Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Reducetarian Summit

I'm addicted to NYC. I keep going back and I can't stop myself. Having such great friends there is a big part of the draw:

Zaki waited in line over an hour for this. I showed up just in time to order! Note my "coconut ash" flavor — paired beautifully with green tea pistachio!

This was supposed to be a mid-afternoon snack. When I saw that a slice cost $5, I just assumed it was overpriced — never dreaming that it would be 5x bigger than a regular slice.

friends since age 17! #DYW
Robertson Class of 2015 reunion!
dosa with Niki <3

 But the real reason I went to NYC this time was for the Reducetarian Summit.
Founder/organizer Brian Kateman: "It's not all or nothing."
The idea behind the summit is reducing global consumption of animal products. All the meals and snacks served at the conference were vegan, but there were actually vegans protesting outside because they thought the "reducetarian" approach was too laid-back, or lenient. I, however, felt energized and inspired by it.

Conference Caro

As someone said onstage, the overall global impact is much higher if a large number of people each reduce their meat consumption slightly, rather than a smaller number of people giving up animal products entirely.

No cow's milk for your coffee here!
I was psyched to hear my friend Richard McCarthy, director of Slow Food USA, speak on a panel about changes on the national/community level.
I'm not an extremist; I'm a thoughtful decision-maker. I weigh my values and choose what honors them the most, to the greatest extent possible. I'm vegetarian, and I support reduced global consumption of animal products. But love cheese, so I eat cheese. It's easier for me to give up meat, seafood, and cow's milk than it is for me to give up cheese — but I try to make sure the cheese I eat is from a small-scale, sustainable, humanely-run farm.

This conference aligned with my approach. I loved hearing the diversity of perspectives and ideas presented: a type of collaboration that wouldn't be possible for someone insisting that everyone adhere to total veganism. For that exact reason, my favorite panel was about lab-engineered meat products — genetically authentic meat that eliminates the need for raising and butchering animals! So cool.

For more conference highlights, you can check out my Twitter feed, where I made prolific use of the #ReducetarianSummit hashtag.

And to cap off a fantastic weekend, I made a pit stop in Boston:

<3 our friendship gets better with time (and with each meal shared) <3

Note the cheese, egg, and meat on our pizza..........
Like I said, it's about thoughtful, informed, and intentional decision-making :)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

AT 2017

On Sunday, May 7, I slept five hours, drove five hours, rode in a shuttle van two hours, then hiked eight miles. It was a great day.

My start: Fontana Dam, where I ended last year's AT hike. As soon as I got out of the shuttle, two separate tourists, back-to-back, asked me directions to the Trail. "Where'd you come from?" One asked, eyeing my stained clothing. "Nashville," I said. "You hiked here from Nashville?!"
my favorite thing to see when I look up
I spent the following nine days hiking south towards Unicoi Gap, GA, where I'd left my car. Along the way, I interviewed and photographed northbound thru-hikers for a project modeled loosely after Humans of New York — which, surprisingly, not many thru-hikers had heard of.

Here are a sampling of the photographs (ones that I don't plan on selling to magazines):

I asked them what being American means to them. Nearly everyone paused to consider the question, and nearly everyone concluded, "Freedom." But most couldn't articulate exactly what that meant. I think America is about diversity and about embracing that diversity to move forward together, so I liked the answers that riffed on that idea. One person said rather bitterly that to be American means to consume.

I also asked everyone what they think is the number one problem our country faces. Many talked about political divides, ignorance, fear, selfishness, and the like. Only two or three out of 50 said "global warming." A handful said drugs, one said homelessness. A couple of people said greed/love of money. Several people talked about the federal budget. I liked the answers to this question a lot more than the answers to the "being American" question.

Other favorite photos from the trip:

the best kind of bed canopy

self-timer self-portrait
sunset that evening

sunrise on my last morning on the trail
same sunrise
trail mix burrito: my lunch for 10 days

last peak on last day

I love hiking! And sunshine! And trees! And mountains! And sunrises and sunsets and trail mix burritos! And my tent and my sleeping bag and my sleeping pad and my stove and morning camp tea and camp oatmeal! and memorizing poetry and knowing the "I have a dream" part of MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech! and feeling physically capable! and meeting new people and encountering new ideas! This hike was a nice reminder of how much I love all those things.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

how much brunch does a half-marathon earn you?

 Last weekend was a whirlwind of activity. It started on Friday at 6am as I began the 2.5h drive to economist Arthur Laffer's farmhouse in eastern Kentucky. As I drove through unincorporated towns with names like Marrowbone, Summer Shade and Tinsley's Bottom, I was entranced by the rolling green fields speckled with brown cows and red barns, as well as the dark, furrowed clouds overhead.

I arrived having no idea who this man was, but quickly realized he was famous for his tax theory, known as the Laffer Curve. The paper napkin on which he drew said curve now lives in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in DC. 

I was there at Laffer's house to record an interview conducted by BBC reporters over the phone. BBC recorded their end of the conversation in their studio, and I recorded Laffer's responses with the equipment I have on loan from WPLN. As soon as I got back to Nashville, I sent BBC the audio file. They paid me several hundred dollars to drive myself to a farm and hold a mic. It was a great morning.

Laffer's interview was about how his theory applies to President Trump's proposed tax plan, which Laffer wholeheartedly supports. I felt a bit self-conscious driving away with the Clinton-Kaine sticker on my bumper. But only a tiny bit.

I drove straight from Laffer's farm to the Nashville airport to pick up my baby sister!

We spent the whole weekend together, visiting the Frist...
Claire Morgan's "Stop Me Feeling" -  a statement on the careless way humans interact with nature
...running the Music City Rock & Roll half marathon...
I beat last year's time!
...eating beautiful food...
toad-in-the-hole at Butcher & Bee
We found Loveless Cafe to be underwhelming.
 ...and sipping wine at a hillside vineyard with a jazz band playing behind us.

It's strange how accustomed I've gotten to being alone. I loved spending such quality time with my sister but also found it exhausting to be with another human for three consecutive days. Will I be able to survive full-time office work, surrounded by other people for 8-10 hours per day??