The NOW guide to mock meat

Provetas Science Museum Seeds

A recent report by the global consultancy AT Kearney predicts that by 2040, 60% of the meat we eat will be grown in vats or replaced by plant-based products that look and taste like meat rather than slaughtered animals. But is imitation meat a real solution for our environment? Why can’t we just eat far less meat instead, and find alternative sources of protein without having to fake it?

Animal Face

The world is searching for alternatives to meat because the conventional meat industry has been proven in scientific studies to have a huge environmental impact, from the emissions driving the climate crisis to animal welfare issues and the destruction and pollution of wild habitats – you can read more on AT Kearney’s report and these impacts in The Guardian here.

Avoiding meat and dairy is a relatively easy way for consumers to reduce their individual impact, and while veganism isn’t the simple answer to the planet’s woes some want it to be (read more here), companies such as Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Just Foods that use plant ingredients to create replacement burgers, scrambled eggs and other products are growing rapidly.

Antioxidant Carrot Diet

Walk into your local supermarket and you are likely to see an array of processed vegan products that never used to be there – from plant-based meatballs, burgers and goujons to fake ‘turkey and stuffing’ and ‘chicken nuggets’. Vegan and vegetarian menus in restaurants and hotels are starting to be the norm rather than the exception, and vegan-only places to stay such as the UK’s first 100% vegan hotel in the Highlands of Scotland are sprouting up all over the world – read more here.

Analysis and beef cooked

Companies are also working on growing meat cells in culture, to produce real meat without needing to raise and kill animals. No such products have yet reached consumers, but AT Kearney predicts in its report that cultured meat will dominate in the long term because it reproduces the taste and feel of conventional meat more closely than the vegan meat – which, some feel, doesn’t taste very nice at all, let alone like meat. Infact, for many people, eating meat is absolutely delicious (whilst fake meat is often truly not) and hugely satisfying (because we need far less of it than fruits and vegetables to make us feel full) – which may explain why we eat more of it than is healthy.

The human desire to eat meat is complex, and goes way back to our caveman days. Energy dense with lots of calories and protein, it was the original ‘brain food’, playing a critical role in boosting the energy humans needed to feed the evolution of our big, hungry brains and help us move on from being monkeys. It has had massive cultural significance in many countries, and there’s a clear correlation between wealth and meat consumption – while industrialized Western nations consume an average of more than 220 pounds of meat (around half a cow) per person per year, the poorest African nations average less than 22 pounds per person. You can read more about why humans eat meat here.

Aubergine Puree

The concept of imitation meat is also nothing new. As Bee Wilson, author of The Way We Eat Now: Strategies for Eating in a World of Change points out, for as long as there have been people too poor to buy meat – and vegetarians – there have been fake meats of one kind or another. In the UK, the Welsh Glamorgan sausage made from cheese, leeks and bread crumbs became popular during the second world war when meat was rationed, while in Russia, home cooks used to make an aubergine puree that goes by the name of “caviar”. The difference with today’s fake meats is that food technology has enabled them to be strangely realistic in both texture and appearance, from “flaky’” fish to burgers oozing with beetroot juice – read more here..

Beef bread bun

An overly meaty diet has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers, but these were things our distant ancestors never had to worry about, because they didn’t live long enough to fall victim to chronic disease and were only trying to survive day by day. Concern for our health is one of the main reasons we are now buying vegetarian replacements to meat in such quantities, but fake meat isn’t necessarily healthier meat. Many nutritionists see vegan alternatives as just another set of overly processed industrial foods that are often higher in salt than meat products, packed with additives and preservatives, and lacking in the iron and B vitamins animal meats contain, and urge us to eat all processed foods mindfully. The Impossible Burger, for example, packs in 20 grams of saturated fat (coconut oil), four grams more than the Heart Association recommended daily intake! You can read more in The Guardian feature here.

Meat eating habits around the world are slowly changing. Even Australians, some of the world’s biggest meat eaters, are converting to diets with less meat – read more here. But the use of vegan meat replacements and a drive for cultured meats isn’t the gigantic step forward our planet needs. Instead, let’s eat less meat and look for alternatives that are both authentic and healthy. A dream carbon solution for people who love to eat meat is eating more seaweed in your diet, for example – research has shown since 2015 that a diet that contains small amounts of seaweed will reduce methane emissions from belching cows by 80% – read more here.

Georganics Natural Toothtablets

Georganics Natural Toothtablets

Fed up with trying to find a truly ‘natural’ toothpaste in sustainably sourced packaging to travel with? UK-based Georganics makes Natural Toothtablets, naturally foaming toothpaste tablets with Cream of Tartar that are gently flavoured with organic spearmint, peppermint, tea tree or orange oil and come in a recyclable glass jar, aluminum lid and compostable box. The 120 tablets will last 1 person 8 weeks if they’re used twice a day.

Not all ‘natural’ toothpastes are what they claim to be. Many still use synthetic ingredients like SLS, hydrated silica and fluoride – toxins that we end up ingesting. Natural Toothtablets are free from all synthetic ingredients including glycerin, and still feel like a clean and refreshing way of brushing your teeth. The products are PETA-certified cruelty-free and vegan too.

Georganics is one of the few companies around that promote zero-waste practice in oral care. In many countries of the world, including the UK, plastic toothbrushes, bristles and empty toothpaste tubes cannot be disposed in regular recycling, so Georganics use compostable and recyclable packaging, and have set up a ZTL scheme allowing you to send back any Georganics products and components that cannot be recycled at home.

To avoid unnecessary transportation and reduce emissions, Georganics also make all their toothpastes and mouthwashes on their own premises in Sussex, England, and source all their materials from local suppliers.

Find out more here.

Georganics waste free packaging
Georganics – zero waste packaging

Is democratic freedom a human right in one country with two systems?

Folha

My family love Hong Kong and we had the privilege to live and work there for over two decades. From one of the top floors of Peninsula Hotel, we watched a spectacular firework show in celebration of the 1997 handover of Britain’s Crown Colony to China. Hong Kong was the economic powerhouse back then, but as the size of its economy shrinks relative to China from 20% in 1997 to only 3% today, so did Hong Kong’s leverage to hold on to its democratic freedom. As Hong Kong becomes economically less important to the overall Chinese economy, what is the way forward and who will decide on the future for Hong Kong in a country with two systems?

The principle of “one country, two systems” was first proposed by Deng Xiaoping in the early 1980s as a way to reconcile the communist mainland with historically Chinese territories‒Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau‒that had capitalist economies. In 1984 the concept was included in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, in which the two countries agreed that Britain would hand over sovereignty to China. It is also in Hong Kong’s constitution, the Basic Law.

The controversy over the extradition bill sparked large-scale protests since June, but by the time Chief Executive Carrie Lam declared the bill ’dead’, it has morphed into protests over democracy, alleged police brutality and other community grievances. But the problem goes deeper than this and young Hong Kong citizens cite the following problems: The inflation rate is high and many live in cramped residences and cannot afford their own homes. There is a huge gap between the wealthy and everyone else. There is a crisis of identity and people cannot call themselves Hong Kongers … only Chinese. There is no self autonomy, full democracy and freedom. 60% say they are not happy and want to emigrate.

In the last 19 weeks, the escalating protests had the feel of a slow motion car collision as protestors who believe that democratic freedom is a human right continue to risk their lives to march and fight for it. Hopefully, there will be a compromise that ‘save face’ on both sides and promote a sustainable level of development that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

A Bewitching Search for Bears in Romania

Jane Dunford

Few things are as exciting as seeing wildlife up close in its natural habitat – and our group watches in silence as a brown bear wanders towards the hide. We’re deep in Romania’s forested Carpathian mountains – home to around 5,000 Eurasian brown bear, the largest population in Europe – on a trip that promises thrilling wild encounters, while protecting the environment. It’s bewitching to watch the young male as he paws the ground and forages for food just metres away, and later a majestic stag appears, grazing nearby, oblivious to our gaze.

Bears out in the evening.
Bears out in the evening.

I’m here with The European Nature Trust (TENT) who recently started offering ‘Conservation Journeys’ to projects they support in Europe, with the goal of connecting people to nature and helping raise funds. “People think they need to go to Asia or Africa to have a safari-style experience,” says Paul Lister, environmentalist and founder of TENT, “but there are wild places in Europe with incredible wildlife watching. We think if people visit they are more likely to want to help protect what they’ve seen.”

Tree House

In Romania, TENT is working with Foundation Conservation Carpathia (FCC), with ambitious plans to create the largest forested national park in Europe. Using a model inspired by Doug and Kris Tompkins, famed for the parks they founded in South America, they are buying up land and hunting rights, aiming for a 250,000-hectare protected area that will eventually be handed back to state. TENT’s trips are tailormade – and include time spent with those behind the conservation projects and we’re joined by FCC executive directors Christoph and Barbara Promberger. While the southern Carpathians are home to more than half over Europe’s virgin forests and a third of its large carnivores – wolves and lynx roam wild here too – it’s also suffered from devastating logging and deforestation, we learn.

Amfiteatrul Tranilvania

“We have messed up our continent so badly, these are some of the last places that are still wild and we have to protect them,” says Christoph. “Our vision is for a Yellowstone or Serengeti for Europe – a vast national park. It’s an opportunity to develop the rural economy and to increase people’s quality of life, have a mitigating effect on climate change and protect the region’s biodiversity.” FCC is employing local guides, building an education centre and working to engage local communities too.

Our trip starts in Amfiteatrul Tranilvania, an eco-lodge with fairytale hobbit-style houses and 360-degree mountain views. The next day we’re taken close to the hide by helicopter – not the most eco-friendly way to travel, but it gives us an aerial view of the incredible landscape and the swathes of forest that have been clear-cut.

Fagaras mountains where Bunea-Hide

FCC has several hides – ours Bunea, on the edge of Pecineagu Lake, is the biggest: simple and comfortable, with two sets of bunkbeds and a double, the luxury comes from being surrounded by wild nature. At dawn more bear appear, as well as wild boar. There are plans for bison and beaver to be re-introduced to the area soon, too.

TENT trips may include a visit to Cobor Biodiversity Farm, a showcase for how proper management of grasslands can conserve biodiversity, with birdlife from golden oriol to spotted eagle and over 250 plant species in the meadows.

Bunea Hide Daniel Mirlea

A trip here with TENT is an incredible opportunity to gain an insight into one of the most important conservation initiatives in Europe – and satisfying to know that you’re contributing to its success just by visiting.

Fact file: Four nights cost from £1,950pp, staying at Amfiteatrul Lodge and wildlife hides, including a contribution to FCC. Find out more here.


Editor’s Note: NOW is supporting Forests Without Frontiers

Help us plant trees!
The world is in crisis: our forests are burning, species are dying, temperatures are soaring… planting trees is one of the most important things we can do to fight climate change.

Forest Without Frontiers is a new charitable initiative set up to plant trees around the world and protect our last ancient forests. Our first projects are in Romania’s Carpathian Mountains – an area of wild beauty, virgin forests and Europe’s largest populations of brown bear, wolves and lynx. But it’s under threat from deforestation.

We are reforesting degraded land – creating vast forests of native species on land that will be protected. We have access to huge areas of land for new forests.

Set up by UK-based DJ/artist Nico de Transilvania who comes from the area, music and arts will be a platform to spread the message and raise funds.

We are working in partnership with established conservation organisation Foundation Conservation Carpathia (Carpathia.org) whose goal is to create the largest forested national park in Europe.

* Please join us and help plant 50,000 trees this autumn – that’s an area around 15 football pitches. 
* Offset your flights with us.
* Help us create the largest carbon sink hole in Europe.

Find out more and donate at forestswithoutfrontiers.org

The Power of Limiting Choice

Confused Skeptical Man

We are surrounded by infinite choice that surrounds us today has become a burden to my soul. I have spent more time than I want to staring bewildered at the range of products on supermaket shelves, I’m always the last one to choose from a restaurant menu, and I get panicky in the queues of busy cafés, wondering if I’ll have decided what I want by the time the barista gets to me.

Having too much choice makes it hard for our brains to make a clear decision. We become confused and agitated, stuck in a state of indecision or in danger of making the wrong one – whether that’s buying a coffee rather than a herbal tea or dealing with a client using anger rather than kindness. As it’s unlikely our choices will be limited any time soon, it’s up to us to control those we’re exposed to, and the way our brains deal with them.

Recent studies have shown that the brain only has limited resources to draw on, and that if we use it too much and too often each day those resources run out. Yet we over-complicate our precious days, straining to make the right decisions about every little thing. To ensure you’ve got enough energy for the important, interesting decisions in life, try limiting your daily choices in more trivial areas.

Clothes are a good place to start. Part of the reason we feel more relaxed on holiday is that we’ve pre-selected our wardrobe before we arrive, so unless we’re the kind of person who travels with a truck load of Louis Vuitton bags, dressing ourselves each morning is pretty easy. As most of us wear only a fraction of what’s in our wardrobe regularly, it’s not difficult to recreate this refreshing situation at home. Take time selecting three effective combinations of clothes that work for each of the different situations in your life – work, going out, being at home, and so on. Have the courage to get rid of the rest.

When you’re shopping for anything, go for the highest quality you can afford, and buy less of everything. Countless times I’ve found myself buying a bag that looked absolutely fabulous on its market stall but turned into a plainly weird affair once I got home. Not knowing what we really want, whether it’s a type of handbag or a style of apartment, is often because we’ve become disconnected from what matters to us most, what life coaches call our ‘core values’. Before you’re about to make a decision, write down words that describe the choice you want to make – if you’re choosing a job, it may be ‘flexible, friendly, challenging’ and so on. Pick up to 10 of those aspects from your list that you feel, on instinct, are most important to you, and ask yourself if what you are about to choose fulfils those. If not, rethink.

Not being able to deal with choice is a sign that we’ve become disconnected from ourselves. Learn to trust your instincts and experience over what other people are yelling at you from the pages of a magazine, an internet site or on the TV. Select what you watch and read with care, going for what you truly love or that you believe will feed you, and have the courage to ignore the rest. If you’re stressed or depressed, top up your serotonin levels – researchers at The University of Cambridge have found that low serotonin levels make you more likely to make a choice you later regret – nuts and seeds, avocadoes and bananas, beans, pulses, cottage cheese, eggs, fish and turkey are all good sources.

What we eat is another crucial area when it comes to limiting choice. Sociologists have found that we make on average a staggering 226 ‘food decisions’ every day, so think of ways to limit these choices that work for your lifestyle. I create a weekly menu plan for breakfast, lunch and dinner, eat the same meals each week for a month, then create a new plan. I’ve decided on my favourite brands of essential items, and buy them in bulk from a local supplier. I cook vegetarian food at home, with fish twice a week, and might eat meat when I eat out – so those menu choices have become easier. And I simply avoid busy cafés.

Our travel choices are a part of this too. World situations are limiting my choices already. Friends have just cancelled a trip to Iran because of safety concerns and the country’s human rights record, flight shame has started to affect how I travel and how frequently I and my colleagues fly, and overcrowding is changing the places we visit too. Limiting choice is ultimately a more sustainable way to live – for our own wellbeing and the planet.

How can we help save familiar wildlife?

NOW Transforming Travel

Many of the animals, birds and insects we know and love are in danger of extinction because of human behaviour. Not just the unusual, breathtaking species, but the ones we grew up with and felt comforted by in picture books and films – and sometimes on childhood visits to the zoo. From tigers to leatherback sea turtles, from the Javan rhinoceroses to whales, many species are on the verge of extinction or in dire and dangerous circumstances because of human behaviour and its subsequent threat to biodiversity, the loss of natural habitats, the effects of climate change, overfishing and illegal practices such as poaching and wildlife trafficking.

A recent United Nations landmark report makes it clear that the threats to the biodiversity of our planet continue unabated. Developed by more than 100 experts from 50 countries, the report (released by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) says that close to 1 million species – nearly an 8th of all the life on the planet – will not survive unless we act to combat deforestation, the extinction of species and climate destruction. There are particular threats to more than 40% of amphibians, 33% of coral reefs and over a third of all marine mammals, says the report. Land clearing, crop production and fertilization cause about 25% of greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn are increasing the planet’s temperature to unsustainable levels for all wildlife.

Leuser-EcoSystem
Credit: Leuser EcoSystem – Ernest Zacharevic

Such human-caused climate change and habitat loss threaten many species with extinction for all sorts of very subtle and interrelated reasons. Take the striking North American Monarch Butterfly, an insect that makes one of the longest known insect migrations each Autumn from its summer homes in the northern U.S. and Canada to winter habitats in California and Mexico. According to the USA’s National Wildlife Federation, the latest count in 2018 found the number of west-coast monarchs spending the winter in California had plunged to only 20,456 butterflies – a drop of a whopping 86 per cent since the previous year – and that there’s been a total decline of more than 80 per cent over the past 20 years. Increasing carbon dioxide levels may be making milkweed, the only food monarch caterpillars will eat, too toxic for them to tolerate, while higher temperatures may be driving summer breeding areas further north, making migration routes longer and so more difficult. (If you’re in the USA or Canada, take part in the Monarch Joint Venture and plant milkweed or become a citizen scientist – more here.

Butterfly

When it comes to the welfare of animals, it’s not just our human habits and disregard for the interconnectedness of climate issues that’s the problem – it’s also blatant immorality. Illegal wildlife trafficking is a major threat to the survival of great apes and other endangered species as well as to the world’s biodiversity, for example, and the second biggest threat to animals after habitat loss. Only around 340,000 chimpanzees remain in the wild, and at least 3,000 great apes, including orangutans, gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees – which are all endangered species – are lost from the wild every year as a result of illegal trade (find out how you can support the Jane Goodall Institute ForeverWild campaign to help stop wildlife trafficking here.

Baby Orangutan
Credit: Gita Defoe

Elephants create and maintain the ecosystems in which they live and make it possible for lots of different plants and animals to live in those environments as well, yet their numbers have also dropped, by 62% over the last ten years worldwide, thanks to poachers who want their ivory, meat and body parts to sell on the black market. The Asian elephant, whose habitat ranges over 13 countries across Asia, is an endangered species with less than 40,000 remaining worldwide, while an estimated 100 African elephants are killed each day, leaving only 400,000 remaining in the wild. (World Elephant Day, which this year falls on 12 August 2019, is a group that campaigns throughout the year to help save elephants from poaching – more here.

Elephants in Sri Lanka

Fishing practices and over fishing has also put masses of marine life in peril. The loveable penguin, for example, which has evolved to thrive in some of the world’s most challenging marine environments – they can drink seawater, survive in temperatures as low -60°C and are superbly agile swimmers, yet after albatrosses, they are now the second most threatened group of seabirds in the world. 10 of the world’s 18 species of penguin are threatened with extinction, and even though they live in remote areas, overfishing of their food sources has made it harder for them to find enough fish to support themselves and increasing numbers are becoming tangled and drowned in fishermen’s fine mesh nets (Birdlife International runs a Protect A Penguin campaign – more here.

Penguin Strangled by Plastic

Animals are also bred so that human hunters can enjoy killing animals as a trophy sport or for so called human ‘medicine’ – such as lions in South Africa. Worldwide, 1.7 million ‘trophies’ were legally traded worldwide between 2004-14, around 200,000 of them from threatened species, and of these, 2,500 were brought home by British hunters, including hundreds of heads, feet, tails, hides, tusks and horns from some of the most endangered species such as rhino and elephant (you can read more on this here…
Thousands of lions bred in farms to be shot by hunters and killed for ‘medicine’.
Tiger farms in Laos fuel demand for tiger parts on black market – Washington Post.

Be informed. Understanding why our climate is getting warmer and what the solutions are is key to helping abate these situations. To find out more about some of the world’s most endangered animals, see here. If you want to give to animal charities, be sure to make sure your donation goes to the animals rather than human pockets by checking this clever website here.

Be empowered. With your mobile, your wallet and your vote, boldly lobby governments and companies to activate real change. It’s worth supporting the work of Conservation International, who lobby companies and governments around the world effectively – more here. Consider volunteering or fundraising for Greenpeace too – more here.

Be involved. Because close to 1 million species will not survive unless we act NOW, and we are increasing the planet’s temperatures to unsustainable levels for human life.