Hoping for change: new Finnish parliament

There’s an election going on here in Finland; by the end of the week we will have chosen who will sit in our parliament for the next four years.

I’m hoping to see people in the parliament who will work for at least these things;

  • Animal welfare
    • Focus on the animal welfare instead of economic winnings in creating the new Animal Welfare Act
    • A decision to end fur farming within the next ten years, and an actual plan on how to do so
    • A decision to move away from factory farming
  • Environment
    • Moving more and more towards renewable energy sources, away from oil, coal, nuclear energy etc.
    • Promotion of plant-based, organic and locally grown food both in schools and in society in general
  • Equality:
    • Keeping to the decision of marriage equality
    • Working against racism and sexism in working life and society in general

Use your privilege and vote, dear Finnish citizens! We don’t have any right to complain or demand change if we don’t do anything for that change to happen.

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Time for a change: the Living Planet Report

I’ve recently read through the summary of this year’s Living Planet Report – an annual report published by the WWF, which documents the state of our planet. It’s not pleasant reading, mentioning among other things that;

  • the number of animals we share our planet with has fallen by half since 1970
  • to keep our standard of living, we would need the regenerative capacity of 1.5 planets
  • the low-income countries have the smallest ecological footprints, but suffer the biggest losses in biodiversity
  • climate change and the depletion of ecosystems will leave even more people suffering from hunger, living without clean water or a reliable electricity supply

Reports like this one screams for change. To change our way of living is not just an option, it’s mandatory. The situation is not yet hopeless, but demands immediate action, from the leaders of our nations, from companies, and from us as ordinary citizens.

“We need leadership for change. Sitting on the bench waiting for someone else to make the first move doesn’t work. Heads of state need to start thinking globally; businesses and consumers need to stop behaving as if we live in a limitless world.”

– Marco Lambertini, WWF International

Vegetarian Awareness Month

Today is the kick-off of Vegetarian Awareness Month, a month centered on vegetarian food in all its glory. It starts off with today’s celebration of World Vegetarian Day. This is a great opportunity to take the pledge to go vegetarian for one month!

There’s a lot of different campaigns out there challenging people to ditch meat – or animal products all together – this month, and offering support (recipes, information etc) to you while doing so. Here in Finland we have for example Lihaton Lokakuu (“Meat-free October”) and Vegaanihaaste (“Vegan challenge”).

I also personally challenge you, try it out! It doesn’t have to be perfect, this is not a challenge that you can fail. It’s just a challenge for you to step out of your comfort zone, getting to know vegetarian food, making a change for the animals and the planet, and hopefully also having some fun in the process!

vegan bbq

Maybe you choose to go full-out vegan for a month, maybe you choose to only cut the meat out of your diet for a month, any way you decide to accept the challenge, it will still make a difference to the animals and to our planet, and probably most of all to you. When you are “forced” to look for alternatives of the foods you normally eat, a whole new world of food – food you never thought existed – will open up to you.

The Vegetarian Awareness Month will culminate on November 1, which is World Vegan Day (and coincidentally my anniversary as a vegan!). Then I suggest you eat some vegan cake! At least I will.

 

Cleaning Day

Yesterday was Siivouspäivä, in English “Cleaning Day”. It’s a celebration day for second hand stuff, recycling and urban culture which is held twice a year, once in May and once in August. On this day anyone can sell or give away their old things pretty much anywhere (in most Finnish cities) as long as they register their spot on the Siivouspäivä website and follow some general rules.

Siivouspäivä

I love the idea of this event. It’s a good way to make people recycle more instead of throwing away stuff, because it doesn’t cost you anything to sell your things on a day like this, and you don’t need any special permission. Yesterday there were also spots around the city where you could bring broken things for recycling, or give away still usable things to second hand stores or charity – which is great. I also like the fact that the Finnish people get out and actually talk to each other and interact with strangers, which doesn’t exactly happen every day.

I love walking around at these events and looking at what people are selling. It’s one of the reasons why I like going to second hand stores in general. I just love looking at old and used things, because they all have some kind of history. Going to a store full of new things doesn’t give the same feeling at all. The fact that buying stuff second hand is much better for the environment gives still another reason to love second hand stores and recycling events. Everyone wins; someone gets rid of their old stuff and might earn something from it, you get something new, and the environment doesn’t have to pay any price for it.

Tips for consuming less

We consume an enormous amount of things today and it’s so easy to buy things – there are shops all around and online you can easily buy things with just a click. Most of the things we buy we don’t actually need and often we end up just leaving them unused. This is a habit we all need to change, mainly for the sake of the planet, but also for our own health.

I found an “anti-consumption check-list” written in one of my notebooks, and I wanted to share it with you. I know I copied this one from a book or something, but I hadn’t written down the source. Anyways, the original is in Swedish, so this is a free translation with a little changes because I just don’t want to write everything.

When you want to buy something, think about these things first:

1. Do I really have time for this?
Consumption is often time-consuming, and most often you have something better to do with your time.

2. Do I really need this?
Often we think we need something that we actually would be able to do without. When you get the first impulse to buy something, count to ten in your head and then think again if you actually need it.

3. Can it be fixed, borrowed or rented?
Maybe what you would need can be borrowed or rented (books, music, games for example).

4. Can it be found or bought second-hand?
Try finding what you want at a second-hand store. You can also check what other people are throwing away, often there are fully usable things (like furniture for example) in garbage rooms.

5. Is there an organic alternative?
If you really have to buy something, buy fair trade, organic and/or energy-efficient things. If you buy things of good quality they last for many years and you don’t have to constantly buy new ones.

Also remember to not throw things you no longer want in the garbage if they are still usable, trying selling them, giving them to friends or to charity/second-hand stores!

Are we learning anything from super storms like Haiyan/Yolanda?

No one has probably missed the typhoon that hit the Philippines last week, causing enormous devastation. The winds almost totally wiped out the city of Tacloban and destroyed many other communities on the island of Leyte as well. Many people have died, even more are homeless and starving.There’s no law and order and getting help to the victims is complicated.

People generously give money to help out, money which is greatly needed to save the people there and rebuild their city and their lives again. But this is not a post about asking you to donate money – even if it would make me very happy if you do – instead I want to ask everybody a question: Are we learning anything from storms like this one?

I’m not talking about developing better plans for how to handle the disaster when it strikes, even though that is also important, and something that should have been paid more attention to in the Philippines knowing that this storm was approaching. However, what I’m talking about is climate change. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that these storms are getting both worse and more frequent because of the damage we do to our nature. We are all partly responsible for what happened in the Philippines. Just like we are all partly responsible for any other natural disaster that has happened or will happen in the future.

The lifestyle people in the developed world are leading is not sustainable – we are living above our resources – and we all know that. We use the nature as a resource instead of living in harmony with it, instead of treating this planet as the home it is. It is the only planet we have, the only one we are ever going to have. Unfortunately life is not fair, and the consequences of the lifestyle we are leading does not always (never) hit the people most responsible.

We need to change and we need to change now. It’s not enough to change our light bulbs to energy-saving ones or closing the lights or the TV when not in the room. We need to change our way of living; consuming less, traveling less and more energy-efficient, eating more environmentally friendly foods (aka plants), and so on. We cannot anymore reverse what we have done to this planet of ours – and with that to millions of humans and animals –  but we can stop it from getting worse.

You might be thinking that changing your own lifestyle will not make a difference, because you’re only one person among billions, and along with that the many corporations and political leaders who only seek power and economical gain – often on the expense of the environment or the health of humans or animals. But you know what? You can change that. We can change that. Because people together are powerful, together we can change anything.

If not you, who? If not now, when?

I want a vegan world!

I re-listened to one of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s podcasts today. Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while probably know by now that I admire Colleen greatly, she is a true inspiration for me to continue learning and writing about animals and veganism and to keep thinking compassionately.

Anyways, the podcast I listened to today is called “Turning the tables” and in the podcast she, among other things, talks about that many people believe vegans have an “agenda” to turn the whole world vegan. It reminded me of an article in the local newspaper some years ago, in 2009, in connection to a campaign by the animal activist organization Oikeutta Eläimille about ending fur farming. The article was about an own campaign the fur farming industry had started as an answer to the campaign by Oikeutta Eläimille, and it said something about that we (“the vegans” or “the activists”) start with a ban against fur and fur farming, then we want to go on to ban other types of animal farming for meat, dairy and eggs, etc.. The article was angled in a way that it seemed that this aim is something animal activists are hiding from the public, that we pretend to “only” want a ban against fur farming, but actually we want to ban all animal industry.

I was almost laughing when I read this article back then, and I still find it very ironic, because for me it has never been about any hidden agendas. I would love for the whole world to be vegan, free of animal industries, even though I don’t believe that a ban is the best way to get there. Ethical decisions like that need to come from people themselves, not from any higher authority, to be understood and have an actual point for both humans and animals. Anyway, while I was still in the local activist group we were never about hiding that we are vegans and that is what we are striving for more and more people to be. It has always been out there for people to see.

I think a vegan world would be great in so many ways, not only for the animals but also for the people and the environment. If we would show more compassion towards animals – all of the animals and not only pets, getting a more one-sided view of animals instead of the very confusing view we have now where some animals are friends and others food or products to be used – I believe it would come as a consequence that we would also be more compassionate towards one another. Veganism is not a perfect way of living or an end of something, it is one step on the way towards living as compassionately as possible, towards doing as little harm as possible.