Tuesday, September 6, 2011


What impresses me most about other human beings are their principles. Whether or not someone is intelligent or filled with knowledge to me is rather irrelevant. We all have the capacity to learn, grow, and to develop ourselves into what we want to become. However few of us have the resolve to see those goals through and truly make ourselves. Those that do stand out of the crowd.

When I decided to become a vegetarian a few years ago, I was met by many comments or questions that I felt were somewhat curious. Sure, most vegetarians get the typical "Where do you get your protein?" or " I could never do that" comments, but the ones that I found intriguing are those who would comment on how they don't agree with the practice of how our culture raises farm animals. They profess that they love animals, or perhaps certain animals, and that they could never kill a cow or a chicken themselves. They will go to zoos, aquariums, or even animal shelters because they can feel a deep connection to animals. They may even have animals like cats or dogs at home which they love with all of their heart. But when it comes to the food they eat they still love to eat hamburgers, fish, chicken, or other forms of meat. 

This was me for the first 19 years of my life. I find that person interesting because I was that person. Even though I ate chicken or other meat nearly every day I swore I loved animals and that I would never harm anything. I had heard about vegetarianism and I believed it to be something too radical or even extremist and that "I could never not eat meat." It wasn't until I was chose to see for myself what life is truly like for farm animals did I change my diet over night. I'm sure that most people have heard of PETA's Meet your Meat, or other exposes of factory farms and the cruelty that ensues there on a daily basis. This is where most people draw the line in their attempt to learn more about vegetarianism. They refuse to watch any of this footage because something inside of them is hurt. It's a truly nauseating pain that is riddled with guilt, anger, and grief. 

This is where your eggs come from....

And for those who prefer "Cage-Free"eggs

I believe that if someone is impacted by seeing farm animal cruelty they feel that they are betrayed in some way. That they had 'no idea' that it was 'that bad.' Or that 'we allow that to continue.' In that moment, they would turn to policy makers and express those feelings. But once it is mentioned that this is a problem of the consumer, they again want to turn a blind eye. We are a culture of convenience, laziness, and we strive for little when it comes to our conscious selves. Sure, we all work hard 'all day long,' and we're very tired when we get home from the office. But what happens in between? We like to take a load off, wind down, we like to escape. We turn on tv, eat a quick dinner, relax and perhaps with a little dessert or a night cap. We give in to our addictions, because they make us feel something different than the usual daily grind. We are each a product of a culture that thrives off of wasteful and materialistic economics. And we will stop at nothing to defend that way of life. 

This is a 'downed' cow, one that was too sick for auction so she was left to die out in the cold...

It's not hard to turn a blind eye to our treatment of other animals. But it is hard to look inside of ourselves and judge what we absolutely can and cannot support. This economic system we are a part of is a soulless juggernaut that doesn't have an ounce of morality, especially towards sustainability or the environment. If you're playing by its rules, you support everything, every practice, every action, every employee involved each time you make a purchase. And when you buy meat, you wholeheartedly support that industry for every possible aspect and all of their potential impacts. And those impacts are vast. Raising animals for slaughter is one of the largest consumers of oil, fresh water, crops, and sheer land space. It takes massive amounts of energy, and thus resources, to grow a cow, and so we all must pay the price, as consumers and more importantly, the environment. 

Chickens that were freed from torment and now live at Farm Sanctuary

In the face of so much personal judgement, people's true colors begin to shine. People will make all the excuses they can to avoid confronting their conscious. They'll lie to themselves and say that they can't afford the diet, or it's too hard to learn how to cook vegetarian, or that they wouldn't feel comfortable going home for thanksgiving as a vegetarian. To me the truly remarkable are those who in the face of adversity stay strong and challenge what they believe to be wrong. They do not make excuses, they do not settle, and they strive for something better. They are idealists and I believe that they will change the course of our future. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

No room to grow?

Living in a condo in Miami does have some advantages, albeit few, to living in a house with a yard. We were really lucky to find a place that not only allows 'real' sized dogs (bigger than 25lbs) but also is in great condition and has a screened in balcony. The screened-in balcony is great for keeping out mosquitoes, which is really quite fortunate because we live right next door to a huge mangrove preserve which is home to trillions of mosquitoes, among other more amazing creatures. Believe it or not, having a balcony is perfect for growing some edible plants, herbs, and vegetables. And if your's is also screened you don't have to worry about pests eating your plants. We not only want to utilize the space to produce some food, but also to provide an area to break down our food scraps using vermiculture. With a goal to eliminate landfill input, it really helps to have a place to get rid of your table scraps and turn it into a rich source of nutrients for your garden.

I came across an idea to utilize vertical space by creating a garden out of a pallet. I decided that I wanted to change the shape of one of my pallets to accommodate taller plants, like scallions, broccoli, and large leafy greens. so I took out the boards and arranged them to create four squares.

I made the beds by cutting out rectangles of weed cloth, and stapling them to the inside of the boards. I didn't pay attention to the  measurements of the cloth because I wanted different sized beds to hold deeper rooting veggies/plants. The top two beds were much more shallow for smaller herbs and seedlings. I'm going to use this pallet to grow mostly leafy greens, salads, and pepper plants. The weed cloth material was only $12 for a 150 sq feet, which gives you a lot of left overs. In total I would say this cost me $3 to build because the pallet was free. This is another good example of scavenging.

Look, I've already got plants growing on it too...