Why We Need Individual Action AND Systematic Change with Jen Rivera Bell




Jen Rivera Bell joins the podcast to talk about the beautiful intersections of her identity; being Indigenous, vegan, low waste, a mother, an activist, a lover of mother Earth and so much more. Carly and Jen covered so much in this episode related to the current human condition. They dive into conversations about the ego, how there is no single issue in our world, food justice, how we should normalize being wrong among a myriad other important topics. Jen shares the story of how a pet pig in college led her to be vegan and they laugh as they navigate the background noise of tractors throughout the interview. Most importantly Jen reminds everyone that they are whole and worthy of love just being being.


Please note, this episode has been transcribed by a computer, expect some typos!


Carly Puch

Welcome back to another episode of Consciously Clueless. I'm your host, Carly, and I'll be your guide on this journey from consciousness to cluelessness and back around again. Today on the podcast, I talked to Jen Rivera, Belle. Jen, as summarized on her website is an indigenous model with a passion for parenthood, food and sustainability, we get into so many good conversations about the intersections of her identity, advocating for low waist being indigenous being vegan and activist, a mother, we dive into conversations about the human condition, the ego, she talks about how a pet pig led her to become vegan, and so much more. I cannot wait for you to hear it. The podcast is called consciously clueless. And I wanted to name it that to embody this idea that we're all constantly moving through love this idea of really being connected and knowing and then also just having no idea what's going on. And we move through that constantly. So I would love to know where you feel like you're at right now, kind of on that spectrum. So

Jen Rivera Bell

it depends on the day, or on the topic. So once I dig into something, I'm the type of person who I'm so solely focused when I have this an idea or whatever, whatever comes up, right? And so once I jumped into it, I'm like, wow, I know nothing about this topic, right? And then I start digging a little more. And I'm like, Okay, I'm finally getting it. I'm finally understanding what's going on. And then the new wave of understanding comes in and like, wow, I had no idea about this topic again. So I'll start getting, you know, my feet settled and kind of understanding what's going on. And then another wave comes in, I was like, okay, that disrupts everything I've already known. And now it's time to unlearn and relearn again. So I think that that's how it is. It's just kind of in waves of you kind of get your feet settled, you kind of get in the headspace of like, I understand what's going on. And then again, like, oh, no, I had no idea what was going on.

Carly Puch

Yes, yes. I love that. I've been thinking a lot about that lately and want to talk more about it maybe on a solo episode or something, but just about, like, how do you respond to finding out something you always thought was true is not true or wrong. And I think that's happening a lot right now, which is a good thing, the world the

Jen Rivera Bell

thing that we're kind of waking up and yet and realizing that the ideas that we thought to be solid and absolutely, like the truths are not, are not, and that's okay, it's okay to not know that these things were wrong, or that, you know, whatever the case may be, I think that a big issue with that is, when we stick our ego in front of everything, it's harder for us to be like, Wow, maybe I was looking at it the wrong way. Or wow, I had no idea. You know, but but we have to let go of that ego first. Because if not, we have to defend our ideas with with our our mind, you know, but if not, then it's like, wow, maybe I just thought about it the wrong way. Or wow, I had never, you know, no one had ever phrased it that way. But if we keep our ego in the front, we can't do that. And we can't move forward.

Carly Puch

Yes, absolutely. And I think specifically in Western society, we're so ego driven. Absolutely. Yeah. And it's hard to put that down and just say, Oh, I just didn't have that information. And now I do. That's great. And, and see it as an exciting thing.

Jen Rivera Bell

Exactly. I think the the problem was that is, and we all do it. It's, I think, a part of our human nature, to hold ideas as part of our identity. And so when they become part of your identity, you have to defend them, whether whatever it is, whether it's your religion, whether it's your values, and if those are values and religions and whatever cultures that you hold from the beginning that your parents passed along, you have to defend them you feel like no, no, no, I have to defend them because they're who I am. And that goes back to what we were just saying about the ego. You create these ideas of who even you think you are, which they're constantly Right.

Carly Puch

Right? Oh, that's so interesting, and being able to be more fluid and release that. It's a

Jen Rivera Bell

practice Yes, it's a daily struggle to realize that even the most core values even the most appear to me of who you think you are, could not be and that's that's a struggle in itself to figure out and this this can go really deep but like even who are you as a person, you know, who are you? What makes you you if these things are constantly changing, if you're not the same person they were yesterday, then how do you know you're right in that same person?

Carly Puch

And learning to reframe that from being really scary to being really exciting is something I've been working on lately a lot instead of being, it's easy to get in that trap of nothing I thought I knew is right away. Yeah. And what does that mean? Who am I? And instead? And this is easy, like, easier said than done right? And I'm not an expert, but just trying to bring myself back to Oh, wow, that's so exciting that I get to learn. Like that's so what a privilege it is that I got to learn about this new thing. For sure. But it's hard. Yeah, it's hard,

Jen Rivera Bell

because it feels like the basis of everything you've ever known is a lie. And that's, that's something. Again, when jumping into every new subject matter, any new anything, you feel the sense of relief of like, wow, I'm learning about this. And then you kind of grasp that topic. And then it's like, the rug gets swept from under you. And you're like, wow, none of this. None of this is what it seems to be. Mm hmm.

Carly Puch

I've mentioned this before, but I think that, if anything, you know, 2020 has brought a whole lot of lessons, to say the least a lot of awakening, to say the least, that's like putting it mildly. But one thing I really keep coming back to is how I think I used to look at good days or bad days, I just used to make that time longer, like, oh, it was a, you know, I had a good day, or I had a good week, or I had bla bla. And now it just feels like it's so moment to moment. And I'm really feeling that. And it probably always was I was just ignoring that.

Jen Rivera Bell

And I think that it was just as bringing that awareness to yes to a lot of us, myself included, have been almost numb to everything for such a long time. And I think with everything that's being brought into the front end of everything, it's like you have to be aware now you're forced to be aware now, which is such a good thing, because there's so many people who were not aware of so many things that were going on, it's like nope, now, you don't have a reason to say that these things aren't here. Everyone knows about them now. And it's hard to maneuver and to navigate through these feelings and emotions, because they're so big. Yeah. You know, sometimes we feel guilty. Sometimes we feel angry, upset, sad joy. For some situations. It's like how, how do I feel joy about x when y is going on. And I'm supposed to feel angry. And that's really difficult to as a parent, I feel that constantly, especially with my work in the detention centers, and trying to do everything to dismantle those systems. I feel guilty almost on a daily basis that I get to experience the joy of my children, the laughter of my children, the hugs and embrace of my children, while there are other parents who don't get that. And I think that that's, that's what drives me. But it's, it's a mixture of emotions, it's, of course, I love my children and I enjoy spending time with, but at the same time just looking at them, sometimes I can feel angry with myself, like, what makes me more deserving than the other parents out there. You know, and that's something that by bringing all this information to the front end, we're able to realize just how complex our world is and how, right don't have to feel like you said, this is a good day. This is a bad day, but it's it's almost like it's a day. And we just need Yes, yes. Yeah, work with with everything that that day brings, you know?

Carly Puch

Yes. Can you talk a little bit more about your work with detention centers. So

Jen Rivera Bell

um, it's super complicated also, because of how, how everything is going on. And I'm sure that a lot of people out here now know that, like, we shouldn't be putting protester spaces in posts, because later on, the police officers are are going in and finding these people arresting these people, which is why we don't really talk too much about like, the back work of what we do for those reasons. But generally, it's obviously bringing awareness to this topic, bringing awareness of exactly what's going on in the parallels to what's already happened throughout history, these situations have happened countless of times, particularly with indigenous groups all throughout the Americas as a whole. Canada included where children are taken away from their parents, um, and cultural genocide is what happens like, what what truth right there. And so, um, first thing is obviously bringing awareness to these situations. And then

Carly Puch

where children are being taken away.

Jen Rivera Bell

Yeah. Okay. And then slowly taking the smaller, more tactical steps on again, dismantling those systems as a whole. But I think that It's it being that I was raised in Southern Louisiana, and I was one of the very few people from El Salvador that I knew, all I knew was my family. And so my life experience was something that was very unique to me, as opposed to my cousins, a lot of my cousins grew up in Houston. And so there was so many people from instead of our Lord in Houston, so they were able to speak to other people about their experiences, what was going on. And for me, whenever I explained to anyone, you know, the fact that my parents led a civil war, they were like, wow, that is that I never heard of that. And so to me a lot, a lot of it has just been, like, explaining my existence as a whole, as opposed to even working on the next level of, of doing the next level of work. And so I'm, like I said, just explaining, like, hey, yeah, this stuff is going on period, we're not even getting to the How to stop this from happening. But please hear me out. And this is what's going on. And so it's been a lot of internal work for me as a whole to kind of validate my experience and, and realize that these issues are, are outside of myself outside of just my family, because I obviously have very personal ties to a lot of these things. You know, I've had family members in the detention centers, I've had, you know, so many of my family members who have crossed and across the colonial border, and have had so many issues due to that. And so now, it's it's taking it out, it's Wow, it's not just me, it's not just my family, this is a systemic issue, and then bringing that that information to people who might have not been aware of that as a whole.

Carly Puch

Mm hmm. Wow, that's really beautiful, heart wrenching work.

Jen Rivera Bell

It's really intense in in, I have grown, it's, it's, it's difficult, a lot of the times because there's no on and off switch, you know, with this word, there's no, today, Sunday, so I have Sunday off, and no matter how off your emails are, or if your phone's on silent, that's still working through your mind on a constant basis. And so I'm, I always tell people who are doing this work that they have to have time for themselves. If not, you, it's a very easy burnout, to, to give up, to feel like these systems are never going to change, because it's been, you know, hundreds of years that they've been in place. And so it feels like all that weight is on you. Because since you don't want those systems to continue, it feels like if I don't do the most, if I don't work, you know, 20 hour days, then then what, you know, this, people are still there. And this goes for every system, you know, people are still in prisons, people are still in detention centers. And so it's, it's sometimes feel like, you're drowning, like you can't breathe because of the fact that I look at a lot of these issues from an intersectional perspective. It's like, okay, so let's talk about this topic. But you remember this ties to this, and this also. And then this branch is off from here. So it feels like, Okay, I gotta take a step back. I have to breathe. Let's deal with this first. And then you know, we'll take it one step at a time, which is why I love working with different people throughout different realms of this that way, I feel like I kind of have ads on everything that's going on, as opposed to feeling like all falls on me. And so it's a balancing act, which is like, almost funny to say, because it's like, how people think you have a balance on life, but you never really do. That's, that's like, oh, you find a balance like, no, that never really happened. You're just like, kind of basically juggling things and hoping that something doesn't fall apart. And that's right.

Carly Puch

Well, and it sounds like, I think we all could do a better job of taking care of ourselves. But it definitely sounds like the type of work where you have to be so mindful about taking care of yourself. Or you might just drop everything that you're trying to juggle. Yes,

Jen Rivera Bell

I think it it has a great parallel to parenting too. Because you feel like you have you know, 30 things on your to do list. And if you don't tackle that first thing, then you're like, Oh, I'm just gonna quit. Just you know, my brain is going to explode and so it's any any work that you do, no matter how intensive it is, it's all about the little steps. You know, whether that's personal inner work or like a regular job. It's all about taking little steps to getting more efficient to bettering yourself in whatever capacity that is without overwhelming yourself because right Oh, Um, I think that as a western society we deem individuality, perfectionism. And this ideal of the hard worker, which obviously, like I see myself as a very hard worker, and I'm very, like, self motivated. But it's encapsulating that into the only value that you bring. And only valuing your humanity by the productivity that you're able to have. And I think that that's one of my biggest problems. It's is, even with small things at home, or with homeschooling, or whatever it is that I'm doing, it's how much did I accomplish today? If not, I failed. As a wife, as an activist, as a YouTuber, whatever it is, it's 30 things today. And that's just not how it is. And I don't want my children to think that way of themselves, like you are all human worthy of love worthy of being by being not necessarily with how much productivity you're able to create on on any given day.

Carly Puch

Right. Right. Oh, that is such a strong message. And good reminder, as I'm like, literally looking at my to do list, above my computer, of everything related to business stuff and didn't cross something off yesterday. And I just was it made me like frustrated this morning. So something I really loved about your social media, is just how beautiful you share about all the intersections of your life. And that's something I really want to touch on with this podcast, too, right is like all of the pieces of people that come into play. And so you talk about being an indigenous woman, you talk about being vegan, you talk about being low waist, and I just thought that that was so those were so many interesting intersections, and you do such a good job at talking about them all. So I would love to kind of start diving into those. And I'm curious, I guess we can start with being vegan where that started for

Jen Rivera Bell

you. So it's funny that you mentioned that first because that's what happened first. Oh, this is like my favorite story. I tell it, I have to tell it at least once a week, because it's my favorite story. But so I've always been a huge animal lover. I think most kids grow up just absolutely loving animals. My grandma has chickens. And so we used to go pick the eggs from the chickens. I used to love on them and everything. And oh, once. So second, I met pretty early on. We started dating when I was 17. So it feels like you know forever ago. But soon after that we had this ridiculous idea of getting a pet pig. And we were both in college living in like studio. And somehow we still thought that was that's how you know that teenagers brains are not fully developed your mind. Yet you can't blame me for these things. But we thought that it would be a really good idea to get a mini pig to live in my studio apartment, my second story studio apartment. Wow. And so for Christmas, he gave me like a little written note like, here's $200 For our pet pig. And I was like yay. So to start off, it was it was bad on like eight different levels. But we also purchased our firmware reader, which is obviously a no go. And we would never do that now. But we were all excited. We didn't know about anything. And so we get Mowgli, and she's this tiny little, like two and a half pound pig. She's the most adorable thing I have ever seen in my life. And I put her in my truck and she starts crying. Like from the moment I put her down, she's just crying and screaming and I'm just like, hysterically crying in the truck with her like, I'm gonna be a bad mom, I don't know what to do, you know, whatever. And we get to my apartment and I have to like call her up because she doesn't want to walk up the steps. And she's squeaking and like yelling, it's very obvious that there is a pig in the apartment complex, where we're not even supposed to have dogs. And so there's so many so many breaches on the lease. I can't even count anymore. But that day, we sat down in my filthy apartment now because Mowgli distorted everything. And we kind of talked about how it's going to be kind of weird to eat pigs when we have a pet pig. And I was like, wow, I didn't even think about that. You're totally right. And coming from a Salvadorian background. And Zach is Cajun. So southern Louisiana background, the the main animal that is eaten in both of those cultures are pigs. And so we were like wow, this we kind of should have thought about about this beforehand. And so we're like we can't eat pork anymore. Like we can no longer eat pigs. And so we were like okay, and so from that day, the day that she came home, we no longer ate pigs and we realize just how much that goes into everything that we were eating. And so in Louisiana, we eat a lot of food and we eat a lot of cracklins. And instead of Our Lord chatter on this and producer revolt that's like, all of those are pork related foods. And so we were like, wow, we just cut off like 90% of the stuff that we were eating. And then we started doing a little research, you know, just kind of like looking up YouTube videos of like, what to eat when you don't eat pork. And we kind of went down this tunnel of like, people who don't eat animals altogether. And I was the most opposite of a vegan growing up. I had this shirt from this. I don't even know if there's still a thing, but it was this YouTube channel that would just put piles of meat on top of other meat and eat it. That was like the whole thing. And I had one of their shirts, I bought merch, okay, I was very serious. And it was like, bacon strips and bacon strips and bacon strips. And that was like, that was my personhood. I was like, Haha, writings are silly, you know, whatever. And then, you know, getting here I am now but we went into this tunnel of like, wow, there's people who don't eat eggs. And that was another thing that was huge for me. And people who don't drink milk. And we started watching documentaries, like Earthlings and, and you know, all of all of these things that as someone who had such a love for animals, such a desire to cause us harm. And I think that's just innate in every one of us. We just don't know how to go about it. Exactly. And yeah, after about a year, it took a year's long process to get to being vegan after we stopped eating pork. And I think it's very funny. From both of our perspectives, both me and Zach's, just because again, I loved cooking with my mom, we'd make fajita we'd make, you know, lobster is just like all super animal heavy foods. And then Zach was a hunter. And so there's pictures of him in a hunting magazine as a kid, like generations of hunting, you know, like with his gun, and he's like seven years old. Yeah. And so it's very part of both his culture and my culture. And to kind of like, say no to that, at first was difficult, not only because it was what we were used to, but also because like I mentioned before, it was part of who we were. And saying no to that is not only saying no to an activity, or something that you ate, but kind of telling the people who are doing those things. Like, I don't want to do those things. I'm side eyeing you, I'm kind of judging you for doing those things, even though that's not what we intended to do. And even to this day, that's not what I intend to do. But a lot of the times that is what people assume that that is what we're doing. And so once once we were vegan for quite a while, we realized, I don't know how I got down to the rabbit hole, but it got to sustainability. And I was like, to us, we kind of joke around about it all the time is, as soon as we start settling in on something, we dive into something else. And then we're making eye relays again, and we're like, okay, so we were being we were vegan for a while. We had no problems eating out anymore. We knew how to talk to waiters, you know, like we were pro pro vegans at that point, right? And it's like, Wait, straws, put like cutlery, like, what do you need. And so we watched tons of documentaries, I think it's called. It was something plastic oriented, but like the name plastic is in the documentary itself. And that was just mind blowing to me. Obviously, like all of us, we know that this trash is created, we know that this is going on, but not to the extent we think like maybe maybe it's just this much when in reality, it's like literally 7000 times more than we could ever understand. And so we dove deep in there and started really getting serious about using less plastic to the best of our ability, which had been looks extremely different for everyone. And then when we moved here to Missouri, it was a different level. Because being that we live in the middle of nowhere, we have to drive an hour and a half to get to the city. And so we don't make those trips as often we just go to the local grocery store where stuff is more readily in plastic as opposed to the bulk stores. We tried to go there, you know, every month or so. But it's a huge drive and a huge investment in getting there. But once once all of these pieces sort of start getting together, you realize the extent of there is no single issue. There isn't that doesn't exist, there is no issue that you can solve with one. One thing. And yes, I think a lot of the times the single solution, ideas harm people is in in doing so because you're silencing so many different people by doing those things. It is a whole mentality. And I think that not only as someone who does this work, but as an individual. We don't like that. I don't want it to be this day. Look, I don't want it to be 37 solutions for this one problem, just give me one, just tell me I don't have to use straws, and then the world will be better. And then I'll feel like a good yes. When it's that's not the reality. And I think that it hit me really hard after being vegan for so long. And then realizing, wow, you know, I'm doing I'm not eating animal flesh, I'm not eating animal byproducts, but I'm still harming the animals environment by doing this. And then it was right after Luna was born, who knows it's gonna be four in November. But that's when I started. Really going into my history really figuring out who I am, because I was really excited about being able to tell her like, oh, you know, you're Cajun, and you're from Montana Lord. And you know, these are your people. And being that Zach is white. He has a very clear cut history with birth certificates and everything of everyone that ever existed, basically, right? Don't write that. And so I really had to start digging and talking to me, our Lita and I'm super fortunate that I still have yellow Lita and I still have my great aunts who are able to teach me so much. Oh, wow. But um, that's when I really started learning and unlearning so much about our history and about colonialism. And the genocide that has happened to me, that was a northern indigenous thing that didn't happen to us, that was just, you know, right. That was, you know, those people, not us, and then realizing, you know, that languages had been taken, and culture had been taken religion, you know, traditional practices have been taken away, and had been hidden. And so much of what we do has been a resilience of people who hid those things and taught they're taught their children, and to continue on those incredible legacies in silence. And so many of the words that we still use are not words, that that people like bled into it. So many of, you know, Catholicism, culture around what is considered Latin America is actually traditional indigenous religion that has been blended in so that they continue those practices. And so again, all of that blended together, environmental racism that happens due to all of these corporations. And so I was like, wow, it's never a one issue thing. And I think that when being vegan, I made an entire video of like, hey, everybody should be vegan. If y'all aren't vegan. What are y'all doing? And I, I have very proudly taken that video down. But it's just fun. Because that's, that's what I thought. That's what I thought I was like, Well, yeah, I don't understand why this is so easy. No, it's not. It is the furthest thing from easy. There's so many people that I grew up with. I grew up in an extremely impoverished city that has some of the worst food access in the state of Louisiana. And for me to like, I live that and then I still had the audacity, right? So that's, that's what it takes to drop your ego, like, Hey, I know, you're passionate about this. And this happens a lot. When you're like, first getting into something, you're just angry, you want everyone to change, everybody stopped,

Carly Puch

I did the same thing. I was so judgmental of people in my life. And I just I like, want to just bow my head down when I think about it.


Jen Rivera Bell

And and it's it's not that simple. If it was that simple, then solutions would overcast and problems would be solved. But it's not that easy. You know, I tell this to people all the time. I like talking to what I call young vegans like people who are just getting into veganism, about the intersectionality of food justice. Because I yelled it, I yelled it, I made a video about it. Everyone needs to go vegan, I don't understand why y'all are vegan. If you want that, you got to fight for food justice. You got to be just as loud about who justice because if you want these things to happen, you have to realize where the problems are stemming from. in Western society, we like band aids. We like these easy solutions, when we're never looking at them. The systems don't get disrupted. It's easy and, and with activism a lot to it's, it's easy to like those people. It's not easy to like someone who's saying no, no, the system is intentionally like this. It's easy to like someone who says everybody use reusable straws. Everybody switch here. You know, it's easy to like those people because they're not fighting at your core. They're not trying to make you witness yourself. And they're not trying to make you look at your privilege. They're not trying to dismantle the systems that be and so it's easy to like those people. It's a lot harder, like someone that's saying, Hey, you have benefited from this system of oppression. What are you going to do about it? And it's hard to sit with that. It's hard to sit because you feel a lot of different emotions, with with being Wow. I thought that this was the solution, when really, this is like nothing compared to what we really need to be doing. And obviously, we all need to be bringing our straws we all need to be doing right, we need to be dry, right? Eat less animal products. And I'm a huge advocate of those little steps because a lot of people don't have the privilege to do it all in a snap, they don't have the privilege to do it all over. It's their entry point. Exactly. Right. That's right, it was the thing that exactly, and that that has a lot to do with, with going in both directions. But being so judgmental of people, and judging where they're at, when you don't know how they even got there, or how far they've really come. You know, when, when I first started, I would have never imagined that I would ever not be eating animals that I would ever be talking about the issues that I'm talking about. And so there's so much work that I need to do so much that I need to work on within myself. But I am incredibly proud of how far I've come with how I was raised in the environment that I was in and the society that we live in, you know, we have to give ourselves credit. And I think that we use that to push ourselves forward, like, Wow, look how far I've come. I can't even imagine what we're going to be 10 years from now. You know, it's, it's a push forward. It's not, Oh, I'm so great. I'm done. It's I'm doing so awesome. I can't wait to see how much better I can get.

Carly Puch

And that's such a motivating thing instead of being like, okay, nailed that, because then you kind of become complacent. And I know that I will fully admit that when I first started diving into these things, I to just like, I dive in, and I do the research, and I'm excited. And then I scream it from the rooftops. And I was just doing that in a way that I thought was helpful. But I've definitely learned more that it could be an easier conversation. And I think I judged a lot of people in my life like, like you said, like, catch up. What are you doing? Why are you not here with me? Like, this is easy. And yeah, it's easy for me. But there's so many more factors. And there's so many more layers than my privilege was allowing me to see

Jen Rivera Bell

absolutely, for sure, absolutely. And I think that it's all about growing awareness to that, it's coming to terms of the fact that you will never know everything pure. That's hard, because you want it so hard. We, in our society, we see this ladder, and we see the end of the ladder. But that doesn't exist, you're always climbing forever and ever and ever. And you're coming back down a bunch of steps along the way. And then going back up, and then coming back down. And clueless. Exactly, absolutely. That's how I love it. I love it. Because that's exactly what it is. The more we know, more we know we don't know, you know, that's that's a it's scary to some people. But it's also very empowering. If you think about it, we want to know that we don't know everything we want to embody that essence of. And that's something that I really try to explain on my platforms is I'm not the person that knows everything, y'all I'm learning with y'all. Um, y'all can ask me stuff. And yes, I may know a little bit more and certain things, and I'm gonna know nothing about other things. And that's why I really emphasize the importance of community because we all bring these different values, we all have these different life experiences of, of little pockets of knowledge that we can share in community so that we can all grow together. If not, we're hoarding these little pockets of knowledge. And these other people will never know, just because we don't have the life experience to have to have these, these different intersectionalities of, of spreading that, you know, that's what we need is for more people, whatever, whatever aspect, they have to spread that knowledge.

Carly Puch

Something that I definitely related to is when you said that your husband grew up hunting, and I'm in northern Minnesota, I grew up hunting and fishing. And that was a big part of connecting to people. And also just something you did and I know that as I kind of started to pull away from that. It was hard to explain to some of those people and like it's exactly what you said, you start to get that feeling that people in your life are being judged by you, whether intentionally or not. So how was that for your husband growing up in that because I know it's been a difficult conversation to have with people in my life who are just kind of confused.

Jen Rivera Bell

I think that that That's the first emotion that people feel is just that confusion. It's like, to them, it's something that they can't wrap their heads around, like, why would you ever want to not do this? Why would you ever want to give up something that you grew up doing? And so, it's been a lot of years since the beginning of this. And now everyone kind of fully understands, you know, our reasoning behind it and everything like that. And it really got, I think, more concrete once we had kids, because this was something that we had to like, kind of sit down and have a conversation. But you know, when we have kids, we don't want our kids doing these things. But being that we're somewhat we're the type of people that I'm always like trying to find the solution. I always feel like there is something that I can do and so I'm you know, Zacks Zacks dad is an avid hunter, that's just like something he really enjoys doing. And so we knew that that was something that he would obviously want to do with his grandkids. And so what we did was, hey, how about y'all go hiking in the same woods that you would, and y'all go spot deer. And so y'all go in the same way that you would go to do what you regularly do, but obviously, don't bring the gun, you can bring binoculars, and it's like, wow, look, look to the left, here's a deer. And so you hurry up and do that. So you're still embodying that, those same ideals without having to do the harm that we see, you know, and again, this is different for everyone. The same goes for like fishing, you know, like, you still go on the boat, you go on the boat for hours, you sit in silence Just the same way you would when you're fishing. But you don't have to do that one particular thing. And that's something that we have really, like blossomed as my family in particular, when it comes to cooking. That was the center point of our family. That's all we did was you cook and you eat? And that's what you do together. Yeah. And so it's actually been an incredible experience. Because not only are like my mom and my sister, my brother vegan, but also have several cousins who are vegan now. And so when we get together, we eat all vegan. And we have learned to read cook our foods, we've learned how to make sandwiches and everything. So we get together, we're like, Okay, do you know, do you know how to do this yet? Oh, you gotta get this kind of faux meat. You get this and you mix it up with this and it comes out perfect. You know? So it's been, at first it was very dividing, because like I said, people are like, either you're judging me, or I'm judging you, or are we both judging each other. And now it's like, whoa, like, we're about to get together, and we've got to make some farm food, and it's gonna be a great time. And knowing now that it does not come from judgment, it does not come from I think I'm better than you. Because that's not the case at all. And I've made an entire video talking about that. Because that was the type of person I was, I thought, I'm vegan, I'm clearly a better person, because I'm causing less harm. And I'm doing this. That's not the case at all. I go into detail, talk, ego and another direction. Absolutely. We want to feel like we're better than other people. We want to feel like we know more than other people. When the reality the sad reality is that we don't, we don't, it's hard. It's hard to, like, swallow that and like live with that, because I'm like, I read so many books. I watched so many documentaries. How do I not know everything? It's like, I'm sorry. Sorry, honey. That's not how it works, like lifelong process of learning and unlearning. And there's things that while we're learning stuff, we're learning bad things. And so, like take steps back. I'm not happen to a lot with veganism. For me, in particular, a lot of the activists that I was following were extremely problematic, were extremely racist, and sexist. And I had no idea because I only saw them from the mindset of veganism. I only saw them from the mindset of their, their speaking up to the animals, while at the same time there were doubting other cultures that were doubting women. They were, you know, all of these other aspects that they were doing. And I think that, that that stems a lot, at least for me, in particular, it stems from this, like celebrity culture of this person has this many followers, they clearly know what they're doing. This person has subscribers, they obviously know everything that they're talking about. It's like that's a regular ass person, I'm sorry, that is a regular person has regular mistakes has absolute faults in their personhood. You can't uphold them to a higher pedestal than everybody else. Obviously, there are people who are saying great things. There are people who are informing others, but they still have faults, and we can't we can't think that one person has the solution for it all, and which is why we need to be diversifying who were listening to who are watching in order to really understand all of these different perspectives.

Carly Puch

Yes, I don't know what the cultural traditions of Salvatore are in terms of like hunting and fishing. But I know that indigenous folk in the US and Canada, like that was their livelihood. And that is something that still is because of privilege, or lack thereof is something that people survive on. So I think that's a hard conversation, for me to reconcile. And I've had to take a few steps back a few steps back, and not tell people that don't have access to that kind of food, or that it's real. It's, you know, I'm white. And I don't want to tell someone who's hanging on to threads of their culture, to let go of another part. But it's then also hard when I want to talk about the environment, or the animals or whatever it is. So do you have any thoughts on how to like, reconcile those things, because I think that that is something I struggle with, and not wanting to act like a white savior, but also be like, but this is really important. And I don't, I'm not sure about how to do that yet. And

Jen Rivera Bell

so for my culture, in particular, oh, hunting wasn't as much in the forefront they, they hunt very small game, and in some other words, so lizards, and smaller things like that, and fish was a predominant thing, but it was actually mostly plant based. So that was super cool for me to learn, as I was diving into that, because I was like, wow, like, we invented corn, y'all, like I was, I was so high, I was like, the most excited person ever, when I started diving into that, but

Carly Puch

well, and it was actually Western society that really upped the meat intake because of farming and everything. So a lot of indigenous cultures, I've learned really were more plant based, because that's just like,

Jen Rivera Bell

the seasons. Absolutely. And, and so for my take on that. And this is, again, just my own personal ideal, there's, there are plenty of other like Northern indigenous people who come from cultures who are predominantly Hunter cultures who have more knowledge on that than me, but for me, it's, I'm not going to tell indigenous people to not hunt, like I'm all about, right, you know, animal rights, but I literally cannot come to even uttering the words, because of exactly like you said, hanging to these, you know, threads of culture that they have resiliently been able to keep, and, and I just I can't, and again, also being that they were some of the most incredible stewards for this planet, and being able to sustain, you know, huge, huge amounts of people on on the land on the forest. And they were able to work it in such a way that they were like the pinnacle of sustainability, right. And so as, as a modern day person who could just walk into the grocery store and get a bunch of apples and carrots, I can't, I can't bring myself to say anything. A because I feel like I'm not knowledgeable enough. And also because of how much northern indigenous people were stripped away, literally taken off of their lands literally starve to death, by not being able to hunt that now me saying that would just be like, I just feel like I can't, I can't come to terms with being like, Hey, maybe I shouldn't do that. Just because of the history and the weight that is there. I think that that's something in particular, that is really messed up. Because there are a lot of people who are not indigenous, are not people who are living below the poverty line are not people who don't have access, but just people who do have all of these things. And they use those people as an excuse to continue the harm that they're doing. And so they're like, oh, but what, you know, what about indigenous people? It's like, Yeah, how about you will be and you do the work that you can do? And they're like, Well, what about poor people? Absolutely. That's why we're doing food justice. That's why we're doing this. How about you do your part, you know, I can only do so much. There's a lot of things that I cannot do. I would love to live, you know, completely off the grid and all these things. But there are things that I realistically can't do right now. But there are other people, there are other people who could do a lot more than I can do. And so if we take it on that level of each individual person doing what we can, that's how we move forward. We have to dismantle the systems, and we have to take accountability, we can do both of those things at the same time. I think that we'd like to see it as an either or either we shut down corporations and and destroy those systems. Or we just stop using our own individual plastic. No, you all we got to do both. Is a lot of work. Yes, the same time.

Carly Puch

I could not agree with you more. I think that that excuse piece is so frustrating from the people that have access and it's more about the ego, right coming back to that. That for their own work getting in the way of like, Oh, why am I worried about a straw When people in other countries have so much trash and they don't even think about this, as if it's like a wash, as it's just like, well, it's not all perfect yet. So

Jen Rivera Bell

why should I try? And I think that, that, that is one of the first steps to break through when coming into any sort of movement. Because I get it, I get it, this is huge, you know, you see these documentaries of animals, or you see these documentaries of the planet, or you see these documentaries on anything, and you're like, wow, I am one person, how can I possibly do anything to help the situation? And the way I see it is a, your individual actions do matter. They do build up over time. So like, yeah, you might have only eaten one chicken a week, in together, but that's a lot of chickens in your whole life, or one straw or one cup. But also, when you speak up about these things, when you live through examples, people see those things, you know, whenever it was just me and Zach, it was just me and Zach. And now we have so many friends, so many family members who don't, I don't want to take credit you you did your own thing by yourself, you made those actions happen. But we were able to help these people get in whatever direction it is that they're in now. Right. So now, we're just one vegan. And then we were two years. And then we were, you know, 10 people who don't use straws anymore. We're 10 People who always bring Tupperware containers to places and so it's this little steps of, of changing the culture around it, you have to change your mentality around it. It's a whole lifestyle change, to be someone who's doing any sort of positive thing in the world, whether that's environmental justice, or human rights issues, it's all about those little steps that are going to shift drastically how it is that we view the world and how the world inevitably works?

Carly Puch

Well, I think in in talking about the little steps, it's my intro to veganism was health. And that was where I started. But similarly to you, which I'm finding a lot of people feel this way. It was like veganism was like the way into all the other systematic issues, which I think is so fascinating and cool. Because it also then I started learning about agriculture. And then I learned about the environment. And then I learned about sustainability. And then recently, I've been learning about like, fast fashion, I'm drawing all of that like, yeah, exactly. But the small steps. So like coming back to talking about like indigenous folks, like, we just have to talk about food systems and health, you know, and like that, like you said, food justice and food insecurity, when you talk about it from a systematic issue. Just even just from a health standpoint, and food deserts, and access to fresh fruit and vegetables. Like if you frame it like that that's a different conversation topic

Jen Rivera Bell

of food justice, I think comes a lot heavier, especially to someone who's coming from a vegan perspective, because then you can't just tell people what to do. You can't just tell people, here's the grocery list, go do it. And then you're like, wow. So I guess not everyone can do what I was doing. And it's just spotlighting that privilege that we have, you know, I have always had food security my entire life, even growing up in poverty, that was something that we always had, that was something that I never had to worry about where my next meal came from. And so that's something that, like I said, comes with a lot of guilt. Sometimes, when you start to think about it, like wow, I'm over here yelling about, you know, eating more plants, when there's people who cannot eat more plants, they cannot, I had so many friends growing up that the only place that they bought groceries were was at the local liquor store. And they didn't have much to say the least. And so by expanding that view, we're able to see issues from their core, as opposed to just like everyone needs to go vegan, or everybody needs to stop doing this. You got to stretch it out and realize where the roots of these problems are, while at the same time, while at the same time still doing those individual actions that do do end up building up and do bring a positive change.

Carly Puch

And I think it's it's the challenge, like you said earlier of like that funny word of balance, right. So it's like, I love using my platform to talk about making oatmilk and bringing your straw, but I also know that I need to challenge myself to talk about more of the other side, you know, like it doesn't have to be one or it doesn't have to be one or it can. It can be like don't forget your reusable container. Also.

Jen Rivera Bell

Yes, yes, absolutely. And I think the more that we normalize that idea of we're not perfect of we're learning of hey, yeah, I was yelling this stuff. I was definitely wrong. Sorry about that, y'all. Here. Let's let's take To step forward, and not not holding people to this unrealistic pinnacle of knowing everything, you know, even your most amazing woke, you know, on the streets, Justice fighter also might be ableist also might be homophobic, you know, all of these things, you have to take into consideration that, that people are not perfect. And that does not excuse their actions or their thoughts. But we have to realize that so that we don't idolize people. That's something that we all struggle with. I think also, it just emphasize it more with social media, whenever you see these perfectly curated little squares, and you are just like, wow, this person just knows what they're talking about. It's like, they

Carly Puch

don't. But yes. And normalizing that, like talking about being wrong, I think, is something that needs to happen, especially right now with everything that's going on. But like you said, I think that's just such a beautiful example. Like, yeah, I said that at one time. That's the information I had, that's what I believed. I was wrong. I know. I know more now. And that worldview expanded. And I want to share that that worldview expanded, also gives other people permission to be like, Oh, I was wrong. And that's okay.

Jen Rivera Bell

And here are the steps that we can take to do better. And everything, every conversation I've ever had with anyone always boils down to that ego, that ego of saying like, no, no, but but I was right. But, but I know this, and it's like, it's okay, that you didn't and that's, that's hard even for people to hear from a non judgmental way, because then they think you're judging me for not being able to let go of these ideas. And so it's that vicious cycle of like, no, like, release that, you know, get out of your own way to be able to pursue that growth that you really want. Because we all want that we all want to do better. It's just hard. When we think we've been doing good. When we think we, we thought we were doing such great things, for someone to say like, actually, you know, like, some of this stuff is really problematic. And you might want to, like, look into this, and you're just like, wow, I thought I was doing so well. I thought I had an A plus two, in reality, that was that wasn't the case, you know,

Carly Puch

get out of your own way, that is such a good message. I bring this up all the time. But when I was in my yogurt, yogurt, and yogurt, my yoga teacher training, one of the things we talked about was all the paths to suffering in the tradition of yoga. And the most well worn path, or the easiest path that we often go down is bringing ourself to suffering. So like there's all these other things that can cause you suffering, but that one hit me so hard. And I just realized how often I was bringing myself to suffering. And the word suffering, I think feels dramatic for some people, but just like, bringing ourselves more frustration, more discontent, whatever that word is, but Oh, wow, I'm just, I'm bringing myself there, I'm my own ego, or my own hang ups, or whatever it is, like it's actually not all these other things, it's myself that I'm bringing myself down there. And to release that. Or to work on releasing that it's not like a switch is, I think a part of the internal work in wanting to make the world a better place.

Jen Rivera Bell

I think that a lot of us also forget that most of the work that we have to do is internal. And that work is not reading, that work is not fun. That work is not Instagrammable that is tears and achiness and struggling and realizing that a lot of the things that you thought were right, we're not a lot of your childhood might not have been what you perceived it to be. And just working with that. And ag