A few years ago, you probably didn't known any vegans. Most of us didn't. Now you probably have a dozen friends who have adopted this no meat/no dairy/no animal products of any kind diet. It sounds healthy; it even sounds a little tempting. But it also sounds like a lot of work and a little bland. Don't you always have to be on your guard? Is that vegetable soup made with chicken stock? Is there anything on the menu of that hot new restaurant you'll be able to eat? Do you have to snack on nothing but carrots and apples? Doesn't it mean a lot of prepping and cooking when you could just stop at the fast-food burger place ... wait. You don't want to do that! There are ways to make vegan eating not only easier but more fun, even if you can't afford Beyoncé's Vegan Meal Delivery.
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1. Make sure your cupboard is stocked with the basics, the "meat" of your meals. That means rice, dairy-free pastas, beans, quinoa, barley, all the things to which you can just add vegetables and have a terrific meal. Vary them too. Try different types of rice—just out your local Asian grocery for exotic types. And experiment with different types of whole grains like spelt, emmer or teff, which are becoming increasingly easy to find at markets as more people get to understand how healthy they are.
2. Think simple. If you get home and you're tired, there's really almost nothing to prepare than a vegan meal. Chop some fresh veggies in a bowl and top them with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or maybe even just a squeeze of lemon in the summer; stirfry some veggies in oil and throw them on some rice or quinoa in the winter. That's not going to take you less much more than five minutes, less time than making a hamburger.
3. That's especially true if you prepare food in advance and have it ready in your fridge to use. Pre-chop some of those salad vegetables and stash them in containers ready to toss into your salad bowl; cook up a mess of rice and have it on hand to re-heat. If you have a leisurely evening at home, cook a huge pot of spaghetti sauce or vegetable soup, letting the flavors simmer, and then freeze more of it to eat later when you just need something to quick.
4. Stock up on herbs and spices. Nothing adds zing to plain old vegetables and changes the entire flavor of a meal faster than herbs and spices. You can take exactly the same vegetables and by changing what you add to it transform it from an Italian meal to an Indian meal to a Thai meal. Just swap out the oregano for turmeric, the turmeric for lemon grass and basil. Play around and try an exotic spice you've never heard of. Not only do herbs and spices bring an almost limitless area of tastes, but most of them have health benefits too.
5. Go to the farmers market. In mid-summer when the harvest abounds, it's hard to see why everyone isn't vegan. This is the time of year when you want everything you see at the farmers market—the juicy tomatoes, the crisp peppers, the intriguing eggplants in a variety of colors and shapes, the ubiquitous zucchini. It's hard not to overbuy. But you don't have to feel guilty because it's all good for you, you're supporting local growers and you can make that big pot of soup to freeze that we mentioned earlier.
6. Join a CSA. CSA stands for "community-supported agriculture." The concept came about as a way for small farmers to plan their seasons by having subscribers pre-pay to receive a weekly bag or box of food during the growing and harvest season. Sometimes farmers join together in order to provide a greater variety of items, and some even include items like honey, jams, eggs, and meat. You won't want those latter two items, of course, but even the CSAs that offer them usually have all all-veggie option. The fun part is that you never know what you will get, and the contents will change depending on what's in season. But as long as you're pretty much OK with any kind of vegetable, that unpredictable little goodie bag can be an adventure that inspires you to try new things.
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When hurricanes and other extreme storms unleash downpours like Tropical Storm Beta has been doing in the South, the floodwater doesn't always stay within the government's flood risk zones.
New research suggests that nearly twice as many properties are at risk from a 100-year flood today than the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood maps indicate.
Flooding Outside the Zones<p>About <a href="https://furmancenter.org/files/Floodplain_PopulationBrief_12DEC2017.pdf" target="_blank">15 million</a> Americans live in FEMA's current 100-year flood zones. The designation warns them that their properties face a 1% risk of flooding in any given year. They must obtain flood insurance if they want a federally ensured loan – insurance that helps them recover from flooding.</p><p>In Greater Houston, however, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01840.x" target="_blank">47% of claims</a> made to FEMA across three decades before Hurricane Harvey were outside of the 100-year flood zones. Harris County, recognizing that FEMA flood maps don't capture the full risk, now <a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/floodinsurance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends that every household</a> in Houston and the rest of the county have flood insurance.</p><p>New risk models point to a similar conclusion: Flood risk in these areas outstrips expectations in the current FEMA flood maps.</p><p>One of those models, from the <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/2020-national-flood-risk-assessment-highlights/" target="_blank">First Street Foundation</a>, estimates that the number of properties at risk in a 100-year storm is 1.7 times higher than the FEMA maps suggest. Other <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aaac65" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">researchers</a> find an even higher margin, with 2.6 to 3.1 times more people exposed to serious flooding in a 100-year storm than FEMA estimates.</p>
What FEMA’s Flood Maps Miss<p>Understanding why areas outside the 100-year flood zones are flooding more often than the FEMA maps suggest involves larger social and environmental issues. Three reasons stand out.</p><p>First, some places rely on relatively old FEMA maps that don't account for recent urbanization.</p><p>Urbanization matters because impervious surfaces – think pavement and buildings – are not effective sponges like natural landscapes can be. Moreover, the process for updating floodplain maps is locally variable and can take years to complete. Famously, New York City was updating its maps when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 but hadn't finished, meaning flood maps in effect <a href="https://projects.propublica.org/nyc-flood/" target="_blank">were from 1983</a>. FEMA is required to assess whether updates are needed every five years, but the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/cis/nation.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">majority of maps</a> <a href="https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2017/OIG-17-110-Sep17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are older</a>.</p><p>Second, binary thinking can lead people to an underaccounting of risk, and that can mean communities fail to take steps that could protect a neighborhood from flooding. The logic goes: if I'm not in the 100-year floodplain, then I'm not at risk. Risk perception <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab195a" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> backs this up. FEMA-delineated flood zones are the major factor shaping flood mitigation behaviors.</p><p>Third, the era of climate change scuttles conventional assumptions.</p><p>As the planet warms, extreme storms are becoming <a href="https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/" target="_blank">more common and severe</a>. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at a high rate, computer models suggest that the chances of a severe storm dropping 20 inches of rain on Texas in any given year will increase from about 1% at the end of the last century to 18% at the end of this one, a chance of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1716222114" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">once every 5.5 years</a>. So far, <a href="https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/195.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FEMA hasn't taken into account the impact climate change is having</a> on extreme weather and sea level rise.</p>
Racial Disparities in Flooding Outside the Zones<p>So, who is at risk?</p><p>Years of research and evidence from storms have highlighted social inequalities in areas with a high risk of flooding. But most local governments have less understanding of the social and demographic composition of communities that experience flood impacts outside of flood zones.</p><p>In analyzing the damage from Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, I found that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aba0fe" target="_blank">Black and Hispanic residents disproportionately experienced flooding</a> in areas beyond FEMA's 100-year flood zones.</p><p>With the majority of flooding from Hurricane Harvey occurring outside of 100-year flood zones, this meant that the overall impact of Harvey was racially unequal too.</p><p>Research into where flooding occurs in Baltimore, Chicago and Phoenix points to some of the potential causes. <a href="https://www.nap.edu/read/25381/chapter/4#16" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In Baltimore and Chicago</a>, for example, aging storm and sewer infrastructure, poor construction and insufficient efforts to mitigate flooding are part of the flooding problem in some predominantly Black neighborhoods.</p>
What Can Be Done About It<p>Better accounting for those three reasons could substantively improve risk assessments and help cities prioritize infrastructure improvements and flood mitigation projects in these at-risk neighborhoods.</p><p>For example, First Street Foundation's risk maps account for <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/flood-model-methodology_overview/" target="_blank">climate change</a> and present <a href="https://floodfactor.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ratings</a> on a scale from 1 to 10. FEMA, which works with communities to update flood maps, is <a href="https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1521054297905-ca85d066dddb84c975b165db653c9049/TMAC_2017_Annual_Report_Final508(v8)_03-12-2018.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">exploring rating systems</a>. And the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently <a href="https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2019/03/new-report-calls-for-different-approaches-to-predict-and-understand-urban-flooding" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called for a new generation of flood maps</a> that takes climate change into account.</p><p>Including recent urbanization in those assessments will matter too, especially in fast-growing cities like Houston, where <a href="https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1boBRyDvMFW6W" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">386 new square miles</a> of impervious surfaces were created in the last 20 years. That's greater than the land area of New York City. New construction in one area can also <a href="https://scalawagmagazine.org/2018/01/city-in-a-swamp-as-houston-booms-its-flood-problems-are-only-getting-worse/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">impact older neighborhoods downhill</a> during a flood, as some Houston communities discovered in Hurricane Harvey.</p><p>Improving risk assessments is needed not just to better prepare communities for major flood events, but also to prevent racial inequalities – in housing and beyond – from <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/03/05/688786177/how-federal-disaster-money-favors-the-rich" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">growing</a> after the unequal impacts of disasters.</p>
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