“What the heck is” introduces you to Vancouver organizations and causes you might not have yet heard about, straight from the source! View the archive HERE.
Words: Claudia Li – Founder
Four years ago (in my mother’s basement), I watched a documentary called Sharkwater and felt the first time how one of my consumption decisions had a full-cycle impact on the earth. I set out to do something for shark conservation not only because I was appalled at the shark finning industry and its impacts on our marine ecosystem, but also because I knew that most of my community simply did not know about shark finning issues. In 2009, I started Shark Truth: an organization dedicated to cross-cultural engagement on shark conservation. Through our unique Happy Hearts Love Sharks wedding contest, we’ve stopped over 80,000 bowls of shark fin from being eaten and brought on the first traditional Chinese restaurant in Canada on board the Ocean Wise sustainable seafood program.
While there’s still a lot of work to be done for sharks, a lot of folks began to ask us, “how else can I make a difference beyond not eating shark fin anymore?” It was a good question that we didn’t have the answer to a year ago. Then I began looking into how I live my lifestyle as someone who straddles the worlds of culture and environmentalism.
When I started Shark Truth, I also began to read more about environmental impacts of food in general. I read Peter Singer’s “The Way We Eat and Why it Matters” and became very mindful of where my food came from. Needless to say, I tried to buy as much local, organic, traceable food as possible. I would bring home things like lentil loaves to my parents place and they would just be miserable. Could it be that hard to eat the foods that make us feel at home but are also good for our health and the planet?
We began to realize that there are so many ethnic Chinese / hua people – especially youth – in Canada that want to get involved in environmental issues but don’t have the relevant tools, information, or understanding. Moreover, a lot of Hua youth who grow up here want to reconnect to their heritage and learn more about their traditions but similarly, don’t know how. This is why we’re expanding to hua foundation: a new grassroots nonprofit that aims to bring together the worlds of cultural heritage and environmental action.
Shark Truth’s engagement work is going to continue under hua foundation as a program and we’ll be launching a new Intercultural Food Literacy project in Spring 2014 that aims to create tools and solutions for healthy, sustainable eating at our family’s dinner table. Some of the things we’re already experimenting with is producing a seasonal Asian produce guide, G-Ma Kitchen Table series of intergenerational cooking workshops, and working with local growers to see if we can create a market for local, organic and/or pesticide-free Asian produce.
Because the truth is, our traditional culture is strongly linked to concepts of sustainability: collectivism (community-oriented), sharing, and dedicating our lives to make the best for the lives of the next generation. This is part of what inspires our vision for change at hua foundation.
While the dreams are big, we are still small! Learn how to get involved or become a monthly member at huafoundation.org.