It was a few years earlier that John Robbins, through Diet For
a New America, awakened me in a different way. In 1990, after
reading Robbins' classic bestseller, my husband Jeff and I both
became vegetarian. We read the same book and stopped eating meat
- but for different reasons. The health arguments seemed obvious
to Jeff. For me, the appalling conditions of factory-farmed chickens
reminded me of the much-beloved pet chickens Iíd had as a child.
If I wouldnít have eaten my friends then, why was I eating them
Five years down the vegetarian path, being veg wasnít something
that we thought about. That was just the way we lived. Were we different?
Well, we didnít eat meat, chicken or fish, but beyond that we thought
we were the same people.
Our twin girls, then two, were thriving and I was five months pregnant
with my son. During what should have been a peaceful, happy time,
I was hit in the head -- literally -- by another life lesson. One
night I awoke screaming in pain because of what felt like a severe
sunburn on my ears. I went to the bathroom mirror and it looked
like my ears were bubbling with blisters. I thought I was having
an allergic reaction to some shampoo.
Some months and several doctors later, I was diagnosed with a rare
autoimmune disease. I was told it was progressive, incurable and
potentially fatal, but that they could teach me how to live with
the symptoms. Whoop-di-do. I was given a steroid called prednisone
in my first visit - whose side effects over time can be worse than
the disease itself.
It wasnít until ten months later that I read a book by John McDougall,
MD, that had been sitting for a year and a half on my bookshelf.
In it, he mentioned autoimmune diseases in the Lupus family (like
mine), and said that dairy could be a factor.
Sure, weíd run into some people over the years who had railed at
us about the dangers and cruelty of dairy. But I tend not to believe
or listen to people who scream at me. Dr. McDougallís calm, matter-of-fact
tone had the same impact that John Robbinsí Diet for a New America
had had on me. With Robbins I became an instant vegetarian; with
McDougall I instantly adopted a vegan diet.
One month after dropping dairy, this horrible disease went into
remission, where it has stayed ever since. I went from no hope to
You canít go through the diagnosis and subsequent conquering of
a scary, major disease, and remain unchanged. I prayed a lot when
I was sick. I wanted to be there for my kids and my family. I couldnít
with this disease. I made a promise to God (several times, actually)
that I would help others in whatever way I could, if only I could
Stumbling Toward Activism
A month after my disease went into remission, my husband and I
opened a website to promote plant-based eating. We also put up a
website called RelapsingPolychondritis.com.
the name of the disease I beat. Through that website, I have come
in contact with hundreds of others suffering from that debilitating
disease, and with Dr. McDougallís help have been doing support work,
turning other people on to plant-based nutrition, and following
their progress as they improve, some as dramatically as I have.
I put up my personal story on the Internet despite the fact that
Iím a private person who, when first diagnosed, never even told
anyone outside of my immediate family members that I was sick. I
could barely admit it to myself. But because I got well, I felt
it would be unfair of me if I failed to share my experiences, as
others might have a shot at regaining their health too.
husband and I joined EarthSave for the same reasons we opened our
websites; it offers a wonderful opportunity to help others, and
to help ourselves. Our concerns have grown beyond safe car seats,
etc. -- we want to help ensure that our kids grow up on the healthiest,
safest planet possible.
While traveling to Yosemite over the winter holiday, we marveled
at this National Parkís grandeur. I feel an immense gratitude that
itís there, that something like it exists. Iím grateful that people
in the past peered into the future and comprehended that this spot
on Earth was special, and needed to be preserved. Iím thankful that
I could and can share something so awesome with my children.
To me, our entire planet is Yosemite. Itís a very special place
-- and itís not infinite. According to the "Living Planet Report
2000" published last October by the World Wide Fund for Nature:
"If people in the developing world gobbled up the same amount
of natural resources as people in wealthy countries, the human race
would require two additional Earths. In particular, the United States,
Canada, Australia and Germany are devouring far more than their
One of the reasons EarthSave exists is to educate people about
the fact that by shifting away from animal-based agriculture, perhaps
we will be able to live on the resources of one planet, rather than
three. This is thinking today about the future of our world, the
same way caring people considered the future of Yosemite, back in
I think about the future, all the time. This is one reason Iím
an EarthSave member. I care about the health of the people I love;
I care about the planet; and I care about the creatures we share
this world with. The EarthSave mission is to safeguard the things
that are important to me.
The tone of EarthSave is also very appealing to me. Quoting the
EarthSave chapter manual:
We strive to be nonjudgemental, to accept people wherever they
are on the food-choice continuum. EarthSave is an inclusive health
and environmental education organization. People come to EarthSave
and more plant-based food choices for many reasons -- for their
health, the environment, for the animals or spiritual considerations.
Eventually many embrace the other reasons in addition to their
original interest. EarthSave is open to all people who embrace
our basic message that what we eat affects our own health and
that of the planet.
On our vegetarian website trolls occasionally get a kick out of
posting such messages as, "If God didnít mean for man to eat
animals, why did he make them out of meat?" or "Youíre
a bunch of bleeding-heart, liberal treehuggers who care more about
spotted owls than people!" Accusing someone of being a "treehugger"
is supposed to be an insult.
I a treehugger? Am I a treehugger because I want my kids to have
clean air, clean water, healthy food and a compassionate planet
to live on? Does being a member of Earthsave make me a treehugger?
Does giving a damn at all tar me with that name?
Honestly, I donít have time (or the inclination) to go out and
sit in a tree ala Julia Butterly Hill in order to make a statement
-- however powerful that statement may be. But I can invite
people to my home for a vegetarian potluck. I can take a friend
or two to a vegetarian restaurant, and let them see how delicious
vegetarian food can be, and perhaps steer them toward the passage
I began 10 years ago, a course triggered by my reading Diet for
a New America. I can belong to EarthSave. This is my
If my desire to take an active part in Earthsaveís critical mission
makes me a treehugger in the eyes of some, Iíll wear that label
is the WebWitch at VegSource.com and is a lifetime member of
From other EarthSave Members:
"I stay a vegetarian because of the horrific way meat animals
are treated. It is so far beyond inhumane, it is revolting. With
information from EarthSave, I have been able to gently influence
othersí perceptions, and now have two old friends who are new vegetarians,
one for health reasons, the other for the love of animals. EarthSave
makes a difference." -- Jodi L. Daly, Fallbrook, CA
"Eating less or no meat is responsible and healthy. I feel
like I'm loving my world." -- Makiah Wenger, Salt Lake
"I am an Earthsave member because it is important to me
to be part of an organization that not only supports a plant-based
diet for the environment and health, but also educates people about
it. I think education is the most important thing an organization
can do, especially in an intelligent manner, instead of using shock
effect the way other organizations do. Earthsave is good about reaching
people in a manner that is not offensive, and in my opinion this
can be a good way to have people be more open to being educated
on the benefits of a plant-based diet." -- Cherrie Jacobsen,
"Six years ago, my husband took early retirement at 51
and we decided, as a family with young children, that we would live
in a way that was kind to the earth. We grow our own vegetables
to avoid the pesticide build up on our food, and the damaging effect
it has on the soil. We hope that our lifestyle is as healthy as
we can make it, and our motto is to tread lightly on the earth and
to reduce reuse and recycle all that we can." -- Jan
Bird, from a small village near Birmingham, England
"What I love about EarthSave is that there is room for
all those who care to learn, to share, to act on what we come to
know." -- Larry Fried, Seattle, WA
Interested in joining EarthSave?
here to learn more.