"If there was a twenty-four hour clock covering the span of time from the time of the planet Earth's creation to our present time, humans would only occupy the last two seconds on that clock." I can't remember where I re-read that quote recently or who it's originally attributed to, but that quote / fact perfectly illustrates that we need Earth more than Earth needs us.
Earth Day was created April 22nd, 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson to create awareness of the amount of toxins that factories were releasing into the air, rivers, and streams without any regulations. Shortly thereafter President Nixon and Congress established the Environmental Protection Agency. Having a day every year designated as Earth Day (recognized on April 22nd) has increased awareness about what big corporations do that affects the environment, as well as what every single person does on a daily basis that effects the environment and what can be done to lessen our carbon footprint.
This morning, while driving to work, there was a pretty good rain coming down (and even some hail on April 22nd in Las Vegas!!) and it looks like there's a good chance of rain for the rest of the day. It's been raining quite a bit these first few months of 2010 here in Vegas, with probably almost twice as much rainfall as we normally get in an entire year. Anyone who has been out to Lake Mead in the past two years can see how low the water level is out there, as much of the West has been in a drought for years. What needs to happen for the West to get out of this drought isn't just the good rain we've been having (although as long as this rain isn't causing flood conditions, it isn't hurting), but the mountain regions need to get more snow which becomes water that flows into the surrounding lakes and rivers.
And while Vegas has been getting unusual amounts of rain in these early months of 2010, across the world, there seems to be an increasing amount of earth calamities such as the terrible earthquake in Haiti (and elsewhere) and the volcano in Iceland. This just further illustrates the fact that the planet Earth isn't a static object and its terrain has been changing since its birth.
While we can't do anything to prevent earthquakes or volcanoes from happening, there are things we can do individually on a daily basis to insure that we don't accelerate Earth's ability to sustain life for the human race and the other life forms on this planet. Supporting companies that seek to find alternative, greener energy sources is a great ideal worth striving for, as is recycling and consuming less (both in the food and other products sense) - the adage "less is more" is a good doctrine to embrace in this regard. Carpooling, walking, bicycling, living close to where you work, whenever possible, are also great things a person can do to make our air quality less thick with pollutants.
The single biggest thing a person could do on a daily basis to make Mother Earth a richer, more qualitative place for more people, other life forms, and the terrain itself, is to consider becoming a vegetarian (or better yet a vegan) - even just making more of your meals vegetarian would help. Animal farming has much more adverse effects (greater contributer to global warming, wasteful use of water resources, and increased pollution) on the environment than does plant farming and land devoted to agriculture feeds more people then land devoted to raising livestock. "Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty." - Sir Paul McCartney (frontman of Wings and a little known band called The Beatles).
I'm going to relate a little here, on this fortieth anniversary of Earth Day, how I became a vegan twenty years ago on the twentieth anniversary of Earth Day, not to toot my own horn, but rather to illustrate how a once anti-vegetarian such a myself (when I was a meat eater, I used to get mad when lettuce and tomatoes were on my burger!) became a vegan. I don't usually get on a soapbox about this topic unless others ask me about vegetarianism / veganism so as not to offend loved ones / friends who don't share my beliefs, but I just thought that what better day than the 40th anniversary of Earth Day to share with others the joys of veganism and maybe even inspire others to do the same.
Before totally committing to becoming a vegan (a vegan is a vegetarian who also doesn't consume any dairy, eggs, or cheese) back in 1990, I'd tried being a vegetarian a couple of years earlier after reading The Jungle, Upton Sinclair's 1906 expose on the meat-packing industry and the conditions of the wage slave immigrants that worked in that industry and going out with a gal who was a vegetarian. Well this vegetarian gal didn't seem too interested in helping me transition to becoming a vegetarian (I think she thought I was just trying to impress her and truthfully probably wasn't as interested in me on almost any level) and I didn't read up on my own how to go about totally changing my eating habits.
As the twentieth anniversary of Earth Day approached in 1990, there were more and more magazines / articles on what a meat based diet does to the environment and I read up on this quite a bit and as I was going through an early mid-life crisis (I was 28 years old and wouldn't own my wonderful comic store for another five years at that point, nor did I have any real idea of where my life was going) I wanted to affect a change in my life in some capacity. So now equipped with information about how being a vegetarian could actually change the world (or a small segment of it - one step at a time) I decided I was going to not be a slave to my meat craving palate and commit to making this lifestyle / eating change. A somewhat humorous aside: when I first became a vegetarian, my long time friend Joel (who was also my roommate at the time) asked me why I didn't just go the vegan route instead of just being a vegan, and as I had already read some of why being a vegan is even more environmentally helpful (the dairy and egg industry with their factory farms and the horrid conditions they subject animals to) I took his "dare" and went from meat eater to vegan almost overnight (I was maybe a vegetarian for a couple of weeks before becoming a vegan). The humorous part of that is that Joel is in the group of people who think vegetarians / vegans are just wack jobs and I'm sure that even today, he thinks I'm just being a vegan as some kind of "stubborn, trying to prove something to someone, holier than thou" thang.
Yes, I was / am trying to prove something by being a vegan and that is, if I can do so for twenty years now after being a meat eater for 28 years, well anyone can do the same and not have a poorer eating quality of life and not have health deficiencies as a result. I know that I have inspired some people / friends to become vegetarians / vegans and I think I've largely done this through example, not beating them over the head with why they should become vegetarian / vegan because no one likes being preached to.
When I first became a vegan and would go out to eat and upon getting a dish, that I requested to have no dairy or cheese, arrive with dairy ingredients, I would go into a crazy scene that I know embarrassed people I was with (just as I did in my former life as a meat eater when I got vegetables when I requested none) as I was a dumb not so young angry white guy. It took me several years to get over my dumb angry side, but I've mostly come to the conclusion that being angry and causing a scene in front of your friends / loved ones is counterproductive to why I became a vegan in the first place and doesn't endear you to others wanting to be around you. Now, when I go out to eat, I still request my food not to have dairy or cheese, but on the rare times it comes back with said items I'll just eat around them or if I find out that a dish has ingredients in it that aren't vegan, I won't have that dish again. I could just say that I'm allergic to dairy, but I think that's cheating and do try to tell the people at the restaurant that it's because I'm a vegan (to hopefully start an awareness where little exists without going on at length about it unless they ask me for more details). Actually, even when I first became a vegan back in 1990, it was a lot easier than I imagine being a vegan before 1970 must have been, and it's a looooot easier today, with more and more people understanding why people choose to be a vegetarian or vegan.
So in the next couple of days or come this weekend, treat yourself by going out to the Las Vegas Wetlands Park (7050 Wetlands Park Lane, off of Boulder Highway and Tropicana), one of Las Vegas' best kept secrets (why?) or the Springs Preserve over in the Northwest side of town, if you can't make it to Mt. Charleston, Red Rock or Valley of Fire, to enjoy some of Earth's marvels in our neck of the desert and bring a yummy vegan lunch with items such as: Boca veggie burgers, smart dogs, tofurkey lunch slices and sausages (seriously most people who try these faux meat substitutes are really surprised how good they are and how much they taste like the "real" thing - and these are eaten by vegans such as myself for their protein and because I did like the texture of meat), and or colorful vegetables (raw or stir fried alone or with tofu) and fruits. Alternately, one could just point their car to any desert area surrounding the Las Vegas Valley, take a hike, and see lots of plants erupting from the ground from all of the marvelous rain we've been getting!
Some local restaurants where one will find great vegetarian / vegan dishes are: Longlife Veggie (over on Flamingo and Sandhill), Komol (vegetarian Thai specialties over in the Commercial Center), Ghandi's (great Indian food off of Paradise and Flamingo), Dong Ting Spring (great Chinese restaurant with many vegan choices in Chinatown off of Spring Mountain), and the Whole Foods Market over in Town Square off of Las Vegas Blvd. has a vegan bar and LOTS of vegetarian / vegan choices (and the price is a lot lower then the food they sell in the market part of their stores. Sunflower and Fresh & Easy are two good grocery stores for vegetarian / vegan foods at not high prices.
This public service blog entry has been brought to you by tree hugger and comic book lover (is that a dichotomy?), Ralph, on behalf of Mother Earth, and wants to thank everyone who read this entry and for even entertaining the thought of making more of your eating choices vegetarian / vegan (your body, our planet, and its future generations will thank you also). Just as Earth has survived for millions of years without us in the past, so too can it survive without us in the future unless everyone remembers that everything is interconnected and our choices effect not only us, but where we live and will live in the future.
And to tie this all into comics, all of the excellent Paul Chadwick Concrete graphic novels (most of which have environmental themes) will be on sale for 50% off at Alternate Reality Comics until Monday, April 26th in celebration of the Earth Day turning 40!
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