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Citizen Science: How YOU can help the environment

17079728492_d1e2b90b3b_z.jpgWritten by: Vidya Balasubramanyam

Did you know that you too can be a scientist? It doesn’t matter if you are a business student, art major, or interested citizen; there is a lot that you can do for science. In fact, scientists are actively seeking your unique skills to help them answer complex questions about the amazing planet that we live in.

Earth Day is coming up on April 22, 2017. With proposed federal budget cuts threatening environmental and climate science, your involvement is needed more than ever for a brighter future. Here are some simple, fun ways you can contribute and advocate for science and the environment:

Did you see change?

climate-change-2063240_640.jpgHave you noticed that the winters are getting warmer, or that a tree in your backyard bloomed earlier than usual? Your simple observations are valuable to scientists! Head over to iSeeChange to document your observations. You can choose from several investigation themes—from birds to extreme weather events to your everyday life. The changes that you see around you are important to the narrative of planet Earth. Each post you make will be accompanied by a bigger picture visualization using satellites or other data.

Cloudy with a chance of… science?

man-person-clouds-apple.jpgEver been accused of always having your head in the clouds? NASA wants YOU! The Globe Observer is an interactive project meant to help scientists record sky observations through cloud photographs that you take. This information will be used to enhance their understanding of global climate change. All you have to do is download the app (available on the iOS App Store and Google Play), look through some training resources, and lose yourself in the clouds!

It’s time to get dirty!

soil-1795902_640We have food to eat because of soil. To maintain and improve soil quality, scientists need to have a better understanding of soil health. This is where you come in. The MO Dirt project is looking for volunteers (working as individuals or teams) to conduct soil health surveys in a study site of your choice. Several resources are available to get you started; the first step would be to create an account on their website.

A similar project is seeking to develop new life-saving drugs by learning about diverse genetic information in soil bacteria. They’re interested in samples from the Midwest, and you can even earn an Amazon gift card in return for your help! Fill out this form to request a soil sampling kit, and head over here to read more.

Take a selfie!

SaracaStreamThis one is really easy. Next time you’re out hiking, or you come across a stream during a scenic drive, stop and take a selfie with it! It’s that simple. Your selfie will help in creating a national map of streams that need to be monitored because there is currently a lack of information about water quality. This is especially important because the Clean Water Act is currently being reconsidered through an executive order, which could eliminate protection for our water bodies. This handy infographic should help you take and upload your selfie in support of clean water.

Are you ready for an renewable future?

Renewable_energyWhy not spend some time working in an energy lab? Our fossil fuel resources are dwindling out, and scientists need your help in designing a renewable future. Head over to NOVA Labs, and take the challenge. You’ll be given all the data you need to perform a cost-benefit analysis of energy sources, and you’ll eventually end up designing a renewable energy system for an entire city!

None of the above?

If none of these appeal to you, worry not! There is a vast repository of citizen science projects on SciStarter. You can use their customized filters to find the one that is perfect for you. They have more than 1600 formal and informal projects so you can easily find one tailored to your interests.

Want to do more? How about marching for science?

On Earth Day (April 22, 2017), scientists and science enthusiasts are coming together to March for Science. The goal of the march is to affirm science as a democratic value, support scientists, and advocate for open, inclusive, and accessible science. The march takes place in Washington, D.C. but if you can’t make it all the way to D.C., no worries, we’ve got one right here in Missouri! The rally starts at 2 p.m. at the Boone County Courthouse Amphitheater and goes down 8th street to the columns, ending with a science festival at Peace Park. So invite your friends, confirm your attendance on their Facebook page, and last but not least #StandUpForScience in any way you can!

Sustainable Threads: Innovations in the Industry


The textile industry is–let’s face it–not the most sustainable. However, there are lots of companies out there trying to figure out ways to fix that problem. In this article, we’ll look at how the textile industry is making ecological innovations. First, let’s learn a little bit about textiles.

“Textiles” and “fabrics” are pretty much used interchangeably. They can be made from both natural and synthetic materials (called fibers). Most synthetic fibers are petroleum-based, meaning they’re made from non-renewable sources and require a lot of energy to make.

However, a fabric made from natural fibers is not necessarily a sustainable choice either. For example, cotton is a widely known and used natural fiber, but because the production process normally uses pesticides and extensive amounts of water, it is a much less sustainable choice.

So, when is a textile considered sustainable? It might help to think of the three Rs of environmental friendliness:

  • Reduce: Does the manufacturing company attempt to reduce the water, chemical, and air pollution that normally occurs during the manufacturing process?
  • Reuse: Is the textile in good enough condition to be used several times or even be made into something else during its use?
  • Recycle: Has it been made with recycled materials, or can it be recycled/biodegraded?

With these factors in mind, let’s delve into innovative ways the textile industry has developed to try and help solve its sustainability problem.

The company WeAreSpinDye is hoping to revolutionize the way synthetic fibers are produced by dyeing them early in the process (before they become yarns or fabric). This will reduce the negative environmental effects of the chemical dyes used for textiles.

A brand of hemp called Hardy Organic Hemp has innovated the production process by creating a fiber that is produced using zero pesticides, water, or chemicals, and is organically dyed.

Though we don’t usually think of carpet backing when we think of textiles, a company called Milliken revolutionized the backing on carpet tiles by finding a way to make them stick to your floor without the need for harmful glues and adhesives.

Climatex, an ecologically responsible German textile company, created the first 100% biodegradable fabric made of synthetic materials, all while maintaining extraordinary energy, water, and dye standards.

Another fabric called Sensuede is the first high-end microfiber suede fabric that is made completely from recycled polyester and is not produced using harmful solvents like many other synthetic suede fabrics.

One of the most interesting innovations being made in the textile industry is Crabyon fibers. These are made from “chitosan” (or “chitin”), a material actually derived from crab shells. These fibers produce textiles that are completely biodegradable, while also recycling waste from crab processing factories.

Did you know that when you clean an item made from a synthetic fiber (especially fleece) in a washing machine, it sheds a small amount of microfibers that end up in the water and pollute it? G-Star, a denim brand, recognized this issue and took action with their RAW for the Oceans denim line, the first to be made from recycled plastic found in the ocean.

Patagonia, a leader in producing apparel with recycled materials, is the first brand in the US to incorporate into their products an innovative TENCEL (lyocell) fiber that is made of waste from cotton fabrics.

Though there is still lots of work left to do in the industry, you can see that the work of these textile and apparel companies creates new, sustainable ways to make fibers which not only reduce negative environmental effects, but cause positive ones. Check out the links and learn more; get involved with sustainable clothing! When consumers are excited to have eco-friendly clothes, apparel companies will pay attention, and this could be the start of some big changes in this field. The textile industry is always learning how to become a more eco-friendly industry, one that is fit for our changing world.

Mizzou students report on key issues (and turtles) in Costa Rica


Written by: Erica Overfelt

The University of Missouri way of learning is summed up in one saying: “we learn by doing.” By bringing eight Mizzou journalism students to Costa Rica this past winter break, Professor Bill Allen truly created a learning experience that goes perfectly along with this saying, and it just happens to be in the tropics.

This field reporting trip was started by Allen in 2011 with help from project co-ordinator Fern Perkins. Throughout most of Allen’s career, he did a lot of reporting in Costa Rica, which led to the inspiration for the trip.

“I thought we should get some students down there,” Bill said, “Part of the problem is that we don’t have enough U.S. journalists covering stories outside capital cities or war zones. Important issues are coming out in the rural areas like climate change, water issues, or energy. This is all happening outside the realm of politicians and we’ve got to go get them.”

Allen believes that the students who attend come out as different people by the end of the two-week trip. Some students gain confidence in reporting, while others gain new perspectives on many sustainability and/or environmental issues.

“The trip changed my passion for environmental issues and sustainability,” said Holly Enowski, the only freshman to attend the trip. “It allowed me to see that the issues are all over, not just limited to within our country’s borders. Costa Rica is a very environmentally conscious country and it was interesting to interact with locals and gauge their views on healthy eating and environmental protection.”

Almost all Costa Rican natives believe in sustainability, Allen mentions. A key lesson students learn on this trip is that other countries have different stances on sustainability than the United States. Allen explains that most countries believe the U.S. is off-balance sustainability wise.

“In terms of balancing, it is the need to protect our environment so we can live,” Allen said, “as opposed to continuing to abuse it as if it is an infinite resource. That abuse reigns in the United States because of our culture; however, Costa Ricans understand the need for balance.”

During this past winter’s trip, the students observed the sustainable harvesting of Olive Ridley Sea Turtles. This species of marine turtles nests along the coasts of Costa Rica. However, numbers are dwindling. National Geographic states, “Though the olive ridley is widely considered the most abundant of the marine turtles, by all estimates, it is in trouble. Rough estimates put the worldwide population of nesting females at about 800,000, but its numbers–particularly in the western Atlantic–have declined precipitously.” The main cause of this declining population is poaching.

Sustainable harvesting was permitted by the government of Ostional making it the only place in the world where it is legal. Basically, the government allows locals to come to the beaches where the turtles’ nest. The locals are only allowed to take a small percentage of the eggs (less than one percent) and they are allowed to do whatever they want with the eggs they harvest. At first, many conservationists reacted angrily to this idea, but surprisingly, this act actually helped increase turtle population.

“It was one of the coolest experiences of my life to watch and see thousands of turtles come out of the ocean to lay their eggs during the arribada,” Enowski said. “What I loved most was the social, cultural, historical, political, economic and personal importance it had on [Ostional] and the people who live there.”

The eight Mizzou students were able to see sustainability in a different country first hand throughout the entirety of the trip. Although the definition of sustainability is different in every country, when we learn about what it means to be sustainable in different countries than our own, it helps the world unify as one and furthers the fight to get to a brighter future.

Avoiding a Giant Asteroid: The President-Elect and Climate Change

Written by: Nick Corder

Throughout Earth’s history, scientists acknowledge 5 different mass extinctions. These catastrophes have been caused by events like volcanic eruptions and giant asteroids. Today, however, we could possibly be living in the sixth extinction, and it is not the result of an outside force. For the first time ever, one of Earth’s own species is killing off much of the planet’s biodiversity, and that species is us.

Recent predictions by NASA scientists show that the average temperature of the Earth will increase by 2.5 to 10 degrees fahrenheit over the next 100 years. This prediction has disastrous implications for the environment. By the year 2110, sea levels have the potential to rise by 10 feet, an event that would cause significant problems for island and coastal communities. A rising ocean also means stronger tropical storms and changing precipitation patterns, both of which have significant impacts on ecological systems. The solution to the problem of climate change is not simple, but one small action could vastly alleviate the effects: stop using fossil fuels as fast as possible.

However, there are certain individuals, namely the president-elect, Donald Trump, that do not plan on reducing carbon emissions. In fact, he proposes reviving the dying coal industry in order to create new jobs, a decision that is simply outdated. In addition to his thoughts on coal, Trump has expressed discontent with US involvement in the Paris Agreement. At one point, he even suggested that he would “cancel” US affiliation. This agreement, which brought together 195 countries from around the world, constitutes a promise that each country lower fossil fuel emissions, and even though it is not everything that is needed, the Paris Agreement is the first major step towards international cooperation in regard to climate change.

The president-elect’s stance on this issue is understandable when one considers that Trump and the new head of his EPA transition team, Myron Ebell, are both notorious climate change deniers. As a result of this belief, Trump plans to redirect “billions in climate change spending,” a plan that would affect the American people for generations to come. For instance, one of the ways Trump plans to cut down spending is the gradual dissolution of the EPA. China, a country where an organization like the EPA is not sponsored by government, deals with “tens of thousands of additional deaths” every year at the hands of air contamination.

In an open letter to Trump, more than 800 earth science and energy experts have come together to petition the 45th president. They argue that climate change “threatens America’s economy, national security, and public safety.” They list six necessary steps to avoid “disaster”:

  1. Make America a clean energy leader.
  2. Reduce carbon pollution and America’s dependence on fossil fuels.
  3. Enhance America’s climate preparedness and resilience.
  4. Publicly acknowledge that climate change is real, human caused, and an urgent threat.
  5. Protect scientific integrity in policymaking.
  6. Uphold America’s commitment to the Paris agreement.

With Trump admitting that there is “some connectivity” between human action and climate change, many are feeling hopeful about our environmental future under Trump. Do not let his words prevent you from action. This is the same man that wants to “scrap” the Clean Power Plan and permit the Keystone XL oil pipeline. As citizens, we must ensure that each and every step on this list is carried out, but it is the power of the citizenry, not that which is invested in the executive branch, that is going to get this done. A few years ago, the asteroid was on the horizon, but now he’s in the White House. We must act now.

Sustainable Threads: A Look into Going Green with Clothing

Written by: Mary Diekmeier

When most of us think of sustainability, the first thing that probably comes to mind is recycling, volunteering, etc., but there are actually many different ways of being sustainable that you might not have thought of before! In this article, we’re focusing on how to be sustainable right in our own closets by achieving sustainability through clothing. You can do it by considering a few factors.

The fashion/textile industry is one of the most wasteful industries in the world. Not so surprising, considering textiles don’t really biodegrade. It’s our job to do our part and be less wasteful in our own lives to sustain the earth for years to come. So let’s focus on how we can change our shopping habits. Can you think of a garment you’ve bought that was pretty inexpensive, bought on a whim, and ended up falling apart a few washes in? When that happens, the first thought is usually to just throw it away. Consider a few alternatives when shopping.

  • Ask yourself how often you see yourself wearing whatever you’re considering buying. Does it serve a function in your closet? Do you really love it?  If the answer’s no, consider saving your money for something else.
  • Invest in good clothing. Try to reduce how much you buy and how often you shop. Not only does this affect your clothing’s sustainability, it benefits your economic sustainability. Save up money for garments you really want that will last you a long time, and keep those garments for as long as they are useful to you. Shopping less = more sustainable!

If you already have clothes that you no longer want, there are several options to take beyond just throwing it away. Want the garment out of your closet, but it has no obvious signs of wear like major fading or rips/holes? Consider donating it. Whether it’s to Goodwill, a local charity, or even to a friend, try and make sure the product is reused. Another route is repurposing. Go on Pinterest, find a fun DIY, and turn an unwanted garment into something new for yourself or a friend!

Think twice about where you shop. Some stores are popular for being easy on the budget, but really consider the quality of the clothes that come from the stores you buy from. Avoid fast fashion. If you’re like me and love online shopping, there are lots of sustainable clothing retailers online. For example, if you’re looking for basic, staple items, the company Pact has a good selection, all made of 100% cotton. Also, don’t overlook secondhand clothing! Check out places like ThredUP or Poshmark, where regular people sell their lightly used clothing so it can gain more use through someone else.

There are lots of ways to shop sustainably right here in Columbia, MO. If you live on or near campus, the downtown area is just a short walk/bike ride away (which is also totally sustainable). A retailer downtown I would recommend is Route. It’s an apparel-based, non-profit and fair trade brick-and-mortar shop on 9th street. Also, a great idea if you’re trying to shop sustainably is to stop by the Peace Nook. A fighting power for sustainability here in Columbia, Peace Nook is another non-profit that sells books, various health food items, etc. as well as clothing! At any rate, buying locally is sustainable in and of itself, so next time you have a weekend free, visit the small businesses wherever you live and see if you can find the next addition to your closet!

Tip #13: Find a low-energy summer hobby

My favorite thing about summer is that you finally get to catch up on all those fun things you never get to do going to school full time. I can finally sew, paint and run again!

So, this tip is going to be pretty short and sweet: find a hobby that doesn’t require a lot of electricity or resources. We spend so much of our day staring a screens- television, computer, phone- that it’s worth it to occasionally unplug our devices, turn off the lights, go outside and participate in something tangible.

I have a few favorite hobbies that require minimal electricity and are still fun and productive (goodness, I sound nerdy):

– Beading. My stepdad taught me to bead when I was 8 years old and I haven’t stopped since. I love bead work because it’s so beautiful, intricate and creative. Also, beading is something that you can see real progress when working. All you really need is fishing wire, a needle and a pack of beads.



Come on, aren’t these just the coolest things ever? And when you get into it, beadwork can look insanely cool. It’s not actually that hard to do! This is a page which has a few cool starting stitches.



– Running. Until this semester where I had almost no time to myself, I had no clue how much I love running. I always feel incredibly clear headed and happy when I run, and I usually end up accidentally working out all of my problems when my mind wanders. It’s uses zero resources, I can experience the great outdoors, and I can eat a substantially larger amount of chocolate during the day without feeling disgusting.

– Painting. The paint itself isn’t really “low-resource” per se, but we can’t be 100% sustainable all the time, that’s the whole point of these posts anyway. Go outside and paint something you see, it will get you closer to nature and further from the television screens.

Of course, there are millions of others. Sewing, hiking, gardening, reading, whatever! Just try to sit outside in the sun for a bit and enjoy the sunshine.

Tip #11: Go meatless one day a week

Before I start, let me say, that not eating meat one day a week isn’t so crazy! I bet there are plenty of days that you do it, when you are cramming for something and all you eat is a left over piece of cheese pizza and a poptart.

(side note, I hope days like that are not common for anyone)

Meat, though delicious, is actually pretty inefficient in terms of land use, carbon emissions and nutrients.

The United Nations estimated in 2006 that meat makes up one fifth of the world’s man made greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, methane, which is far more potent of a greenhouse gas than CO2. Every year, we increase the amount of mouths to feed, which increases the amount of feed we need. Though a lot of countries consume smaller portions of meat, first world countries like the United States make up for it pretty well, when the average American eats over 130 pounds of meat a year. That’s about 1/3 pound of meat a day.

And when we’re comparing vegetables (which we should have a lot of) and meat, it’s pretty clear which is the best for us on an individual scale, as well.


This is the nutrition facts for a pound of beef, from and


this is the nutrition in a pound of cauliflower, also from

Cauliflower has a lot more of the important things we need: high potassium, vitamins A and C, high iron, low cholesterol and sodium, as well as low in carbohydrates. It’s also high in fiber and low in sugar. Plus, if you grate it up, cook it in olive oil on the stove top with a lot of spices, it makes an awesome dinner.

Meat should be a complement to vegetables, and vegetables should make up the majority of what you eat. Think about reducing the amount of meat once a week, and upping your vegetables instead!

Tip #10: Enjoy the outdoors

This tip is not really a “tip” in the same way that the other ones have been. In the past I’ve suggested recycling and reducing energy use, which have physical outcomes, but tip #10 is less tangible.

The real key to living a sustainable life is truly loving the earth around you. If you never go outside, if you never swim in a lake or climb a tree, being sustainable is not going to be easy. If you go outside and enjoy all the elements, then being a sustainer -as I like to call it- will come naturally.

I know a lot of people like to call Missouri “Misery,” but Missouri is just as beautiful as all the other places I’ve been. So many things about this place are absolutely amazing, but those things can be hard to see if you’ve only ever lived here your whole life. So as a western girl who lived on a dry mountaintop for half of her life, I’m going to remind you of what beautiful things are here in the plains.

1. Spring is a thing here. A real thing. In Colorado “Spring” is the one week of the year when the trees go from leafless to growing leaves again. There are no flowers on the trees where I’m from at 8,500 ft. above sea level, only green aspen leaves and pine needles. Here in Missouri, you have these grand Dogwood trees which are easily some of the most beautiful vegetation I have ever seen. They are even pink!



2. On the subject of seasons, Autumn is also a thing here. In my town, Autumn is also one week, and the trees are all the same color, because they are all aspens. In Missouri, you not only have yellow and orange leaves, but red! And pink! And even purple! You have so many trees here, and all of them are so beautiful!


(Missouri Department of Conservation)

3. The water. In the west, the landscape is so beautiful, but so incredibly dry. Here, it rains all the time! Sometimes, even for days at a time. I lived in a place called “The City Above the Clouds,” and though it was hardly a city, it was definitely above the clouds. It was sunny 364 days a year in my hometown, even if it rained or snowed, later in the day it would be bright and sunny. Here in Missouri, you have rain for hours at a time. And when it rains in the summer, it’s warm rain. You can go outside and walk or run in it, and you won’t get hypothermia.

It’s not just the rain either. You also have Lake of the Ozarks here, and you have amazing waterfalls like this:



only two hours away from Columbia!

4. The Missouri Department of Conservation is one of the best in the nation. If you can see the vague outline of Missouri here, you can see how many parks you have:

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 12.40.56 PM

(Google Maps)

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources manages 87 state parks and plenty of national parks, not to mention things like the MKT and the Katy Trail, which are amazing places to stroll and ride your bike.

5. Grass. Grass grows here naturally, and there is no necessity for turf or even irrigation, really. It is so wet and close to sea level here that grass is natural. This is what the backyard of my house looks like back home:

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

Bonus element of seeing my amazing junior year prom dress. You’re welcome.

What you can’t see in that picture, is that I’m wearing flip flops. Because even though I would have loved to walk barefoot in my prom dress through my backyard, I couldn’t, because those blades of grass are the texture of little plastic legos, just waiting to destroy the bottoms of your feet.

Here in Missouri, you can walk everywhere barefoot! The grass is green and beautiful, and thick and feels like pillows on your feet.

Finally, the thing that I love the most here, is that you can go outside when it’s dark and not need a jacket. At 8,500 feet above sea level, you never leave the house without a jacket; if the sun goes down, it will be cold. Here in Missouri, I can walk around in the summer all ad-hoc and willy nilly, with no plan for the weather to change, because the likelihood of a winter storm in April or May is so low, that I needn’t worry. Back home, a jacket was a necessity, at all times. Even in July.

So please, go out and enjoy how beautiful Missouri can be. You don’t have to visit a national park or go to the Ozarks to see it’s beauty. Just walk outside and drink a beer. Fall in love with the world around you.

The Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 edition MOVIE REVIEW

Guest Writer: Jay Wang
The Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 edition
directed by Robert Greenwald


Senate Majority leader Harry Reid called out his Republican colleagues for being addicted to Koch’s money. The Kochs, a name that shares similar pronunciation with a popular illegal drug, are now the Democratic Party’s number one enemy for not only spending millions of dollars on right-wing politicians’ campaign, but also covering up environmental crime their company committed and attempt to segregate the schools. The movie, The Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition, directed by Robert Greenwald, uncovers the shady political activities the billionaire brothers has been doing for years.
Like the movies of Brave New Films (the production company of the film), it was released on online last spring and had a limited theatrical before or had a private screening. Brave New Films are known for producing editorial documentaries and investigative videos on current issues. Previously, they created Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, about the rise and exploits of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Network, and Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price, a critical look into the world’s largest chain store.
Their latest target is the Koch family and the brothers’ cronyism within corridors of the power. It starts out with brief history of the Koch family. After that, we see how the brother attempted to segregate the school by funding a school board director’s campaign. Furthermore into the film, we get to see more of brothers’ hideous crime to humanity: softening the environmental regulation which makes the pollution from factory affect the people around negatively.
Using news footages, recorded Skype conversations, handheld videos, and animated infographics, Greenwald made a strong case against the Koch Brothers’ agenda and their influence in politic. While its presentation may seems amateur at best, but it demonstrated how many lives of Americans are ruined under the rigged system done by the Kochs. In the recent recent years, we heard many excuses from global warming deniers kept saying how they are not a scientist, and receive checks from their fundraisers. This film would explain this ongoing political phenomenon.
If you enjoy reading news stories about corruptions and injustices within American political system, then The Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 would shock you, and fascinate you.

March on Climate Change: the Lesson

I traveled with a group of about 80 people from the Kansas- Missouri area on a bus (26 hours one way, blech) to New York about three weeks ago. Though the trip was long, and the time spent in New York City (less than 10 hours) was short, the New York City March on Climate Change showed a myriad of different types of people. 400,000 inspired people showed up, some from as far as the West Coast, all for the same cause: to bring awareness to a growing problem- arguably the growing problem- and inspire others to do the same.

For the most part, I feel that we, the protesters at the largest climate rally in the world to date, did quite a swell job bringing awareness to this issue. It is hard to ignore 400,000 people flooding the streets of downtown New York City, after all.

The awareness was certainly not where we fell short: it was the inspiration portion of the protest that ran into problems.

I think environmentalists are naturally abrasive, controversial and excitable people; otherwise we wouldn’t very well support the things that we support. Unfortunately, this type of personality can be off-putting to others who do not share the same sense of urgency or belief in the cause. This is often where the gap lies: the gap which needs to be bridged.

I encountered first hand the type of problem that I am describing while at the March.

One of the many groups of people who attended the March was a group that I will kindly refer to as The Vegans. They were not Some Vegans, or a Group of Vegans, but The Vegans.

There’s a joke that goes “how do you know if someone is a vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.”

This is slightly maddening and only a little true, I had once thought. The only vegans I had ever met were very nice people! I had never personally met those vegans until the New York City March on Climate Change.

These vegans made signs claiming that environmentalist’s had a lack of commitment if they still ate any animal by-product, they yelled out incredible statistics about the amount of CO2 which is emitted by livestock and even argued with fellow protesters while we marched. They were almost comical in their attempt to accost a couple from the group I was marching with: they pranced around us, back and forth, waving their signs and yelling “livestock contributes x amount of tons of CO2 to the atmosphere in their poop alone. YOU don’t produce that much CO2, do you?”

Other than the obvious flaw in comparing an entire population of livestock to a single person, I realized something else very important that day about the environmentalist movement.

Being abrasive will not get someone on the fence to agree with you. Unless The Vegans idea was the exact opposite of what they said, I feel like they failed extraordinarily at converting a group of 400,000 people to veganism. And not just any group of 400,000 people, but a group of relatively radical and young environmentalists.

Reaching out to those who don’t share the same vigor for the cause seems to be where the environmentalist movement has fallen short. We need ambassadors to the people, representatives even, who are able to make the movement accessible and less ideologically intimidating than a bunch of vegans dancing around with signs telling you that you aren’t good enough.