When faced with the big question of who to support in the upcoming presidential election, there’s one issue that, to an increasing number of voters, is taking priority over everything else – and it’s not what you might think.
People really care about protecting our planet. And about protecting biological diversity, which encompasses all the interconnected and interdependent living systems on Earth.
Right now, delegates from all over the country are raising funds from grassroots initiatives so they can attend the DNC convention in Philadelphia in support of presidential candidate Bernie Sandersand his Progressive platform, particularly his stance against fracking, global warming and environmental destruction fueled by corporate greed. On June 29, 2016 The Wildlife Conservation Examiner had the great privilege of talking with Georgia delegate Annie Vitters on why she supports Senator Sanders, on the importance of going vegan, and why she’s so passionate about protecting animals and the Earth.
WCE: Annie, it’s a real delight to speak with you. I see you’re raising funds to go to Philly in support of Senator Sanders, and you state in your profile and your GoFundMe page that you’re an ardent advocate for animals and the environment. How did your passion for saving the planet start?
Annie: I began to realize early on in my childhood that our environment was very important. I lived in Southern California and remember talking about conservation in school as young as kindergarten. I lived very close to the beach, and probably didn’t realize at the time how important this would be in shaping my ideas and thoughts about the planet as it pertains to me today. I certainly did not realize that we were on the verge of an ocean ecosystem collapse, or that certain animals like Africa’s Western Black Rhino would be extinct by the time I was 30. I didn’t realize at that time we would ever be concerned with the dramatic drop in the amount of bees around the world, and I would never have thought or understood why the coral reefs were all turning white, brittle and dying right off the coast of Key west.
As a child I didn’t think any of the world’s wonders would be in danger due to human carelessness. The only thing I ever believed was that they were and would always be here, for us to always see, experience and enjoy for the rest of our lives.
I remember going to the beaches with my family and were always aware that this beach where we played was not ours, but everyone’s. The beach that we built sandcastles on, looked for sand crabs on and jumped around in the waves belonged to something much bigger than us. It was a part of our world, and in it were a wide variety of treasures such as sea creatures and plants that were yet to be explored. My parents would always make sure we never went home with anything from the beach, this included the tiniest of rocks or any type of shell or sea creature. I remember my dad would say “we have to leave it the way we found it” This built my lifelong respect of nature and natural habitats because every little shell had its purpose.
WCE: It sounds like you had a great upbringing, which helped shape your worldview, and helped formed set of ethical standards for you, for how to interact with nature.
Annie: As a child my mother and father were very vocal around the dinner table and expressed their concerns and ideas on a wide variety of topics – most of which were about politics and how their laws and handling of the world’s issues impacted us and our future. How these decisions made the lives of millions of Americans better, or worse. I think this is what shaped my passion for working with and trying to stand up for working people like myself. As being part of the millennial generation we have seen more animals go extinct, or become endangered than any other generation yet. There is more environmental unrest with deforestation and farming taking away animal’s habitats and ruining whole ecosystems, than any other period. And to think this is all the cause of humans.
As a person who cares deeply about the environment and continuing to keep our wildlife thriving, you begin to realize that this is so much bigger than ‘just’ you.
You try to conserve energy the best way you can, become vegetarian to help reduce your carbon footprint (although vegan would reduce it even more) but you realize you can’t do it alone. Laws have got to be changed, and the corporations who abuse the planet in order to make billions of dollars for themselves won’t stop for anyone. You begin to think how insignificant and small you are in the scheme of things.
WCE: You emphasize the need for the world to go vegan, and how crucial that is to solving a host of otherwise really intractable environmental issues. To, in fact, save the planet. How does becoming vegetarian or vegan make a difference, and for that matter, what’s the difference between them?
Annie: First, to answer your question about vegetarian versus vegan; Vegetarians simply do not eat meat or by-products of slaughter. They do not eat any animals or creatures that are alive and move. Some eat eggs and drink milk (Lacto-ovo-) some eat dairy products but no eggs (Lacto) some eat eggs but not dairy (ovo). Vegans do not eat anything that has to do with animals, meat, dairy, eggs, or any other product derived from animals. So, vegans take it all a step further and also do not wear or buy any products made with animals such as fur and leather.
Now, to the second part of your question, and maybe the most important, there are many reasons to be vegetarian, or vegan, such as ethical, moral or religious concerns, animal activism, being against animal cruelty, or for combating certain diseases . . . but there is another important reason to not eat meat and it is to help reduce your carbon footprint. Because meat is very, very expensive to raise. In a moral/ecological sense, not a just monetary one. Relying on a meat-based diet is very inefficient and destructive. There are numerous studies on how livestock, animal agriculture, is a leading driver of climate change, as well as how it pollutes the earth and destroys our natural resources. In order to graze large herds of livestock, vast areas need to be cleared of trees, fragile habitats get ripped up and forests cut down in order to house the animals and maintain their large pastures.
WCE: That’s all bad, but – some might argue, it’s a small price for us to be able to eat. So, besides taking up land and habitat, how does it hurt the planet as a whole?
Annie: Well, livestock also need a huge amount of water, taking it away from wildlife, natural and wild landscapes, and don’t forget the people who could use it. Another thing is the large amounts of grain used to feed these livestock, which could otherwise be used to feed people, and, the commercial growing of all that grain, which contributes to deforestation and habitat loss, which leads to species extinction. It’s all tied up together. Don’t forget that farmers use petrochemicals as fertilizer to grow the grain the animals eat. That, on top of carbon emissions from transportation of the animals themselves from place to place, and finally to slaughter houses, all things that contribute to greenhouse gasses and global warming.
Then there’s cow farts . .
WCE: Yeah, people joke about that a lot –
Annie: I know. It may sound funny, but really, it’s very serious. One of the biggest contributors to green house gas emissions is digestive gasses produced from livestock as methane. Let me read you a quote from to the Environmental Protection Agency. “Domestic livestock such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, and camels produce large amounts of CH4 as part of their normal digestive process. Also, when animals’ manure is stored or managed in lagoons or holding tanks, CH4 is produced. Because humans raise these animals for food, the emissions are considered human-related. Globally, the Agriculture sector is the primary source of CH4 emissions.”
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations about 18% of global emissions result from livestock. As mentioned in “Shrinkthatfootprint” more recent studies show that our dependence on meat emissions could account for as much as a quarter of all human emissions. “12% from agricultural production, another 9% from farming induced deforestation, and a further 3% from things like refrigeration and freight.”
So, there’s a lot of evidence that suggests that reducing our meat consumption would drastically reduce carbon emissions, help save our environment and help conserve the ecosystems and animals – AND save the planet from global warming!
WCE: You’ve already been involved in these big global issues like fighting climate change – And now, here you are, right in the middle of what people are calling a “Yuuuge” grassroots political revolution, the Bernie Sanders campaign. Pretty exciting. Pretty ambitious! When did you realize that you wanted to get involved in politics?
Annie: For as long as I can remember voting, I longed for a candidate to talk about global climate change. Some slide over it or dip their toes in a few areas but no one has ever been so bold as to state their plan to reduce carbon emissions like Bernie Sanders has. Bernie is a ‘no nonsense’ kind of guy, which we need as President. So many are wishy-washy and swayed by corporate greed, but Bernie states that we have the evidence, that climate change is caused by human activity and it is virtually unanimous within the scientific community. Bernie Sanders specifically points the finger at some of his constituents being more concerned with the profits of companies like Exxon, BP and Shell, and the coal industry, than the impact they are having on our planet and its delicate ecosystems.
WCE: He calls out fracking, too –
WCE: Considering the challenges faced in this election by Senator Sanders and the Progressive movement, you seem very resolute in support of your candidate.
Annie: I am. When Bernie states that he wants “money out of politics”, he speaks about the money some politicians receive in order to keep quiet or turn the other way from what these companies are doing, ignoring the glaring science that climate change is destroying our planet and our people. Some of Bernie’s policy initiatives are; reclaiming our democracy from the fossil fuel industry, accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels, investing in clean and sustainable energy, and leading the international community to solve climate change and prevent international conflict. All of these, and his full plan, can be read on Bernie Sanders page “on the issues” at People Before Polluters.
Senator Sanders is taking a very bold stance on climate change, and it’s one in which he states that we don’t have time to wait and tiptoe. If we want to conserve our environment and the world we must work together as a team and come up with ways we can all participate in. Before we can do this, he has to take on big industry, something no other candidate has stated so boldly.
This is why I support Bernie Sanders and am not giving up on supporting him. I will continue on to the convention and push for a more progressive platform in order to fight for our environment and protect the most vulnerable species and ecosystems. Bernie Sanders has inspired a generation into environmental advocacy and is pushing hard for policies that will help the entire world. As Bernie says, it is not about me, but it is about us. If we work together we can accomplish anything.
WCE: Thank you so much, Annie, for all your hard work on behalf of our planet. Best of luck with your fund raising, and hope to see you at the convention!
If you would like to get involved in helping get environmental justice into the political discussion, or help send Georgia delegate Annie Vitters to the DNC convention, here is a link to her GoFundMepage