was having a conversation about fatherhood once with a friend, when this friend of mine said to me, its not how much money you spend on your daughter that counts. Its how much time you spend with her. That’s what kids remember the most.
So whether its for your family, or your friends, or your classmates, or your teammates at work, always remember that time is the most precious gift that any of us have to offer.
What I’m asking you to do, is slow down. Take a deep breath and enjoy every moment!
Take a moment to contemplate your relationship with this world and your life, and what you want it to be.
I know that if you’re out there in school, in your senior year, doing zoom classes, I’m sure you are experiencing some disappointments.
You may be dealing with the cancellation of your favorite sport or activity, or club. Missing your friends. All of that camaraderie,- everything you hoped for. Or that business venture that you’ve given everything to. Gone into thin air!
My heart truly goes out to you. Life can be so unfair.
There is no way to express the disappointment you must be feeling.
But please, please, please keep in mind,- that whoever you are, and no matter what age you are, what defines you, what shapes you and what constitutes you,- is not what happens in this world around you,- it’s your reaction to it!
And your choices.
For me personally, I had very little to work with during this situation, but I chose to react by making the most of every single day, in every way that I could.
My intention was to embark on a journey of mastery and self-improvement.
Although I did run out of toilet paper and paper towels once! (You were right Grandma! May your beautiful soul rest in peace!!❤💕).
I just want to share with you that I try my best to make use of every single day, in some way, to make myself a better person.
And that is the final wish for you. Because I hope you will do it too!
Cherish your time. Cherish every single day, and make use of every single moment!
Take the time, to say hello to a friend, or a stranger, and ask them how they are doing. And then take the time to listen to their answer.
Take advantage of this time to learn a musical instrument.
Take the time to exercise. Take a run, walk, or a hike.
Take the time, to learn about the important issues of the day, and figure out how you can become part of the solution, instead of the problem.
Take the time, to plan how you will make your life amazing in this new upcoming year!
And above all else, take the time to pursue your dreams.
Don’t ever stop believing in yourself.
“If you believe in yourself, you’ll be fine. If you don’t, put a sock in it!”
… (A. E.)
A Special Thanks
I would like to say ‘thank you’ to all of the people who came into the restaurants where I was working over the years and left tips to support the dreams of employees!
Whether for myself, a small-time web designer, or for my co-workers who were students paying their way through school, single moms, or starving artists, or entrepreneurs in pursuit of their dreams,- all of us,- we couldn’t do it without you!
You are all very appreciated!
From here on out, I plan to be writing my ass off!
(Don’t worry I’ll still have an ass!)
But if you have any interest in following this situation along to see where it goes,-
I don’t care even if your interest is as tiny as one little itty-bitty grain of sand on that beach where I originally sat with mr. skittles,- I want you to know that I appreciate you and your point of view, and you are invited and welcome to connect and participate on social media.
Stay informed of updates or share your thoughts, comments, and opinions!
(Next up!: a list of the top actions you can personally take to help save the environment and lifestyle choices; a simple-man’s guide to the vegan lifestyle, including my favorite easy-to-make vegan recipes!; and the upcoming article,- ‘the truth about trees.’)
Follow me,.. for more recipes!!😜
Or just share this note to encourage a friend.
Thank you for taking the time to visit and listen!
And thank you for helping me spread this message, of peace, and light, and love.
And at last,
“The self-same moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea. ……….”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
And, the Beginning.
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John is a blogger, environmental advocate, and vegan lifestyle & fitness consultant based in Raleigh, North Carolina.
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References & Resources
Established by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to assess available scientific, technical, and socio-economic information in the field of climate change. Links to full-text papers, meeting schedule, speeches and press releases, and an information center offering data viewed as statistics, graphically, and by map.
Vital Signs of the Planet: Global Climate Change and Global Warming. Current news and data streams about global warming and climate change. This NASA website is based on the evidence, causes, effects, and solutions of climate change.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger and improve nutrition and food security.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is an American animal rights organization based in Norfolk, Virginia, and led by Ingrid Newkirk, its international president. The nonprofit corporation claims 6.5 million supporters.
Exposing the dark underbelly of modern animal agriculture through drones, hidden & handheld cameras, the feature-length film explores the morality and validity of our dominion over the animal kingdom. Available to watch online for free.
A groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary following intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today – and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it. This documentary discusses animal agriculture in terms of a leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, greenhouse gases, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean “dead zones,” and other environmental problems.
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