It Comes In Threes

I take my time in the mornings because I know everything will work out.

If I need to cross the entire south island on a deadline, I will be thumbing by seven but today I just need to get back to civilization. Three days of oats and cous cous is enough.

I start walking the two and a half kilometers from the campsite to the road out of this isolated national park under the Southern Alps of New Zealand.

I put down my guitar and take off my backpack and take a seat on the side of the road with my flannel jacket over my head to block the sun and I wait for a kind stranger to take me somewhere I’ve never been. I was freezing last night in my $30 tent from the Warehouse and my $107 sleeping bag from Macpac. The alpine chill woke me at four and couldn’t go back to sleep so I got dressed and took a brisk walk to Kea Point, under Mount Sefton, and listened for avalanches and waited for shooting stars. I was not disappointed.

I’m thinking about how this mountain range looked one million years ago and what it will look like one million years from now. When will the next earthquake hit? Time feels different here. Short and long all at once. It is difficult for humans to comprehend the infinite peace of nature. The aboriginals of Australia learned the truth from the desert. The mountains and the forests don’t care what happens to them but they can teach you everything if you are open.

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Time is different here.

 

In 1991, the year I was born, the top ten meters of Mount Cook fell off in an avalanche. I always thought mountains were sturdy and stable. But the longer I sit here listening and watching, I can see that the mountains live. They radiate energy. I am not alone here. Woah. Now I can see it. Those long white scares are waterfalls. The mountains are crying. Their mighty tears slice through the delicate Earth. The water roars because it knows it always wins.

The mountains swing and sway with the wind. Ice and rock waxes and wanes. They scream in ecstasy as the time finally comes for them to jump and crash and break into something new. Entropy. Chaos. Order.

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They freeze and melt and freeze and melt. It’s always been that way.

Yesterday, I sat here and observed the blue grey slurry of the glacial lake. But some pockets of water are a vibrant, bright blue, untouched by the dirt. Red rocks create islands and green moss grows in random patches. I can hear the camera shutters of tourists. I sent my camera back home when I sold my van and started hitching. It is non-essential. I used to look at landscapes through a viewing hole but now I watch people look at landscapes through a viewing hole. It is a new perspective. I look at everyone I pass in the eye because I might see someone I know. It’s a small world. They are loud, these humans, I can’t wait for them to pass so I can listen again to the bird songs.

The purples, oranges and yellows are peaking out now as the sun rises. No sign of the humans yet. They always come when the sun is poison and the colors are hot. Everyone cares about sunset but what about sunrise, moonrise and moonset? You can see them all come and go out here. It’s one big cycle. It never ends. But it might break if the humans keep reproducing, consuming and destroying. They never learn.

There is a cold, eerie silence at this hour. I hear another rumble—a chunk of ice or rock falling—and I can’t believe humans have climbed these mountains. They can be brave. Or stupid. They mock the power of nature. Thinking they are above it. The clouds are long, pink strands and the stars are pulsing. The skies have been miraculously clear while I’ve been here except for a few during sunrise and sunset. The sun wanted something to splash its color upon. They dance and swirl above the mountains.

I climbed up a rock wall to get closer to the mountains. A young man appears and then a small woman a minute later. They sit on the wooden platform overlooking the glacial lake and the mountains. We watch the soft light slowly conquer the snow and the ice. The eternal fight between night and day rages on. The light changes from red to yellow and the sky is blue now. The stars are gone.

I walk down to the platform.

“I don’t understand why no one comes out here at this time,” I say to the two strangers.

“I think it has to do with waking up in the dark and walking up a big hill,” the small, trim English woman with short grey hair says with a big smile. “I don’t mind being the only one out here.”

I linger for a moment in silence and smile at her response. We all look to the mountains again.

“Well, have a good day.”

Everyone driving by nudges their passenger and gestures at the hippy on the side of the road sitting behind a sign that reads, “HOME.”

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Cheeky.

It is slow out in the middle of nowhere at Aoraki.

A station wagon pulls off after a half hour wait.

“Hi, Where are you going?” a young woman asks as I gather my belongings.

“I’m not sure exactly,” I say. “East.”

“Well, I’m going to Lake Tekapo,” she says.

“Sweet. I’m happy just to get back to the main highway.”

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I don’t mind waiting. 

She speaks fluent English with an American accent because she lived in Idaho and Alaska for nine years but she is German. It becomes obvious when she says Stutgart. No way of hiding a German accent when speaking German.

She shares this car with her friend, a French guy, and she wanted to go off and be alone for a day—but I don’t think she minds random company.

She says she knows how it is to get out of an isolated place like this. She’s hitched before and she loves it. She says it’s so exciting and everything always works out. You can wait for a while but then you get picked up and you think of course this had to happen.

“Yes! Exactly!” I say. “No matter what happens everything always works out.”

We drive to Twizel—which she pronounces like the licorice candy but it is supposed to be Twizel like in twilight—because she needs food.

“I need food too,” I say. “I’m getting really tired of cous cous and oats.”

Twizel’s size is deceptive. You can’t see much from the highway but the suburbs are expansive. We stop at the Four Square and I stock up on oats, nuts, seeds, bananas, carrots, dark chocolate and a couple tins of baked beans.

“I feel like I’m buying way too much food,” I tell her when she rounds the corner and I’m looking at something new called flaked rice which intrigues me but I decide to not take the risk.

“Yeah, I put some things back,” she says. “I had to say OK, Anna, you don’t actually need this.”

And now I know her name.

I run next door to the camping store to buy a fuel tank for my stove and we meet back at her car.

We drive to Lake Pukaki and pull off at an unmarked free campsite on the lake with a view of the backside of the mountains. It is warmer here.

She says she is going to make some lunch. Boiled pumpkin and fried onions. I grab my guitar because I always try to repay people who pick me up. Music and a sense of humor is all I have to offer right now.

She was playing Neil Young in the car so I play a couple of his tunes and then play some more classic rock and Bob Marley. We don’t talk much.

“Thank you for the music,” she says as she stirs the onions. “I’ve always wanted someone to play and play while I just sit here.”

“It’s my pleasure. I could play for hours.”

“I know,” she says.

“Well, I think I’m gonna stay here for the night, now that I have enough food and this place is free. I was thinking I need a shower and to do laundry but…” I point to the lake.

“See! Everything always works out,” Anna says.

She eats her lunch and I grab my bags and walk up the small hill into the pines. The sun is poison. I need shade. There is so much more freedom in not having a car. I can go places no one else can go. I can hide among the trees. There is a toilet here and even a water spigot so I don’t have to drink questionable lake water. I would if I had to.

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Refuge.

I set up my tent and the stakes go in easily in this soft ground covered in pines needles and cones. I find a few of pieces of human shit and toilet paper scattered about even though there is a toilet about 150 meters away.

“If you are using this toilet, you are not one of the people shitting everywhere, THANK YOU,” says the back of the latrine door in black magic marker.

It’s dark now and I’m reading the Bible in my tent. I think it’s time to go sit by a fire. I’m on top of the world hidden among the pines and I can see at least eight campfires by the lake. Most are small and meant to be shared by a couple in an RV, but one fire looks like it was made for company. It is on the pebble beach with long flames reflecting off the deep blue water.

I walk down with my guitar and there are two men cooking by their van a few meters away. I ignore them and sit by their fire. I start to play.

“Ahh, you bring music!” one of them says.

“You make a fire, I bring my guitar,” I say.

Leor sings along to some ’70s classic rock and Amit says, “This is what we needed, some soul!”

They are brothers from Israel.

Everything comes in threes. I have been reading about Israel in the Bible and then I meet an Israeli woman and now two Israeli brothers. The trinity is sacred. Jah Rastafari.

A few days ago I hitched with a young woman named Dekel Goldstein, she is short with chubby cheeks and rusty brown hair. She told me people all over the world believe the Israelites are the chosen people so they give them free accommodation and food. She just came from a three-night stay at a lodge in Wanaka. I was just reading about the Israelites and the Egyptians, but I didn’t know people out there still believe this shit.

“Dude, I’ve been reading the Bible,” I say to the brothers. “And God is a total dick.”

I explain my take from reading Revelation, Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus: You gotta get over all the weird shit like people living to be 800 years old, slavery being totally cool, woman only seen as beautiful pieces of property, Abraham getting circumcised at 99 and you gotta just try to take the story for what it is. A bunch of really old, dumb stories.

First of all, I have to say God was such a petty asshole that he caused one of first two sons of Adam and Eve to kill his brother. Cain is a misunderstood, pissed off vegan. And rightly so. Seriously. Cain was a farmer so he brought God a bunch of fruit from his fields and God was like, WTF is this bullshit? Abel was a shepherd so he killed a bunch of animals and God was like, Yes!! This pleases me very much! Thanks for killing all those nice animals I created. So Cain killed Abel and God cursed him to be a wanderer forever on the Earth, so there is a really pissed off vegan to this day wandering from place to place, never finding satisfaction. Thanks, God.

Let’s talk about the Israelites. Can we talk about the Israelites? A new King of Egypt thought there were too many Israelites so he enslaved some of them and then God went absolutely crazy ex-girlfriend revenge status. He did super evil stuff like turning rivers to blood, unleashing plagues of frogs, flies, locusts, sores and boils and killing the livestock, oh yeah, and killing all of the first born sons in Egypt.

Here is a loving, totally not racist excerpt from Exodus, Chapter 11:

“5. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal. Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.”

That shit is hardcore. We’re talking Trump level racism here. What kind of God is this to worship? He’s also really jealous and he demands that everything in the church be made out of gold. In Exodus 25, God uses the word “gold” 17 times to describe all the materialistic bullshit he wants and if you don’t make it then you are going to suffer. Seriously, God really likes gold on everything. Damn, Trump is God. God is Trump.

I ask Leor about Exodus and he says, “Yes, Passover is a very happy time for us, but looking at it from the outside it is not happy.”

“They are just stories though,” Amit says. I ask about the free accommodation thing and he says there are “crazy religion” people that will give Israelites free accommodation. They have used it before, and they know a few people who jump from free spot to free spot for months.

Amit is the younger brother. He practices Poi, the glowing balls on the ends of strings you hold in each hand and spin. He works as a builder and looks much more laid back than his older brother. Leor is an officer in the Israeli army. They did a long hike today and are rolling their backs out on a wooden plank with an odd shaped ball that relaxes muscles.

Amit says Leor wanted the fire closer to their van but Amit told him there is already a fire pit on the beach and it is more inviting over there. I tell Amit thanks, that’s why I came here, you guys have the best spot. All the other fires are not inviting. Everything happens for a reason.

Leor goes to sleep but Amit and I stay up and talk for a couple of hours.

He tells me about Israel. There are about 8 million people in Israel. Around 6.5 million are Jewish and the remaining 1.5 million are Muslim. It is like apartheid.

“I remember the age when I realized my parents are brainwashed,” he says.

He says he hopes Donald Trump is elected as president so he will give all the Israelites a visa.

Amit tells me more about the “crazy religion” people. The religious people in Israel are very intelligent and philosophical and they can quote people from 300 years ago. Here in New Zealand there is a website for free accommodation for Israelites. You sign up and they let you in their house and they say Jesus loves you so I want to help you. It is very simple.

He says humans abuse drugs all the time. He likes to take LSD and dance. It can help you tell you who you are. It can be very powerful.

Amit doesn’t believe in politics because it is all bullshit and nothing is going to change. I disagree with him and say I have hope for the future. I say climate change will make us realize we have to change. At least that’s what I said when this conversation took place five months ago. I don’t know what I believe anymore.

Amit says it’s not enough to go green and recycle.

“We need to realize that all life is the same,” he tells me as he picks up a handful of beach pebbles. They fall through his fingers. He looks into my eyes.

“The Earth will be OK. But we won’t,” he says. “The Earth will take care of itself.”

It is his bedtime.

“Thank you about the music.”

I stare at the fire until it dies.

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I was wearing a white collared shirt and a blue tie.

I find myself sitting in an auditorium at an awards ceremony for creative academics. All of the smart people in the crowd want to do big things in this world. They play a video of a hovering metal drone with eight compartments that releases blue balloons into the air that are filled with an element that reverses climate change in places like India and China that are full of smog and smoke and pollution.

I left the auditorium and I wandered around the city feeling depressed.

I walk down the street and stop at an Asian stir fry takeaway shop with a keno style video lottery screen and something compels me to put down some numbers.

1, 3, 6, 9, 46.

The screen keeps flashing 1, 3, 6, 9 and I knew I won big.

The payout was up to $1,000 then it kept going to $10,000 then to $100,000 then it stopped at $76 zillion.

I left.

I wandered around the dark city at night. I looked around and everywhere I looked were skyscrapers. The air is thick. Dark and ashy. Smoke and pollution from the underground vents blackened the already dank buildings. The streets are empty. I sit there looking all around me, knowing I just won an incredible amount of money and all of the sudden a behemoth of a construction vehicle drives between the two buildings before me.

The ground shakes.

It is like a big tractor trailer but way too big. It fades from my view and then another drives by, even bigger. More massive and the ground shakes again. The Earth trembles. It is not natural. Another truck. This was the biggest I have ever seen and it is hauling a truck that appears to be the same size as the first truck. It must be seven stories tall. There are big rubber tires and then there are little wheels coming down on stilts for extra support. It is like The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seus. It is going slow and it is as big as the entire road and I don’t know how it can make turns.

Then there are different kinds of machines that don’t have wheels, they walk like lizards.

Mechanical lizards with armored feet.

They can climb up the sides of buildings. I follow them to the construction yard. I float around on a grappling hook and no one can see me. And I observe everything. Workers. They look different, detached from me. Different from me. Sad. I float up past the scaffolding on my grappling hook going up and looking down at the construction and I can hear them. I hear pieces of conversations and they are all the same. They are talking about what they want to do with their lives if they weren’t in construction.

“After this job I’m going to…”

They talk like they have dreams. They talk like they are stuck here. In this life. They talk like they have no control.

I find myself back at the Asian stir fry takeaway shop where I won the keno outside on the street. I stand in line and order the tofu or the miso soup. She takes out a bag and it says it is tofu but it is filled with prawns and insects and maggots. She says the miso soup has meat in it. She says all of the food has animals in it.

I walk along the street after seeing this pollution and broken dreams and all of the food is animals and I won all this money and I’m walking along with my shirt and tie after going to the award ceremony with all the smart people with big plans and here I am with 76 zillion dollars and I can do anything and help anyone and while I’m thinking this I’m walking and I start to float up into the air while the city sits in darkness as a slight gradient of sunrise starts to shine above the skyscrapers and I just float up in the air and my blue tie is flowing in the wind and I just float up with my eyes closed and that’s how it ends.

Then I wake up and look through the window of my van to see the sun rising over the Southern Alps of New Zealand.

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How Cowspiracy made me go vegan

I never thought a documentary could convince me to change my lifestyle.

One week ago, I attended a lecture about the unsustainability of climate change and then watched Cowspiracy on Netflix.

In one night I learned that the global temperature is expected to rise by two degrees Celsius from 1995 to 2100 and the No. 1 contributor to climate change is agriculture and livestock and the easiest, most cost effective, healthiest, health-care saving way to save the world and prevent cardiovascular disease is to just eat plants.

For the first time in my life I am free of meat, dairy and eggs and it was the easiest thing I’ve ever done.

Why did I switch to a vegan diet?

Just like Cowspiracy producer Kip Andersen, I always thought the main contributor to climate change was fossil fuels. Not even close.

All global transportation — including road, rail, air and marine — accounts for 13% of global greenhouse emissions. Livestock and their byproducts account for 51% of global greenhouse emissions.

Do you take shorter showers and switch the tap off when you brush your teeth? Thanks, but that burger you’re eating used 660 gallons of water. Private homes account for 5% of water consumption in the US. Meanwhile, 55% is used for animal agriculture.

Raising livestock takes up a crazy amount of land. The current livestock system occupies 45% of global surface area. To do this, we have to cut down trees. Animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of Amazon deforestation. We are destroying the Earth’s lungs in order to eat meat and drink milk.

Cows are terribly inefficient. An average milking dairy cow drinks between 30 and 50 gallons of water, eats around 33 pounds of dry matter and produces 120 pounds of wet manure every day. Why don’t we just grow food for humans instead of going through the worst middleman ever?

Our current addiction to meat and dairy is not sustainable. The UN projects the global population will reach 9.6 billion by 2050. We don’t have enough room for all of those people to eat meat and dairy.

A vegan needs just 1/6th acre to produce enough food for a year. A meat eater needs 18 times as much land, for a more expensive and unhealthy diet.

I made this change for the environment. Veganism means living in the future. In a future with more people, higher global temperatures, more global inequality and more greenhouse gasses, veganism is the easiest and most sustainable option.

Well, shit, why didn’t anyone tell me this sooner?

Lobbyists.

Cowspiracy shows how nearly every environmental non-profit is eerily silent on the effects of animal agriculture.

Here’s a taste:

The dairy lobby, the meat lobby, and the incredibly powerful prescription drug lobby want us to keep eating animal products and, in turn, destroy the Earth and kill ourselves. They don’t want these environmental charities to be spouting off the truth about the cause of climate change. They want to make money.

As Bill Maher said on his HBO program, “There’s no money in healthy people, and there’s no money in dead people.”

The money, he says, is in people with chronic conditions who eat fast food and take prescription drugs everyday of their lives. If everyone ate plants, everyone would be healthy. That’s not good for business.

You don’t know what you’re talking about! You’ve never worked on a farm!

Over July and August of this year, I worked on a 230-cow dairy farm just down the road from the Hobbiton movie set in the heart of Waikato, New Zealand.

Out in the paddock.
Out in the paddock.

On my first day on the farm I had to hose down the massive amount of shit and piss the cows left in the shed. I was shocked by how much water I had to use. It takes about 5-10 minutes running a high-powered hose to clean the shed after milking. Every other day we had to hose down the entire yard, which took at least 15 minutes. I was told to not worry about it.

This is the standard practice done on every farm, after every milking, twice a day. It takes 1,000 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk. Is it worth it?

During calving, the newborn are throw into the trailer and taken back to the shed while the mothers follow, wanting to nourish and care for their young. The most heart-breaking moment is when the cows are led up to the shed for milking. They moo and yell to their children, who are confined in a crowded pen. They want to be together. I’m sorry, but we need protein.

Our first calf, getting some love from mom.
Our first calf, getting some love from mom.

All of the cows and heifers are impregnated so they can lactate. We had around 200 calves. About 30 of the calves were kept on the farm as replacements. The other 170 were sent away in the “bobby trucks” were they would either be chopped up for dog food or fattened up for a few months and then sold as veal. We need protein.

Yeah, what about protein? Don’t you feel malnourished?

When I used to lift weights, my diet was mostly meat, dairy and whey. There’s no protein in plants, I always thought.

Ha. In the past week I have been astonished to learn that nearly every plant has protein. Then there are super foods, ancient grains and multipurpose cereals.

All of these contain protein: Broccoli, spinach, peas, sweet potato, soybeans, soy milk, lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, cashews, walnuts, almonds, whole meal flower, nut butters, hemp seeds, chia seeds, linseeds, quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, bean sprouts, tofu, tempeh, edamame and kale.

I’ve been eating plants for a week and I don’t feel malnourished. I actually feel better than I ever have.

My skin is glowing. My stomach is happy. My brain has more power. I feel more awake. My sinuses feel more open. My poop has been a thing of beauty. My body is working better in every way. I can feel it.

Still not convinced? Check out this list of vegan athletes.

Was it difficult to completely change my diet overnight?

It was incredibly easy. The morning after watching Cowspiracy, I tipped out my milk and gave away my cheese, butter, ham and salami. I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Every meal I’ve cooked since then has been fun and exciting. I made curry for the first time ever. Throw a bunch of vegetables in a skillet with a bit of oil, add curry paste and coconut cream and eat over jasmine rice. Amazing.

I made ramen with organic noodles containing 12 grams of protein per serving. I never thought noodles could have protein. Add some tofu, steamed veggies a hoisin sauce and it’s the bomb.

Even before this transition I ate vegetables nearly every night, but now I am thinking outside the box. I’m no longer just throwing a pat of butter in a pan and adding veggies and meat. I can’t wait to learn new recipes and experiment with different spices, cuisines and techniques.

You’re just a fucking hippie! Get a job, eat meat and shut up!

I do have a job, thank you very much. I fold sheets and towels, clean the kitchen and slice the bread every afternoon in exchange for accommodation at a beautiful hostel in Nelson.

That doesn’t count, does it?

You’re right. I’m a bearded, yoga-practicing, pot-smoking, anti-capitalist-writing, Dr.Bronner’s-for-everything vegan, traveling around New Zealand in a 1987 Mitsubishi campervan.

And I couldn’t be happier.

But, seriously, man. What’s next? Barefeet? Actually I have been walking barefoot around the hostel and the park for the past couple of days and my calves and feet feel so much stronger and I feel like I am walking more naturally than I have in years.

Oh Jaysus. Just don’t grow dreadlocks.

No one else is vegan. You’re going to be forever alone.

During my first three days of vegan cooking, people in the hostel observed me and asked what I was doing.

Matias, from Uruguay, and Angela, from Argentina, were speaking ultra-fast Spanish as I sliced tempeh.

“Sean, is that cheese?” he asked me in English.

It’s fermented soybeans I tell him, lots of protein. This was my first time cooking with tempeh so I had no idea what to expect when I put it in the skillet. I added some soy sauce and sweet thai chili and, god damn, it was so tasty.

The next day I joined the South American table with a heaping plate of brussel sprouts, mushrooms, tomato and tofu. They all examine me.

“Porque, Sean?… What about vitamin B12?… Necesitas carne,” the girls interrogate me.

I don’t know! I just started doing this I don’t know what I’m doing or anything about vitamin B12!

Giovanni from Italy looks at my plate.

“Chickpeas, broccoli, cabbage… Are you vegetarian?”

“Vegan,” I reply.

“You poor guy.”

And then I met John.

I brought a joint into the smoke-O room on Friday night to share my favorite plant. Around midnight at the hostel, everyone who wants to keep drinking has to go into town. As the exodus began, I started talking to John. After a half-hour, everyone was gone and we were still talking not giving a fuck about what anyone else was doing.

He has thick-rimmed glasses and shaggy ginger hair. He wears linen pants and a loose fitting red collared shirt. He is from England and we both manage to squeeze in, “man,” into every sentence.

I started telling John about Bernie Sanders, because that’s what I do. I was explaining his platform when all of the sudden it clicked for both of us. Bernie is the American Jeremy Corbyn. An old-school leftist, populist politician who sticks to what he believes in and knows that his way will bring prosperity and peace to the people.

Then I asked if he’s seen Cowspiracy.

“No, but I’ve heard of it. Why, are you a veg?” John asked as he smiled.

“I’ve been vegan for three days,” I said

Instant best friends. He’s been a vegetarian for two years and has been vegan for three months, ever since he couldn’t finish eating a slice of pizza in Auckland. We talked about how much better the body feels on a plant-based diet. He said his acne vanished once he dropped meat.

The following evening, we had a little dinner date and now I’m sure everyone thinks were gay. Nope, just vegan.

He showed me one of his go-to meals. Cauliflower, onion, chickpeas and tomato sauce with fresh spinach wrapped in a tortilla served with wedges.

We ate a lot and talked about what we couldn’t recall from our conversation last night. I felt so full afterwards.

He said when he used to eat meat he would want to put his head down and rest after such a meal. But on a plant-based diet, he has never felt sluggish. If you eat a lot of plants, you’ll just a have a really good poop later.

The next day I showed him the vegetable green curry I was cooking. We are both staying at this hostel for a few months, so we will have plenty of time to share recipes and ideas.

It’s so good to have someone to share this with.

You’ve only been vegan for one week. You won’t stick with it.

I realize seven days is not a lot of time to really gauge how this will affect me. But I don’t see any reason why I would ever go back.

When I walked through the meat section of the grocery, I felt a sudden burst of anxiety. I felt bad that I ate these products for so many years without a second thought. I quickly moved on and picked out oranges, bananas, broccoli, onions, capsicum, carrots, cabbage, muesli, quinoa, linseed, curry paste, coconut cream, organic brown sugar, psyllium husk, tofu and sultanas.

I really don’t think I can eat dairy or meat or eggs ever again. I can’t do it. Something has clicked inside of me.

It’s easy to do this living at a hostel with a kitchen and a health-food store in town. The real struggle will be from going out to eat with friends and family and having to make sure everything is free of animal products. I’ll have to talk to every waiter and read every ingredient when I shop.

I’m not a true vegan, however, because most of my clothing is merino wool. This is going to be a much more difficult transition. I’m a budget traveler and I don’t own much clothing. My socks, underwear, top and bottom base layers, sweater, t-shirt, singlet and gloves are all wool. A few weeks ago, I bought $300 leather hiking boots. I would be naked if I gave up my animal clothing. I posed this question to the vegan subreddit and they said I shouldn’t worry about it, just replace it over time. Phew, at least they won’t look down on me for not being pure.

One person going vegan isn’t going to change the world.

My generation is different. My generation has the Internet and Netflix.

At the time I watched it, Cowspiracy was at the top of the “Popular on Netflix” queue. Then there’s, Forks over Knives and Food Matters, both very convincing scientific accounts of the benefits of a plant-based diet. If you want to be disgusted by how humans treat other animals, watch Earthlings.

People are watching these documentaries and becoming interested in how to live better lives.

My generation cares about the world. We are tired of extreme inequality and careless disregard for the Earth. With President Bernie Sanders, we will start a revolution. We will reverse climate change and reduce poverty and humans will become happy animals living in balance with the world we share with so many others.

All we need is information and social media.

Everyone has to do something.

I can’t pretend to be an ethically-grounded, environmentally-conscious human and writer if I’m eating eggs for breakfast, sliced ham for lunch and 300 grams of neatly packaged boneless, skinless chicken thighs with a glass of milk for dinner.

This is such an easy thing to do and if everyone puts in a small amount of effort, we can shift the way people view animal products.

The truth is, meat and dairy production is killing the world. And it’s killing humans. And it’s killing animals.

We don’t need it. All we need is plants. We can live very happy and healthy lives on vegetables, legumes, grains and cereals. It’s so easy. Grow stuff in the ground and eat it. It’s cheaper, easier and healthier than raising livestock. And it doesn’t involve torture and pain.

We have to live like it’s 2100 or 2200. We can’t just live until the next election cycle. Live in the future, be vegan.

Climate change will increase global inequality

Professor Tord Kjellstrom gave a lecture and Q&A about the effects of climate change on workers for the Nelson Science Society on Tuesday night.

Kjellstrom, director of the Health and Environment International Trust and visiting fellow at NMIT, spoke of the “extraordinary inequality” between hot, poor countries around the equator and rich, cold countries in Europe and North America in the coming decades as a result of climate change.

Countries in South East Asia and West Africa will lose billions of dollars in productivity and work capacity, while countries like Canada and Russia have calculated that their economies will actually benefit from the effects of climate change.

Kjellstrom provided the example of the Le Lai shoe factory in Haiphong, Vietnam. During the summer, workers stay two hours longer everyday to produce the same output. It’s so hot and humid they have to take more breaks.

“The trends are always going up,” he said.

In the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, scientists and world leaders will make plans to limit the global temperature change to 2 degrees Celsius over the next 100 years.

The graph below shows four plans for the expected global temperature change. The top blue line is unsustainable and the bottom line is not currently feasible. Kjellstrom says we can expect the temperature to rise somewhere around the green and red lines in the middle of the graph.

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Four plans to limit global temperature change. Most predict we will end up somewhere around the green and red estimates.

Kjellstrom added the expected life span of his two-year-old grandchild (yellow), and the successive generations. This child will almost certainly live to 2100, when the global average temperature is expected to be 2 degrees Celsius higher than it was in 1995.

“I imagine the sort of world he is going into,” Kjellstrom, who grew up in Sweden but has lived most of his life in New Zealand, said.

Kjellstrom and his research team have compared the temperature increases in places around the world and gauged the effects on working people in fields and factories.

Here in Nelson, with a booming fruit picking industry, the temperature has been increasing at a rate of 0.16 degrees Celsius every decade. It won’t make a huge difference in labor productivity.

Compare that to Singapore, where it is rising at a rate of 0.29 degrees every decade.

Or Istanbul, at 0.97 degrees.

Or Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico, where the temperature has risen at a rate of 1.29 degrees every decade since 1980. This is not a prediction, this is what has already happened.

It is clear that as the temperature rises, productivity falls. Workers have to start earlier in the day, take more breaks, take naps during midday or, in some cases, work becomes impossible.

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 12.29.54 PM
WBGT is a heat stress index created by the American Military. It takes into account temperature, humidity, wind and other environmental factors. As WBGT increases, productivity plummets.

With a wide disparity between hot, poor countries and cold, rich countries, scientists and economists predict mass migration, massive loss in labor productivity and mass fatality. Entire countries will become unlivable in coming centuries.

The Climate Vulnerability Monitor expects a global loss of $2.4 trillion (USD) in global labor productivity annually by 2030.

One of Kjellstrom’s colleagues estimates 100 million refugees will seek entrance to Europe by the end of century because of climate change. Compare that figure to the 280,000 refugees who entered the EU in 2014 and 350,000 from January-August of this year.

That’s a lot of people with no where to go. He says they might be resettled in the cold, safe climates of Siberia or Northern Canada.

“I hope you are educating this government,” a woman from the crowd says during the Q&A, alluding to the conservative Prime Minister John Key. Everyone laughed and one man quipped, “Is that possible?”

The discussion lasted longer than the lecture. I appear to be the youngest in the crowd of about 60 in the auditorium style classroom at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology. Most of the attendees are the type of Kiwi mothers and grandmothers who wouldn’t allow you to refuse a cup of tea or coffee and homemade biscuits. Rumbles of mmm, mmm, mmm and head nods spread through the crowd when Professor Kjellstrom makes an especially poignant remark.

“Is there anyone here who doesn’t believe in climate change?” he asks the crowd. Just laughs.

One member said, “It’s not a belief system…We should not use the word belief.”

Unfortunately, many people don’t see it that way. I find it sad that we most certainly have the ability and technology to stop climate change, but capitalism is preventing progress. Too many corporations and lobbyists are simply making too much money from fossil fuels, agriculture and livestock. They like the status quo and aren’t willing to change.

Kjellstrom said with his age he has learned to be patient. He said it is difficult to find funding for research and even more difficult for people to believe your work if it is not published in a peer-reviewed journal. It’s clear this fight will take time, but by the time we take action, it might be too late.

P.S. I just watched Cowspiracy on Netflix. Holy shit. Mind blown. If you really want to be an environmentalist, stop consuming all animal products and go vegan.