Today, June 5th, 2018, is World Environment Day. Yes, everyday has it’s own national or global purpose now. However, one like World Environment Day, should be celebrated everyday. I know, it sounds cliche.

But, it is true.

The environment brings forth life to all organisms creating plant and animal matter. We as humans, have destroyed much of the planet through our quest for profit.

Biggest Threat: Plastic!

Plastic pollution is currently the most disastrous product that was ever invented. Take a moment and look at your surroundings. How many items are made of some form of plastic? Uncanny, it’s a vast majority of items. I, myself, this laptop I am typing on, my lap desk for the couch, my wireless mouse, my cell phone, my FitBit, my clipboard, the pens and pencils, the television, the printer and so much more.

We have become infatuated with single use and disposable and durability. However, some durability has no other function or purpose. One it has served it’s purpose it is discarded. Ends up on the ground, oceans, and forests. Even the lowest point of the ocean, the Mariana Trench. This is located in the Pacific Ocean more than 36,000 feet, which is technically if “higher or deeper” than Mount Everest (at 29,026 feet).

That is insane!! we have literally found a way to pollute every part of the planet. The problem with plastic: there is no “shelf-life”. They live inevitable. There are no natural micro-organism to break down plastic. It may break into smaller pieces, but those pieces never go away. They continue to accumulate on land and in salt and fresh water bodies.

Many sea-life creature have been found dead with an accumulation of plastic found in their bodies. Animals unintentionally consume plastic and suffer dire consequences. Plastic is used for primarily every product. From food containers, microwaving products, food ware, school and office supplies, shoe wear, electronics, automotives, clothing, edible, non-edible. PLASTIC IS EVERYWHERE!

Conundrum: How do you avoid it? How do you prevent it from becoming more pollution?

  • Stop your consumption of plastic products:
    • Fast-Food Dilemma 
      • You do not need plastic silverware for lunch, dinner, fast food etc. First, fast food is not good for your health so, you should omit it. Also, fast food enterprises are primarily guilty for creating the supply and demand for “single-use” products. Everything you purchase for $5-$10 you will only use once, not recycle it and disperse of it.
      • Solution for fast paced life: MEAL PREP. Yes, it is time-consuming to an extent, but you are in control. All my meals are made fresh, no preservatives and no plastic use. I use glass container to carry my lunch and meals. I take my own silverware so there is no need to purchase plastic silverware, which you cannot recycle because of the food contaminants. It real is something, that small and simple to induce a change.
    • Buy items only sold in recyclable packaging.
      • Meaning no more plastic bags, containers, peanut butters, etc.
      • Solutions: purchase jars to keep products fresh. Go to stores that sell items not in plastic packaging, but wholesomely so that you may refill your from home jars.
    • Gardening!
      • One of the simplest things you can do is start your own garden. This will limit the amount of items you buy in stores that come in pre-packaged plastic bags or containers.
      • You can reuse old items and convert them into flower planters or use glass jars to start a garden.
    • Carry your own bag!
      • Many states have implemented an additional charge on plastic bags to limit the use and sale of them. Customers bring their own reusable bag to carry items home from any type of purchase. Thus, decreasing the use and demand for single use.
      • Plastic bags are not biodegradable and harm so much of wildlife. Animals get stuck or caught in bags. Ocean animals consume bags mistaking them for other sea creatures.
    • Convert your products.
      • Every item you have in your home, most likely has a eco-friendly or bio-degradable version. Please consider switching to that alternative. Toothbrushes are plastic, use a bamboo toothbrush instead! Most office supplies can be made with recycled materials. Home filtered water is the best alternative to single use plastic water bottles.
    • Save MONEY!
      • Huh, how does not buying plastic save me money? You pay for the cost of being lazy. That is right, I said it. You are LAZY. Humans are lazy. The single-use catasrophy has made humans lazy and dirty. We purchase one-time items and literally throw them away. We no longer take the effort to make meals, learn to cook, learn to garden, learn to make and create things. The average human is not that creative, because they no longer have to use their brains to form something to be useful. We literally rely on pre-made products to “function”.
        • When you purchase single use items, you get less of the actual product you are purchasing. For example, cookies. the quantity is less, but you are paying for more plastic or aluminum packaging. You then discard that packaging because it cannot be reused. Purchasing non-individually wrapped items that you have to portion, you pay significantly less, but you also reduce waste. Saying no to plastic will not only save the world, but it was help make you affluent.

Did you know it takes more water to create and produce plastic than there is on the planet to consume? Think about that. Water sources are depleting all around the world and they are being used for plastic production.

Take a moment today and analyze your home. See what products are plastic that you can do without or will no longer need to re-purchase. You will be surprised how much less you will have to throw away and how much money you may actually save.

Join the revolution against plastic! Say NO to plastic. No more plastic pollution.

Last Day of Wetlands Month!

Did you know May is called “Wetlands Month”?!

I wish I knew earlier that it was #WetlandsMonth! My entire passion and reason for going to law school is to protect the Everglades. Once, one of the largest wetlands in the state of Florida and in the world!! While in law school I wrote my upper level writing requirement on the everglades and restoring it. In this blog post I will cite to some excerpts from my paper. (DISCLAIMER: Please do not plagiarize. I busted my butt for two years working on it and intend to be published, okay thanks!) Fun Fact: My logo picture is of the Everglades. I went there 3 years ago to get more information on the Everglades and what is being done to protect and restore it.

Being a native Floridian from Miami, the Everglades is very near and dear to my heart, so are the protections for it. Knowing the south Florida continues to destroy the everglades is one of the reasons I decided politics may be where my career lies. Now, I live in Orlando, but who knew my drive for protecting the Everglades would have grown with the physical distance. I actually live in the wetlands in Orlando. Also, the headwaters of the Everglades is located in Kissimmee, Florida. Yes, the Everglades used to encompass more than a third of the state. Now, it barely covers the south eastern portion of the state.

What is a wetland?

A wetland is an area where much of the land is submerged in water or covered in water. It maintains this state for much of it’s duration through out the wet and dry seasons. A wetland is home to an array of animals and plant life. Many of which are not found anywhere else in the world. More specifically, the Everglades was formed over 100,000 years ago! (Book I cite in my paper!)

Purpose of a Wetland

From an ecocentric perspective, it has a right to exist solely for its on inherent value. Meaning, it is natural and should exist on its own. Wetlands are one of the only ecological systems that brings forth various forms of life into one area to coexist. The Florida Everglades is one of the only places where you may find the American Crocodile and Alligator in the same place.

A wetland is one of the key sources of potable (drinking) water. Rain and run off waters seep into the ground through the marshes and then down into the limestone. This is the purest form of cleaning pollutants and contaminants out of the water. This beautifully, naturally filtered water eventually ends up in our aquifers. An aquifer is underground layer of permeable rock, which essentially acts as holding tank for water. (Over the years the water table has been dredged by huge conglomerates in processing bottled water. (I’ll go off that tangent another day).

Pretty much, wetlands act as a natural sponge to soak up all contaminants and then create purified drinking water! So, why are we destroying it?!

Destroyers of the Everglades: Big Sugar and Corporations

Again, these are people who have no regard for the sanctity of nature to just exist. Further, they have only one goal: money.

Big Sugar, refers to the huge lobbying industry in the state of Florida. A lot of the agricultural land near Lake Okeechobee is owned by sugar cane farmers. They are heavily subsidized by our government! Why? Obesity. (again, another tangent). The East Agricultural Area, is all sugar land. Much of this run of water from the pesticides and over use of phosphorus end up in the lake. The lake once connected tot he beautiful “River of Grass”, but has stopped. There are many proponents to release the headwaters back from Kissimmee, but the issue is the pollution.

IF those waters are released from the lake the will transfer polluted water into what is left of the wetlands. High levels of phosphorus allow for invasive plant species to thrive. Additionally, these high volumes are too much for the depleted wetland to clean. This also creates algae build up, which in turn blocks oxygen in the water. No oxygen, then the plant and animal life begin to suffer. Thus, creating a catastrophic chain of events. Single handily we are destroying an entire eco-system that existed long before humans ever “conquered” these lands.

What will you do to help protect our innocent Wetlands? Remember, Florida is not the only place with wetlands, they are found all over, but are being destroyed at an alarming rate by human sprawling and the need to create farms everywhere…for profit.

Profits will not protect the environment, nor will it prevent destruction of innocent sentient beings throughout the world. Will you be a part of the solution? To protect, preserve and restore!!

Meatless Monday Chronicles: Butternut Squash Soup!

I am still figuring out this whole blog website thing…however, I want to create a recipe corner! (Just not sure how to make the menu thingy work). I am always concocting new creations. I have been obsessed with the kitchen since I was five. My mother said the first thing I learned was to push the dining chair into the kitchen and get to the counter. She would catch me peeling and stuffing boiled eggs in my face.

Then elementary school summer break came along, guess who loved reading books of all kinds?! Yup, cookbooks too. Very first, unsupervised thing I made was fudge. Boy was it delicious! My mom was impressed, yet terrified because I was cooking and boiling hot sugar…of course, I did not do that unsupervised again. I did learn to be really messy in the kitchen, which did not go so well with mom either. What can I say, I live by organized chaos! (I’ve learned to clean more haha).

My inspiration for this recipe is my mom. She has been vegetarian for over 30 years, maybe longer. As I got older, I perfected meat dishes for my dad (do not cook meat anymore), but I wanted to create unique things for my mom too. So, I combined a lot of my favorite orange things and thus called it soup!! Yup, as creative as it gets sometimes lol.

My mom is from the beautiful small island of Trinidad and Tobago, so, making a “Butternut Squash Soup” was definitely not a normal thing, but she was excited to try it! I have been making it the same ever since!

# of ingredients: 5

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 45-50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Butternut Squash (1/2 pound)
  • Sweet Potatoes (2 medium size)
  • Carrots (3, peeled)
  • Veggie Stock (homemade or store bought – 3 cups)
  • Olive Oil Spray (or mister if you have one)

 

Directions:

  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Cut the butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots into similar size chunks.
  • Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray.
  • Place all the orange veggies on the sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
  • Use a long wooden skewer to pierce the veggies. If it goes through, they are ready to come out of the oven.
  • Heat a pot with 1 1/2 cup of veggie stock and bring to a boil.
  • Add all your veggies, (here, you can add some other fresh veggies like onion or fennel to give a different flavor!)
  • Bring to a nice simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Turn the stove off, and get your blender ready! I have a NinjaChef, which was an awesome Christmas present!
  • I used the soup setting first and yes it will look like small lumpy mashed veggies, that is okay!
  • Don’t forget that reserved vegetable stock! Start to add that liquid to your veggies to help them move around the blender.
  • I do it in half portions to not exceed the “hot liquid” warning and to ensure smooth soup texture!
  • Once, all has turned into mush, add the last 1/2 cup of vegetable stock to the blender and put on the puree setting!
  • It is like magic, no more mushy, just silk smooth soup!
  • You can store in a freezer proof container for up to a month! I always divide my portions for lunch, dinner, and a lazy day in the future, i.e. freezer.

Below are some pictures from my Meatless Monday Chronicles! Tune in next week for another fun creation!

Remember, there is nothing to being an amazing home chef! Healthy meals are quick, simple, and low maintenance ingredients, they also do not have to break the bank!

Notice, there was no salt or sugar in this recipe! You get all the natural sweetness from the sweet potatoes and the carrots. Also, the butternut squash gives you amazing flavor and texture. This is a sure fire healthy meal, whether you are on a diet, trying to be vegetarian or vegan, or just want to try something new!

 

Hope you enjoy!! Come back for more Meatless Monday Chronicles!!

 

~Elizabeth Gosein-Vasquez

Weekly WisdomWednesday : Recycle!

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Remember to recycle!! The world 🌍 can be so much cleaner if we all did our part and recycled!! Check out Tolkien! He loves to help in the recycling process. He picks up bottles and chews them nice and flat!!

The importance of recycling is to reduce our waste. More plastic exists in our oceans, than fish. Pretty scary. Plastic is not biodegradable, meaning it will survive decades before it begins to decompose. Some plastics may take an even longer time depending on the type of plastic that product would have been utilized for.

If every person recycled once a week, the planet would be healthier. Recycling leads to best practices, something that has already been achieved in countries all across Europe. They have some fascinating ways to promote recycling. For example, in Turkey they have a machine that dispenses dog food for stray dogs when you input a plastic bottle! Check out more about this awesome machine at this website that goes into further detail! What an amazing incentive. Unfortunately, humans are motivated primarily for having “done something” to benefit something else, which this would be a perfect solution. Further, in Europe there is new legislation being proposed to end the use of plastic!

Even giant name companies are starting to phase out the use of plastic for more eco friendly, compostable and biodegradable packaging for their products. Just recently, big whig, Starbucks announced they are looking for someone to invite better cups for their products. Now, this is an industry that really uses every form of plastic because of the lids and straws, although the cups are paper, their cold beverages are still in plastic. I can appreciate someone such as Starbucks realizing the ecological footprint they have and their influence on the population as a hold. They are utilizing their resources to literally “put their money where their mouth is” and create a compostable cup!

The more an individual is able to recycle the greater impact they will have over the world.  Know that every little bit truly counts. Now, go forth and RECYCLE!! ♻️ ❤

Mentor from Afar, Dr. Jane Goodall

I became enamored with Dr. Jane Goodall as a child, watching her on television. I thought how remarkable her career must be to study animals for a living and traveling the world. Her passion inspired me to want to make a difference in the world. To be the change I wanted to see. She instilled something within that I have since tried to follow.

Dr. Goodall may not even know the impact she has had on my life or my choices, but everything she stands for is what I believe in. She made groundbreaking strides not only for women in a male dominated field, but for animals. The Chimpanzees are very lucky to have an advocate like her in their corner. Dr. Goodall also brings the protection of local and indigenous people into the realm of protection. We must educate the masses on their vital role to protecting wildlife. The local people are very much part of the problem, but also they key to the solution when provided with the proper tools.

Not only is she a brilliant scientist, but a phenomenal world leader. She is known for being a peacemaker around the globe. According to her website, she “travels the world, writing, speaking and spreading hope though action, encouraging each of us to use ‘the gist of our life to make the world a better place’.”

I may not have followed in her footsteps, but I have continued to follow her work. I may not have become the scientist my parents wished, but I instead chose to take the law into my own hands and pursue a career in the protection of the environment and animals.

Many people do not believe they can make a change, but Dr. Jane Goodall is the perfect example of one person “being the change they wish to see in the world.” She is the ultimate “shero”, most definitely one of my idols. My dream is to one day meet her in a world where animals are given rights to exist and coexist with humans. I aspire to one day achieve the incredible accolades Dr. Goodall has over her lifetime as a pioneer in the animal rights community. Thank you for everything you have done, Dr. Goodall. Wishing you the most fabulous 84th Birthday. Here is to many more, and one day meeting you.

One of your biggest fans, Elizabeth ❤

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Elusive Ghost Crab

The Elusive Ghost Crab
Probably my favorite creature on the shoreline. I absolutely love crabs! They are the cutest thing running across the beach, sideways. Have you ever notice tiny holes on the beach when you arrive early morning right before sunrise? Crabs are pretty active in the early hours, mainly because their main predators, birds cannot see them as easily. They tend to burrow into their holes. They are very shy and easily frightened. I had to stay pretty far to get a picture of this one. I am a huge proponent of beach clean ups. This little ‘fella’ was out while I was cleaning the beach with fellow law students. Beach clean ups are one of the best ways to give back to the earth and then being able to spend the rest of the day enjoying what nature has to offer. Whether it is finding crabs, watching birds dive into the ocean. Seeing, jellyfish, turtles or other fish in the water and even the rare stingray if you are lucky! I would never trade the ocean life. There are a multitude of creatures that can be found at the beach.Just remember to respect their space and admire them from a distance. They are just as afraid of us as we are of them.

The End of the White Rhino

What are you going to do to help prevent the extinction of animals? Poaching is not necessary. The horns of these animals are made of the same material as our fingernails and hair. Why is it so coveted throughout the world? If there is no demand then there should be no supply. The people who poach and kill many of these innocent creatures are doing it out of desperation to feed and support their families. They are forced. The extinction problem is a human caused problem.

Humans have an obsession with believing we are indestructible and our actions hold no consequences. Quite the contrary, animals such as the White Rhino coexisted with dinosaurs for millions of years before our existence. We single handily destroyed this species. For what? To exploit their horns and carve designs on them? Supposedly according to ancient culturales they held healing powers. However, we are not as ignorant as our ancestors. We have science that has proven we do not need any of those materials from a Rhino or any other animal such as elephants, tigers, pangolins and more.

We must come together to preserve what is late of the wildlife. Humans created this problem. Now, humans have to solve it.

What will you do to help?

In Memory of Stephen Hawking

Today is a day that will forever be remembered in our history, one of the greatest minds to have existed in out time has passed away. Against all odds he accomplished what many have dreamed. World renowned physicist, Stephen Hawking passed away today at the age of 76. He was more than a scientist, he was an inspiration. He did not let his illness or disability be a hinderance to his life’s work or to making great accomplishments throughout his career.

Professor Hawkins was diagnosed at the age of twenty-two with a rare disease , motor neuron disease. He was a cosmologist, astronomer, mathematician, and author of many books. His most famous book is, “A Brief History of Time”.

One of his famous quotes, “It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next 100 years, let alone next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn’t have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Let’s hope we can avoid dropping the basket until we have spread the load.” I have to agree, we are the caretakers of our planet and we have not treated her well over the years. It is only a matter of time before we bring about complete destruction. It is now we must begin to make an impact on ourselves and the future of our planet.

Philosophical Moment: Just Stop and Listen

Have you ever just stopped to listen to the sounds all around you? To inhale and exhale the scent of the earth? Yes, the earth has a unique smell. In the morning, when the ground is full of dew, there is a certain scent. Then as the day wears on and the sun is beating down, there is a different more neutral scent. At dusk and nightfall, the earth yet again, smells different with the coolness of the air.

As the morning comes, the earth is stirring during feeding time for most creatures. Listening to birds as they sing to each other. Right now it is Spring in Florida. I am lucky enough to live in an area where we have “woods” in the back. In the rainy season there is a creek that forms and we get to see turtles, frogs in every stage of life, to predatory birds, babies that are bunnies, birds, small fish, and so much more. On my runs, with Tolkien of course, we spot eagles soaring above us. They are indeed majestic.

When I run, I use that time to reconnect with nature. I block out everything from the day, all the stress of the modern world. I just allow myself to literally become one with nature. I find myself just as inquisitive as my pup, as we go on trails. We both look for alligators (duh, it is Florida), in the canals, or different fish and even snakes! This is time to listen to the wind as it moves through the trees. I’ll get all “Pocahontas” for a minute…I do “Listen to the colors of the wind” and (“Listen with your heart” is tattooed on me). Something about the meaning behind that song has always resonated with me since I was a child. It is a beautiful story the earth has to speak to us, we just have to listen.

Even with the cars on the street driving by as we run, it is easy to tune them out and just focus on my breathing and what the earth has to offer. When I listen to the sounds of the wind, rustling of the leaves on the ground, the crunching of sticks and brush by animals hidden from sight, it brings a sense of awareness. We are not alone. Other sentient beings exist and live among us. It is very easy to forget that in our mundane lives. Just because you have a pet, it does not equate to connecting with your inner soul and the earth. Most of our animals are our family and are given a sense of privilege already, so they do not count.

Take at least one day a week to go outside and just, listen. Listen to the sounds of the earth. If you do not live somewhere where you can just go in your yard, then go to the park, beach, river, lake, forest, whatever natural area you can find. Take a notebook, and just sit and listen. Write down what you hear.  Write down how you feel. Is there a new sense of self? Sense of awareness? Awareness of yourself or of other things? Sense of peace and harmony? I would love for you all to come back and write on this post and share what you experienced. It is amazing what one day in nature can do for your sanity, hectic life, and just a self-love project.

Tolkien in his Natural State

Tolkein in his Natural State
Here, is the love of my life, my furchild, Tolkien. He is part of my inspiration to fight for Animal Rights. I adopted mister handsome, just over two years ago. It was during my last year of law school, which was a difficult time. Law school is extremely stressful, never believe anyone who says otherwise. A lot of my friends, colleagues, bosses and professors thought I was crazy to get an eight and half week old puppy! Actually, I think I was crazy, I’ll post a picture of him as a baby…you’ll see why I caved. Tolkien entered my life at the perfect time. He became my relief from everyday life. He brought happiness to my life in the simplest of ways, by just existing. His silly antics, his obsession with carrying the mail or sticks, and his genuine love for everything. Tolkien was my first puppy (not first dog), but first real puppy. Being so young, I had to train him, learn to be better at a schedule, stay organized (especially for feeding and monthly medicine), and most importantly, FINANCIALLY! Boy, i knew pups were expensive, but every horrible thing you could imagine happened to my little man. He had his peanuts removed at three months, then right after the cone came off, two weeks later- he fractured his knee! (in between we found out he was allergic to the medicine for their eyes when they go under and had goopy stuff oozing for a few days; visit to the ER). I did my due diligence and took him in immediately to the vet. My regular was out, so the other lady who is now referred to as “she-who-must-be-named” x-rayed his leg, but not his knee. For ten days I believed the injury was his ankle, per that “doctor”. Then I got back in for a follow-up after I called because I said he’s still limping. Poor baby was on 23-hour crate rest. How does anyone put a 4 month old puppy on crate rest?! (There was a lot of spoiling during this time). Needless to say, this vet now does the proper x-ray of his knee and sees that is what was fractured, not his ankle! She then tells me he needs immediate surgery..yea, a law student affording surgery. She contacted an orthopedic and he says this dog needs surgery immediately as well, but he costs a lot, however, a non-specialist doctor in the office could do it also..probably. Risks?! Oh, he may have arthritis the rest of his life, limp, and need a pin in his knee. Now, lets explain whats happening in my life, its FINAL EXAMS! So, I am at the end of my loan money, its finals, and now my world needs $2,000 surgery. Okay, cool. I immediately start looking for second opinions. Thank goodness I found someone on short notice that can read the x-ray. They explain everything to me and contact their orthopedic. Guess what….Orlando only has one dog orthopedic! He says ” I recognize this x-ray”. My second opinion doctors, then tell hm the FULL story of the injury, the TEN days that lapsed and then the second x-ray that was taken. Hold up- yea, the first “doctor” aka not my normal vet…NEVER told the orthopedic that Tolkien had gone 10 days no treatment and this was not the initial x-ray. He now says, wait I didn’t know that. This dog has healed for 10days. Do not perform surgery. If he is healing already we could cause more damage if we go in there surgically. (Mind you the first doctor is threatening me I can’t do surgery with the new ones…on principal…” However, once I had the ortho tell me this new information, I made him contact that doctor. Long story short. I prevent my son from unnecessary surgery and poor veterinary care! Also, saved $1,000. I still had to do x-rays every 2 weeks to see how he was healing. Moral of the story- ALWAYS get a second opinion. After he finally healed from all of that he was back to normal puppy life. He is a proven fighter and gives me strength everyday to fight my battles to make this world a better place. We can learn a lot from our animals. Just pay attention and the life lessons that come with them.