Category Archives: Vegetarian world

Earth is on brink of a sixth mass extinction, scientists say, and it’s humans’ fault


A vast chunk of space rock crashes into the Yucatan Peninsula, darkening the sky with debris and condemning three-quarters of Earth’s species to extinction. A convergence of continents disrupts the circulation of the oceans, rendering them stagnant and toxic to everything that lives there. Vast volcanic plateaus erupt, filling the air with poisonous gas. Glaciers subsume the land and lock up the oceans in acres of ice.

Five times in the past, the Earth has been struck by these kinds of cataclysmic events, ones so severe and swift (in geological terms) they obliterated most kinds of living things before they ever had a chance to adapt.

Now, scientists say, the Earth is on the brink of a sixth such “mass extinction event.” Only this time, the culprit isn’t a massive asteroid impact or volcanic explosions or the inexorable drifting of continents. It’s us.

“We are now moving into another one of these events that could easily, easily ruin the lives of everybody on the planet,” Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich said in a video created by the school.

In a study published Friday in the journal Science Advances, biologists found that the Earth is losing mammal species 20 to 100 times the rate of the past. Extinctions are happening so fast, they could rival the event that killed the dinosaurs in as little as 250 years. Given the timing, the unprecedented speed of the losses and decades of research on the effects of pollution, hunting and habitat loss, they assert that human activity is responsible.

“The smoking gun in these extinctions is very obvious, and it’s in our hands,” co-author Todd Palmer, a biologist at the University of Florida, wrote in an e-mail to The Washington Post.

Since 1900 alone, 69 mammal species are believed to have gone extinct, along with about 400 other types of vertebrates. Evidence for species lost among nonvertebrate animals and other kinds of living things is much more difficult to come by, the researchers say, but there’s little reason to believe that the rest of life on Earth is faring any better. This rapid species loss is alarming enough, according to the study’s authors, but it could be just the beginning. “We can confidently conclude that modern extinction rates are exceptionally high, that they are increasing, and that they suggest a mass extinction under way,” they write. “If the currently elevated extinction pace is allowed to continue, humans will soon (in as little as three human lifetimes) be deprived of many biodiversity benefits.”

The Science Advances study is not the first to propose that the die-offs caused by human activity are now on par with the fatal cataclysms of millennia past. In 1998, an American Museum of Natural History poll of 400 biology experts found that 70 percent believe the Earth is in the midst of one of its fastest mass extinctions, one that threatens the existence of humans as well as the millions of species we rely on. In his 2003 book “The Future of Life,” noted Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson calculated that Earth would lose half its higher life forms by 2100 if the current rate of human disruption continued. Scores of scientific studies have sought to bolster that claim, offering evidence of current die-offs and predicting future ones. And many more have contributed to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List, which keeps a bleak accounting of the extinction risk for tens of thousands of species.

It’s true that throughout history, extinctions have happened for comparatively mundane reasons. Even without asteroid impacts or human disruption, species are always dying out — the “unfit” in Darwin’s terminology — and being replaced. Scientists estimate that 99 percent of the species that ever existed no longer do. It’s a routine part of life on Earth.

What’s happening now, the researchers say, is not routine.

To prove how extraordinary the losses of the past 114 years have been, the authors of the new study used data from the IUCN Red List to calculate modern extinction rates and compared that number to the “background,” or routine, rate of extinctions. To counter claims that their research might be exaggerated or alarmist, the authors of the Science Advances study assumed a fairly high background rate: 2 extinctions per 10,000 vertebrate species each century, or 2 species per million each year (a metric known as E/MSY), based on the fossil record. Most commonly used estimates are much lower — typically between 0.1 and 1 MSY.

Under normal conditions, this assumed background rate means that Earth should have seen 9 vertebrate extinctions since 1900, the study says. (The researchers focused on vertebrates and mammals in particular because those species have been the subject of the most thorough conservation status assessments.)

But species these days are not living under normal conditions, the biologists say. Forests are vanishing. Animals are hunted for their tusks and teeth and fur. Toxins are leaching into streams and lakes and the ground beneath us. The global climate is changing, and habitats around the world are changing with it.

And, as in past mass extinctions, even the “fit” have been unable to adapt.

Based on the IUCN list of species that have been declared extinct, extinct in the wild, and possibly extinct (species that haven’t been seen in the wild for years but whose loss hasn’t been confirmed), 468 more vertebrates have died out since 1900 than should have. That translates to an extinction rate 53 times the rate of baseline levels at the “high” background extinction rate and more than 100 times the rate most other biologists use. Even using a highly conservative calculation that includes only the 199 vertebrate species definitively declared extinct, the rate of vertebrate species loss is 22 times higher than the 2 MSY baseline.

Though these extinctions are happening much faster than usual, they’re not yet comparable to the “Big Five” mass extinctions commonly recognized as the worst in Earth’s history. The losses of the past century account for only about 1 percent of the roughly 40,000 known vertebrate species — a statistic that pales in comparison to the level of destruction seen during previous mass extinction events. Even in the least of them, between 60 and 70 percent of species were killed off. During the end-Permian event about 250 million years ago, known as “the Great Dying,” that number was more than 90 percent.

But the loss of biodiversity we’re seeing now could trigger even more catastrophic species loss within a few years.

“Ecological communities are composed of many interacting parts, and there are potential ‘tipping points’ in these communities where if you lose too many species, or lose species that are particularly important, the ecosystem may rapidly degrade or change states,” Palmer wrote.

If die-offs continue at current rates, the current extinction event could reach “Big Five” magnitudes in 240 to 540 years, he said — an unprecedented speed for this kind of ecological change.

Past mass extinctions unfolded in geological time over the course of thousands of years. The calamitous “Great Dying” at the end of the Permian Period took about 6,000 centuries, as the super-continent called Pangaea coalesced, disrupting ocean currents and raising global temperatures, and lava oozed out of a vast volcanic region called the Siberian Traps, poisoning the air and seas with clouds of toxic gases. For a mass extinction to happen fast enough to be perceived in a human lifetime is unheard of.

“In terms of scale, we are now living through one of those brief, rare episodes in Earth history when the biological framework of life is dismantled,” paleobiologist Jan Zalasiewizc, who was not involved in the study, wrote in an analysis for the Guardian. He went on to note that none of the “familiar horsemen” of planetary change — “massive volcanic outbursts to choke the atmosphere and poison the seas, the mayhem caused by major asteroid impact and the wrenching effects of rapid climate change” — have factored into the current crisis (the effects of current climate change are still in their early stages, he wrote, and can’t yet be blamed for species loss). Instead, the deaths we see now are all due to pollution, predation and habitat change from one species: humans.

Still, scientists say, it’s possible to avert their gloomy predictions. They give us about a generation to make the changes needed to slow the rate of species loss.

“We have the potential of initiating a mass extinction episode which has been unparalleled for 65 million years,” co-author Gerardo Ceballos told CNN. “But I’m optimistic in the sense that humans react — in the past we have made quantum leaps when we worked together to solve our problems.”


Chicago makes history with first vegetarian museum

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Chicago is home to museums centered around art, science, nature, children’s interests, various ethnic groups, broadcast communications and even surgical science. It can now add the vegetarian/vegan movement to the list.

Chicago resident Kay Stepkin, who is herself a living part of the city’s rich vegetarian/vegan history, created what is believed to be the first museum of its type in the country and likely in the world. The idea for the National Vegetarian Museum surfaced for her about three years ago after she appeared on a local radio show to discuss the history of the vegetarian movement in Chicago.

The appearance went so well that Stepkin was asked to speak to other groups around the city, which forced her to dig deeper into the history to be better prepared. That research prompted the idea of the museum. “I knew if I didn’t know about our history, neither did anyone else,” she said. Using a private donation of $90,000, Stepkin, with the help of a museum consultant, created a traveling multipanel and video exhibit that is currently making monthlong appearances at various public libraries around the city. The exhibit will remain on the city’s South Side at the Avalon library (8148 S. Stony Island Ave.) through the middle of May 18 and then reopen later the same day at the West Belmont library branch at 3104 N. Narragansett Ave. Stepkin hopes to find a permanent location for the exhibit by February and come up with a long-term funding plan. She also would like to send traveling versions around the country tailored for individual cities and/or organizations.

Chicago’s rich veggie past
The exhibit, which is titled What does it Mean to be Vegetarian is composed of 12 interactive panels and begins with a quote from Albert Einstein: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” The exhibit touches on the many benefits of a vegetarian/vegan diet for human health, the environment and animals, including a statistic that up to 51 percent of greenhouse gases come from livestock.

While some may have the perception that the vegetarian/vegan movement is a relatively recent phenomena of the 1960s, it is actually thousands of years old, according to the exhibit. One panel quotes such ancient sources as the Book of Genesis. Stepkin said she learned that a vegetarian group from England calling itself Bible Christians arrived on the shores of this country in the early 1800s. The vegetarian epicenter began in Philadelphia and moved to Chicago by the late 1800s. The exhibit features a photo of the Vegetarian Federal Union’s exhibit at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.
The first vegetarian restaurant in Chicago — the Pure Food Lunch Room — opened in 1900 and six years later, Upton Sinclair’s famous novel “The Jungle” shed light on the deplorable conditions at the Chicago’s Union Stockyards, according to the exhibit.

Importance of community
Stepkin enters the historical timeline in 1971 by opening the Bread Shop and then the Bread Shop Restaurant across the street in the 3400 block of North Halsted Street. The restaurant later became the Chicago Diner, which still exists today as a bedrock of the city’s vegetarian/vegan community. She said she opened the restaurant with the belief that everyone would soon be going vegetarian “because it’s so obvious this is the only way to go.”

Stepkin, who became vegetarian in 1970 (and vegan many years later) after coming across a reference in a James Bond spy novel about the importance of healthy eating, served as president of the Chicago Vegetarian Society between 1995 and 2001. She also wrote a vegan column for the Chicago Tribune and is founder of the nonprofit entity Go Veggie!. The exhibit lists many well-known vegetarians and vegans, and national organizations as part of its final section on the importance of community.  It Stepkin’s hope the museum will pique interest in vegetarianism and veganism, while giving some support to those who already have made the change and yet live in a predominantly meat-eating world. “I think it will help make them stronger,” she said. “Because you are not just floating through this world as a vegetarian alone. This can give you strength to know you are part of a community that has been here for some time.”

Canteens at Govt medical facilities in Malaysia to provide pure vegetarian meals


Vegetarians can now enjoy their meals without any worry when dining at cafeterias in government hospitals and other medical facilities.This follows a directive from the Health Ministry that these cafeteria operators must provide food that is strictly vegetarian to anyone who patronised their outlet.

Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the demand for vegetarian food from both patients and visitors to these facilities have been increasing. “This ruling is mandatory and it is my hope that all directors in the states, health institutes and hospitals will ensure it is complied with.”

In an immediate response, Malaysian Vegetarian Society (MVS) president Tracy Wong commended the ministry for the move. Wong said the MVS had also requested the ministry for such outlets to be opened up at R&R stops along the national highways. Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry decided to introduce the ruling after receiving many complaints from the public, especially those who had to stay at hospitals to look after their sick relatives.

With the new ruling, cafeteria operators have also been told to be sensitive to the needs of vegans who consumed only greens, lacto-vegetarians who also took milk and dairy products and lacto-ovo-vegetarians who were okay with eating eggs. “The cafeteria operators can based on the demand for such food, set up a special corner or designated area in their eatery for them.

“Proper and clear signages must be put up so that these are visible to patients, employees and visitors,” he said.

If demand for vegetarian food was small such as in smaller facilities, the operator was duty-bound to put up a sign that preparation will be done based on request.

“Operators must also be sensitive to the fact that the utensils including woks used to cook meat should not be used to prepare food for the vegetarians,” said Noor Hisham.

The ministry, he said would issue a set of comprehensive guidelines on the vegetarian diet in due course.

When contacted, MVS past-president Dr P. Vythilingam said he hoped the Education and Higher Education ministries would also introduce a similar ruling.

Dr Vythilingam, who is also president of the Asia-Pacific Vegetarian Union, said many students who are vegetarians are forced to bring food from home as canteens do not provide pure vegetarian food. “Such a move if implemented, would also help the Government tackle the problem of obesity among the young,” he said.


Will others follow the Netherlands in phasing out animal experimentation?


In a groundbreaking move, the Dutch government recently announced it is working to end all experiments on animals. The Netherlands had already passed a motion in parliament to phase out experiments on nonhuman primates, and now its goal is to be using only human-relevant, nonanimal testing methods by 2025.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals UK scientists have met with government officials and provided a 70-page document outlining areas of experimentation that can be ended immediately and a strategy for moving forward. Now the United States and other nations should follow suit.

The Dutch government’s bold decision promises great progress not only for the millions of animals who are intentionally infected with diseases, force-fed chemicals, blinded, burned, mutilated and left to suffer without veterinary care inside laboratories every year, but also for human patients desperately waiting for therapies and cures for their illnesses.

We’ve long known that mice are not just tiny human beings and that experimenters who cling to the archaic animal “model” as the gold standard of research are wasting precious time, resources and lives — both human and animal.

Although animals have the same capacity to feel fear and pain that we humans have, our physiology is vastly different, and results from animal studies are rarely relevant to human health. Multiple systematic reviews have documented the overwhelming failure of experiments on animals to benefit humans in the areas of neurodegenerative disease, neuropsychiatric disorders, cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity, inflammatory disease and more.

Nine out of 10 experimental drugs that pass animal studies fail in humans, and the few that are approved often need to be relabeled or pulled from the market after they sicken or kill human patients. Decades of HIV and AIDS experiments have failed to produce effective vaccines for humans, even though at least 85 were successful in primate studies. And while “(w)e have cured mice of cancer for decades” — according to former National Cancer Institute Director Dr. Richard Klausner — “it simply didn’t work in humans.”

No wonder John Ioannidis, a professor of medicine and of health research and policy at Stanford University School of Medicine, says it is “nearly impossible to rely on most animal data to predict whether or not an intervention will have a favorable clinical benefit-risk ratio in human subjects.”

There are better ways to conduct research than intentionally sickening and injuring animals. For example, scientists can replicate human organs on microchips to test the impact of potential drugs. Sophisticated computer models can simulate the progression of developing diseases and accurately predict the reaction of drugs in the human body. Advanced brain-imaging techniques — which allow the human brain to be safely studied down to the level of a single neuron — can replace crude experiments in which animals are intentionally brain-damaged.

In the field of toxicity testing, nonanimal methods harnessing scientific advances in molecular and cell biology, genetics, computational power and robotic testing systems can test more chemicals in a single day than have been tested in the past 20 years using animals. These methods allow scientists to test mixtures of chemicals, assess chemical effects on vulnerable populations or life stages, and detect sensitive effects that animal tests cannot.

But setting aside the fact that experimenting on animals is bad science and that there are more relevant and efficient methods, it is morally wrong to poison, infect, burn and cut up animals in a laboratory. Just as our science has advanced, so has our understanding of the other beings with whom we share the planet. Other animals, like us, are conscious beings who develop friendships, have complex social structures, use language and make tools, are capable of understanding cause-and-effect relationships, solve problems, form abstract thoughts and show empathy.

Fortunately, this is not a case of us vs. them. By embracing bold policy initiatives as the Netherlands has done and investing in exciting and progressive nonanimal methods, we will have far more promising treatments and cures for humans, and more effective and reliable methods for toxicity assessment, while also sparing tens of millions of animals unimaginable suffering.


Climate change may be escalating so fast it could be ‘game over’, scientists warn

New research suggests the Earth’s climate could be more sensitive to greenhouse gases than thought, raising the spectre of an ‘apocalyptic side of bad’ temperature rise of more than 7C within a lifetime. It is a vision of a future so apocalyptic that it is hard to even imagine.

But, if leading scientists writing in one of the most respected academic journals are right, planet Earth could be on course for global warming of more than seven degrees Celsius within a lifetime. And that, according to one of the world’s most renowned climatologists, could be “game over” – particularly given the imminent presence of climate change denier Donald Trump in the White House.

Scientists have long tried to work out how the climate will react over the coming decades to the greenhouse gases humans are pumping into the atmosphere. According to the current best estimate, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if humans carry on with a “business as usual” approach using large amounts of fossil fuels, the Earth’s average temperature will rise by between 2.6 and 4.8 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2100. However new research by an international team of experts who looked into how the Earth’s climate has reacted over nearly 800,000 years warns this could be a major under-estimate. Because, they believe, the climate is more sensitive to greenhouse gases when it is warmer.


A reconstruction of the Earth’s global mean temperature over the last 784,000 years, on the left of the graph, followed by a projection to 2100 based on new calculations of the climate’s sensitivity to greenhouse gases (Friedrich, et al. (2016))

In a paper in the journal Science Advances, they said the actual range could be between 4.78C to 7.36C by 2100, based on one set of calculations. Some have dismissed the idea that the world would continue to burn fossil fuels despite obvious global warming, but emissions are still increasing despite a 1C rise in average thermometer readings since the 1880s. And US President-elect Donald Trump has said he will rip up America’s commitments to the fight against climate change.

Professor Michael Mann, of Penn State University in the US, who led research that produced the famous “hockey stick” graph showing how humans were dramatically increasing the Earth’s temperature, told The Independent the new paper appeared “sound and the conclusions quite defensible”. “And it does indeed provide support for the notion that a Donald Trump presidency could be game over for the climate,” he wrote in an email. “By ‘game over for the climate’, I mean game over for stabilizing warming below dangerous (ie greater than 2C) levels. “If Trump makes good on his promises, and the US pulls out of the Paris [climate] treaty, it is difficult to see a path forward to keeping warming below those levels.”

Greenpeace UK said the new research was further evidence that urgent action was needed. Dr Doug Parr, the environmental campaign group’s chief scientist, said: “The worrying thing is the suggestion climate sensitivity is higher [than thought] is not incompatible with higher temperatures we have been seeing this year. “If there is science backing that up, that there’s a higher sensitivity of the climate to greenhouse gases, that puts at risk the prospect of keeping the globe at the Paris target of well below 2C.

“Anybody who understands the situation we find ourselves in would have already have realised we are in an emergency situation.” Dr Tobias Friedrich, one of the authors of the paper, said: “Our results imply that the Earth’s sensitivity to variations in atmospheric carbon dioxide increases as the climate warms. “Currently, our planet is in a warm phase – an interglacial period – and the associated increased climate sensitivity needs to be taken into account for future projections of warming induced by human activities. “The only way out is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.”

Dr Andrey Ganopolski, who was involved in the research and on the IPCC’s latest report, admitted their work was controversial with some scientists disagreeing and others agreeing with their findings. “In our field of science, you cannot be definite by 100 per cent. There are always uncertainties and we discuss this in the paper,” he said. “If we have more and more results of this sort, then we have more reasons to be concerned.”

Dr Ganopolski, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, suggested their findings meant it would be harder to prevent the world entering dangerous global warming of 2C or above. “Our results mean it is not impossible to stay within 2C but it probably – if we are right and climate sensitivity is higher than this – would require even strong cuts in carbon emissions,” he said. “Whether it’s feasible politically … I believe it is feasible technically. “It would be really good to stay below 1.5C or close to that, whether it’s feasible I’m probably a bit sceptical about that.”

Commenting on the paper, Professor Eric Wolff, of Cambridge University, said using data from the past was a “powerful way of understanding the climate”. But he noted the authors had used different ways of estimating average global temperature, some of which had produced “a lower range of values”. “The estimates of temperature in this paper are subject to large uncertainties, and therefore the range of estimates for 2100 is also very wide,” Professor Wolff said. “Still, it’s encouraging that it overlaps with model estimates and confirms that the emission reductions promised in Paris are essential to avoid unacceptable climate changes.”

Mark Lynas laid out what would happen as the temperature rises in his award-winning book, Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet. He was shocked by the researchers’ results. “It sounds on the apocalyptic side of bad and, in some ways, it is realistic because ‘business as usual’ just got more likely as Trump wants to rebuild the pipelines … the complete ‘fossilisation’ of the US,” he said. “It was game over at six [degrees] to be honest. I don’t think there was much more to add, other than turning the planet into Venus.”

Nasa recently said Venus may once have been habitable before runaway global warming turned the planet into its current version of hell with temperatures of more than 460C, almost no water and an atmosphere of mainly carbon dioxide with clouds of sulphuric acid.



Some videos on Veganism/ Vegetarianism

There are so many good films available on the public domain to help you understand the subject better. We have compiled a few of them for you.

A Life Connected

Why Vegan?

Myths and Truths about Vegetarianism

Transition Into Vegetarianism: How To Become Vegan or Vegetarian

The Vegetarian World