ActivismPosted by Dave Wise Mon, August 20, 2018 12:07:36 Being an activist can be frustrating, deeply saddening and seemingly hopeless at times. Burn out among those who try to change our world for the better is common and it's easy to see why; stay around as an activist for long and it can seem that the people who care just don't care enough and the world as we know it is going to fall all around us pretty soon. Which may all be true, yet the fact that we're probably all doomed isn't any reason at all to stop trying to stand up for the oppressed, and face down greed, a lack of critical thinking and evil wherever you may find it.
But in order to do this you have to stay in the game, and this can be a challenge. In this short film activist Randall Arauz explains how he has kept going as an effective force for good over a career spanning several decades.
My trip to Costa Rica didn’t
just alert me to the sad condition of our sea life. The issue of large scale
fruit production - specifically pineapples - and the havoc it brings to the
people and environment, also came to my attention. I’m a runner so I eat a lot
of pineapple to keep inflammation at bay. I’m always looking for a deal on the
fruit when I’m in the supermarket, $2 is a usual price if they’re on sale,
which they seem to be frequently during the summer.
I kind of knew that $2 per
pineapple wasn’t enough, and that if I was paying this price then somebody,
somewhere down the line, was being treated poorly. Being made to work in bad
conditions, not getting paid enough, that sort of thing. But I turned my face
from that feeling, I didn’t investigate the facts. I cared about the plantation
workers and the environment, but not enough.
Until I began hearing things on
the trip, just in passing, about the troubles workers face there on the
plantations, the poisons being introduced into the environment just so we can
grow enough fruit to feed the demand of people like me. Maybe I was ready for
change, perhaps that was one of the motivators that made me go on this trip. Whatever the
reason, I came back to Canada eager to try to do the right thing. After some searching I found
this article online. It's about pineapple farming in Costa Rica, it’s extensive and
cites all its sources and as such seems credible to me. Check for yourself here
I don’t want to cherry pick
info from it too much, it’s worth a read in its entirety, but for those of you
who don’t have time, here are some grim ‘highlights’ that I think everybody
should know about.
production in particular has come under recent scrutiny with respect to many issues.
Deforestation and wetland destruction for the development of plantations,
intensive agrochemical application, workers’ rights abuses, lack of erosion
control, and the impact of large transportation vehicles (on both the roads and
communities through which they pass) continue to both harm the environment and
jeopardize the health of local people. Irresponsible practices have been
implicated in poisoning soil and water supplies, damaging air quality, reducing
biodiversity, and endangering the area’s long-term future food security.
Since 2000, pineapple
production has increased by nearly 300% in Costa Rica. Between the years of
2001 and 2007 alone, the total value of pineapple exports exploded in value
from $142 million USD to nearly $485 million USD. Pineapple production now
brings in more than $800 million USD annually to Costa Rica, and has overtaken
both coffee and bananas in becoming the nation’s largest agricultural export. Unfortunately,
the pineapple industry’s rapid growth has far outpaced labor and environmental
regulation, with largely detrimental effects on the environment and Costa Rican
Pineapples require a
significant amount of time in order to produce fruit. Even utilizing high
quantities of synthetic fertilizer, producers generally collect only two fruit
from an individual pineapple plant every 18-24 months. Faster
growing hybrid varieties are cultivated with the use of harmful agrochemicals,
including bromacil, diuron, and glyphosate, which are toxic to humans.
plantation workers and their families continue to suffer most acutely from the
health consequences of persistent chemical exposure related to pineapple
production. The use of organophosphates and organochlorines on the pineapple
crops, chemicals labeled as hormone disruptors, carcinogens, reproductive
toxins (substances known to cause birth defects), and other persistent
pollutants that can remain in the environment for years are broadly applied.
Workers for the PINDECO Company
in the southern Pacific area of Costa Rica complained of increased incidences
of allergies, migraines, nausea, feelings of weakness and lethargy, chronic
gastritis, and influenza as a result of weakened immune systems. There are also
reports among plantation workers and their families of skin and eye damage and
irritation, respiratory problems, nervous system disorders, birth defects, and
psychological illnesses, including anxiety and depression.
Other workers have complained
of dizziness, vomiting, fainting, the appearance of white splotches on the
skin, coughs, thyroid irregularities, and the disintegration of their
fingernails as the result of handling of poisonous chemicals.
the severe health risks associated with the work, pineapple laborers are paid
little for their efforts. In 2005, a report found that pineapple harvesters
generally earned between $1-2 an hour, working 10-12 hours a day, 6-7 days a
addition, pineapple work is often seasonal, with workers being hired for
harvests and then fired immediately following them until they are next needed,
at which point they are re-hired later (generally later in the year in time for
the next wave of harvesting). This “hire-and-fire” system keeps workers in
constant fear of not being re-employed, discouraging them from joining unions
or speaking out against low pay and poor working conditions. Additionally,
nearly 70% of workers in the industry are Nicaraguan, and many are illegal
immigrants. Without official papers or visas, Nicaraguan migrants feel unable
to protest unfair and inhumane treatment for fear of deportation, undermining
their power to assert access to basic human rights.
make it difficult for workers to voice their complaints or campaign for
improved labor conditions in other ways as well. Hiring people as contract
workers (of which 77% of those workers producing pineapple supplied to Dole
are) prevents the vast majority of the workforce from having the legal right to
organize into unions.
member of the plantation workers’ union SITRAP had recently been persuading
fellow workers to petition the company for independent union representation on
its “permanent committee” that handles relations between employees and
management. But everyone who had signed the petition had just been sacked. In
2007, there was a mass sacking, or “liquidaciones”, and rehiring at wage rates
reportedly 40% lower than previously. Union members were rehired only if they
agreed to give up their affiliation.”
The first step for me, having read this, would be to see if
there are any pineapples being sold in Canada that are not from either Del
Monte or Dole. Some may say, well, maybe these companies are bad but if you buy
the fruit they produce which is good, it’ll encourage them to do produce more
my view is that these companies know exactly what they are doing, they just
make a choice to value profit over their fellow humans and the environment we
all live in. They’ll go where the money is, and whenever a company does that
there is no stability. To do any business with them is like Chamberlain doing a
deal with Hitler, waving a paper of agreement whilst knowing really that it’s
worth very little, if anything at all.
find out more about buying fairtrade, organic pineapples from decent people I
started my search at the Canadian Fairtrade website
6 cans of pineapple chunks for $34? I’m not saying the price is not
justified, but does this mean that pineapple now becomes something I eat on
special occasions only, like Christmas, or Birthdays? Perhaps so.
are a fairtrade pineapple producer, but their site looks like it’s just for
wholesale. Perhaps a business opening for me, to import sustainable pineapples.
the next step it seems is to physically walk around all the health food stores,
the grocers and the organic sections of all the supermarkets in Toronto and check out what’s
on sale. I’ll report back. And of course if you, reader, have any insight that might be of help, please do let me know.
hope this hasn’t put you off trying to source your own favourite foods
properly. It’s a hassle compared to the way we are used to doing things, but
then again, the way we did things isn’t good enough any more. Maybe it never
ActivismPosted by Dave Wise Mon, July 30, 2018 12:15:21 Whilst in Costa Rica I heard a lot from the marine biologists about a website called Seafood Watch (http://www.seafoodwatch.org/). It was recommended as a place where fish eaters could go to search for a restaurant in their home city which serves up fish that has been caught using sustainable fishing methods. I don't eat fish but I thought it would be a good link to send to my family and friends, so once I got home I looked at the site and was pretty disappointed.
Ok, I hadn't expected much, it's run by an aquarium and I have very mixed feelings about these places. I hate seeing animals kept in captivity, but at the same time, the thing that convinced my partner to stop eating fish was going to an aquarium, seeing how wonderful the animals are, and then asking herself, 'But if I love them, why am I eating them?'
But that could be my bias as a vegan, perhaps many aquariums are great centres of conservation, I don't know enough to lambast them all and I accept that. So back to the Seafood Watch website. I searched for restaurants in my home city of Toronto and found 4 entries. One for the zoo, another for a market and 2 for a chain restaurant called Red Lobster. Which was kind of like recommending somebody to go to Denny's or some family junk food joint. So in effect, although the website looked good and had the potential to be very useful, it was a relatively empty shell. I searched for other cities, the results outside of the US west coast, where the aquarium is based, were similar.
In the old days I'd have just written the website off as yet another failed omni venture. But where would that have gotten me, and the fish? Nowhere useful. So I saw this as an opportunity, wrote to the aquarium/website, and asked for their criteria so that I could reach out to restaurants in Toronto and at least make their website useful.
I got this reply;
"Any restaurant can become a Seafood Watch partner as long as they are willing to phase out any red rated seafood products. All of our recommendations are publicly available online or on our free app. To use our recommendations, you’ll need to know three things:
1. What species is it?
2. What country if it from?
3. How was it caught or farmed?
With those three key data elements, you can use Seafood Watch recommendations to figure out the respective rating.
Please feel free to direct any restaurants interested in partnership to www.seafoodwatch.org. They can click on the “Businesses & Organizations” tab to fill out a short inquiry form and someone from our business team will get in touch to explain the partnership, answer questions and identify next steps.
Finally, Vancouver Aquarium has a similar seafood product called Ocean Wise, which relies on our recommendations. They also have a restaurant program and would likely have more Canadian restaurant partners, but keep in mind that I believe their restaurant partners are only required to highlight which seafood items on their menu are sustainable."
I have no idea if there is a cost to become a Seafood Watch partner, perhaps it's like the Organic movement. Many farmers now practice to Organic standards but just can't afford membership of the movement so they can't say their produce is organic, even though it is. And for sure, by the look of the website... ...yes, that's right, a dude kissing a dead fish, well, you can't expect that much, (although their promo film is really nice and says some encouraging things). But at least it's a start, and it's something positive, and perhaps more people will become aware of the importance of eating sustainably as a result.
I hope you will check out the Seafood Watch website and if you find the entries to your own town or city lacking, that you do something about it. I intend to send out news of this to all restaurants I can find in Toronto who it might apply to, and then encourage them to do the rest and become a partner.
One of the main issues the world has is that most humans think they don't matter, that they can't make a difference. That's wrong. You and I can make a difference, and we should before it's too late.
And if by chance you eat fish, make an effort to find out where you can buy sustainably caught seafood that's been locally fished, if possible. It'll no doubt cost you a bit more than the fish that's not caught that way. I feel your pain. I have the same issue when I reach for the pineapples and the ones grown unsustainably are $2 and the organic ones are $3.50. I'm earning not much more than minimum wage, I can't afford it, my wallet screams! But I have to. You have to. We have to be better. We, the ones who care, have got to care more, to do more.
ActivismPosted by Dave Wise Fri, July 27, 2018 12:37:47 Here's a couple of short interviews with marine biologists Randall Arauz and Daniel Arauz Naranjo giving you some ideas on how you can help our oceans from wherever you are.
I didn’t know that there is no sustainable way of fishing for shrimp/prawn (the two words are used interchangeably by many people although shrimp live mainly in salt water and prawn in fresh) until I went to Costa Rica and spoke to the marine biologists who were working on the M/V Sharkwater. It was harsh to hear about the commercial fishing method, which involved dragging a weighted net along the ocean bed and catching everything in its path (or destroying it, in the case of reef). It’s such a bad way of fishing that only 4%, or less, of a shrimp trawlers catch is actually shrimp, the rest is other animals (turtles, dolphins, fish, etc) that die in the nets and are thrown back into the sea.
After hearing that, if I wasn’t already vegan then the first course of action for me would be obvious. Give up eating shrimp and prawn. But I am vegan so I already don’t eat any seafood at all.
The easy way forward, then, would be to stand back and say, hey, it’s you meat eaters that are to blame here, y’all got to sort this out among you. Stop eating unsustainable food, stop funding these trawlers with your purchases, and start funding fishermen who are doing the right thing.
But mainly I’m writing this for my friends and family so I don’t want to just walk away, not when I have quite a good knowledge of cooking and how to make cruelty free, sustainable food.
Those close to me said they’d be happy to try new foods, but they enjoyed fish, and shrimp, so they didn’t want to give it up. They reminded me of spoilt young kids, sitting in their high-chairs, banging unsustainable plastic spoons onto unsustainable plastic trays and bowls and shouting “But I want my shrimp!”
Kind of like when grown adults saying something like ‘Ooh, I’d love to be vegetarian and get away from all that dairy farm cruelty, heart disease and other health problems, but I could never give up cheese…”
You just want to say, have a listen to yourself, do you really think life is all about you?
But hey, I’m trying to take a more gentle line these days, trying to play the game in a softer manner. This isn’t about me getting a kick out of acting superior or being a smartass, it’s about the animals and the environment, and I have to do the best I can for their sake. So the sarcasm and disdain which comes so naturally to one born into my circumstances and part of England has to take a back seat, replaced instead by something far more useful, which is…
A vegan version of shrimp cocktail (we call it prawn cocktail in the UK, it's the same thing though) and prawn curry.
I knew I had to create something that was simple to make so people new to vegan cooking could get on with it. It’s not easy to learn how to cook properly after you’ve spent your life eating meat and seafood in the manner of the western world, which encourages you to salt and sweeten everything to such an extent that your taste buds become a shadow of what they can be, and your visits to the spice rack are way too infrequent. So here’s what I came up with.
Take Note; And this is important. Many veggie replacement meat or fish recipes try to entice you into making them by saying they’ll taste the same as meat or fish. Then you make them and find that’s not true at all, and there begins, or continues, the erosion of trust that is tearing our societies apart.
These recipes don’t taste like prawn, I won't claim that, but they are tasty alternatives that are near to the prawn eating experience, so I hope you’ll give them a try and phase shrimp/prawn out of your diet as a result.
The main attraction with this dish is the sauce and the appearance. Get those 2 things right and it hardly matters what replaces the shrimp. I tried 3 different fillings. They were:
Cannellini beans (these are also sold as white kidney beans) and small pieces of raw cauliflower.
The stalks from mushrooms.
Pieces of seitan, that I made myself with a sushi/seaweed seasoning.
I did a blind taste test on a couple of friends and they both said, they’re all different and they’re all good, why don’t you mix them together and instead of having a single texture you can have 4. So I did just that, and it was a cool result. If you've no experience of making seitan no problem, leave it out, just use the mushrooms, beans and cauliflower instead. Or if you can think of another veggie substitute, then throw that in instead.
The prawn cocktail sauce is made from:
2 tbsp Veganaise (that’s mayo, but without the cruelty). You can also use regular, thick mayo if you can’t find it
1.5 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp lemon juice (the type you get from a bottle is fine, fresh is better). Don't put too much of this in, it will make the sauce too runny. If you'd like to play around with ingredients here, you may want to sub the lemon juice for white wine vinegar
2 splashes veggie Worcestershire sauce
2 drops of Tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper to taste Mix it all up, stir in the filling, line a cocktail glass - or bowl - with lettuce, spoon the mix on top of the leaves and sprinkle with optional toppings. Serve with a lemon wedge on the side.
Or serve at a picnic, as I did, with fresh bread... ...or as a platter with pita and other spreads/toppings. Optional additions:
If after mixing all the sauce ingredients together you find you need to add more heat, add more Worcestershire sauce or Tabasco, and if you need a different sort of heat, you can try adding some horseradish sauce.
If you want more of a seafood flavour, add some crumbled nori seaweed or sushi seasoning.
If you’d like it to look pinker, add a little more ketchup.
Top the dish with cut chives and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper to make it look even more special.
Now, I understand it might be a hassle to get veggie mayo and Worcestershire sauce or to even think about buying something you never bought before, but welcome to the new world. The easy way that you’ve been following has filled the oceans with plastic and our hearts with an acceptance of cruelty, and driven many species - including our own - to a dangerous place. Extinction, for us all, is a very real prospect. To dig us out of this hole will take work and part of that work begins at the supermarket. Spend more time learning about food and shopping for it, and pay a little more for quality, sustainable ingredients. That’s the future, if you want there to be a future.
Next blog post I’ll move onto the coconut prawn curry.
ActivismPosted by Dave Wise Wed, July 25, 2018 09:29:17 I travelled to Costa Rica recently and spent time aboard the M/V Sharkwater, the ship christened in honour of Rob Stewart, a biologist and film maker who bought attention to the devastation created by the shark fin trade and the potential disaster that may descend on us if sharks are driven to extinction. The company I work for, Lush Cosmetics, arranged the trip; they'd funded Rob's efforts for many years and wanted to help carry on his attempt to spread a compassionate message and this journey, where I and a group of co-workers spent time working with marine biologists to collect data on sea turtles and sharks, was one of the ways in which they tried to do that. I gained new insight into many aspects of marine conservation and activism and recorded much of what I learnt in short video interviews I made with the marine biologists Randall and Daniel Arauz. I knew that my filming work wasn't going to be of a high standard - even with such knowledgable talkers as Randall and Daniel at my disposal there's a limit to what an inexperienced film maker can do with a simple, non-modified iPhone and an old GoPro - but I reckoned that it'd be good enough to spread some small amount of awareness among my friends and family. I'd make a few films now and again, show them on my Facebook page, and try to talk about what I'd learnt in Costa Rica to those who could bear to tear themselves away from looking at cat videos. Nothing large scale, and that was fine. If we can each spread a measure of truth to just a handful of people close to us, then I believe that is a solid start for us as individuals.
Yesterday though, things changed a little. Lush asked us all to post fun, marine style selfies and use certain hashtags such as #savesharks. I thought that since I’d heard it was Shark Week I'd go one step further and tune the TV's at work to the Discovery Channel. Now, Shark Week is basically an invention of the Discovery Channel. I don't have TV and have never watched the Discovery Channel, but I heard it was pretty good so I expected the Shark Week programs to talk about shark conservation and how we need sharks as they're the head of the ocean food chain, and since the ocean produces over half of the oxygen we need to live, it's in our interests to keep things in balance there.
Of course, this isn't a great message. The better one would point to how cruel our treatment of other animals is but hey, if you want to stop sharks getting tortured and killed and the main way of making that happen is to appeal to human self interest, then ok, I think we can let the lack of soul slide.
So I stood there watching the first few minutes of the Discovery Channel shark documentary and thought, what a lazy, childish, uninformed pile of shit this is.
It was the same old story, telling of how dangerous sharks are, and there was this dude with one arm which he said had been taken by a bull shark, trying to counsel Rhonda Rousey, the famous cage fighter, in how to be in the water with this most dangerous of animals. It was us against them. The famous human fighter against the famous killer shark.
I thought at first, why on earth is Lush even associating itself with this juvenile rubbish. I guess it's because they just want to bring awareness to the plight of sharks, and shark week seemed a decent platform from which to gain attention. Fair enough. And perhaps I was being rash, perhaps I'd just caught the Discovery Channel at a bad time. I'd tune in later, they'd probably be showing Rob's film 'Sharkwater', or the sequel, or something that was more balanced, made by real human beings rather than a bunch of frightened, sensationalist, 50 year old toddlers.
Later that day I tuned in again. There was the bleach blonde chef, Guy Fieri, and the title was 'Guy Fieri's Feeding Frenzy.' Fucking stupid title, but I didn't let it put me off. It was good wildlife filming, but once again the emphasis was on how scary sharks are, how we should be frightened of them.
My experiences in Costa Rica tell me otherwise. So I thought I'd step up my efforts and try to put together some films to start relaying the truth, and get them out on the internet ASAP, to try to combat the nonsense that the mainstream media seems so fond of peddling.
My filming quality is garbage, I admit, but I've learnt that this isn't always important. When I won the Canadian 24hr running championship last year aged 49 it wasn't because I was the best runner, or even because I'm vegan (although that helped immensely), it was because I turned up. Simple as that.
I turned up on training days, and I turned up on race day, and I tried my best. Sometimes, when the bar is so low in life, as it often is in the Western World, to stand out and make a difference all you have to do is turn up, align your actions with your values and thoughts, and put in some hard work. Hopefully that same equation will work with my films. The quality of filming and production is a fraction of what you'll see on the Discovery Channel this week, but hopefully the fact that the films are not full of fear and bullshit will count for something with viewers, and the truth will get out there more and more.
So here's a few of my short films to start with. More will come tomorrow.