Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Small Dose of Red Tide


 Many species of fish litter the beach due to red tide in Sarasota, FL

Walking back across the street from the beach, my eyes hurt so much that I could barely open my eyes.  I was at the beach maybe 20 minutes, but probably less.  Red tide was hitting the area and wind was stirring the water and blowing the neurotoxin towards the beach.   

A Silver Grunt among seaweed stranded on the dry beach.  

The last few days, I noticed floating dead fish in the waters.  Now, the beach is littered with multiple species of dead fish. Once home from the beach, I rinsed my eyes out with water, then sat on the ground and cried because it hurt so much.  Eventually I tracked down some eye drops so I could function once again. 

A pin fish dead on the beach due to red tide.

A large algae bloom causes red tide.  Under the right conditions, such as warm temperatures and coast upwelling, the algae multiply.  There are a variety of species that can cause algae blooms, but in these Florida waters, it is primarily caused by Karenia brevis, a type of dinoflagellate.  This is one example of a species that actually produce toxins. Luckily for humans the red tide organism, Kareneva brevis, is not deadly but it could cause respiratory distress and irritated eyes.

Spade Fish victim to red tide.

Red tide is a concern for many reasons.  The most obvious one is the killing of fish. Millions of fish have died due to this harmful algae bloom. Many species are affected and it’s sad to walk down the beach and see so much death.  It feels so ominous.   

Lane Snapper with its last gasp for oxygen frozen in time.

These fish deaths also affect those species that rely on them as a food source, such as dolphins.  In 2004, 107 dolphins died in Florida’s panhandle due to high levels of brevetoxins (the toxin found in Karenia brevis) from eating fish.  Manatees, birds and sea turtles can also die directly due to these toxins. 

Gafftopsail Catfish dead in the surf on Lido Key.

There is controversy around the cause of red tides. Some people believe that humans contribute to red tides so we harbor some blame.  Nitrogen and phosphorus, chemicals often found in fertilizers, can allow algae blooms to grown faster. According to NOAA, the occurrence of harmful algae blooms has been increasing. 

 A Cow Fish loses it's vibrant color after dying due to red tide.

This time, the red tide was short lived and the next day I could walk on the beach without coming home crying.  Other years the red tide has stayed around for months and killed countless animals and effected sea life populations.  It was interesting to see the effects, but I am glad it is now gone.

A Sand Seatrout is not very distinguishable about dying from red tide.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Orange Vanilla Snacking Cake

For a few months I will be living in Sarasota, Florida for an internship.  The weather has been amazing and I live in a very picturesque area.  I have been having amazing wildlife adventures too!  But I am from Portland, home of everything conveniently vegan, so even though I am enjoying so much, I have also been missing all the vegan food, bakeries and bars.  I haven't really found a place I can buy a good tasting vegan treat, so when the temperature dropped a little last week, I decided to bake something for myself.

I love cake, but didn't want to really deal with frosting.  I went to a local market and usually I use blended silken tofu for all my cakes since it gives them such a perfect texture.  This store did not have any, but I did find some soy yogurt and decided to give it a try as a replacement.

I shared one cake with my roommates and the other I brought to my internship.  I heard good reviews and even got a request for the recipe.  I call that a great success!

Orange Vanilla Snacking Cake

1 cups Organic Unrefined Cane Sugar
½ cup Earth Balance Margarine
½ cup Vanilla Soy Yogurt
1 ½ cups Non-dairy Milk (I used Almond Milk)
2 tsp Vanilla
2 ½ cups Unbleached White Flour
1 Tb Baking Powder
½ tsp Salt
Zest of 1 Orange

Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans, or two loaf pans and set aside.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together the sugar and margarine until creamy.  Add the soy yogurt and mix until incorporated.  Slowly add in the non-dairy milk, then the vanilla and orange zest.  Do not be surprised if the mixture gets a little lumpy, this is normal.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Combine the dry into the wet ingredients until just combined. Spread evenly into the pans and bake for 25-30 minutes for the round pans and about 40 minutes for loaf pans. Cake will bounce back when lightly touched in the middle when done.  Allow the cake to cool some before turning them out for glazing.

I topped the cake with a simple orange glaze.  I juiced the one orange used for zesting and then slowly added it 2 cups powdered sugar.  Mix thoroughly with a fork or whisk.  You may not need to add all the orange juice, or use more, depending on the orange.  Glaze should not be super runny, but not too thick to easily spread over the cake.

When cakes are slightly cool, remove from baking pans and turn upside down.  Pour the glaze over the top, allowing it to go over the sides as well. Enjoy!

* For extra orange flavor, use orange juice instead of non-dairy milk in the cake recipe.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Yet another fat shaming image used wrongfully in the name of veganism

Today I feel like Texas, as in, “Don’t mess with me!”  There are many things on my completely-not-okay list, and two of those things are censoring me and fat shaming.  Not okay, people!  Obviously I don’t think anyone should be censored, but it’s especially frustrating when the censored person is giving honest, respectful feedback.

In the vegan community I consider myself a part of, I unfortunately witness a lot of stereotyping against fat people. Yesterday there was a perfect example of this.  On Facebook, I noticed a friend comment on this image from a page called “Veganism”.  Check out this image below.  One the facebook page, a long list of arguments for veganism was also attached.

Luckily my friend posted a message nicely calling them out on using the image.  I decided to respectfully point out that I feel using fat shaming images is embarrassing to the vegan community and we should focus on facts, not stereotypes.  I would include exactly what I said, but I later discovered it was deleted. I was censored!!!  Not only was my comment deleted, but I was BANNED from commenting, liking comments, or writing a post on their page!  What!? 

This really pissed me off!  So, I shared the post on my page and asked others to make comments and support me.  Two remarkable things then happened.  One, I found out I had more supporters and people who agree with me than I thought!  Yay!  There were about ten more comments added, pointing out that the image is fat shaming and does not represent all in the vegan community.  Second, I found out that I had influenced more people than I knew to eat vegan!  I especially loved that one person was inspired by how glowing and healthy I looked (I swear that is what she said!) 

The next morning I checked in to find that ALL these comments had been deleted.  More censorship!  This is listed as a community page.  To me community is not the silencing of those who have a disagreement with you.  Most of the commenters were respectful and long-time vegans.

Personally, these images really hurt.  It makes me feel like I’m not accepted in the vegan community even though I am deeply committed to animals and the vegan lifestyle.  I have stood at protests while people yelled fat shaming words at me and questioned my veganism.  I have been stereotyped all through my life and I have had enough!  I went vegan about 17 years ago and have been fit the majority of that time and fat all my life.  Research has shown that body size is much more complicated than calories in and calories out.  People naturally have a diversity of body sizes, and shapes. 

A couple of years ago I overheard someone asked a new person at the animal rescue center I volunteered at is she was vegan.  Her response was “Do I look like a vegan?” gesturing at her body.  I immediately piped up, “Do I look like a vegan?!”  The new volunteer later confided in me that my response made her stop and think, and now she is a vegan herself (and friend). I tell this story because there are stereotypes of what a vegan looks like and lots of vegans like to think it is the perfect picture of thinness. Ironically, there is this other popular opinion that vegans are super skinny in an unhealthy way.  It seems counter-intuitive, but I’ve had people tell me that they are surprised I’m vegan because I look so healthy.  The point is, vegan bodies also come in all shapes and sizes, even the healthy ones!  Using images that use fat stereotypes to spread veganism hurts the movement from both the inside and out.  I personally try to embrace diversity, and I don’t believe in deciding which diversity is acceptable and which is not. 

So, comment.  Please visit this page and comment on the image and comment on their censorship.  Write a post to their wall about the same things.  Before writing this blog post I searched for a way to reach out to the page administrator for dialogue, but there is no contact information given.  I really try the nice approach first!  But if that doesn’t work, I will not be silent.  I truly believe that a public page claiming to be a community should be open to conversation.  If they’re not, then they need to be questioned and the true community should speak up.  I know personally, I would appreciate any and all voices that join mine.  Thanks!