My first interview with Wayne Furlong , an educational consultant from Melbourne, Australia, was about GoVeg, the magazine he is English editor of. Wayne resides in Hong Kong and it was great to catch up and learn a bit more about his life. A special essay that he recently wrote on the results of the US election intersected with remembrance of Leonard Cohen and a vegan advocacy message appear after the interview.
Annika: What are some of your favorite aspects about the city or region where you live?
Wayne: The beautiful long hiking trails and the beaches. I love the long hot summer here. I especially like the social cohesion and public safety. You can be anywhere in Hong Kong at any time of day or night and feel perfectly safe. I don’t know if there are many places in the world like that. Also 7 million people in a small area means opportunities bound to pursue any interest you may have.
Annika: What are you reading this month (books, mags)?
Wayne: I read two newspapers online (The Age for Australian news and Huffingtonpost for world news). I read a novel a week and try to vary them. Sometimes I like a challenging, thoughtful book, sometimes a like a laugh and sometimes I like a good whodunit. Always I like the writing to be good. I love good sentences.
Annika: What are your favourite places to eat?
Wayne: I am lucky in that I love food so every meal is a pleasure for me. I like home food. I like eating out with friends and meeting new people at our Veggie Meetup visits to vegan restaurants. I tend to favour cheap local food. A $4US bowl of rice and veggies is always satisfying. I have been lucky enough to travel a lot in recent years and there is great vegan food everywhere. One place that stands out for just being just about perfect is Moksa in Ubud, Bali. As well as providing fantastic food, it has a community organic garden and everyone there seems to glow with love. It is a very kind place.
Annika: Favorite cities to travel to in general?
Wayne: As I said, I get to travel a lot so I am very lucky. Every place is special but I have particularly enjoyed Hanoi, Shanghai, Barcelona, London and Ljubljana.
Annika: What are some particularly important veganism/ animal welfare related issues in Asia that as an editor you would like to bring to the pages of GoVeg?
Wayne: I think that the growing awareness of the health benefits of veganism is great and people are also starting to see the contradiction between our instinctive love of animals and the cruelty of animal exploitation. These need to continue. The area I think that is not understood enough is the environmental impact of eating a plant based diet and our individual responsibility to act on this.
Annika: As far as I understand, your magazine is currently the only magazine in Asia to address issues of veganism, so your roles as editors of a vegan magazine is highly unique there. How do people respond when you tell them about this publication and what motivates you in your role as editor of GoVeg (a sense of advocacy? Education?)
Wayne: People always react positively. I have never had a negative response. I have three motivations:
• To help normalise plant based diets. People are often deterred from veganism by a feeling that they will be socially isolated. We need to help remove this feeling and help people feel they belong.
• To inform and educate through letting ‘ordinary’ people tell their own stories. I think empathy is stronger than lecturing.
• To spread joy. All the vegans I know (and I know many) seem to be happy people. I think there is great joy in plant eating. I want to show others this joy.
Annika: If you were going to spend a month or so traveling the world to gather content specifically for a few globally focused issues of GoVeg where would you go, who would you collaborate with, what sort of stories would you be looking to create and tell?
Wayne: I would start in China. There is a long tradition of plant eating in China and there are many people who, touched by these traditions and the state of the current world, are forming vegan and vegetarian networks.
Apart from that, I think I would start anywhere and look for the local feeling. For example two years ago a friend and I went to Slovenia for some hiking. In the capital city, Ljubljana, we were told of a street that was vegan friendly. There we found several restaurants offering simple nutritious vegan food and they were all run by young people (under 30). Walking along the street we soon discovered that as a result of the people now being drawn to the area, many other stores in the street were offering vegan options on things like ice cream, cakes and chocolate. I am sure there are stories like this all over the world. Looking for them is fun.
Annika: As photographer I always prefer to photograph the people I interview when possible. If I were to spend a morning or afternoon with you, photographing you in your daily life or a typical Saturday, doing things integral to your schedule (work and hobbies) what would I see you doing?
Wayne: Hiking, spending time with family or friends, cooking and eating.
Leonard Cohen, Donald Trump and The Rise of the Plant Eaters
The Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen died last week. He wrote sad, hurting songs. In the 70’s we used to joke, “Have you heard Leonard Cohen’s new album, ‘Songs to Slash Your Wrists By’?” Then later we found that in our youth we had missed something in the songs- they were sad because they sang of the betrayal of our loving nature. They were calling to the kindness we sometimes forget and yearn for.
In other news, the citizens of the USA elected a president who forgot kindness during his campaign and his lack of kindness spread to our home planet. President-elect Trump says he does not believe in climate change. He has vowed to dismantle the USA’s Clean Power Plan. His environment spokesman wants to increase logging as well as oil, gas and coal use.
This is a clarifying moment. The US leaders are not going to save us and a significant number of US voters agree with them. The greatest emitter of greenhouse gases in human history is going to ramp up its emissions in an eloquent two fingered gesture at our grandchildren. It is a betrayal of kindness.
As the late Mr Cohen sang, “Everybody knows that the war is over. Everybody knows that the good guys lost.” There is truth in this, just as there was in 1988 when he first sang it. We must face this truth.
We must accept the fact that a climate change denier was elected to lead the world’s biggest power at the very moment when scientists tell us we are at climate change tipping point. We must also accept another fact. Those US citizens who voted for Mr Trump did so in the full knowledge of his contempt for women and minorities, and his clear disdain for the environment. Everybody knows that he wasn’t respectful. Everybody knows that his words weren’t kind. His supporters either agreed with his unkindness or thought his unkind words did not matter, which is the same thing.
We accept but we do not embrace this result for the simple reason that these things DO matter. Kindness matters more than anything. Mr Trump’s election is an affront to kindness. “Hallelujah,” say his supporters, but it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.
We accept his election for it is a fact. We hope Mr Trump is better than his promise. We hope he has a moment of revelation. Then we put that hope to one side, spit on our hands, and get down to work. If leaders are not going to stand for kindness and the earth, then we must. There is no joy in resignation and joy is almost as important as kindness. Perhaps they are the same thing.
Here’s a fact that equips us for the work we must do: the single most effective thing that an individual can do for the Earth is to eat plants. Want to save forests? Eat plants. Want to save water? Eat plants. Want to save species? Eat plants. Want to reduce carbon emissions? Eat plants. We can start immediately. Many already have so we will not be alone.
At the heart of eating plants is kindness. This does not mean that plant eaters are kinder than other people. Everybody knows that we are all kind at our best. It simply means that the choice to eat plants is a kind choice, kind to animals and kind to our planet. There is joy in this, just as there is in any act of kindness we take.
Everybody knows that kindness to planet Earth may now be all that can save us.
Everybody knows it has fallen to us.
Everybody knows that the step from knowing to acting is the only one that counts.