Monday, 6 August 2012

A vegan wrap and a rant

What does global warming have to do with food? Well, although not the first thing that comes to mind, obviously a lot. But I will get to that later.

There is this article circulating, it was published by Rolling Stone, and written by an environmentalist, activist and writer Bill Mckibben. The article itself is not really what strikes me, in fact, it is really long and knowing the short attention span of the average human being, and knowing the scepticism of many people towards global warming, I have little hope that this article will have much of an impact on anyone. The majority of those who will read it will likely be the ones who already have an opinion about the issue, more likely, the ones who already agree with the information presented.

But one line in this article has really stuck with me over the past few days and gave me something to really contemplate, every time I turn the lights on, blow dry my hair or get in a car. The line goes like this "'When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of about six degrees.' That's almost 11 degrees Fahrenheit, which would create a planet straight out of science fiction."

Imagining a world 6 degrees warmer really rattles my cage. The first thing I think about is food production. I cant imagine how many food production processes would be negatively impacted by such a change in temperature. Climate change models predict that rising global temperatures will increase the amount of moisture in the atmosphere which in turn will increase the amount of rainfall in in already rainy regions. 

Increases in rainfall could be potentially beneficial in some areas, but, paradoxically, some models also predict that the drier regions will only get drier. So, in regions where rainfall increases, it is likely to cause more harm than good, especially where food production is concerned. Increased rainfall leads to increased flooding which destroys food crops; this we saw in BC earlier in the year with the flooding of the Fraser river and surrounding land and farms.

The consequences of food shortages is obvious. What comes to mind are images from poverty stricken countries in Africa, from war torn countries without aid and in regions following natural disasters like earthquakes and tornadoes. I imagine a world where food production drops, where everyone is starving, where we know how to make food and grow food, but all of the sudden agriculture is ruined by the fact that lands are flooded, or there is drought or it is too hot. The idea really freaks me out.

The thing is, that right now, we live in a world where we have a lot of things that we do not need. And having and depending on these things is contributing to the global energy crisis. But the result of trying to live a carefree, comfortable, indulgent life may lead to a situation where the things we cannot live without, like food, wont be so easy to come by.

If you are one of those people that does not "believe" in global warming, but you are still reading this, then first, well, I would be surprised but also I do not think that matters much. Because you know that the way a lot of things are done now are not good for the planet and the life that it contains.

You cannot see the exhaust coming out of the back of a car and think that is good for anyone. You cannot look at the pictures of glaciers from 70 years ago compared to the present and think that there is not anything scary about that. You cannot know about the increasing prevalence of cancers and other health problems and think that the chemicals we throw into the environment do not have something to do with that. 

Have you seen the pictures of plastic islands in the ocean? Have you seen the pictures of chickens stuffed into metal boxes with no light? Have you seen the documentaries about the polar bears and the seals losing their habitat to rising temperatures? You have to feel that something about that is not right.

If you are still reading, then I am assuming you care. I am hoping you agree and that you, like I, am encouraged by the simple fact that the average decent human being realizes that the way we live in most developed countries is destructive. Unfortunately, I dont have an answer or a solution. And also, unfortunately, based on what I read and hear, I do not even think we have much hope of reversing the damage that has already been done.

But I am hopeful that the people who are as worried as I am will try to make changes in their lives that lessen their impact. I am hopeful that people will defend the planet instead of their habits. I am hopeful that people will acknowledge what is wrong instead of living in denial. I hope that people will be all that more conscious about leaving the lights on, driving when they could be walking or taking the bus. That they will support the development of renewable energies even though they are skeptical of them ever meeting our current energy needs. I hope people will choose to live in more dense neighbourhoods rather than knocking down trees just so they can build themselves great big houses.

More than hope, I wish. I wish that my government did not support the expansion of the oil pipeline, I wish my government did not try to muzzle scientists that speak out about the environment in Canada. I wish that all vehicles on the road were powered by electricity. I wish my mail box was not filled with wasteful flyers every time I checked the mail. I wish that plastic grocery bags were outlawed everywhere. I wish that as a researcher I did not have to use so much disposable plastic lab-ware.

I think about a lot of things but I need to act on more things. This summer I am trying to bike everywhere. I try to eat local food so as to not support food that has to travel across borders to reach my table. I do not eat meat, and I am slowly lowering my consumption of dairy, because animal farming is one of the biggest contributors to environmental pollution. If I ever end up with a plastic bag in my house, I reuse it; I wash it and use it over and over again until it falls apart, I always print double sided, I always turn my lights off, I always buy recycled paper products including toilet paper, even though it is more expensive.

These are things I would like to work on. I want to stop eating fish because I know that the oceans are over-fished. I want to stop eating eggs because even free range chicken farms do not sit right with me. I want to get through the rest of my life without buying a car. I want to take the train instead of flying anywhere I can. I want to stop buying things that come in plastic bottles, like conditioner and shampoo. I want to be okay with not having an iPhone or a new Mac computer and a new camera, even though I am planning to buy all three when I can afford it. I want to stop buying produce that comes in plastic bags and containers; why do cherry tomatoes come in those stupid plastic boxes!

I want to be brave enough to pick on people for bad habits rather than worry about offending them. Why do I care more about peoples feelings than I do about standing up for my opinions? I also want to convince everyone to be vegetarian. I'm still working on this one. I think this blog is helping; at least my non-vegetarian friends can come here and find out why and how I keep meat out of my diet.

This wrap recipe below is a great, save-the-environment food option. It is delicious and there is not a single animal product in it. It is something you can feel good about eating through and through. I have made and consumed many wraps in my day and in the past often felt a need to put cheese and mayonnaise in them. This wrap recipe is perfect the way it is. The peanut sauce makes it flavourful, the  tofu and brown rice make it filling and all of the veggies make it super healthy.

Brown rice, crispy tofu wrap with peanut sauce
Makes 2 wraps

2.5 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp tamari or sushi soy sauce
1 tsp maple syrup or brown sugar
1 tsp mirin
1/4 cup loose cilantro leaves

2 large whole wheat wraps
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 avocado
1/3 block of tofu
Sprouts, i.e. Alfalfa
Carrot, red pepper and cucumber, shredded or thinly sliced

1. Drain tofu and slice into pieces that are ~1/4" x 1/2" x 2" (or however you like).
2. Heat cast iron pan over medium heat and add 1 tsp of sesame oil and 1 tsp of grapeseed oil.
3. Lay out the tofu slice in the pan and cook about 5 minutes on one side. Turn the slices over then cook on the other side for 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, make the peanut sauce by blending the first 6 ingredients in a food processor.
5. Mix 1/4 cup of the sauce into 1 cup of cooked brown rice.
6. Assemble the wrap with about 1/2 cup of the brown rice, avocado, carrot, cucumber, red pepper, sprouts and warm tofu.
7. Drizzle some extra sauce into the wrap if desired.
8. Roll up the wrap and serve immediately.

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