Jack’s Vegan Future: A Conversation

Jack McMillan imagines a vegan future “far beyond what we can currently imagine.” Here is Jack’s description, and some back-and-forth we had. It’s lightly edited for readability.
Jack wrote:
     I believe a vegan world, an authentically vegan world, does have a vision that would become a reality, but that vision is currently locked up within our species-wide archetypal memory of “Eden”.
     Every culture has a deep yet deeply hidden mythology of our origins in a Garden of Eden. Deep down we know that we once resided in such a realm. A realm of peace and harmony. One where all the ugliness of this current realm simply did not exist. In my opinion, a truly vegan world would recreate that paradisical reality.

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     When one really thinks about it, how could it not? If we lived with a compassion and a passion for not oppressing or harming any fellow being, just imagine how different our world would be. Everything would change.
     We “believe” it is not possible to have our dreams of peace and harmony become a real reality. Thus we give up, as a collective society, before we even try. If everyone would embark on the vegan path, soon we would begin to rediscover, as individuals and as a society, the vision and the possibility of a (return to) an Eden on Earth. Much like we remember via mnemosyne deep within our consciousnesses.
     Our mythologies began as realities, which we left behind, and, in our shame over creating a world of such abandonment of love and beauty, we have excused ourselves with the myth that they are mere “myths”.
     The themes of “I can’t” or “we can’t” or “it’s not possible” keep us on this downward spiral. And..”that’s just ‘childish’ fantasy”, or “that’s just not reality”. Or any number of other “reasons” why we can never have the world we envision. But a world that takes the chance to step into that possibility, a world that decides to take that first step by going on the vegan path, would quickly see that all things are possible, that all our yearnings for peace on Earth, for all, is not just a pipe dream but easily and naturally attainable.
     We can only begin to imagine how it would eventually transform everything in our societies, and in our species.
     We have the inkling, the desire, the wish, and even the (faint archetypal) memory of such a world. Why not go with that?
    We may not be able to imagine how such a Eden-istic world is possible, but just because we can’t imagine it now doesn’t mean that once on that path the imaginings and the possibilities would be revealed to us. If we could only convince the world to take that leap of faith. And, really, it’s our only chance, our only hope to flip this current terribleness upside-down.
     I asked whether Chapter 7 in On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation poses a challenge to Jack’s Edenic ideal. In Chapter 7, Connecting Dominion’s Dots, I posited that the Eden story is widely understood as the ideal, whereas I think it’s better understood as a social commentary on human dominion.
     Jack responded:
     I’m talking about the archetypal memory in us all, as biological and Earth-based beings, that remembers a true Eden, one with no dominion mentality. Your insightful chapter discusses the perversion of our memory, to serve a post-Eden rationalization of our will to dominate.
     And you are perfectly right, how, when seen for what it is (which you reveal), it is a social commentary on our flight from Eden rather than a genuine attempt to return to the eternal truth of it. In no way was I talking of the mythologies that contain only half truths leading to whole lies regarding our relationship with the Earth and Earth’s beings.
     The Eden story I was talking about is that which resides in us all, that what we all know deep down as to what it was and can be…instead of, as you say, the stories that “defy messages from the natural world that all is interwoven, overlapping, interdependent…”
     Any deep challenge to dominion, I said to Jack, would mean remembering our primate identities. And we then have to understand that we are not superior to the big cats. We’d instead live with the risk their existence presents. This is not everyone’s thought when Eden is invoked! I suppose some would call us traitors to humanity for even suggesting it!
     And Jack replied:
     Lee, that is spot on.
     But remembering our primate identities would in fact liberate us from fear. We have exaggerated the risks of the metaphorical big lion. Way back when, we wanted to escape those minimal fears of nature. We decided to subdue nature to eliminate all risk. But in so doing, by creating an artificial world insulated from nature, we have created risks 1,000 times more risky and dire. Instead of the occasional risk or tragedy befalling one or a few, as is natural, we have created endless tragedies and risks at every turn, befalling all.
     We were far safer then.
     Then, factor in the risks and tragedies to the more-than human world that flow in the wake of our decision to be at war with nature and life instead of remaining at equality and peace with it, well…all I can say is, how dare we do that, not only to ourselves but to the rest of the natural world.
     There are no words in our limited, linear languages to adequately convey the tragedy of it all. And since we do not seem to know how to do that, we will have to leave it up to Gaia to express it for us, as it is doing, with a proper vengeance.
     Well, said I, the struggle was real for primates. It was not all sweetness and peace, of course.
     Aurochs, the ancestors of cattle, would run over a village, too.
     So it wasn’t just the carnivores that kept us running. Most people think of their locked doors and fenced yards and genetically subdued animals and processed foods and pharmaceuticals as the bases of modern safety. But we don’t die well if you ask me.
     Is it weird to say I should prefer to die by tooth and claw than on a rented gurney with tubes in my arms and a legal mess on someone’s desk? We are not allowed by civilized society to ask the question. But we might as well ask. We haven’t figured out how to die in harmony with nature or live within the constraints of a planet’s realities.
Jack answered:
     Not weird at all to rather die by tooth and claw than by modern infirmities. Yet I’m not so sure the dangers then were all that severe. That Red in Tooth and Claw story of nature being just another exaggeration to justify the path we have chosen. As we know, predation only takes a very small percentage of a prey species. And as for all the other dangers, like disease, etc., clearly we have way more of that now than then. And when factoring in quality of life then vs now… well…. game.. set.. match.

So, yeah, we don’t die well or live well or in harmony with nature.
    Once prey animals get to a certain age, I said to Jack, if the natural balance exists, they will quite likely get eaten.
     I’m not assuming this is pleasant. Yet I do think the final release came more quickly in the the course of nature’s trophic conversion than it does for most of us primates today, when medical ethics oblige our caregivers to keep us contained in the mortal coil for as long as they can possibly stretch the situation out, beyond what we could reasonably be called natural.
     I know this is fraught territory, and I’m not making a moral statement. I’m simply noting that we overshoot the line at which quality of life is exhausted in many, many lives thanks to the wonders of modern medicine!
     And Jack responded:
     Yes and yes. What is better, a life of disconnect, then protracted beyond sensation, or one fully lived then a quick release, by natural expiration or fast flash of nature’s attack? The latter is a life more fully lived. And a life not at war with the rest of life.

Come Up to Berkeley Heights on the Equinox!

On Saturday, Sept. 21, at 11 a.m. – noon, I’ll be at the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey Vegan Fest. Can you join me for the Climate-Focused Educational Panel in Lower Columbia Park, 411 Plainfield Avenue, behind Columbia Middle School (near intersection of Hamilton Avenue)?
And there’s lots more going on at this Berkeley Heights, NJ festival, which goes on for two and a half days. Check out the timetable.
Kim Diamond, who has been working for months on the event, says,
Everyone can make a positive, impactful difference on both the planet and their health by just being mindful…The Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission and Sustainable Berkeley Heights want to demonstrate how simple this can be.

Diamond, who chairs the Berkeley Heights Vegan Fest 2019 and serves as president of Sustainable Berkeley Heights, adds:
The goal of Berkeley Heights Vegan Fest 2019 is to educate the public through interactive events, so that people can learn more about how to incorporate small changes into their daily routine that benefit the environment as well as themselves.
Frankly, it is my hope that a good number of attendees make some  big changes in their lives. Yet arguably this starts with a blend of little adjustments.
Not making changes, given the consequences to our only home planet, will make our lives far harder.
Here’s a preview for each of the three days of events:
  • Friday, Sept. 20 – Yoga from 6- 8 p.m. at The Grove Park, 200 Connell Drive.
  • Saturday, Sept. 21 – Educational panels and children’s activities, starting at 10 a.m.
  • Sunday, Sept. 22 – Vegan Cook-Off (starters, main dishes, desserts), 1 – 3 p.m.
The town government hosts a Vegan Fest event website. Visit it for more details.

Photo: Mike Kenneally via Unsplash: “Fresh Salad”

Guest Post: Veganism in Futurtopia

Dear friends, if you’re familiar with On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberationyou might recall this challenge (at pages 43-44):

The greatest challenge we face is imagining humanity without the master role. Is it our fear of free animals’ power (over our children, our dogs, our cows, the back yard at night, the woods our government claims for the people, our own bodies) that keeps us from imagining another identity for ourselves?

 

What would we be without our self-appointed mastership over the rest of living communities on Earth? How would you, as a vegan, imagine a future identity for ourselves?

Here is Ria Del Montana’s conversation starter. Thank you, Ria, for sharing this piece with VeganPlace.


Veganism in Futurtopia

Being that animal liberation and a shift to veganism are central to animals being free, what will the free world of the future look like? To release others from human reign, domesticated pigs and dogs, cows and cats will be cared for until they go feral. But with humans’ infrastructures of civilization strung across the planet, where will their freedom take place? And with wildlife and nature as a whole in peril, where is their freedom? A return of land for rewilding requires a substantial decrease in the human population. Increasingly young people are voluntarily having fewer or no children based on many factors, including Earth ethics. As humans reconnect with wild living, Earthcare will grow stronger.

Capitalism and industrialism, built on models of infinite growth from exploited natural ‘resources’, prompting people to view animals as ‘products’, wildlife habitat as mining fields,  and pets as a profit market,  are the antithesis of a free world.  Beginning with herding, civilization’s founding premise is the domestication of animals. Thing is, domesticating animals served as a devise setting the stage for domesticating wild plants into food monocrops, which brought on human overpopulation. Agriculture and its human overpopulation set wildlife habitats into death spirals. Humans inadvertently became Earth’s parasite.

The more humans disconnect from wild life in wilderness, the more they long for a return to it. But there’s no going back, only forward. What social character will the human take in the future vegan world? They will rekindle their lifeway of togetherness.  Comparative anthropologist Layla AbdelRahim lays out human origins as humans living embedded in wildlife as bands of foraging frugivores, symbiotically benefitting their habitat community in their ecosystem role as seed spreaders. Human origins point a path to how humans can still live free with others – with an ethos of mutualism replacing the failing ethos of domestication.

For modern humans to expand their circle of compassion to all is challenging in the context of the world they’ve degraded. During the transition ethical choices are confounding, such as those pitting wild animals against animals humans bred into existence. Top predators keep populations in balance and need to be reintroduced, which may shift humans too toward their original position as prey. But how many humans suffer and die, directly and indirectly, from civilization? Humans can act to protect themselves, but to release their predatory Earth-destructive ways, the human ape needs to come to grips with itself as an occasional prey species, as much so as any ape.

As quickly as civilization’s systems are expanding, their tangible and intangible foundations are weakening and bound for collapse. Even after the advent of civilization, some humans everywhere opted to live life freely as possible, instinctively sensing how to live on their own terms, based on an intuitive sense of fairness with others. Some humans have always tended to, defended and restored the wild. Rewilding of the human and the planet began long ago. The question is, will vegans realize it is their calling too?

As to the basic question, reflective of The Great Forgetting of lifeways and dietways before agriculture, what will a wild vegan eat? From the mindset of mutualism and freedom for all, as the land rewilds humans will have The Great Remembering of the bounty of foraging opportunities.  They will be not only more nutritious, but delicious.

Ria

 


Banner image:  Annie Spratt, New Forest National Park

Statement of Support for the Vegan Justice League

“We may not pay to kill animals, but our taxes still do. It’s time to end animal agribusiness subsidies. We need to lobby.”

— Vegan Justice League

The Vegan Justice League intends to effect change in the U.S. Farm Bill, which encourages farmers to produce meat and dairy. Taxpayer-funded subsidies, the League observes, let animal agribusinesses produce a surplus well above market demand.

Of course, a vegan would say all animal products are “surplus”; and, as a vegan, that’s what I say. That’s what the League thinks, too.

Why focus a campaign simply on the subsidies in animal agribusiness? Because the subsidies essentially force us to undo our work. Vegans are funding the damned farms. Or the farms that would be damned if only vegans had a level playing field. 

Plant- and nut-derived dairy replacements and flesh-food analogues, together with the vegan culinary scene, are the financial success story of the decade. U.S. residents want artisan cashew-based cheese. We’re replacing barbequed flesh with vegetable kebabs. Thanks to the vegan movement, the population now knows:

Dairy’s not necessary.

Meat’s no treat.

Still, animals are bred, managed, and killed in droves every second. The industry evades normal supply-and-demand dynamics by way of bailouts and subsidies under the guise of insurance extended to animal husbandry corporations.

The Vegan Justice League intends to deploy billboards and professional lobbyists, and to call politicians out for accepting funds from animal agribusiness—focusing on ag-heavy North Carolina, Texas, and Washington state.

Authentic Sustainability

Behind the much-vaunted term “sustainability” is a growing awareness that we’re depleting the Earth’s water and forestland. This is not just about us and what we’ll have left to use. Other animals in natural bio-communities must have viable habitats to survive and thrive. That vital space is lost to deforestation for feed and grazing, and it’s eroded exponentially on a heated Earth.

Animal agribusiness can make no authentic sustainability claims. It’s nothing more and nothing less than a worldwide traffic in introduced species—yet it gets a pass because we presumably need to consume animals. That presumption no longer stands. 

As for the argument that farmers need to make a living, that is an argument for redirecting their business to growing food—not feed. Staying stuck in an unsustainable model is not the way businesses and their people will thrive.

Shifting from animal flesh to a plant-powered humanity stops massive ecological harm, and offers a way to stop deforesting, and to make space for re-wilding proposals.

A recent study carried out at Oxford University reports on one of the most thorough examinations ever undertaken on the impact of agribusiness on the environment. It involved nearly 40,000 farms, and 119 countries. And it showed that by becoming vegan, we could shrink our individual carbon footprints by as much as 73%, and reduce land use by 75%, saving an area equivalent to the size of the U.S., the E.U. and China combined.

Understood in this context, veganism is not extreme. It is a rational commitment to stop greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss now.

Moreover, while leaders of struggling people hope for food aid for millions, animal agribusiness is a massive funnel of feed crops to billions of cows, chickens, and aquatic animals who are bred to be eaten. Consumption of flesh, fish, dairy and eggs takes a massive toll on the environment, the climate, and a finite Earth on which everyone in the world depends.

It is also a frivolous use of our talents to exert systematic dominance over other conscious beings.

Veganism appropriately responds to urgent human safety, social justice, and environmental ethics questions. Veganism understands that our most powerful stance is:

  • The permanent boycott of flesh and dairy products.
  • Conscientious objection to industries that displace, capture, breed, buy, sell, control and exploit beings who, as we do, have an experience of life.

We hold the ethical, environmental, and health-conscious high ground. Yet we are undermined every day by the misdirection of our own dollars.

We do have the power to change our relationship with the rest of our bio-community. Active objection to the investment of our tax money in animal agribusiness is one element of our power.


Banner credit: Architect of the Capitol. Images within text: Allie Smith and Alexander Mils, via Unsplash.

Berkeley Heights Vegan Fest

Outreach on the vegan response to all beings’ health and climate happens SATURDAY 21 SEPTEMBER – because the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey Environmental Commission is connecting the dots.

The group hosts this year’s Vegan Fest at Lower Columbia Park. The event starts at 10am. Bold Arts will offer creative dancing for kids, while educational sessions focus on health and the environment. I’ll be a climate panelist (11am-12pm).

Sustainable Berkeley Heights is also a host and organizer of the Vegan Fest, which happens in Lower Columbia Park, 411 Plainfield Avenue, New Jersey, behind Columbia Middle School.

Come back on Sunday 22 September for the vegan cook-off.

Apocalypse Fatigue: How Do You Cope?

We’ve been hearing a lot about what will happen in 2050 if humans don’t change our ways.

Make that 2021.

As far as our abilities and circumstances permit, we must change the way we think and live.

The change must be radical — root-level.

The change must encompass deep empathy and awareness.

This is our challenge if we live on Earth now.

‘Unprecedented’: more than 100 Arctic wildfires burn in worst ever season

After posting an update similar to this on Facebook, I took a look at my vegan friends’ replies: It’s already too late.

It’s True, of Course. We Can’t Go Back.

For so many aspects of the Anthropocene, it is — quite suddenly — way too late to turn back the clock.

Still, I want to live by that adage about planting the tree even if we know the world will end tomorrow.

In fact, better than planting the tree is leaving the trees where they are in the first place. As vegans, that’s essentially what we do.

Even if the world as we know it will end tomorrow.

Ethics Count Anyway.

There are reasons, I suspect, that we have an ethical faculty, and we strive to heed its guidance.

We are, at the end of the day, embodied energy in the universe. We’d do well to represent what we most respect — flawed and confounded though we might be.

Never before has a generation faced what we’re facing now. Sure, the Anthropocene was put in motion long ago. But here we are, the late-20th and early 21st century people, witnessing the results.

Let me ask. How are you coping, as an aware vegan on the edge of the human-driven bio/geological breakdown?

While there is still so much to love, protect, respect, admire, enjoy, adore. While it is never too late to love.

Of Course, Vegans Felt the Trauma All Along.

We knew we’d lost the aurochs forever, while purpose-bred cattle cover the world.

We saw pet shops and pet supply stores smother the land that was once the home of the wolves and wildcats — free-living forebears of pets.

We knew the cattle, the calves, the pigs, the birds, and sometimes horses too, were passing by, a stone’s throw away on the ever-widened roadways, en route to their death at the hands of tired and injured workers.

We knew about the animals caged in university labs. We knew the zoos had captured polar bears and orcas, the federal government was killing free-living carnivores by the hundreds of thousands, and dolphins were forced into everything from TV acting to “assisted therapy” to fancy dinner entertainment. We knew we’d exhausted the bees.

We Became Aware of Our Membership in the Master Class.

So, some time ago, our unconscious allegiance to our own kind turned into conscious critique.

And the pain of a conscious and critical mind, we knew, is nothing like the pain the animals feel. We came to know survivor’s guilt as an unspoken element of the vegan experience.

After the fabulous vegan food was cleared off the table, we went home and thought to ourselves: The most vital nourishment is understanding, support, and love from another who knows.

It still is.

A few years ago I wrote:

Consider that a transformation of our human identity will spare us, and every other biological community on Earth, from enduring an endless string of gradually or abruptly worsening emergencies whose roots we fail to address. Consider, if you will, relinquishing the human assumption that the Earth is ours.

That’s new territory. We’re going to need skills. We’re going to need each other.


Banner photo: Jacqueline Godany, via Unsplash. Chart: U.S. Department of Energy via NOAA. Not sure who deserves credit for the term “apocalypse fatigue”; but the term’s been around at least a decade.

Eating Flesh: How Do We Frame The Question?

A debate is running about what humans will eat when we stop eating meat.

Why? Our most sustainable protein on Earth is the bean. Beans, lentils, and peas grow in harsh climates with little water, in financially poor regions. They self-fertilize, capturing nitrogen from the air and fixing it in the soil, so they don’t need the synthetic fertilizers that are running off the land and killing the ocean.

Yet some vegans, of all people, are promoting “clean meat” that is actual flesh, made in the lab from real animal cells. No doubt most readers will have heard some self-identified vegans touting this new future of food.

Do they have a point? This is a matter of question framing. And I think we need to lay out what the questions are.

Read on…


Banner photo credit: Niklas Rhöse, via Unsplash.