A commitment to a great cause is a solid foundation to build our inner lives upon, and also one virtually guaranteed to bring turbulence into the course of our lives. This is an experimental diary. If things go well, it'll help myself and others on a parallel course. See you at veganplace.wordpress.com
In this vulgar Anthropocene story, in our self-styled supreme species, empathy has been shelled, shot, stomped, interrogated, lynched, detained, depleted, betrayed, clubbed, bulldozed, slaughtered, unheeded and unheard. The inflictors of such harm will crumble in their time. Their child, or their child’s child, will be stranded.
In this world riddled with the strange, empty casings of the supreme ones’ self-domesticated angst, a vague, lifelong murmur from deep in my mind calls out to the universal mother, calls out to the gentle grandfather who walked me to the post office with a typewritten letter to a friend. It calls for a time when my living soul was clutched tightly, by all the love in the world.
The full piece is published at ➡️CounterPunch. Writing it caused me to take refuge with the love and happiness I felt, aged 3, with my grandfather. It’s about the refuge Tyre Nichols and George Floyd ought to have had. It’s about love for every conscious soul ever to have lived on this Earth. Empathy connects us all and brings us home.
Text image: Tim Hall, holding me. Banner image by Kelly, via Pexels.
In 2022, I drove approximately 2,000 miles. This was by design. I have a self-imposed 2,000 mile cap on my annual driving.
The average U.S. adult drives 14,000 miles annually, says a quick internet search. If so, then I spared the atmosphere about 12,000 driving miles (and did not fly).
Eating an animal-free diet equates to a savings of 8,100 miles (not) driven annually.*
In comparison with the typical U.S. adult, I’m sparing the atmosphere about 20,000 driving miles a year.
This is a defiant stance. A serious load of CO2 not emitted, representing many times the petroleum sector could have taken my dollars, and did not. In suburbia, it involves some sacrifices; but it feels good, because I’m an ape and my ancestors moved on their feet.
Is this defiance (or conversing about it to others) a virtue signal? Some will take it that way, likely because they don’t wish to take it as a cue.
I so often hear that climate concerns are just signals and not meaningful action.
“The problem is too big!”
“People aren’t going to change.”
“One person can’t do anything about this!”
Those statements have a way of becoming excuses for complacency.
It’s my job to let people know: We can all “march” to divest from emissions. Many of us can walk to the grocery store, tend a garden, bike to a hike, Zoom into meetings, and take the train to conferences—and, indeed, to climate marches. If our infrastructure makes this dangerous or practically impossible, we can agitate for pedestrian-friendly routes and better public transit and remote meetings. And we can press for the in-person meetings to apply vegan-by-default policies.
I let people know: I’m striving to make my life a climate march. I invite them to join me. To live defiantly. To live in harmony with our real nature.
Love and liberation,
PS: And I can do better. This will be my last car—of any kind. Selling capitalism as “green” is a lot like marketing animal agribusiness as humane.
*Source of figures for diet and emission reduction: Jason Czarnezki, EVERYDAY ENVIRONMENTALISM, which puts the figure at an equivalent of 1,160 miles saved daily through a “protein shift” from animal products to plant-derived meals.
Many advocates point out the unfairness in loving some animals, while eating or wearing others.
Why do we eat pigs and love dogs?
In veganism, that question is a sort of red herring. The real question is why we’ve bred either from their once-free ancestors: boars and wolves. Imagine the evolution and history the animals could have had, if we had let them be.
The early vegans were appalled that humanity had cut off other animals’ evolutionary paths—and to a “stupendous” extent. They wrote this into their founding definition of vegan.
And now here we are, living in the time of the Sixth Great Extinction. Here we are, living in a time in which our bodies and the bodies of our vast entourage of purpose-bred animals (both “food” and “friends”) is crushing the natural evolution of communities on this Earth.
Domestication Is a Multi-Layered Injustice
Animals ought to be entitled to lead their lives on their terms. Our regard for them shouldn’t hinge on whether or not we think they could be loveable to us. Whether or not they tend to tolerate us. Whether or not holding and possessing them might please or benefit us.
So, then, why would we need to make them into “friends” in order to champion their interests?
The ancestors of the small being in the banner photo were wolves. We robbed that dog and billions of other dogs of their evolution. With friends like Homo sapiens…
A liberation movement does the simple thing. It points to the unfairness in insisting on having other animals—whether to eat them or wear them or cuddle them. It asks us to simply acknowledge imposed vulnerability to human control when we see it.
Then it acknowledges that no matter how dear our animals are to us…
Domestication layers injustice upon injustice. It’s unfair to those who are placed into systems of vulnerability and commodification. And it’s unfair to the ancestral groups we stamp out in the process of our ruthless expansion over the planet.
Every pet shop stands on territory that once was the habitat of the wolves and the free-living cats. Earth is finite, so domestication really is a zero-sum game, and it’s anything but friendly. This should not be so hard for us to admit. Going to the root of something is the simplest thing we can do. What’s complicated? The justifications for every unjust system we sustain.
Love and liberation,
With thanks to Chris Kelly for thoughts that expanded and enriched this blog entry.
Beachfront developers have usurped many miles of sandpiper habitat. And now these birds face another human-connected threat—which could drive them extinct if we do nothing about it.
At least one group of Hudsonian godwits—sandpipers who nest in Manitoba, Canada—face an immediate climate peril. Winter is changing to summer much more quickly than it used to. So the local insects die earlier. And this means the sandpipers can find no food to give to their newly hatched young.
It’s Winter Solstice week in North America. Overbooked U.S. and Canadian hospitals have turned children away. #BringBackMasks is a current hashtag. (In my circles, masks never left.)
An endless parade of vaccines seems inescapable, but the jabs can’t address the root causes of virus outbreaks. To the best of our knowledge, Covid 19 exists because of systematic animal trafficking and confinement. Are we really surprised that our domineering tendencies create fear and chaos? Humans are to Earth what Elon Musk is to Twitter.
As for the Climate…
The pattern is clear. Summer wildfires, strong storms, flooding, sea level rise, loss of our own habitat and the habitat of other beings. Major imbalances in biological communities. Extinctions. Social unrest. Mass migration.
As vegans, many of us act to avert these emergencies. Even committing to try is radical. At the end of the day, being vegan means to reject the belief that other life on Earth’s surface is here for Homo sapiens to move and manipulate. Our capitalist system is not set up to offer anything but demerits for our position.
Notice Who Profits
Even as humans keep selectively breeding other animals, we can sense that we are domesticating the life out of ourselves. Rather than evolving, we might well have triggered the law of diminishing returns. Look at those who succeed best in this system: how desperately immature they are, how destructive. Notice who profits with our money, our attention, and our data.
We in technologically connected worlds can reclaim our time and live defiantly. Gaze into the night sky on the eve of the Solstice. Reject the belief that other life on Earth’s surface is here so Homo sapiens may extract profits.
Tech’s Two Edges
“Kill Your Television” dates from 1979, when Ed Zucca and G. Leslie Sweetnam started printing the stickers. Zucca thought televisions were “transforming humanity into some kind of monster” and I’ve read that Zucca detests computers even more.
Critiques of popular technology, it seems, are an eternal component of the high-tech world. But our screen fixations are symptoms. Like chemicals in food, regimented childhoods, obsessive work hours, and climate chaos. What’s at the root? Ursula Le Guin regarded the very act of naming beings as a mind trap.
The same channels that keep us affixed to our devices also offer us the ability to announce and explore critical issues, and to organize. To preserve and promote empathetic values. You and I are engaged in idea-sharing now.
The other side of the techno coin? We are the primates who will wire our own brains to computers. In seven to ten years from now, Musk’s company Neuralink says, our brains will be synched with our devices—making it more convenient to summon our Teslas.
Roots of the Anthropocene
The flaw in our predominant values can be traced through every age of innovation—back through the age of oil, of steel, of bronze, of spears. The roots of the Anthropocene can be traced back to our earliest weapons, our thirst for dominion.
Vegans defy this quest. To emancipate other animals, the initial vegans set out to “renounce absolutely their traditional and conceited attitude that they had the right to use them to serve their needs.” They said, without embarrassment or hesitation or a lot of surplus words, that the absence of exploitation is the presence of love.
Some think we’ll colonize Mars to escape the present mess we’ve made of Earth’s surface. If something so elaborate is on the table, then rejecting human exceptionalism and supremacy seems, alternatively, possible too. Maybe it’s our only chance.
We’re Still Primates
We are not superior to the big cats. Instead of supressing them, could we live with the risk their existence presents? This is not everyone’s thought when Eden is invoked! Some would call us traitors to humanity for suggesting it.
The struggle was real for our ancestors, I get that. Other animals kept us on the run. Most people think of locked doors and fenced yards and genetically subdued animals and processed foods and pharmaceuticals as the bases of modern safety. Yet here we are, mere mortals, new and improved, embroiled in conflicts and self-inflicted dangers and surrounded by quality-of-life questions to answer.
Is it weird to say I should prefer to die by tooth and claw than on a gurney with tubes in my arms and a legal mess on someone’s desk? I suspect the final release came more quickly in 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 possibly can via modern technology, which is now advancing through gene editing.
Though the biblical Eden story is widely understood as the ideal, I consider it a warning to a humanity that exerts dominion, that climbs on top, that redirects the evolution of others, that refuses to heed nature’s messages that all is intertwined and interdependent. Social media and Web 3.0 can funnel our creative powers into an ever-deeper state of domestication (likely), or they can offer us new ways to challenge ourselves, and our thoughts, and the pathway of our species (but we’ll need to make this work our vocation, and do it without any pats on the head from our capitalist culture).
So, as the Solstice approaches, may we take the rugged road. Technology will not spare us—and it certainly won’t spare every other biological community on Earth—from a string of gradually or abruptly worsening emergencies. Connecting wealth with virtue, and promoting buzzword alibis for wealth accumulation (“effective altruism”) is trying to push a camel through the needle’s eye. Nothing less than love will do, and by love I mean a transformation of our human identity. Love takes courage, not wealth. It’s about renouncing our traditional and conceited attitude that we had the right to use other living, feeling beings to serve our needs.
Guided by love, vegan advocates become essential workers in the planetary context. And we unite.
Here we are again. Time for traditional family convocations, violently superimposed over older traditions, older communities. And here again, as in every year for years running, this day named for gratitude is enveloped in political distrust and ethical chaos.
I’ll visit someone who needs a visit, who used to live next door. Then I’ll be at SuTao vegan restaurant, insulated, liberated, nourished, and deeply grateful. If you are vegan or becoming vegan, I’m grateful for you, too, and your intrepid hope. Thanks for your faith in your personal potential. Thanks for refusing to disrespect life. Thanks for declining to slaughter, conquer, or wall life off.
We’ve regained a sense of stability at our vegan tables. And yet, for us too, there’s more to acknowledge. What is Thanksgiving’s message for the people dragged against their will to this continent? Or for those who lived here long before it became the “New World”?
With each passing year we learn more about this holiday’s chain of title. About the Black truth-tellers who renamed it a day of mourning. About the Indigenous people robbed of their own traditions and personhood.
At the 1637 Pequot Massacre,English colonizers orchestrated the killing of hundreds of Indigenous adults and kids, and the burning of their village. The colonizers began giving thanks annually for their own successful migration, which erased cultures and traditions that had evolved over ten thousand years. According to Philadelphia Magazine:
Thanksgiving was made an official federal holiday in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln, less than a year after he authorized what remains to this day the nation’s largest ever mass execution — the hanging of 38 Sioux men in Mankato, Minnesota in December 1862.
Since 1970, First Nations people have gathered for a day of mourning every Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock. All told, the United States has taken more than 1.5 billion acres of Indigenous land.
And the site of the Pequot Massacre, now Mystic, Connecticut, is today packed with tourist draws, including “encounters” with captive beluga whales, rays, Harbour seals, California sea lions, and African penguins.
Two Hundred and Forty Miles South of Mystic…
In the town of Wayne, Pennsylvania, within walking distance from where I live (if you want to risk being hit by a speeding car), is a Post Office mural. Brightened by spotlights, it shows the triumph of General Anthony Wayne over the dying body of an Indigenous human being.
An eagle glorifies the conquest. A bridled horse waits to carry the general to the next act in a grand drama of colonial looting. The artifacts would turn up, one day, in museum displays.
The town on the Philadelphia Main Line once called Louella became Wayne, in tribute to the local Revolutionary leader and Indian fighter. Here are those words on commemorative signage. This is how history gets twisted up and how our minds do.
We need to reclaim our minds and our time. In this spirit, let me share words that Lynn Kennedy posted on this blog and I’ve repeated in years past. Lynn works in the area of mental wellness and substance use with Indigenous people in what’s now called Canada.
The effects of colonization continue to impact current generations. Across North America, more and more people are being awakened to the injustices being done to Indigenous peoples and people of colour and are speaking out against the injustices being wrought on these peoples. I hope this extends to the continued barbaric injustices to farmed animals, and the impact on our natural world and our collective futures.
With that same hope, I’ll offer this recipe for Cashew Nut Roast. Robin Lane gave it to me 39 years ago. I was 22 and just turned vegan. I’ve made it yearly, ever since. For me, it turns an unthinking celebration of false memories into a healthful insistence on learning from the truth-tellers.
Healthful and Humane Roast
It starts with two cups of coarsely crushed cashews, like this. (Crushing the cashews can easily be done by hand, by carefully running a rolling pin or jar over bagged nuts.)
In addition to the cashews, we need:
4 ounces of dry brown rice
6 ounces of rye toast crumbs—including the caraway seeds (or add a dash of celery seed)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large, ripe tomatoes
4 tablespoons (organic) olive oil
Up to ¼ cup (organic) vegetable broth (depends on the consistency you prefer)
2 teaspoons brewer’s yeast
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried thyme
A squeeze of lemon and a pinch of ground pepper
OK! Now cook the rice until it’s tender and mix it with the ground cashews. Chop the onion and garlic and heat those up in your oiled pan to slightly brown them; chop and add one of the tomatoes; simmer it all until it’s soft and add a wee bit of broth.
Combine all of the above ingredients to press into two loaf pans or glass pie baking dishes. Slice the second tomato and use to decorate the top, sprinkle pepper over the tomatoes on top, then bake for 30 minutes or a bit longer at 350 degrees F / 175 C. Cut the cashew nut roast into slices to serve as a main dish, or make it a side dish as an alternative to bready stuffing.
Enjoy! May the turkeys stay free, living, evolving, in the web of life. Each day, for them and for us, is an important day. May we visit someone who needs a visit, walk gently through the woods, and celebrate life, which unfolds every day, despite our society’s perennial quest for stuff(ing). And may we contemplate how, in such a busy world, an honestly humane humanity can gather together, and what we will say to each other when we do.
Defining veganism in 1951, proponents explicitly connected their vegetarianism with a liberation call, based on a stated conviction that humanity has no right to exploit other living, feeling communities.
The results they sought? Honestly humane agriculture. And the rise of a movement to stop humanity from continuing to derail other animals’ evolution.
Donald Watson said the vegan movement would be essential to any future on Earth that includes humanity. We’re here and we’re human, so let’s do this thing.
Ghost Robotics trained the robot dogs near El Paso, where the conditions—oxygen depletion, dangerous heat—are known to overwhelm border guards. An announcement for the project from the Department of Homeland Security is peppered with inane dog jokes.
Consider the depths of this profanity. The borderlands once belonged to the indigenous people of Mexico, and to the coyotes and wolves, to the agave-feeding nectar bats. And to the pronghorn—antelope-like beings who cannot jump fences.
Is it any accident that the Real ID Act of 2005, by which the U.S. government imposes its authority over state identification cards, allows the waiving of federal, state, and local environmental laws on the borderlands?