Category Archives: Oceans

The Top 5 Reasons I Went Vegan

Since I made the transition from a vegetarian diet to a full-fledged vegan lifestyle, I often get a lot of questions (and criticism) about why.   In all honesty, there’s countless reasons I could offer friends, family, and even strangers about why I made this life changing decision.   There are a lot of myths to veganism which I will eventually address in a future post, but today I want to share the top 5 reasons why I went vegan.

1. HEALTH

When I was around 23-years old, my health began to take a turn for the worse.   I began a heavy regimen of medications, visits to specialists, countless tests and medical procedures, etc.  At 25-years old my pulse jumped one evening to 220+ bpm as my heart went into Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).  Paramedics were called on my behalf and I was defibrillated three times while conscious.  Amazingly, that still didn’t correct the problem.   I would go through over two-dozen more episodes of SVT before I underwent a cardiac ablation surgery.   Still, my health worsened.   By 28-years old I was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure and began taking over 18 prescription medications multiple times a day.   All of this, many other conditions including my chronic back pain left me in a mess.   I was passionately and stubbornly in love with every type of meat, dairy, and seafood…yet veganism was not something that ever crossed my mind.

Finally in 2012, broken and desperate, I decided to try a vegetarian diet.   My world and health began to change almost immediately.   More fascinated on how something so simple could offer so much resolution to my health crisis, I decided to make a major life decision.  I decided to become a vegan.  Since 2012 I have been taken off all cardiac medications, now only taking two blood pressure medications.   I went from injecting two different types of insulin, to only taking an oral diabetes medication, to being taken off ALL diabetes medications.  On September 1, 2013 I will mark 9-months free of any diabetes medications.  I no longer take cholesterol medications.   In fact, my LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, as well as my triglycerides levels couldn’t be more perfect!  SInce going vegetarian (then vegan), I have nearly lost 70 lbs.!   I no longer need to use medicated shampoo for my irritated and often times, painful psoriasis on the back of my scalp.  My concentration and attention to detail is more clear than it has ever been, I didn’t even realize that my brain was living in a fog…I thought that was normal.  This list could literally go on and on, but these are some of the highlights.

2. COMPASSION

I’m an animal lover…always have been and always will be!  Far beyond I can even remember, I was absolutely awestruck, in love, and fascinated by animals.   As I was growing up, my passion, love, and respect for animals only grew…even though I was an omnivore.  I remember coming into contacts with vegetarians (and vegans, as rare as they were) in my high school years and always found their points of view very convincing and eye opening, yet not enough to tear me away from my beloved carne asada, chorizo, beef hamburgers…let alone sushi, lobster, or fresh caught trout (yes, I used to be quite the angler).  But the more I grew, the more I learned.

I began to look into the source of my meats, dairy, seafood, and even my clothing.   What I discovered was horrifying.  Yet I was somehow convinced that going vegetarian (or vegan for that matter) would not change the industry, so I went on with life with a “blind eye”.   Eventually my conscience (and health) started to catch up with me.  As a compulsive seeker of truth, turning a blind eye was becoming more and more difficult to carry out.  Eventually I would have to practically inhale anything that was meat and make sure that I didn’t think about the source while doing so.   This became exhausting, and my conscience started to catch up with me.   As a victim of gun violence and an advocate for gun-control legislation, I have often spoke about how it doesn’t matter how many thousands of innocent children die by gunshots in our country , but the fact that a single child dies by a gunshot….for one is far too many.  I began to equate the same reasoning to the horrors in the inhumane and ungodly treatment of animals we raise for food, milk, and products.

Enough was enough.  I couldn’t deny the truth any longer.   How can I profess my love for animals and my opposition to their abuse, neglect, and murder…yet scarf down a steak?  I was invalidating and contradicting my own personal convictions for ease and convenience.  I was an accessory to mass murder.  Many documentaries such as Food, Inc. and Vegucated helped change my life!

3. ENVIRONMENT

Climate change is no longer a myth.   It’s a fact.   And the data is scary.  Each and every one of us has a moral obligation and responsibility to discuss the global crisis.  The studies and data are bone-chilling and scary.

A recent United Nations report concluded that a global shift toward a vegan diet is necessary to combat the worst effects of climate change.  And the U.N. is not alone in its analysis.  A staggering 51 percent or more of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture, according to a report published by the Worldwatch Institute.  Researchers at the University of Chicago concluded that switching from a standard American diet to a vegan diet is more effective in the fight against climate change than switching from a standard American car to a hybrid. And a German study conducted in 2008 concluded that a meat-eater’s diet is responsible for more than seven times as much greenhouse-gas emissions as a vegan’s diet is.  What most people don’t think about is the resources and energy (as well as pollution) it takes to manufacture meat…from growing feed for the animals, to processing their waste, consumption of water for the animals and growth of their food, pesticides, processing plants, rendering plants, rendering waste…the list goes on.   This is something the meat and dairy industry don’t want you to know.

And for the seafood so many love?   Meet overfishing:

  • 52% of fish stocks are fully exploited
  • 20% are moderately exploited
  • 17% are overexploited
  • 7% are depleted
  • 1% is recovering from depletion

One does not need to be a scientist to comprehend how this affects oceans and ocean life.  And like meat, there is the alarming environmental repercussions which come from seafood manufacturing and processing.

4. NATURAL

There’s no denying that vegan lifestyle is au naturel…if you take the natural way.   I’ll be the first to admit that natural veganism is something you strive for.  As with anything in life, there are a lot of unnatural and unhealthy ways to go about things, and veganism is not an exception.   However, with the right motives and drive, veganism offers a simplicity in being more natural as well as a burning desire to perfect the goal in becoming more natural and whole.   You begin to read every label…and for myself and many vegans, we put the products back on the shelf when we come across ingredients which contain ingredients we can’t pronounce…and of course, anything that is made from animal products (or has been tested on animals) goes back as well.

Learning to go natural is an organic and fresh experience.  It simply makes your soul feel good.   I shy away from overpriced and unhealthy “fake meats.”  Plus, meat just freaks me out, so why would I buy something that looks and tastes like meat.   I have fallen in love with growing our own food and buying from local farmers, makers, and manufacturers who believe and practice the same ethics as I do (or strive to), from people who embrace what this compassionate lifestyle provides us.

One of the many myths is this “diet” is expensive.   This lifestyle is remarkably inexpensive.  To my last calculation, our grocery bill has been cut by close to 65%.  This percentage doesn’t include the endless medication and medical appointment copays.  But it’s not really about the money.   It’s all about the feeling of fulfilment which is nothing less than an incredibly spiritual bond.   It may sound so cliché to spout that I’m a vegan for life, but so be it if it is.  I could never go back.  I would never go back.

IMG_76795. YUMMY

Do you know how many varieties and species of fruits and vegetables grow in the world?   What if I told you there we’re over 7,500 different types of apples alone which grow throughout the world?   And that’s just apples!  The selection of other fruits and vegetables is unthinkable.

Vegan cooking is fun, challenging, and delicious!  Another big myth about being a vegan is that our food is boring, bland, or lacking vital nutrients.   That’s just not true!  And as delicious as fresh fruits & vegetables, the food we eat does go far beyond that!

Vegan chefs took home the trophy at the 10th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational with a nondairy cheese winner, and vegan bakers have dominated the butter-and-egg fest that is Cupcake Wars…twice!  Chloe Coscarelli and Doron Petersan both earned top honors with nondairy creations.   In fact the best Macaroni & Cheese I’ve ever had is made fresh at Washington, DC’s Everlasting Life Cafe, an all vegan and 100% gluten-free soul food restaurant!   Yes…vegan soul food!  Since going vegan, I have been exposed to so many new and different vegetables, fruits, nuts, and other foods.   Your creativity and imagination are the only limit when it comes to preparing incredibly delicious vegan dishes!

Otterly Amazing Sea Otters

A police officer sees a man driving around with a pickup truck full of sea otters.  He turns on his lights and pulls the guy over saying, “you can’t drive around with sea otters in this town!  Take them to the zoo immediately.”  The guy says “OK”… and drives away.  The next day, the officer sees the guy still driving around with the truck full of sea otters, and they’re all wearing sun glasses.  He pulls the guy over and with anger asks, “I thought I told you to take these otters to the zoo yesterday?”  The guy replies., “I did . . . today I’m taking them to the beach!”

*insert rimshot here*

Otters1

California Sea Otter

Last night I came home from my book club and watched an amazingly interesting documentary with Paul, National Geographic: Big Sur – Wild California.  For those of you who have been to Big Sur will know that this part of California’s Central Coast is home to one of the most incredibly diverse ecosystems on Earth.  Here, nature and wildlife have evolved in drastic ways to survive.   Big Sur is home to many unique species of wildlife including the highly endangered California Condors, San Joaquin Kit Fox, California Sea Lions, California Tiger Salamanders, and of course the California Sea Otters.

Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris) are an aquatic member of the weasel family.  They spend most of their time in the water, which is easy to do when you have webbed feet, nostrils and ears that close in the water, and water-repellent fur to keep them dry and warm.    Sea Otters are meticulously clean!  After eating, they wash themselves in the ocean, cleaning their coat with their teeth and paws.  They have good reason to take care of their coats, as it helps them to stay waterproof and insulated against the cold.  Unlike seals, sea otters don’t have insulating fat (blubber) to keep them warm in frigid 35 -60 degree ocean waters.  They have air-bubble-trapping fur – the densest fur of any animal on Earth.  Each square inch of their bodies are covered with 600,000 to 1,000,000 hairs.  An entire human head has only about 100,000 hairs!  

Otters2

Sea otters often float at the water’s surface, lying on their backs in a posture of serene repose. They sleep this way, often gathered in groups.

Sea otters often float at the water’s surface, lying on their backs in a posture of serene repose. They sleep this way, often gathered in groups. Otters sometimes float in forests of kelp, or giant seaweed, where they entangle themselves to provide anchorage in the swirling sea.

These aquatic otters do more than sleep while floating on their backs. They are often seen with a clam or mussel and a rock that has been deftly snared from the ocean floor. Otters will place the rock on their chests, and repeatedly smash the shellfish against it until it breaks open to reveal the tasty meal inside. They also dine on aquatic creatures, such as sea urchins, crabs, squid, octopuses, and fish.

Sea Otters are the only otters to give birth in the water. Mothers nurture their young while floating on their backs. They hold infants on their chests to nurse them, and quickly teach them to swim and hunt.

The California Sea Otter survived a close brush with extinction early in the 20th century, but today, under protection of the Endangered Species Act, they’re expanding their range and increasing their numbers.  By the 1930’s, most people believed that this subspecies of sea otter had vanished, wiped out by fur traders who coveted its rich pelt.  In 1938, however, a small group of otters were discovered living near the mouth of Bixby Creek along California’s Big Sur coast.  From those few survivors, the otter has increased its numbers to more than 2,000 today.  Growth has been particularly impressive during the past decade, when otter numbers increased by nearly 50%!

Conservation works!   If we can see such a population increase with such an enchanting species, Sea Otters should inspire us to be advocates for other Ocean dwelling and dependent species which remain gravely endangered.   Change begins with us!

Have an “otterly” wonderful Friday!

Aquarium Therapy

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Our four reef fish! Six Line Wrasse (top left), Azure Damselfish (top right), Yellow Watchman Goby (bottom left), and Ocellaris Clownfish (bottom right).

For most of us, a trip to the beach can best be described as relaxing and therapeutic.   According to Trip Advisor’s 2013 Top 25 Destinations in the World, 14 locations are seaside and 20 locations are seaside or along a major waterway.    There is no denying that we are balanced by water, whether that be an ocean, bay, river, or lake.   But for many of us, when we think of the greatest relaxing vacation, we think of a tropical beach oasis.   Destinations like Maui, Bora Bora, St. Lucia, Belize, and the Fiji Islands are just some of those popular names that come to mind when you think of aqua blue waters, reef life, warm sands, and tropical air.

Have you noticed an increase of saltwater marine aquariums in public locations?   Perhaps you’ve seen them at a clinic, restaurant, hotel, spa, or maybe even a classroom?   Aquarium Therapy is not new concept, but it is constantly studied and growing with high popularity!

Most people who watch a tank with fish will feel a calming effect, therefore reducing stress.  At Purdue University, researchers discovered that displaying tanks with brightly colored fish helped to curtail disruptive behaviors and improve eating habits of people with Alzheimer’s Disease.  It helps to boost physical and mental health.  It was shown to help create bonding and a positive attitude.   Studies have shown that seniors who were given the opportunity to view aquariums with fish had significant blood pressure reduction as well as  cholesterol.  Children, when visiting a doctor’s office, were found to be much calmer, especially children who suffered from hyperactivity disorders.  Dental patients watching a fish tank required less pain medication.  It also helps in reducing insomnia and persons coping with obesity.   How awesome is this?

Our 29 gallon Coralife BioCube nano reef aquarium with a healthy diversity of fish, corals, and invertebrates.

Our 29 gallon Coralife BioCube nano reef aquarium with a healthy diversity of fish, corals, and invertebrates.

My fiancé and I have two saltwater marine aquariums filled with various fish, invertebrates, and corals.   Contrary to popular belief, we find saltwater aquariums to be be more easy to maintain than freshwater…and not to mention more stunning, beautiful, and therapeutic.   What I find so awesome about a saltwater marine aquarium (particularly a reef tank) is how organic the system is.   When properly maintained; your aquarium becomes its own ecosystem.   This is maintained through bacterias, diversity of species, live rock, live sand, etc.   No unnatural chemicals are needed!

Another added benefit to aquariums are their incorporation into feng shui design.  It is believed that moving water brings prosperity and good luck to a home or office. Aquariums are great feng shui enhancements because they are at the same time soothing and energizing.  The sound and motion of gurgling water activates chi and adds humidity to a dry room, helping to balance chi. Moving water gets things going when the chi has been stagnant for a while (think of ice melting in the spring). Use moving water cures anywhere you want to enhance water or wood energy.

As amazing as this all is, any aquarium still requires learned knowledge, experience, time, money, and patience.   After all, your marine life are all pets and should be treated with the proper respect and care that every pet has the right to.   It is also very important to purchase and trade your marine life with reputable dealers and passionate and ethically driven marine enthusiasts.   Marine life should never be harvested from the oceans!

It’s Shark Week

For those of you who are old enough to remember, Discovery Channel launched its first week-long series of Shark Week on July 17, 1987.   I don’t remember when I actually started watching the series, but I estimate that it was somewhere around the summer of 1989.   I’ve always loved sharks.  I suppose I was one of the fortunate kids who never really believed that man-eating great white sharks patrolled the shores of seaside beaches, searching for their next bite of human flesh, as so ignorantly portrayed in the Jaws films.

I grew up in sunny Southern California.   The beaches and the Pacific Ocean were all a normal part of life for my family.   I actually remember my first real-life experience with a shark when I was around 4 or 5 years old.  My dads had a pretty awesome little sailboat that we would launch in San Diego’s Mission Bay, and would always head out of the bay into the big, blue Pacific Ocean.   We would always jump overboard and swim in the open water.  One afternoon a larger mako or blue shark swam into our area and spent a few minutes swimming around us before losing interest and venturing on.   Of course we made our way back on board the sailboat with our hearts pumping a little more stronger than usual, but surprisingly we were more honored and excited than scared.  Over the years I’ve had many more fortunate encounters with these majestic creatures in various dives in California, Hawaii, and Mexico.

In the past several seasons of Shark Week I’ve noticed a decline in educating viewers and a rise in feeding the typical fearsome stereotypes of these misunderstood predators.   The first sharks lived around 400 million years ago, with most sharks developing during the Cretaceous period – over 64 million years ago.  Today there are over 400 species of sharks, and they are found in every ocean of the world, with some species also found in rivers.   One third of oceanic shark species are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species which means they are seriously threatened by the possibility of extinction.  Scientists even estimate that shark populations in the north-west Atlantic Ocean alone have declined by an average of 50% since the mid 1970s!   Jaws was released  as a film in 1975, and was based on a fictional New England seaside town named, Amity Island.   You do the math…

There are many ongoing issues and circumstances which continue to threaten sharks such as overfishing, phobias, loss of habitat and food source(s), climate change, oceanic pollution, and the wealth sought in the shark fin industry.   As STOP SHARK FINNING states, “Every year tens of millions of sharks die a slow death because of finning. Finning is the inhumane practice of hacking off the shark’s fins and throwing its still living body back into the sea. The sharks either starve to death, are eaten alive by other fish, or drown (if they are not in constant movement their gills cannot extract oxygen from the water). Shark fins are being “harvested” in ever greater numbers to feed the growing demand for shark fin soup, an Asian “delicacy”.

Shark Fins

Since the 1970s the populations of several species have been decimated by over 95% – shark finning is a devastating contributor to this.

This is probably one of the most horrific and barbaric practices that is as equally criminal as the killing elephants simply to “harvest” their ivory tusks.   Fortunately many animal rights and conservation groups have stepped up to the plate and have refused to let this issue go away.

And sadly there is a global pandemic of galeophobia, a fear of sharks.   Are you afraid of sharks?  Did you know:

  • You have a 1 in 63 chance of dying from the flu and a 1 in 11 million chance of being killed by a shark during your lifetime.
  • Over 17,000 people die from falls each year. That’s a 1 in 218 chance over your lifetime, compared to a 1 in 11 million chance of being killed by a shark.
  • In 1996:  toilets injured 43,000 Americans a year.  2,600 Americans were injured by room fresheners. Buckets and pails injured almost 11,000 Americans.   However, sharks only injured 13.
  • For every human killed by a shark, humans kill about two million sharks.  (Read that one again!)

Even with these known facts, the ongoing research to study their behavior as well as their alarming population decreases, sharks are pretty much open game.   If they’re not hunted, they die in fishing nets and even shark proof nets, which many Australian beach communities have gone so far to install.   They do this in a desperate attempt to protect their revenue by providing tourists with a false sense of security instead of discussing the ongoing problems and issues which humans are to blame for.   In the end, countless sharks wind up being the losers.

The last thing I want to do is put a damper on anyone’s Shark Week, especially for shark geeks such as myself, and so many of my fellow friends, but we need to speak out!   Pay close attention to this series and see if you notice any fear-selling, misinformation, or downright absurdities!   Don’t let Discovery Communications define Shark Week, we must be Shark Week!  Let us put our passion into play and help educate our friends, family members, co-workers, etc.   Let’s hit the “like” and “subscribe” buttons of the many great shark conservation groups and organizations.   For those of us who are fortunate enough to have the means, lets go diving!   For those who have never dived, look into it learning!    Our oceans are an amazing ecosystem that we’re still learning about on a daily basis.   Let’s be apart of that process!

 

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