the education divide is the jobs divide, and it’s the biggest issue of our time.

A lot of discussion post-election has been around the cultural and ideological divide by education level. Those without a college degree were much more likely to vote for Donald Trump, while those with a college degree were much more likely to vote for Hillary Clinton. This split was not as clear by income level or employment status. Those with a higher income and high-wage job without a degree were still more likely to vote for Trump compared to their more highly educated counterparts. Why? This divide is less about the jobs people have, and much more about the jobs people have access to.

The education divide is the jobs divide, and it’s the biggest issue of our time.

The median income for full-time workers in 1979 was higher for those without a 4-year degree than it is now. Working full-time no longer guarantees you will be able to support a family. It doesn’t even guarantee you’ll be able to support yourself. Mid-wage jobs have been disappearing, leaving Americans without a college degree with few opportunities. Service jobs, traditionally low-wage jobs, are the opportunities that remain. Jobs formerly reserved for teenagers transitioning into adulthood are now permanent. They’re no longer stepping stones; they’re the end of the line. But they hardly provide a livable wage. Those without a college degree will make, on average, less than $30,000 a year. As a result, too many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, unable to save for the future.

You might argue that since income did not show a strong correlation, jobs can’t tell the whole story. But current circumstance is different than opportunity. Even if you have a job, that job might not be secure in the future. The unemployment rate is much higher for those without a degree. The difference in education leads to a difference in opportunity. It’s not a coincidence that Trump over performed where the economy is weaker and jobs are more routine. If your job isn’t secure, your future isn’t secure. That trend will continue as robots become more integrated into our workforce further displacing jobs.

North Carolina is a perfect example of the wedge between opportunity and a lack of opportunity.


  • 3 of the most highly educated counties in the country are in North Carolina, they all voted for Clinton.
  • Tech, pharmaceutical, and financial clusters in North Carolina are growing at some of the fastest rates in the country and have some of the lowest unemployment rates.

Lack of Opportunity

  • 8 of the least highly educated counties in the country are in North Carolina, they voted for Trump.
  • 3 out of the top 10 metro areas with the greatest economic losses in the past 15 years, mostly due to offshoring and displaced jobs, are also located in North Carolina.

It doesn’t have to be this way! We can fix this! And we can fix it regardless of which President is in office.

First, we need to determine which industries will have sustainable high wage jobs long-term.

What are the jobs of today, and more importantly, what are the jobs of tomorrow?

There are industries that are growing fast, mostly in STEM-related fields. Yet, traditional higher education programs aren’t training workers with the skills needed fast enough to fill these high-demand jobs. Millions of good jobs –high-wage jobs – will go unfilled because of the skills gap over the next decade.

Computer Science  

Every company will become a tech company in the future if they’re not already. With the surge in virtual reality and AI, this demand will only increase. The tech sector shows no signs of slowing down.

In 2016, there were 3 jobs for every new computer science graduate according to The Conference Board. We need to keep up with the demand for skilled workers.

The average software developer salary is $69,000.

High-Tech Manufacturing

Over the next decade, the manufacturing industry will add 3.5 million jobs. A staggering 2 million will go unfilled because there won’t be enough qualified people to fill them. We still talk about bringing manufacturing jobs back from overseas. Manufacturing jobs have grown at home and reshoring is happening. But, manufacturing is more high-tech than before and relies more on robots. This requires a higher level of skill than the manufacturing jobs of the past. 80% of manufacturers report a moderate or serious shortage of qualified applicants for skilled and highly skilled production positions.

The average manufacturing worker salary is $81,289.


In the U.S., engineering jobs require at least a 4-year degree. One of the reasons China became an attractive country for manufacturing was that they had workers with an engineering skill level that was more than a high school education, but less than a college education. We don’t have workers with a similar skill level in the U.S.

Electrical Engineers were one of the hardest positions to fill in 2016. Randstad US estimates there are 17 openings for every electrical engineering candidate.

The average electrical engineer salary is $95,230.

Data Science

Data Science is a booming industry and has strong ties to the tech sector. While it’s not a formal industry that’s tracked at the moment, CareerCast estimates over 4 million data scientists will be hired this year.

The average data scientist salary is over $100,000.

Second, we need to make debt-free workforce development and training for high wage jobs a priority.

President Trump has made an effort to keep some manufacturing jobs in the United States. The problem is, it’s a small number of jobs and it’s often at a huge financial cost. There are more efficient and effective ways to tackle the jobs problem. They’re not being discussed.

Right now we rely heavily on immigration to chip away at the skills gap. But with changes to immigration policies in the works, even that isn’t a guaranteed solution. Luckily, we have plenty of American workers that need jobs. (That is not to say that the immigration policy is okay, simply that there is a supply of workers available).

We can move unemployed displaced workers and the underemployed workers stuck in low-wage jobs into these high-demand high-wage jobs with reskilling, upskilling, and training

The President’s plan for workforce development, if there is one, is still unknown. We don’t know what the next 4 years will bring in Washington D.C.

But, we can make a difference now.

We can make sure that people have access to jobs – good jobs – regardless of what happens in Washington. With proper planning, local policy, and program development, we can fill the jobs of today, as well as the jobs of tomorrow.

One solution is to provide free short-term workforce development programs that combine classroom and experiential learning.

Short-term bootcamps are succeeding in tech and data science. The apprenticeship model has shown great promise in countries like Germany. Ada Developers Academy is a perfect example of a short-term, free, program that combined a 6-month bootcamp with a 6-month apprenticeship that’s working.

I’m working on building similar programs here in the Triangle. Join me in the fight to bring access to good jobs to everyone in North Carolina. We’re starting with tech, but there are big opportunities to move into high-tech manufacturing and engineering. Reach out if you want to get involved.


china isn’t the problem. we are.


China. The manufacturing behemoth that we love to hate. Hardly a debate goes by without it being mentioned. It’s the antagonist that’s stealing American jobs; it’s the root of our economic woes. But can we really blame China? It’s a convenient scapegoat, but China isn’t the problem. We are.

There’s no doubt that China has its problems. From currency manipulation to data manipulation to human rights abuses, China will never be the leader of the free world. And they will suffer the consequences because of it. China is already starting to feel the effects of the ill-conceived one-child policy; the ramifications of which will continue to be felt for decades.

And it’s true, on a micro level, American communities have been on the losing end of trade with China. It’s estimated that one-fifth of the manufacturing jobs lost, 1.5 million, have been lost as a direct result. From 1990 to 2007, the manufacturing communities most vulnerable to Chinese competition were hit the hardest resulting in persistent unemployment, lower wages, and dependency on safety nets such as welfare, disability and food stamps. Low-skilled workers that can’t afford to move get stuck with limited to no alternatives.

At a White House dinner, President Obama asked Steve Jobs:

What would it take to make iPhones in the United States?

His response?

Those jobs aren’t coming back

But, there’s a reason for that and it extends beyond the cost of labor.Chinese factories operate at a speed and flexibility that is unmatched. For iPhone manufacturing, it was a no-brainer. Foxconn City employs 230,000 workers that work 6 days a week up to 12 hours per day and live on site. If they need to ramp up to scale or meet a deadline, they can easily hire 3,000 people overnight. Apple needed 8,700 industrial engineers. In the U.S. it would have taken 9 months to fill those positions. In China? 15 days.

On top of having a readily available and appropriately skilled workforce, China has masterfully built manufacturing clusters that greatly shorten the supply chain. They aren’t simply assembling products, they’re also providing the gaskets, screws, etc. necessary to do it. This cuts costs significantly to have complimentary parts built down the street.

Trade is complicated, especially with poor countries. The poor in China have little to lose, and there are billions of them. Many have no choice but to work long hours 6 days a week in the factory. We simply can’t compete with that.But should we want to? I like my weekends — and I’m sure you do too.

The question shouldn’t be:

How do we get the jobs back?

The question should be:

How do we create new and better jobs?

This is where we’ve failed.

Mid-wage jobs have been disappearing, and this has disproportionately affected Americans without a college degree. Service jobs, traditionally low-wage and minimum wage jobs, are all that are left . Jobs that used to be reserved for teenagers transitioning into adulthood are now permanent jobs — but they hardly provide livable wage. As a result, too many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, unable to save for the future. The American dream is fading for many.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

As China develops economically and wages increase, companies have been moving some manufacturing back. That doesn’t mean all of the jobs have come back. Robots have been replacing workers as well. But there are some jobs Apple would be willing to bring back: skilled manufacturing engineers.Engineers that require more than a high school diploma, but less than a bachelor’s degree. We haven’t trained them.

What else do we need? Developers. Programmers. Software estimates that by 2020 we’ll have 1,000,000 more jobs than students. We’re not training enough of them.

Modernization has always caused some kinds of jobs to change or disappear.

Instead of preparing our workforce for that change, we’ve ignored it. We’ve blamed others for our nearsightedness. We complain about China. We complain about the number of immigrants. Yet, we are not actively working to solve these problems. We have become the problem.

We need to be asking,

What are the jobs of today?

And more importantly,

What are the jobs of tomorrow?

We can’t rely on low-skilled work, we need to move people into mid-wage and high-wage work in a debt-free and cost-effective way. There are skills that can be learned in a short period of time that don’t require 4 years or more of higher education. Skills that American companies desperately need now, and will need in the future.

Take coding bootcamps as an example. This successful model is now being applied to other areas of tech such as graphic design, user experience, data science, and project management.

It’s because of this success that we’re launching DevTech Academy: a workforce development program that’s a simple, debt-free, cost-effective alternative to college. Geared towards youth that can’t afford to go to college, it’s a 1 year program instead of a 4 year program that combines a 6-month bootcamp with a 6-month paid apprenticeship. The only cost comes from not working the first 6 months. We’re starting with web development but we will move into other areas as we scale. Could we saturate the market with entry-level programmers? Maybe. But these programmers will also create new companies. We can grow the workforce as the tech industry grows.

This is a model that is easily replicated, and not just in tech. We can move into engineering and biotech. Textile production and clothing manufacturing. What about 3D printing? What type of skills will VR/AR need?

The jobs are there. The jobs will be there. Good jobs that can provide good wages and bring back the middle-class. We need a workforce that is ready for them.

The fact that U.S. companies can’t find appropriately skilled workers, is our problem, not China’s.

The fact that the U.S. is losing its middle-class, is our problem, not China’s.

We need to start talking to companies about not only the type of workers they need now, but the type of workers they think they’ll need in the future. And, most importantly, we need to start listening. We need to start planning. We need to build an infrastructure and a pipeline to support a long-term vision.

We should be investing in this type of alternative skills-based education. If we don’t, we’ll end up paying for it anyways by supporting the under and unemployed through welfare, disability, and social programs. Our people should not have to rely on the safety net to survive. Americans deserve better opportunities than that.

We don’t have to work against globalization, we can work with it. Instead of continuing to complain and blame outside forces like China and immigration, let’s focus our attention on fixing these problems at home. The future of the American worker depends on it; the future of the American economy depends on it.

Note: This was originally published on LinkedIn/Medium on March 29, 2016.

the bitter reality of TOMS coffee


As you might have heard TOMS has expanded its one-for-one initiative once again, this time into coffee production.  Launching at SXSW, TOMS released an impressive line of coffee offering a variety of roasts from Rwanda, Guatemala, Peru, Honduras, and Malawi.  For every bag purchased they give water to those in need.  The news seems to have taken the world (or at least the web) by storm.  But when I heard the news, I couldn’t help but feel a rush of confusion.  Coffee just doesn’t make sense to me from both a business standpoint and an international development standpoint.

Personally, I think coffee is a strange brand extension for a company that primarily sells apparel.  But coffee is a $20 billion dollar industry and the market share of specialty coffee is sizable and growing.  While it might be outside of their primary business category, maybe there is an opportunity for TOMS to succeed in the coffee industry despite it being a crowded market.

The bigger issue I find with this initiative is a development issue. 

TOMS is no stranger to international development criticism.  The one-for-one shoe model has long been contested in the international development community because it gives shoes away for free, which can harm local markets.  TOMS has improved upon this model and is committed to creating infrastructure and moving shoe production to the communities they serve in order to create jobs.  After the initial success with shoes, TOMS added a new line of products: eyewear.  This model is even better as every pair of sunglasses helps provide eye care to a person in need.  It’s hard to argue with giving medical aid, especially when it supports local organizations.  TOMS also recently launched a marketplace for other brands that give back.  Though it’s hardly a new idea, TOMS is able to leverage its brand to give other socially conscious brands greater visibility and access to consumers.

I commend TOMS for the steps it has taken in recent history to improve its social impact model.  But the coffee addition in my eyes is a step back and here’s why:


TOMS coffee is direct trade.  That’s a plus as it cuts out the middleman and the farmers get a better price.  TOMS supports women and small farmers.  That’s also a plus.  But the real problem is that TOMS is supporting water initiatives while simultaneously selling a product that requires a large amount of water.

Coffee has a high water footprint, even for an agricultural product.

Most of the water is used in production to grow the plant.  Wet production adds to the problem.  While it might only use 0.34% of the water used, the water involved is often scarce and waste from the water can be heavily pollutedTOMS uses wet production. 

TOMS gives water back, you might say.  Yes, it does.  For every bag purchased, TOMS pledges 140 liters of water to a person in need.  But here’s the real kicker: it takes 140 liters of water to make just one standard 125 ml cup of coffee.  That’s 1,100 drops of water to produce one drop of coffee.  You can make about 34 cups of coffee from a 12 oz bag (the size that TOMS sells).

That means that TOMS is giving 140 liters of water for a bag of coffee that needs 4,760 liters of water to produce. 

TOMS gives water to those in need in the areas where their coffee is produced.  But the 140 liters of water that it is giving hardly makes a dent in the amount of water used in productionA slightly lesser impact does not equal a positive impact.  It’s hard to imagine a scenario where this model would have a net positive impact on water insecurity.  A net positive impact on people’s livelihoods?  Sure.  But a net positive impact on water insecurity?  I don’t think so.

The most important thing for a social enterprise is to make sure the social mission is strongly aligned with the business mission.  In this case, the two counteract each other.  And that, in my eyes, is a step back for TOMS.

fear and loathing in florida.

July 13, 2013.  It was my birthday and my husband and I were sitting in line waiting for the Hollywood Forever Cemetery gates to open.  We were meeting friends for an outdoor screening of Scream.  We checked our phones and saw the George Zimmerman verdict had come in, not guilty.  Around the same time, everyone else must have done the same thing, because a hushed murmur traveled through the crowd.  There was a palpable uneasiness in the air.  A young unarmed boy was shot dead by an armed member of a neighborhood watch.  Nothing about that seemed right.  But the George Zimmerman verdict isn’t what was wrong.



The following passage is part of the instructions that were given to the jury prior to deliberation.  The bold text was added for emphasis:


An issue in this case is whether George Zimmerman acted in self-defense. It is a defense to the crime of Second Degree Murder, and the lesser included offense of Manslaughter, if the death of Trayvon Martin resulted from the justifiable use of deadly force.

“Deadly force” means force likely to cause death or great bodily harm.

A person is justified in using deadly force if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself.  In deciding whether George Zimmerman was justified in the use of deadly force, you must judge him by the circumstances by which he was surrounded at the time the force was used.  The danger facing George Zimmerman need not have been actual; however, to justify the use of deadly force, the appearance of danger must have been so real that a reasonably cautious and prudent person under the same circumstances would have believed that the danger could be avoided only through the use of that force. Based upon appearances, George Zimmerman must have actually believed that the danger was real.

If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in anyplace where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

In considering the issue of self-defense, you may take into account the relative physical abilities and capacities of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.  If in your consideration of the issue of self-defense you have a reasonable doubt on the question of whether George Zimmerman was justified in the use of deadly force, you should find George Zimmerman not guilty.

After reading the passage, it’s not surprising that George Zimmerman was found not guilty.  Though, admittedly, I did not watch the entire trial, it seems to me that the verdict was most likely a just verdict under Florida law.  But even if justice was served for George Zimmerman, that doesn’t mean that justice was served for Trayvon Martin.  There is still something very unjust about the manner in which he died.  And I think that fear is the main reason for this.

For me, this was the most important part of the jury instructions:

The danger facing George Zimmerman need not have been actual; however, to justify the use of deadly force, the appearance of danger must have been so real that a reasonably cautious and prudent person under the same circumstances would have believed that the danger could be avoided only through the use of that force.

And this is the part where race comes into play.  It’s not hard to believe that George Zimmerman feared for his life during a confrontation with a young black man in a sweatshirt.  Because in our society, we are conditioned to believe that black men, in particular, are dangerous and commit more crimes than other groups of people.  And so, we fear them.  It’s the reason why it’s not unheard of for police to shoot an unarmed black man after mistakenly assuming they have a gun.  Even though there is extensive training in order to avoid these types of events, in stressful situations this mistake happens more than it should.  But it is virtually unheard of for police to shoot an unarmed white man.  We believe that black people are more dangerous.  If police can make this mistake time and time again even after extensive training, it was only a matter of time before an armed member of a neighborhood watch did the same.  Which raises another issue of whether or not we should arm every day people under these circumstances.  But that’s another conversation for another day.  The bottom line is that race is still an issue in this country.  And justice will be served for Trayvon Martin only when we stop fearing black men more than other members of our society.  

child labor.

Child labor.  It’s a hot button issue.  But it’s an issue that isn’t always fully understood.  Though, thankfully, there are programs out there that do understand the complexity of child labor.

In developed nations, we grow up with the notion that every child has a basic right to education.  Every child also has the basic right to have a childhood.  This period of innocence and learning has been culturally constructed.  And it’s an important period in our lives.  So, we mourn the fact that every child doesn’t get to experience this same period of time.

But every family also has the right to live.  To live, you need money.  To get money, you need to work.  Every person has the right to work in order to make a living and survive.  It’s a very basic right that needs to be fulfilled.

Sometimes, these two rights are at odds.  In order for a family to have enough money to survive, the children have to help out.  This often means sacrificing school in order to work around the house or in the fields.  In developing countries, the right to work trumps the right to education.  Whereas, in the U.S. the general consensus is that the right to education should trump the right to work.  People and families go into large amounts of debt in the U.S. in pursuit of an education.

But not everyone understands the importance of respecting that trade off.  That is evident of this recent article in Co.Exist.

The article talks about a new App in Columbia that allows people to send an SMS text and anonymously tip authorities when they see children that are working instead of being in school.

The Kid Rescue app from Telefónica Telecom in Colombia is now encouraging people to tackle crime by taking geotagged photographs when they spot young people illegally working. (source)

It says that the application is sent to a social worker who decides what to do about the case. Over 1,000 children have been identified and 60 have been placed in schools.  There is very little information about how that happens.  So, for all I know, there might be an economics piece involved.  But based on the information that Telefonica gives (which is very little) we’ll assume they don’t.

Based on that, I am confused as to how this helps the issue of child labor.  So, the children are identified.  Then what?  Children don’t work for fun.  There’s a reason why they are working.  Can an app really change the reason why the children were working in the first place?  Probably not.  My guess is the children will go back to working.  If they are forced to stay in school, the family will suffer.

It’s clear that programs that simply force children to be in school don’t work.  They don’t really address the issue.  Because at the end of the day it’s an economics issue.  So, what does?  Programs that provide financial incentives to send their children to school.

The Bolsa Familia in Brazil is an example of a successful program.  The program gives low-income families a family allowance.  Families get paid to have their kids in school.  It compensates them for the money they lose by not having their children work.  If the children miss more than 15% of their classes, the allowance is suspended.  Once they return to school, it gets reinstated.  The Economist provides a more balanced look at the program in this article.

Peru is currently launching a similar program.

Peru’s labor ministry announced a $13 million project to improve access to education in rural areas of the country. The $13 million grant given by the United States will also help parents by augmenting their incomes and crop yields so that they become less dependent on their children for labor. (source)

But it’s not necessarily going to be easy.  The right to work vs. the right to education is still an issue.  Every culture does not value the right to education over the right to work.

Some children and young adults oppose this Project, arguing that it will take away their right to work. Peruvian children have worked in the fields since Inca times, and Manthoc, a Peruvian organization representing child workers, believe this tradition should continue as part of the normal development of the Peruvians.

The Peruvian government hopes to persuade rural families not to send their kids to work. Government officials know that it will not be easy unless they can improve income and employment opportunities for the millions of Peruvian who live in poverty.

You can’t just address education.  In order to curb drop out rates, a holistic approach is needed.  You cannot separate economics from child labor and education.  And you can’t forget the cultural implications.  But programs such as the Bolsa Familia and the new program in Peru are a step in the right direction.

beautiful game: the epic romance of brazilian soccer

One of the projects I am currently working on is with Counterweight Productions.  I help develop social impact strategies for film and television.  We recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for one of our projects.

Beautiful Game: The Epic Romance of Brazilian Soccer

Beautiful Game: The Epic Romance of Brazilian Soccer is a 4 part documentary series on the passion of Brazilian soccer that will air internationally leading up to the World Cup in 2014.

A series no soccer fan will want to miss, BEAUTIFUL GAME will explore all of the factors––the futebol stars, the passionate fans, the unique Brazilian style of play––which combine to make Brazil the most dramatic force in international soccer, winner of more FIFA World Cups than any other nation and the only team to have played in every World Cup.

We also plan on adding a social mission to the film.  Sport for development programs are increasing in popularity.  Soccer is being used to help kids and adults learn leadership skills, social skills, and even HIV/AIDS prevention.  Check out UNICEF’s Sport for Development page for more information.

It’s going to be an incredible documentary series.  A bonus?  It will help raise awareness about a great cause.  But in order for that to happen we need to get it funded.

In return for funding the project, there are a series of perks we’re offering.  Here’s a few that stand out:

$5 – Beautiful Game rubber wristband

$25 – Digital download of all 4 episodes of Beautiful Game

$50 – Swag from one of the 40 Series D Brazilian soccer teams we visit + digital download of all 4 episodes

$100 – Tour for 2 of the NYC post production facility + digital download of all 4 episodes

$500 – 2 tickets to Beautiful Game Premiere + after party

$1,000 – Featured in a montage that will air with the episodes internationally sharing how soccer has impacted your life.  We’ll also be creating a website where people will be able to see your full interview.

Please check out our Kickstarter campaign page.  Donate if you can.  If not, please help spread the word.  And follow us on Twitter @FutebolDoc.  Thank you!

the decision to eat meat.

Before this weekend, I had not eaten meat since January 2005 when I became a vegan.  I was a vegan for two years after which I converted to vegetarianism due to an unrelated health issue.  I remained a vegetarian for the next five years.  That’s 7.5 years of not eating meat.

My reasons for not eating meat were numerous.  My main motivation was political.  The fact that the dietary guidelines are controlled by the USDA is frustrating.  Especially since the USDA is a revolving door for senior executives in the meat and dairy industry.  If you don’t know much about this issue, I highly recommend you read Food Politics by Marion Nestle.  At the very least, check out her blog.  Other reasons were human and animal rights based.  Then, of course, there were health reasons as well.  Factory farming doesn’t exactly have a stellar track record in the health department.  Which is why I chose to live life as an herbivore.

Now, I’m an omnivore again.  

Why you ask?

Well, those reasons are numerous as well and similar in nature.  

One, is health based.  My diet consists mainly of fruit, vegetables, avocados, soynut butter, greek yogurt, and occasionally eggs.  I don’t eat that many grains.  I’m not big on overly processed food.  Most of my diet is inherently low calorie.  I have recently started a new rigorous exercise regimen that includes Brick SpeedX, a  60 minute high intensity interval training class.  I haven’t been able to keep my caloric intake high enough to compensate.  I’m not a big fan of blacking out.  I started thinking about eating meat because meat is denser and will make it easier to fuel my workouts appropriately.

The other reasons were developed after reading the essays on the Ethics of Eating Meat in the New York Times.  Most of the essays were written by former vegetarians who entered the agricultural industry as a vegetarian because of their interest in ethics and sustainability.  When they started working in the field they realized how important livestock is to the life cycle of crops.  It’s not only natural, it’s a necessity.  The writers also noted that in today’s society our food system is inherently unethical.  It doesn’t matter whether you are an herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore, you are most likely eating unethically.  Eating ethically is a choice.  One you have to make with every single bite you take.

The industry needs to change.  Our world literally depends on it from both a sustainability and a health standpoint.  And I want to make sure I am one of the (hopefully) many people forcing that change.

As my husband and I sat in the grocery store parking lot, we discussed the best way to do that.  When you become a vegetarian, you leave the market.  You are no longer a target consumer.  Unfortunately, the number of vegetarians is minimal compared to the number of meat eaters.  Becoming a vegetarian doesn’t influence the meat and dairy industries one bit.  They cut their losses and continue selling to the people that will eat meat.  The people who do consume meat influence the market.  When you choose to buy ethical and sustainable meat, you are taking money away from the factory farms and putting it in the hands of sustainable farmers.  Buying organic, pastured, free range meat and dairy sends a signal that this is the direction the industries need to head in.  And in the process you support the small farmers who are doing it the way it should be done.

So, I started eating meat.  But only meat that is ethically and sustainably sourced.  I will likely still eat a mostly vegetarian diet.  Especially if I am outside of my own home.  I do not plan on eating meat that I am not 100% sure was ethically sourced.  But I will no longer assume I am eating ethically and sustainably simply because of my diet.