If you want to change the world, change your diet
Sushi, anyone? How’s about some shark fin soup?
In Telluride recently, I was startled and entranced by mysterious, undulating shapes painted in light, stretching 30 feet across the second floor of a 19th century building just off main street. As I watched, awestruck, the image of a whale materialized, swimming in blue light. I got out of my car and crossed the street to get a better view.
The whale disappeared and blue cilia-wreathed microbes swam in its place, then shimmering green geometrically shaped creatures. I later learned they were species of plankton, oceanic building blocks of life and suppliers of oxygen to the planet, under threat by climate change and ocean acidification. Other creatures took shape and fell back into darkness, some familiar, some not.
Then the whale reappeared, ponderous, huge, graceful.
Curious, I rounded the corner and saw, parked in the center of the main drag, a Tesla with a theater-style projector sprouting out of its roof. Glow-in-the-dark zebra stripes rippled over the surface of the car.
But let me back up.
I had just finished watching my fourth or fifth movie of the day. I was in Telluride for Mountainfilm, a celebration of mountain sports and culture in art, film and conversation.
The theatrics were meant to draw attention to what is probably the most important fact of our time: Animals are going extinct at an alarming rate, and there’s plenty of evidence that we humans are the reason.
The Tesla was in Telluride to attract people to a film in the festival’s vast lineup. The high-tech car plays a role in “Racing Extinction” by projecting guerilla art onto likely targets. An example: the Shell Oil logo morphing into a real seashell dissolving in acid, projected onto an oil storage tank.
It may surprise you to learn that the Oceanic Preservation Society is based in Boulder, “About as far from any ocean as you can get and still be in the United States,” admits its founder and leader, Louie Psihoyos. He is also the filmmaker behind “Racing Extinction.”
Psihoyos has a tough job — presenting an unpleasant subject, extinction, in a style to entertain and motivate. The movie attacks the problem using a lot of technology. There’s the Tesla, and a special camera that makes visible invisible by filming CO2 emissions on busy roadways and out of carbon-spewing smokestacks. In the film’s emotional climax, a breathtaking public multimedia event projects a montage of endangered species onto the UN building in New York. A team of eco-activists covertly investigates and films Chinese businessmen involved in trading endangered shark products.
Which brings me to shark fin soup. It’s popular in Asia, but losing traction there with rising public awareness. One public education tool was a widely viewed video showing a small, slim shark floating just above the coral, alive but unable to propel itself without its fins, which have been sliced off, leaving gaping wounds.
Despite government bans on finning sharks, the film team found its way to a rooftop covered with tens of thousands of shark fins drying in the sun.
I like fish, and I adore sushi, but I don’t eat it anymore, thanks to an earlier Mountainfilm experience listening to National Geographic explorer-in-residence Sylvia Earle, nicknamed “Her Deepness” for her tireless work in and for the oceans. She helped me understand that fisheries are in collapse around the globe due to overfishing long-lived, top-of-the-food chain fish like blue fin tuna, a delicacy for sushi lovers. Farmed fish spread diseases to wild fish in the ocean and live in crowded, dirty, medicated squalor.
There are exceptions to my fish fast. You can still be a good global citizen by eating fish low on the food chain. That’s right, I’m talking sardines and herring. Millions of metric tons of them are caught and fed to farmed fish each year. Like feeding corn to cattle in feedlots, it’s an inefficient use of protein compared with eating the fish (or corn) directly.
And then there’s wild Alaskan salmon. Made in the USA and sustainably harvested, it’s fatty, delicious and heart-healthy. This time of the year, Copper River salmon hits the grocery stores. It’s the first big Alaskan salmon run, and it has to be tasted to be believed.
Strict regulations in Alaska ensure that a sustainable quota of sockeye and coho salmon make their way upriver to spawn.
Atlantic salmon, by contrast, is all farm-raised. Wild Atlantic salmon is an endangered species.
“A vegan driving a Hummer uses less energy than a meat eater on a bicycle. If you really want to change the world, change your diet,” Psihoyos told a small crowd at a morning coffee talk at Mountainfilm. “That’s the one thing that people can do to really effect the most change. That’s a win-win-win. It’s a win for your health. It’s a win for the animals, certainly.”
“Racing Extinction” will air this fall on Discovery and aims for a billion viewers. You can see the Tesla and a video of the UN IllUmiNation event at http://www.opsociety.org. Send your comments and ideas to Marilyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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