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LIVING IN A CROWDED UNIVERSE


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It’s a topic a lot of “level-headed” people refuse to touch. And if you even graze it for a second you might be considered, well… out there.

In all actuality, the idea that we are not the only planet with life on it has gained significant traction in recent years. Today most people can honestly say “I believe there may be life on other planets” without being charged with heresy or executed, part of the reason I’m happy to have been born in 1981 instead of 1281.

But openly believing in UFO phenomena is a different story, and I’m not just talking about “unidentified flying objects”. Taken literally, UFO can mean anything you see in the sky that an individual cannot identify. Nothing more.

When I refer to UFO in this article, I’m referring to the possibility of consciously controlled objects entering our atmosphere that are not of human origin, perhaps from another galaxy or even farther, in a way that our minds are incapable of measuring at this stage in our evolutionary path.

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To those who are fervently skeptical and ready to dismiss this article as pure lunacy, allow me to point out a few facts. Indeed, the majority of UFO sightings have eventually been explained as nothing more than weather balloons, flares, drones, reflections, etc. But there’s a much smaller percentage that remain unexplained, not by laypeople but by pilots (civilian and military), astronomers and even the Pentagon. Governments around the world have released countless reports of UFO sightings by credible sources, as well as footage  taken by US Navy pilots on duty.  

The Pentagon even created a secret UFO program in 2007, called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Programme. But they apparently came to the conclusion it wasn’t worth the cost, and it was supposedly shut down in 2012.

The world renown pop science icon Niel Degrasse Tyson (who, incidentally, has passionately disclaimed any notion that we are being visited by alien life forms) once said something that I found most intriguing. He pointed out how humans share about 99% of our DNA with chimps. Yet while we’ve built skyscrapers and sent humans into outer space, chimpanzees’ most sophisticated feat is perhaps their ability to use sticks and stones as tools, or for fun. No more.

That 1% divergence in DNA might mean the difference between the ability to hurl a stone at a tree and the ability to walk on the moon.

Imagine if another species on another planet had DNA with only a 1% divergence from ours, but in the opposite direction. Could they achieve things that our rudimentary brains would be unable to comprehend, comparable to us trying to explain the laws of physics to a chimpanzee?

Youtopiaproject.com

What would these beings be capable of creating? To them, maybe Einstein’s theory of relativity would be as easy as spelling their own name, and traversing the universe would be no more challenging than firing a rocket over a mountain range.  

It’s common to refute such possibilities on the grounds that NASA has yet to provide tangible proof of life on other planets. Indeed, NASA has sent numerous shuttles to explore the universe and come back with nothing of significance.  But let’s consider how truly vast that universe is. What NASA has accomplished would be akin to Columbus setting sail from Spain in 1492, only to arrive on the coast of neighboring Morocco, where he briefly scans the Sahara desert, sees nobody, and returns to Spain with conclusive evidence that there is no human life outside of Southern Europe.

Just today, June 15, 2020, the day I am writing this article, a new study by the University of Nottingham, published in The Astrophysical Journal, has revealed that there could be “over 30 active communicating intelligent civilizations in our home galaxy” alone. Now consider the fact that there are trillions of galaxies in the universe, or more.    

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If we are indeed being visited by at least one of these civilizations, or others from other galaxies, why do they find us interesting?

And what could they possibly want?

For one, it may be no different from our safari adventures or scuba diving trips or when we hike through a jungle in hopes of seeing those cousins of ours, the chimpanzees. We just want to explore something different and observe the other species with which we share this planet. Just as they may be curious about other species on other planets.  

If extraterrestrial beings can make it this far, it’s obvious they are intellectually superior to us. But does that mean they also have a superior moral code? Or might they be as ruthless as medieval crusaders?

Assuming their intellectual superiority equates to some form of moral superiority as well, what would be their impression of us?

How do they interpret our myopic, and relentless, destruction of our own habitats? What do they think of this “intelligent” civilization that despite 300,000 years of evolution, has been unable to relinquish their tribal instincts amidst global crises of their own making, such as climate change and Covid-19 (it is believed infected bats were the first carriers, and are more prone to viral infection as their habitats are destroyed from human activities).

Would they be surprised by how we’ve pulverized the world’s rainforests, provoking the extinction of countless species while breeding billions of additional animals into existence, only to subjugate them to a life of misery before killing them, just because we enjoy the taste of their flesh and are still too primitive to move past our ancient traditions?

Courtesy: Amnesty International

If they’ve been spying on us from the stratosphere, are they perplexed by how, after nearly 200 years of industrial and technological revolutions, we continue to extract the liquified remains of ancient plants and animals, only to burn them to power our homes, cities, and vehicles, even though we are cognizant of how destructive these activities are to our atmosphere and our own health?

Or maybe, just maybe, their intellectual capacity is so high that they view us like we view a worm slithering across the sidewalk, an intriguing site at best, but nothing to make a scandal over, and definitely not worth making an attempt at communication.

Whether or not we are being visited by extraterrestrial beings  -or if they are simply sending spaceships via remote control as a form of curious surveillance- it’s plausible to suggest most civilizations, after reaching a certain level of “intelligence”, eventually end up destroying themselves.

Perhaps only those who exceed an intellectual milestone are capable of surviving in the long run, of controlling their instincts, of overcoming their ethnic and racial differences, of uniting to confront any crises that may arise, and of exploring the farthest reaches of the universe.  

Perhaps only those superbly intelligent ones are able to fully acknowledge the sentience of other species, and sympathize with their ability to suffer, whether or not they consider them of lower intelligence.

And if they are visiting us, they know we’re not yet part of that club and may very well destroy ourselves before reaching that stage. This would be an indicator that they are neither benevolent nor malevolent, otherwise they would either try to help us or destroy us before we do so on our own accord.

Whoever is out there, if anyone, they have clearly adopted the role of indifferent observers, for whatever reason.

Or perhaps their intentions are as easy to decipher as the ability to hurl a rock at a tree, all we need is that extra 1% in our DNA to get the big picture.   

Frans Lanting/Corbis

Here at Sustainable Brilliance we’re working hard for meaningful change. If you’d like to help us provide content and see us grow as a media company and eco-startup, remember to subscribe for your free ebook and please checkout our eco-store, where you can help small eco-businesses grow with your purchase.   

If you’re interested in checking out the latest fiction novel written by the author of this blog, please click here.

This article was originally published on June 15, 2020. It was copied to this alternate website because Facebook banned our original website on the grounds that it promotes “offensive content”. We will allow our readers to try and figure out what may be going on behind the scenes here.

A Calendar for the Ages 2


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As we saw in the last article, the global adoption of plant-based lifestyles can approximate, if not fully meet, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, 17 global goals designed to achieve a better and more sustainable future for everyone, regardless of race, gender or origin.

The idea is for these goals to be met by 2030. But the likelihood of more than half of them being met, considering the current rate of animal consumption worldwide, may not be very high. Here we’ll look at the targets negatively affected by animal agriculture, and what we as individuals can do about it.

One of the most common arguments against a vegan or plant-based lifestyle is “if everyone went vegan, people would lose their jobs and an entire industry would collapse.” For one, just because a given industry creates jobs doesn’t mean it should exist for eternity. If everyone stopped smoking many jobs would also be lost. World peace would be catastrophic for the weapons industry, and those employed by it would also lose their jobs.

The meat industry is not only the most environmentally destructive and cruelest of all industries, it has also proven to be among the worst for workers, who are often forced to work in unhygienic and outright dangerous conditions. In the US, slaughterhouse workers have the “highest rates of occupational injury and illness,” according to Human Rights Watch.

Some of the worst outbreaks of Covid-19 have been in slaughterhouses and meat processing plants around the world.

For this and numerous other reasons, the meat industry is dying, while the burgeoning plant-based foods industry is among the fastest growing in the world, and has created over 55,000 high-wage jobs (as of August 2019) in the US alone.

The countries that consume the most meat are generally in the higher income category. The top biggest meat consumers are the US, Australia and Kuwait. Among those that consume the least are India, Bangladesh and Burundi.

Meanwhile, about 85% of the total grains on Earth that are fed to livestock are fed to those destined to be eaten in wealthier countries, and the majority of the world’s beef, pork, poultry, turkey, soybeans and corn (the last two are mostly used as animal feed) are in the hands of four companies. This concentration of buyers forces farmers to accept lower prices, contributing to more inequality.

If farmers could use fertile land to nourish themselves and their families, as well as trading plants, fruits, grains and seeds, either locally or to neighboring regions or countries (instead of using that land to feed livestock controlled by the world’s biggest corporations so people in rich countries can eat meat), more people throughout the world could be fed (approximately 4 billion more, to be exact), and global inequality could potentially be reduced.

Our over consumption of raw materials is eating away at the planet.  These materials require land. Lots of it. One example is palm oil, which has resulted in extensive rainforest deforestation, particularly in Indonesia. But the leading driver of tropical deforestation on Earth is the beef industry, especially with regards to the Amazon. The soy industry also leads to tremendous amounts of deforestation, but most of that is used to feed livestock.

When we look at the big picture, the numbers are even more staggering, because it turns out 50% of Earth’s habitable land is used for agriculture, 77% of which is used for meat and dairy. 

If enough people around the world eradicated these products from their lives, all that land could be freed-up, and much of it could be used to feed the world’s undernourished. Much of it could also be subject to reforestation or afforestation, re-establishing the world’s natural carbon sinks, slowing down global warming and potentially providing habitat for the world’s endangered species.

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Though eerily insidious, climate change is the most pressing issue we face today. Unlike other natural occurrences that can leave a disastrous wake behind them, like hurricanes and earthquakes, modern day climate change in itself is not immediately perceivable. Like the curvature of the Earth, we can’t just see it like we can a tornado. And it’s not exactly “natural”. 

In fact, animal agriculture contributes more to climate change than the entire global transportation industry, mainly due to the belching and flatulence of cows, which releases methane, a gas with way more global warming potential than C02. The deforestation and land degradation caused by the industry also contribute to anthropogenic climate change, as carbon capturing trees are eliminated to make room for belching and farting cows and/or food for them and the billions of other land animals bred into existence for consumption each year.

Unfortunately, what happens on land also affects the liquid world far below and away from us. As mentioned in the previous article, animal agriculture is the leading cause of ocean dead zones, where pesticides, residue from growth hormones and antibiotics for farm animals, as well as their excess manure (7 million pounds of excrement are produced every minute by animals raised for food), seep into rivers which flow into the ocean, eventually depriving marine wildlife of oxygen, and killing them.

Of course, we can’t talk about the ocean without talking about the fishing industry. Approximately 75% of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted due to overfishing.

Then there’s the issue of bycatch, which is basically non-target fish and ocean wildlife that get entangled in fishing nets and pulled out of the ocean, including sea turtles, whales and dolphins. Each year hundreds of thousands of whales, dolphins and seals are killed as a result of bycatch around the world.

Courtesy: Marketeconomics.com

If enough people abstained from consuming fish, this would become a problem of the past.

The goal here is to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.” This one is flagrantly obvious. The fact that livestock systems have literally plowed through 45% of the Earth’s global surface area is a good indicator of how plant-based diets could significantly mitigate the problem of deforestation, soil erosion, land degradation, species extinction and nearly every problem humans have caused to the surface of the Earth.  

Some people like to argue that if everyone went vegetarian or vegan, this would cause more land degradation because of all the vegetables needed to feed the almost 8 billion people on Earth. This argument is ridiculous when we consider how each year approximately 70 billion land animals  -bred into existence by humans to be killed for meat- must be fed so that people, mainly in wealthy nations, can feast on their carcasses.

So there you have it, at least 9 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (the first ones are mentioned in part 1) could be addressed or perhaps met entirely if enough of the world’s citizens adopted a plant-based lifestyle, which has also been recommended by the United Nations University.

If you feel we missed any SDG’s, please feel free to explain in the comment section below, and don’t forget to subscribe.

Also, feel free to checkout our eco-store, and stay tuned for more content.

This article was originally published on June 2, 2020 on our original website which has been blocked from Facebook on the grounds that it promotes “offensive content”. We will let our readers decide what may actually be happening behind the scenes here.

A Calendar for the Ages

The Second World War was the most brutal global confrontation to date. After it ended in 1945, 51 countries joined forces with the goal of maintaining international peace and security in what would become the United Nations (UN).

Since its inception, the UN has worked hard to promote social progress, better living standards and human rights around the world. In 2000 -the year many believed the “Y2K bug” would end civilization- the UN set forth the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), a global effort whose mission was to put an end to indignity and poverty.

2012 was the year many people believed the end of the world was here, all because of a misconstrued interpretation of an ancient calendar by a Central American native civilization that no longer exists. But the world did not end that year. What happed instead was more interesting. The UN replaced the Millennium Development Goals with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). This plan was much more ambitious, with 17 goals (instead of only 8 with the MDG’s). The wheels of the SDG’s continue to turn as of the moment I write this article.

No one can credibly deny (not even the populist, nationalist governments currently in power) the work the United Nations has done to alleviate hunger and poverty, even though many of these problems are far from disappearing.

Numerous articles focus on the need for amazing technological breakthroughs to address the most pressing issues mentioned in the SDG’s, such as land degradation and food security. But the fact is, many of these goals could be significantly approximated, if not fully attained, with the adoption of plant-based diets throughout the globe.

Let’s take a look at some of the goals and see why this is so.

Almost 50% of the grains grown on the entire planet are used for feeding livestock, not people.  If most people around the world switched to a plant-based diet, an additional 4 billion people could be fed, according to a study from the University of Minnesota.

Admittedly, the problem of world hunger is also structural. Corruption, bad policies, and conflict prevent people from getting an adequate amount of food. All of these issues must also be addressed. But a global shift away from meat could potentially do a great deal of help, especially when we consider how approximately 85% of grains fed to livestock throughout the world, including impoverished nations suffering from hunger, are used to produce meat for wealthy countries.

It’s no secret that red meat is among the unhealthiest options when it comes to food. But the fact that replacing all animal protein with plant-based foods can significantly improve our health is still unknown to too many people, who are wrongfully convinced eating animals is necessary.

The truth is countless studies (the ones not funded by pro-meat lobby groups) have revealed that well-balanced plant-based diets are nutritionally adequate for all stages of life. These dietary lifestyles also promote heart health and prevent numerous diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity and certain cancers. Athletes on plant-based diets have been shown to have increased endurance and muscle strength, along with lower levels of inflammation.

60% of human diseases come from animals, most of which come from livestock, and the overwhelming majority of antibiotics in the world are used for animals in the farming sector, mostly to prevent illness among them, but also to increase their growth. This is likely the leading cause of antibiotic resistance.

Animal agriculture is one of the key drivers of water pollution throughout the world. As mentioned above, the majority of veterinary medicines (growth hormones, antibiotics, vaccines, etc.) are used on livestock animals. These are also known as “agricultural pollutants” which end up in rivers and drinking water sources. Since such an enormous amount of crops are required to feed the excess of 70 billion land animals bred into existence and killed each year, the pesticides used for these crops also pollute waterways.

In the American Heartland, manure from cattle, along with fertilizers used to grow crops to feed them (plus antibiotic residue, as mentioned above) continuously run off into rivers that end up in the Gulf of Mexico, which has caused the second largest dead zone in the world, depriving marine wildlife of oxygen and virtually killing a significant part of the ocean.

Courtesy: NRDC

The industry also consumes over a third of the Earth’s freshwater, an average of 55 trillion gallons annually. This is 520 times more than hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method of extracting oil and gas from the ground because of its high water footprint.

For the sake of not making this article too taxing on your eyes, your mind, and your time schedule, I will end here and follow up with another article addressing more SDG’s that could be met if enough people ditched animal products and embraced plant-based foods.  

In conclusion, humanity has survived many crises, some real, like both World Wars and the Cuban Missile Crisis, and some in our minds, like the imaginary Y2K bug of 2000 and the completely misconstrued Mayan calendar “prediction” of 2012.

But world hunger, surging levels of inequality, and most importantly, climate change, are much more complex issues that exist in the real world, far beyond the boundaries of our collective imagination. There are a number of actions we can and must take now to address these issues, which have the potential to blow up in our faces if we do nothing. Perhaps the most feasible of those actions starts with what we put on our plates.

Let’s start making the shift now, before the cataclysmal interpretation of some ancient tribal calendar becomes a reality.   

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Stay tuned for the second part of this article, where I will address the remaining SDG’s that can be addressed with a plant-based diet.

Here at Sustainable Brilliance we’re working hard for meaningful change. If you’d like to help us provide content and see us grow as a media company and eco-startup, remember to subscribe for your free ebook and please checkout our eco-store, where you can help small eco-businesses grow with your purchase.   

This article was originally published on May 24, 2020 on our original website which has been blocked from Facebook on the grounds that it promotes “offensive content”. We will let our readers decide what may be happening behind the scenes here.

AN UNSTOPPABLE FORCE?


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Within the last thirty years or so, five of the biggest American oil companies have dished out around 3.6 billion dollars to “convince” the world, and those with political power, that their industry is not detrimental to the environment.

In 2017-18, “fossil fuels outspent renewables by more than 13 to 1” in US politics, according to Yale Climate Connections.

Since January 2017, when President Trump was sworn into office, the industry has basically been on a field day celebration. Without a moment of hesitation, Mr. Trump seized the Environmental Protection Agency and ripped out its spine with his bare hands. As of May 2020, his administration has successfully reversed, revoked or rolled back 64 rules aimed at protecting the environment, and he’s working on dissecting and gutting another 34.

By the looks of it, the environmental progress made in the last few decades is now rolling down the gutter, headed for the sewer. It may not be long before major US cities look like some in China and India, where even on the most cloudless days you’re as likely to catch a clear glimpse of the sun as you are to see the Loch Ness monster parading down the highway.  

But despite all the efforts by the powers in mention, renewable energy is not only standing strong, it’s actually expected to replace coal as the main source of U.S power this year.  

How is this happening?

For one, coal plants continue to get retired as a result of numerous market forces, and their most viable replacements are from renewable sources. The price of solar and wind energy continues to drop, increasing their ability to compete with fossil fuels. This is quite amazing considering how the US has put ten times more taxpayer dollars into subsidizing oil, gas and coal than on education.

But let’s not jump for joy just yet. This doesn’t mean we’re barreling towards a world covered in green meadows and bunny rabbits and people holding hands under blue skies, gleefully swaying their bodies to the tune of John Lennon’s “Imagine”.

In recent years, natural gas has also taken a significant chunk of the energy market. Globally, production has increased by 2.8% per year since 2009. In the US alone, that number is closer to 11.5%.

Although it emits less C02 when compared to the burning of coal, natural gas takes a significant toll on the environment when we examine the entire life cycle. Drilling and extraction from wells, along with the need for transport by way of pipes, can result in substantial methane leakages, a gas with 86 times more global warming potential than C02 over a 20-year period.

The expansion of renewables has also gotten quite a boost from the Covid-19 crisis. As offices, restaurants, nightclubs, shopping malls, etc., are devoid of workers and patrons, the demand for energy has taken a dive. Coal plants are more expensive to operate than renewables, which is why utility companies are relying more on wind and solar.

But the Covid crisis will eventually end, and demand for energy will get catapulted once again. The burning of fossil fuels (along with other human activities, like animal agriculture) can warm the planet to dangerous levels for our civilization. Sure, market forces are moving the dial in an environmentally favorable direction, but this apparent shift is not deterministic.

There’s also the chance Mr. Trump gets another four years and pulls something out of his sleeve to hinder these market forces, and it won’t be a rabbit he picked up from a lush green meadow.

So let’s not let our guard down, and let’s continue to strive for a better, cleaner world as if our lives depended on it, and that means voting for leaders who will do more than simply allow us to imagine.

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Here at Sustainable Brilliance we’re working hard for meaningful change. If you’d like to help us provide content and see us grow as a media company and eco-startup, remember to subscribe for your free ebook and please checkout our new eco-store.

This article was originally published on May 17, 2020 but was inexplicably blocked from any and all Facebook platforms. You can see our original website here.

PLANET OF THE PLANDEMICS

It’s a never-ending story. Groundless conspiratorial beliefs continue to make the leap from hearsay to full-fledged “documentaries” with ample funding. Some of them are actually very well made, successfully appealing to the emotions of viewers, convincing them of the lies they propagate more efficiently than a pandemic.

This month, world renowned American filmmaker Michael Moore’s documentary Planet of the Humans became available for free on Youtube. The creator of motion pictures like Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore has revealed numerous ugly truths about the American political system, and how big business supersedes ethics on a plethora of issues.

Planet of the Humanson the other hand, has received an onslaught of criticism for its inaccuracies, and is regarded by many as a gift to the fossil fuel industry and the far right, which has championed it.

Michael Moore? Really?

Indeed, by suggesting the renewable energy industry is a money grab by scammers and does nothing to protect the planet (which are outright falsehoods), it seems Michael Moore has unwittingly (or not?) sold his soul to the barons of the coal and oil industry while ruining the credibility of the environmental movement.

But the misinformation here pales compared to what would come soon after. Planet of the Humans looks like Goldilocks compared to the outright horror movie that is the new Plandemic.   

Before getting into the film, let’s get some context. The Covid-19 crisis has been subject of a deluge of conspiracy theories from all ends, depending on the messenger’s political and ideological beliefs. Everyone from Asians to Jews to Santa Claus are believed to be the perpetrators of this global pandemic. There are even those who deny its very existence.

Worst of all, those who willfully disseminate these beliefs aren’t from some cult in a compound in some faraway land. Many of these dangerous conspiracy theories are coming from the pinnacle of world power, the president of the United States himself, who in April suggested doctors should “look into” injecting Covid patients with household disinfectant to “clean out” the virus.

Plandemic centers around a discredited scientist who claims the entire Covid-19 pandemic was created in a lab under the direction of global elites, including Dr. Anthony Fauci (the far-right’s new arch-enemy, coincidentally or not) and Bill Gates, to gain financial profits from a vaccine that still doesn’t exist. The idea is quite intriguing, especially considering how Bill Gates, a man worth over 102 billion dollars, would create a virus that would kill millions of people and destroy the global economy, on which his fortune relies, to make some extra money.

The scientist in mention, Dr. Judy Mikovits, makes endless claims that have already been debunked by experts around the world. Among the most obvious, she goes on the record by saying coronaviruses cannot jump from animals to humans. But they can, and they did. What’s happening today was actually predicted years ago, though the exact timing was a mystery.

There is nothing freakishly alien about this particular pandemic. In fact, 60% of human diseases come from animals, only this one is exceptionally contagious  

It’s more reasonable to suspect the planet was conquered by a mean little creature with cylindrical suction cups protruding from its body as the unintended consequences of our unhealthy relationship with animals, along with our relentless decimation of the natural world.

With regards to Plandemic, I will not address all the falsehoods made by Dr. Mikovits, but I will share this article from the New York Times along with a pertinent article from factcheck.org.

It’s unfortunate how so many people swallow the claims made by these types of films. It’s as if they’re a magic pill for those living in a world that gets more confusing every year, thanks in large part to new websites and You Tube channels that spring up like May Flowers, unabashedly spreading their own version of the facts that affect us the most.

One of their tactics is to blend general truths to convince us of outright lies. Planet of the Humans truthfully points out how industries use manipulative tactics to convince us that biofuels are “green” alternatives to coal, which they are not. But the overall premise of the film, that the promotion of solar and wind energy is inherently corrupt and even harmful to the environment, is utterly false.

The assertions in Plandemic about the pervasive greed and corruption in the pharmaceutical industry are not a lie. Big Pharma puts forth the most cash in lobbying efforts than any other industry. But this doesn’t mean Covid-19 was created in a lab so global elites can get richer amid a world economy that may soon be in shambles.   

There’s a reason people buy into these beliefs. The human brain is not equipped to process the complexities of modern day crises efficiently. It’s easier to follow our instincts and assume there’s always a “they” behind every occurrence.

They made this thing to bring down the population.”

They are trying to confuse us and turn us against each other by way of the media, which is run by… them.

Well, whoever they are, they must be very powerful.

Perhaps they should invest more in quality education so we can learn how to discern fact from fiction before these so-called “documentaries” turn the story of human civilization into an award-winning horror flick.

Here at Sustainable Brilliance we’re working hard for meaningful change. If you’d like to help us provide content and see us grow as a media company and eco-startup, remember to subscribe for your free ebook and please checkout our new eco-store.

This article was originally published on May 10, 2020, but was transferred here, our alternate website, because Facebook has inexplicably blocked our original website.

A MORE ETHICAL ECONOMY?

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 Most of our grandparents’ lives were quite unlike ours today. I get a sense of nostalgia when I think how life used to be more linear, more predictable, and simpler.

Today we’re inundated with information from all ends, while the world economy has exploded, taking over every aspect of our lives, like a green spider web enveloping the entire planet. Globalization and technological innovation have made certain jobs obsolete, while creating new ones, and we can now buy more stuff than ever before, which has obviously made us happier than at any other moment in human history.

Well, actually, not really.

Studies have shown that there are heaps of truth to the hold adage that wealth does not buy happiness. Neither does the shopping mall or our newfound ability to choose from a plethora of reality shows about adults proudly putting their vacuous lives on public display.  

But things have also changed in a much more tangible way. Not only are human activities warming the planet at an alarming rate, they have also decimated habitats to the point where populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians have declined by over 60% since 1970.   

One major cause of these problems, which is not so visually evident and hard for most people to accept, is the fact that global meat production has quadrupled in the last 50 years.

The livestock industry also contributes more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation industry and is the leading driver of land degradation, water depletion, soil degradation… you name it.

There’s more. It turns out 50% of all grains on the planet are fed to the more than 70 billion land animals that are bred, raised and killed every year, just to satiate the growing demand for artery clogging meat, among the leading contributors to the chronic health problems we face today, like obesityheart diseasecolon cancer and diabetes.

Photo by Retha Ferguson on Pexels.com

And one last thing, considering the situation we’re in as of May 2020. It’s important to know that 60% of all human diseases come from animals, most of which come from livestock.

It sounds overwhelming. But there’s good news out there. Awareness of these issues is spreading. Consumers in many countries are embracing plant-based diets, for this reason and others, including ethics and health.

The economy is catching wind of this shift in consumer attitudes, but not without fierce resistance from the industries that benefit from animal agriculture, including the pharmaceutical sector, which makes billions of dollars from administering most of the world’s antibiotics to farm animals, not humans  

The mainstream media is often torn between the reporting of these facts and the pressure from livestock lobby groups pushing them to spread misinformation.

But in 2018 something interesting happened. A man named Peter Link, an expert in PR, journalism and marketing, founded vegconomist, a business magazine tailor made for influencers and decision makers of the vegan business world. Since its inception, vegconomist has revolutionized the way entrepreneurs see the economy, opening the world’s eyes to a more ethical and sustainable way of doing business through vegan lifestyles.  

In 2019 the US experienced a growth of 11% in plant based foods, and the number of Americans who identify as vegan grew by 600% from 2014 to 2017. A few years ago this would’ve sounded like some utopian hippie dream. But it’s happening today, for the first time, because consumers are making it happen.

Conventional business magazines are reporting the trend, albeit more modestly than they should. vegconomist, on the other hand, is completely on top of it, shining light on the path for leaders of the movement to take.

The world is changing, people are changing, and the economy is changing. We may never go back to the days when life was simpler, but we can work toward the restructuring of our destructive food system, transforming it into one that works in favor of our own best interests, not against them.

Wealth does not guarantee happiness, nor does shopping or reality shows. But knowing that we’re shifting to healthier and more ethical consumption habits should definitely make us feel better, something that should also make our grandparents proud.

Photo by Tristan Le on Pexels.com

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THE WRONG TIME FOR STORIES

It’s a good feeling, the idea that we belong to this unique group of individuals, united under a symbol. It touches similar emotions as our love for our favorite sports team, only much more profound. It convinces us that the blood running through our veins is of unique properties, unlike that of those on the other side of the river, the mountains, the ocean, or the imaginary border. And there are always stories of triumph, revisionist history, and tales of greatness.

Nationalism has had its benefits throughout human history. That’s undeniable. In the past it was necessary to unite complete strangers. To echo the logic of prominent historian and author Yuval Noah Harari, nationalism relies on the creation of stories, some true, some not so true, to forge cooperation among hundreds, thousands, and millions of strangers.

But today, the nationalistic mind frame has quite a few issues, some minute, others catastrophic. Many Americans, for example, are literally fed the belief that those who don’t eat meat aren’t “real Americans,” even though it’s among the leading contributors to the chronic problems they face, obesityheart diseasecolon cancer and diabetes.

In Spain, where I live now, the consumption of pork is a proudly boasted sign of Spanish pride. Ironically, those who hold this belief also scorn certain Asian societies for eating dogs, yet consider those who don’t eat pigs -among the most intelligent of all domestic animals- as not “real Spaniards.”

This view usually stems from the belief that local traditions have existed from the very beginning, and that there’s some kind of mystical logic to them.

In reality, traditions and languages change over time, and are often imitations and mutations from distant cultures. The first pig eaters were actually Chinese. Americans cherish their 4th of July BBQ’s and fireworks as something uniquely American, even though the term BBQ is originally from the Taino natives of the Caribbean islands (barbacoa), and fireworks also originated in China.

But the problem goes beyond the habits and beliefs of “real” Americans or Spaniards. The irrational idolization of one’s collective identity can lead to xenophobia and, as history has shown, genocide of those perceived as “outsiders.”

White Supremacist Rally at University of Virginia, 2017 (photo by Shay Horse/NurPhoto/Getty)

Today, nationalism is the main reason for our lack of cooperation in the face of global, not national, crises. Some of these crises are already here, while others are like a jumbo jet on the horizon, running out of fuel and ready to make a crash landing in our backyard.

In recent years nationalist leaders have galvanized their followers, and ordinary citizens, to act upon their deep rooted tribal instincts. Parts of Europe, the UK, Brazil, and of course, the US, are taking enormous strides into what they perceive as some glorious past. And the timing could not be worse, when the world needs to come together to confront a microscopic monster that couldn’t care less what “real” patriots do.

Covid-19 has no respect for borders or trade agreements, and it’s not intimidated by people waving their flags around.

But instead of acknowledging the real problem, nationalist movements are emboldened by it. Numerous world leaders are too busy pointing fingers and stirring xenophobic emotions to confront the reality of the crisis, which has infected millions and killed hundreds of thousands while crippling economies.

Courtesy: Childhood Relived

But there’s a more insidious issue looming on the horizon, the previously mentioned jumbo jet. Only it’s not a jet. It’s human induced climate change. There’s no need to get into the dynamics of why the burning of fossil fuels is warming the earth, along with animal agriculture to provide meat for those “real” Americans and Spaniards. We just need to accept that this is a global threat, not a national one.

Building walls and banning outsiders will do nothing to stem the tide of what’s coming our way. The worship of amendments written hundreds of years ago (back when the idea of sending messages across the globe within seconds was the trade of witches and sorcerers) will do nothing to prevent the collapse of this global civilization, especially when temperatures pass a certain threshold, all because we kept our heads in the sand and continued business as usual.

Nationalist movements deny this because it requires all nations to come together and agree on a strategy, which undermines their belief in their uniquely wonderful and proudly independent nation.

Unfortunately for them, the only way to save ourselves from another pandemic or a shift into a new climactic era, that may be unsuitable for human life, is a global effort, something only “real” earthlings will be able to pull off.

Courtesy: NASA

Here at Sustainable Brilliance we’re working hard for meaningful change. If you’d like to help us provide content and see us grow as a media company and eco-startup, remember to subscribe for your free ebook and please checkout our new eco-store.

A REACTION FOR EVERY ACTION

Getty Images

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This was Isaac Newton’s third law of motion. In many regards, it can be applied to just about every aspect of our very existence, but when applied to things beyond the laws of motion, the “equal” can lose relevance.

Today, it appears we are experiencing the reaction of a series of collective actions. Our activities are warming the planet at a rate likely faster than any other time in Earth’s history. Wildlife populations have decreased by 60% from 1970 to 2014, and most fish in the ocean have ingested some form of plastic, while discarded fishnets are killing all kinds of marine wildlife. All of these are the result of human actions.

Of course, there’s no way I can write a blog in April 2020 without mentioning you know who. Covid is the talk of the town (yeah, I know, that’s quite an understatement), a tiny but fierce creature that has turned our homes into our penitentiaries. It’s also likely to be a reaction to our numerous actions, like the destruction of animal habitats to make room for livestock and other industries, part of which was explained in my previous blog.

But considering all we’ve been doing to the planet and the animals that live on it, including ourselves, why does it sometimes seem like nobody really gives a $&*^!?

For one, we humans are complex creatures, and the actions we take at a collective level often go against our own best interests, partly because the human psyche has yet to fully adapt to modern realities and challenges.  

The good news is there are numerous movements working to address the predicament in which we’ve put ourselves. The United Nations has put forth 17 Sustainable Development Goals for nations to follow (whether they actually adhere to them may be another story).

The emergence of a Doughnut Economy, a global framework based on social and environmental boundaries instead of just the relentless pursuit of wealth, may actually materialize in the future, and many corporations are making an effort to mitigate their impact on our beautiful planet, more than ever before. And today, more and more people are adopting plant-based diets for health, environmental and ethical reasons.

Thankfully, there are people of all ages, races, nationalities, and backgrounds who have adapted their frame of thinking to the challenges we face, and many of them do give a $&*^!  

If enough of us can muster the audacity to take meaningful action, perhaps we can create a reaction that goes in the right direction for a change.

Here at Sustainable Brilliance, we’re also working hard for meaningful change. If you’d like to help us provide content and see us grow as an eco-startup, remember to subscribe for your free ebook and please checkout our new eco-store.

Mother Nature’s Revenge?


The Green Mother by Will O’Brien on Deviant Art

Could this actually be some form of retribution for all we’ve done as a species? Well, not quite. As far as we know, nature is not a conscious entity. Our beloved planet does not have a brain. “She” does not get angry or sad or happy, nor is “she” eligible for any sort of counseling for depression. Regardless of what many fables, religions, books and movies have told us, it is highly unlikely that nature in itself is consciously “angry” at the human race.

However, there is truth to the old adage that “everything happens for a reason”, just not in the mystical way this saying is often used. “For a reason” in the sense that it’s very likely that someone who gets a kick out of speeding down the highway while drunk will eventually have a terrible accident, and either perish or end up in seriously bad condition (possibly taking an innocent person, or an entire family, along with them). This happens not because invisible conscious forces get a kick out of punishing drunken idiots, but because we often put common sense on the backburner and brainlessly attempt to defy the laws of physics.

Contrary to the plethora of conspiracy theories floating around the internet, and in our imaginations, it’s highly unlikely COVID-19 was created in a lab by some evil group of individuals bent on controlling the population. But it is equally unlikely to be the product of some naturally occurring and unpreventable random event.

What’s happening now is much more complex than a maniac behind the wheel of a speeding vehicle. But it basically boils down to the same concept of what happens when we’re overly confident in our reckless actions, this time in a much more collective, and insidious, manner.

Our species has been ravaging the planet for over 200,000 years or so. But our destruction of the natural world was injected with two astronomically high doses of steroids with the advent of the agricultural revolution and then, a few thousand years later, the industrial revolution.

Today, animal agriculture is responsible for the majority of Amazon rainforest destruction. It’s also the leading driver of species extinction on the entire planet because it consumes so much land, while using 520 times more water than hydraulic fracturing (fracking), a controversial method of extracting oil from underground because of its excessive consumption of water. Not only is it one of the most environmentally destructive industries on the planet, it is also among the cruelest. And to add to the list, it’s the leading cause of zoonotic diseases- those that spread from animals to humans-, both directly and indirectly.

This appears to be the case with COVID-19, likely to have originated in bats. When animal habitats are destroyed, usually to make room for livestock or the crops used to feed them, wild animals like bats and rats find themselves more vulnerable to starvation. Their immune systems weaken, and they are forced to cram together as their environment has shrunk or disappeared completely. A situation where malnourished rodents now in much closer proximity to each other is a breeding ground for sicknesses and new viruses to emerge and spread.

Amazon rainforest cleared for cattle ranching

But habitat destruction is only part of the story. Nearly all of the modern epidemics, including HIV, MERS, SARS, and most likely COVID-19, came from animals, more specifically, our unhealthy relationship with them. The H1N1 flu virus of 2009, otherwise known as “swine flu”, originated from US pig farms. Throughout many parts of the world, these animals are kept in crowded barns where they stand in their own feces. Often subject to horrific abuse, pigs raised in such squalid conditions are more susceptible to diseases. The same conditions apply to most farm animals on factory farms, and the reason antibiotics are used more on farm animals than on people, and why big pharma, the industry that puts forth the most aggressive lobbying efforts, wants to make sure people continue to eat meat.

Indeed, drug resistant bacteria are a major cause for concern when in many countries 80% of antibiotics are used on livestock instead of humans. But global pandemics, usually stemming from the same industry, are an even bigger deal, one that is of our own making, not a necessity in the least but the product of tradition and taste preferences.

As of the moment I write this article, COVID-19 has infected almost 2 million people worldwide and killed close to 114,00 while overwhelming hospitals and wreaking havoc on the global economy. 

The reason this is happening may seem complex, which is why it’s easier to believe more simplified conspiracy theories about its origin. Personifying nature and convincing ourselves that “she” is taking revenge may also provide comfort. But even though the scientific consensus may sound complicated, it all boils down to one factor. We as a species have been getting a kick out of speeding down the highway while abandoning all forms of reason, logic, and compassion for the natural world.

If nature is indeed a conscious force, let’s see if she can sober us up, give us a spanking and bring us back to our senses.

Credit: Henry Clive

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2020: A YEAR OF PANDEMONIUM, OR OF POSITIVE CHANGE?

International Space Station NASA

Contrary to (what appears to be a re-emerging) popular belief, the Earth is round, as evident in the picture above. Another intriguing fact is that this year has so far been unlike any other in recent times. And it’s only just begun.

The super-virus of 2020 needs no introduction, as it has garnered even more fame than John Lennon in his heyday. And with good reason. COVID-19, although not as deadly as some previous pandemics, has spread more rapidly across the globe than its counterparts of the recent past, virtually paralyzing the entire planet.

Sadly, thousands of vulnerable people have lost their lives, and many more are seeking treatment at overcrowded hospitals. The world’s economy has taken a major blow. The tourism sector is in the process of imploding along with nearly every other industry that spins the wheels of the global market.

But there’s another part of this very same planet that appears to be recovering, albeit modestly, as a result: nature.

In recent history, human activities have affected nearly every corner of the globe. A 2018 report by the World Wildlife Fund found that 60% of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish went extinct between 1970 and 2014.    


Credit: Alternative-energies.net

But since the paucity in transportation, mass tourism and everyday commerce, some species are reclaiming their previous habitats. One example is the city of Venice, in Italy, the city on a lake regularly inundated with tourists. The dearth of visitors has made the waters blue again and swarms of fish have returned, perhaps allured by the newfound tranquility that hasn’t characterized the city in decades (perhaps centuries).

Residents of numerous Chinese cities are seeing blue skies for the first time, and recent studies are showing how the sudden reduction in air pollution may actually be saving more lives than the pandemic is taking, as toxic air causes respiratory diseases that take millions of lives every year.


Credit: SeaChange

This isn’t to say we should celebrate the indirect effects of the coronavirus COVID-19, and my condolences go out to those whose lives it has taken. But humanity can learn a great deal from the current crisis. The ability to genuinely grasp how detrimental our everyday activities are for the planet and ourselves is key if we hope to survive into the future.

Instead of waiting for government officials to save us, individual actions can go a long way in containing pandemics. The same goes for environmental degradation and human induced climate change. Small steps like taking public transport instead of driving, or eating plant-based foods instead of animal products, can help clean the atmosphere and restore habitats, without the need for a global pandemic to freshen our air and let our oceans recover from contamination.

A new way to offset our carbon footprint is by way of myclimate.org. Here we can actually calculate our carbon footprint in a few easy steps, and find interesting ways to compensate for the damage we may have inadvertently caused, by donating to environmental projects around the world. This tool helps us to easily calculate the amount of C02 we’ll emit by travelling to a specific destination, or to just find out how much we’re emitting on a regular basis, and the adjustments we can make.

So let’s take this crisis as a lesson learned. By using the instruments with which technology provides us, we can learn exactly what adjustments we can make in our daily habits to create a better world.

If we can manage that, I’m sure John Lennon would have been proud.

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