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
Much has changed in 2020. But what’s driving the virus crisis has been going on for ages: the animal use that causes zoonotic diseases. We can confidently and accurately say that a vegan humanity would never have known much of the pain we witnessed this year. Our resolve and our work continues. Love, strength, and best wishes on World Vegan Day and always.
On this day, I’d like to return to a memory related to Vegan Society co-founder Donald Watson. How interesting to find that the most well-known founder of veganism knew, and said, that the movement would be essential to any future on Earth that includes humanity.
I think it’s also very interesting to learn, as I did from Patricia Fairey, that the name “vegan” was proposed for this movement not by Donald Watson, as we often hear, but by Dorothy Morgan Watson.
For some time after visiting Donald’s and Dorothy’s gravesites, I thought it would be a nice gesture if the vegan community could come together and order headstones, and I should work on that project. Yet I’m ever more keenly aware that I’m only here for a little while. And I can imagine Donald saying, “That’s a nice thought. But go out, speak, write for the vegan cause. The churchyard…
Humans like to achieve economic growth and the highest standard of living possible. And now we’ve pressed Earth’s biological systems beyond their safe limits. Aware of a dangerous conflict, the United Nations set forth 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
As a consultant (I contributed a chapter called “Nonhuman Rights and Human Sustainability”) for the Encyclopedia of UN Sustainability Goals, it occurred to me that all 17 Goals should be realigned to be compatible with, and informed by, the vegan ethic.
As you see here, the public conversation about Goal 14 – Life Below Water is mainly about how we should “support small fishers” and buy “sustainable seafood” to “conserve and sustainably use” the waters.
A vegan humanity would stop talking about so-called sustainable seafood and simply get out of the water. Maybe we’d still harvest algae, but we’d put a halt to most of the looting and pillaging of the rivers, lakes, and seas.
Where do we start on the political scale? BAN SUBSIDIES.
The global fish catch has rapidly expanded in recent decades, supported by technology, commercial demand, and government subsidies. The fleets of Spain, South Korea and Japan can take catches throughout the Atlantic and tropical waters because the industry is so heavily subsidized. The Chinese bottom-trawling fleets would lack any viable existence without massive subsidies.
Where do we start on a community advocacy level? Asking people to commit to STOP EATING SEA ANIMALS.
This straightforward message should replace so-called sustainable seafood campaigns that so many nonprofit and for-profit groups push. From sea turtles to penguins, many non-target animals would be spared if humans would just…
Stop thinking of sea animals as food.
We also need to address the farming of sea animals, which is becoming a massive industry.
U.S. residents eat 100 billion+ fish and shellfish yearly.
Opt out, and people can individually spare more than 225 fishes each year — so many, because fish farming uses large number of sea animals as feed.
Opt out, and we can individually spare more than 150 shrimp and other shellfish each year.
Fish farming is
the fastest growing
sector of agribusiness for the past 40 years.
Let’s turn this around.
As always, your input is welcome. This post is intended to offer blog readers a window into the ongoing Patreon studio project Veganizing the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
And now, cheered on by the American Petroleum Institute, the Trump administration just signed its permission to let oil and gas developers despoil the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—a biological wonderland, with its tundra bees and polar bears, black bears and grizzlies, Porcupine caribou and ancient musk oxen.
The Trump administration’s push to exploit the Arctic Refuge isn’t just obscene; it’s ludicrous. Who will be beating down the door to the Arctic?
BP ditched Alaska in 2019 and is now selling off fossil fuel assets. The company is $41 billion in debt and now must spend much of what it has on its belated conversion to renewables.
Which brings up the bizarre scenario of BP becoming a world leader in green energy.
Hi, Jesse! Thank you so much for offering your thoughts and inspiration today. To start, what does being vegan mean?
It’s really simple, and somewhat boring: to not exploit animals in any way, or at least to give it your best shot.
It’s not simply a diet, or a “food allergy” as it’s often categorized on menus and nutrition-info databases.
It’s also not easy: there are animal products in everything from tires to McDonald’s french fries. Seemingly unrelated things like commercial real-estate development can be construed as exploiting animals by depriving them of (or poisoning) part of their habitat. The needs of commerce and taxation–for a strip mall, or for strip mining, for instance –can trump their existence.
When did you become a vegan?
In 2010, when I began cooking more of my meals, I fell back on vegetarian recipes. I’d been vegetarian on and off since I was 16. But I also had a couple of vegan cookbooks, dating back to when I was experimenting with a gluten-free, casein-free diet, though still an omnivore at the time. Becoming vegan was simply a matter of combining vegetarianism with GFCF.(I would later drop the gluten-free part.)
A few months later I began to understand that it wasn’t simply about food or diet; until then I only had a vague sense that veganism was good in some larger context.
You know the DC/Baltimore area, which many people come to at some point. So, would you have any local vegan businesses to recommend?
Great Sage, in Clarksville, MD, between DC and Baltimore
There are also lots of good vegan-friendly fast-casual places – a particular favorite these days is Rice Bar – plus a couple of very vegan-friendly, regional natural-foods supermarket chains: Mom’s Organic Market and Roots Market (the owners of the latter also own Great Sage).
Beyond food, how have you changed by adopting a vegan perspective?
I have a better sense of the autonomy and sentience of animals. My previous experience of living with a dog with a very strong, colorful personality helped cement that.I’ve progressed beyond “animals should not be food or commodities” to “animals have lives, and that should be respected.”
Jesse, could you describe how veganism and culture intertwine, from your perspective? How does veganism fit in with human social and economic striving?
Your veganism doesn’t exist in a vacuum; there’s a whole world out there, where you should be applying that same compassion you have for animals, who exist solely to become part of someone’s meal or clothing or entertainment, to human animals, near or far, like factory or garment workers halfway around the world (or just a stone’s-throw away), working under difficult conditions for wages you likely wouldn’t wish upon yourself. Your choices, as a consumer or voter, may help reinforce or (better) tear down the bad aspects of the status quo.
There’s no need to overlay some elaborate belief system. Just apply the Golden Rule to all creatures on the planet, and to the planet itself.As one of my heroes, Wavy Gravy, puts it: We are all the same person trying to shake hands with our self.
Amazon took over CreateSpace, a platform for indy authors, and folded it into Kindle Direct Publishing. And Patreon, which sustains independent creators, relies on Amazon’s AWS platform to guard creators against fraud. There’s some weird irony here. We rely on this massive, famously exploitive company, with a CEO who has accumulated $147 billion, to carve out some measure of creative independence in our lives, maybe even escape gig work. Is the quest for living on our own terms an illusion?
This ties a little into not being able to avoid random animal products in your life; if you interface in some way with any kind of commercial entity–including many companies providing your vegan goods – you are going to find yourself at odds with what some CxO says or does, or what the company itself does.Your organic vegan milk may come from a company far more invested in factory farms than it is in some vegan niche.
My work in IT had been cloud-adjacent for the last few years, and my current job is more directly cloud-related, plus I have side projects that involve even more cloud work. I’ve made my peace with it for now, but would like to find (or even found) a right-sized cloud platform that isn’t owned by a massive, for-profit entity. What we now know as Linux has roots in earlier projects started to create a cooperative, non-commercial version of the expensive proprietary Unixes of the day.Maybe something similar will happen for cloud computing.
I try not to enrich some large corporation if there’s a good alternative. It’s also important to recognize that we’re enriching various oligarchs and modern-day robber barons (whether it’s Bezos, Zuck, Bill Gates, or some Walton or Koch family offspring) with our choices of how we spend our time and money, and they’re all quite happy to use the power that accompanies their wealth to do things that may not be in our best interests.
And maybe we should, as voters, also be more concerned about un-sexy things like antitrust law than we have been in the past.
What would you say to people who are curious about becoming vegan, and has anyone become a vegan because of your influence?
No one has ever done anything because of my influence 🙂
There are many different good reasons to go vegan — for animal rights, against animal cruelty, for health reasons, etc. But there’s also the negative effect on the planet that animal agriculture has. If we’re quietly careening toward a climate emergency, maybe the positive effect of reducing global warming could be an incentive in ways that other angles and rationales have not been.
I live in the US, which has long been beset with elected officials for whom gratuitous cruelty toward marginalized groups and individuals is a core part of their branding.That’s not sustainable for a country, and, additionally, things like war, and greed, and a host of other forms of human folly endanger humanity’s long-term existence.Earth will go on just fine without human life; the reverse isn’t true.So being vegan should be– or should be thought of as –one of many things in one’s toolkit that exist as a counterweight to our various destructive tendencies.
What is an example of what you like to eat at home, how do you make it?
I used to consume a lot of protein: I had a six-day-a-week yoga practice and also did a lot of powerlifting, and I had trouble keeping my weight up.So I would eat lots of tofu, tempeh, and seitan, and gulp down protein shakes. I’ve scaled back, partly due to the pandemic, but I still don’t eat enough actual vegetables sometimes. I try to fix that by grabbing a vegetable-centric cookbook, or an omnivore one with lots of vegetable recipes.
But I have a lot of fun improvising marinades for tofu/tempeh, and also like to incorporate various leftovers into batches of seitan–say, some unused beans, or wilting kale, or almost-forgotten mushrooms sitting in the back of the fridge.
1. Soak 1 cup Textured Vegetable Protein in 1-1.5 cups broth or marinade to rehydrate the TVP. Set aside the excess liquid
2. Coarsely puree about a cup’s worth of stuff — beans, mushrooms, greens….
This week I used 1 cup of cooked black beans that were sitting in the fridge; 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast; 2 tablespoons of jerk seasoning (you could instead use salt/pepper, cumin, sage, smoked paprika, rehydrated hot peppers, etc., to taste).
3. Add enough liquid (maybe taken from the TVP soaking) to help puree all of this in a blender or food processor.
4. Combine 1 cup of Vital Wheat Gluten in a bowl with the above. Work it into a dough for a few minutes; it may take a little trial-and-error over several improvised batches to get a sense of how wet/dry/stretchy/firm the dough should feel before the next step.
5. Form into individual pieces–e.g., burgers, meatballs, cutlets– and wrap each in parchment paper, then in aluminum foil. Steam for approximately 90 minutes. Allow to cool, and put everything in the refrigerator overnight, to firm.
Then…fry up your burgers (or cutlets, or whatever), or crumble into a stir-fry or pasta sauce.
Mayo for Your Future Seitan Sandwich
1 box (likely 12.3 oz) silken tofu
1/4 cup white miso
1 dehydrated Chipotle or New Mexico pepper, rehydrated
1-2 cloves garlic
1-2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil (e.g., olive, avocado, coconut, peanut… maybe in combination)
Combine the non-oil ingredients in a blender or food processor.If your blender/processor allows the dribbling-in of the oil, do that until everything is blended well, with something resembling the consistency of mayo. Some time in the fridge will likely help thicken a thin result.If you can’t incrementally add the oil, that’s fine — just add it all, and continue blending. Useas-isorasthebasisforasauce.
Thanks for sharing your recipe ideas, Jesse! It seems this creativity comes naturally to you. Do you consider everyday vegan life easy now?
Very easy for me, as a resident of an advanced industrialized country, with many options for cruelty-free food, clothes, and other products. Food-wise, it’s better now than ten years ago, when I started — more shopping options, more restaurant options. The hardest part might be for a newly-ex-omnivore to give up some favorite food(s). I’ve yet to find an adequate substitute for every situation that I might have, in the past, used cheese or eggs, though the situation is also much improved over the last decade.
Any ideas that may be helpful to others who might experience similar struggles?
One thing that worked for me, on the ex-omnivore front, was noticing that food tastes better when I’m hungry. That’s not much of a solution, I understand, but sometimes quibbles about some vegan dish not being “as good” as something you’ve given up are lost when your food is, in some way, simply good. It may take a little time, or a little work, to find or cook consistently good vegan meals.
Thank you for the gift of your thoughtful and thought-sparking writing, Jesse. Greatly appreciated.
June is Pride Month — dedicated to, and celebrated by, LGBTIQ+ and allies worldwide.
I believe animal advocacy, at its best, works to challenge and transcend domination wherever it is found, and I think that belief explains why so many vegans from the movement’s earliest days have conscientiously objected to war.
It’s why so many of us sense that heterosexist oppression stems from the same place as human supremacy.
This month 51 years ago, at Stonewall Inn, an interracial group including nonbinary and transgender people rose up against vindictive policing. They rose up against bigotry, hate, and hurt. Their pain and their courage combined to open up new pathways to self-actualization for the rest of us. Pathways to respect. To love. To many more acts of protest, and to unforgettable times of joy and celebration.
And yet the torture and death of George Floyd reminds us, again, that — as far as we have come — the struggle for human freedom is still grotesquely immature. It tells us respect still takes a back seat. And it is a setback for every living being on the face of this Earth.
Pride month 2020 is a time of sorrow because of yet another murder in a pattern of authority-wielding murders, another profound loss to the collective conscious soul. Why? Why can’t we just be decent?
The Art of Animal Liberation must be committed to human dignity and respect for nonhuman life as a dual striving. The loss of George Floyd makes the reason all the more intense, and the need to speak up for the #BlackLivesMatter movement all the more urgent.
My CounterPunch bio identifies me as working for animal liberation. It feels right to have that bio follow a piece about the selective way “looting” is discussed in connection with #BlackLivesMatter protests. It feels right to spread the word that we’re all on this planet together, and no one is free as long as bullets, cages, and chokeholds rule our culture. Authoritarianism has got to go. Humanity must change now. There is no more “I won’t see the change in my lifetime, but…” because now we’re bracing for the storms of a distorted climate. It was always time for respect to ascend, and the very existence of a future, for us, should not be taken for granted.
When someone tells me they are vegan, my first thought is: “Really?”
Often, their next words will be: Except for fish. Or eggs. Or “CHEESE! I can’t live without cheese.”
To me, being vegan is the conscious decision to do my best to not exploit. I would rather like to be called an anti-exploitationist. It is an ideal I know I can’t achieve, but it’s there to remind me whenever I ask myself: “Is this OK to eat, wear, watch or tolerate without giving a speech?”
Could you say something about what you do for a living?
I am currently a tractor trailer driver, and have been since 1996. It is a far cry from the 12 years prior, when I worked at a pig slaughterhouse.
What is the hardest part of being vegan in your job?
Luckily working by myself doesn’t pose any ethical or logistical problems. There was a time when my job required me to stay on the road for a day or two. Then, finding places to eat presented minor problems.
Does your occupation inform your vegan perspective in any particular way?
Not that I can think of. I am sincerely happy that I don’t have to make the hard decisions that many ethical vegans do. My hat is off to the people working in retail, food service, pharmaceutical, or even transportation. Many have to face shelves of animal-tested products or animal flesh, or pull loads of cruelty—situations over which they have no control.
Allen, you are working through a major health crisis. Does being vegan offer you a unique perspective on this pandemic?
Only that I wonder how many diseases would be prevented if humanity had lived an animal-free life. All of the pandemics and epidemics and even the seasonal influenzas that I can think of have their origins linked to animal agriculture or exploitation.
So, food! What is an example of what you like to eat at home, and could you tell us how to get it or make it?
My wife and I love to work in the kitchen. I worked in restaurant kitchens when I was in high school and for a few years before I got married. I learned the basics and don’t have problems converting recipes and creating new items. Most of our dinners are stir-fries. Brussel sprouts and mushrooms are often featured. We forage a little bit. We just ate a bunch of fiddlehead ferns. They were excellent. Next month I’ll be picking wild raspberries. We always have a butternut squash on the counter waiting to be roasted. Kale, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and tomatoes don’t last long in the kitchen. Crock pot soups and chili sans carne are winter staples. I am not big on recipes. I use whatever I have. It is hard to make a bad meal when using lots of different fresh, whole ingredients.
What is an example of what you like to eat on the road, and could you tell us how to get it or make it?
I really don’t eat much during work. When I was a runner, I would make a fruit and kale recovery smoothie and fill a thermos. Now, a thermos of coffee and a couple of fig bars do the trick.
Other than eating, what do you do differently now that you’re vegan?
Do you mean besides looking down my nose at all the lower lifeforms that haven’t realized all the harm they are doing to the world yet? I don’t do that nearly as much as I used to.
I don’t wear animals. I don’t enjoy entertainment that exploits them. I try to be conscious of my actions, and what outcome I might have on the world, or the moment. Today I was digging from a pile of dirt on my driveway. I disturbed a hill of ants. I could have just dug in and done what I needed to do. The dirt will have to be moved. I moved to the other side of the pile and dug there. I came back a little later and tested the original dig, the ants had retreated some. I dug, and repeated the process. It may seem silly, but I felt better. I hope the ants felt better too with time to relocate. Stinkbugs and spiders get escorted out of the house. So, I guess, Do as little harm as possible is a directive evolved from my veganism.
Allen, when and why did you become vegan?
My wife Cissy and I made the journey into veganism together. In 2007 I was diagnosed with Hepatitis-C. I also had stage 3 liver disease as a result. I am fully recovered now. Cissy was reading an article and suggested, in an effort to get healthier, we try vegetarianism. I was 48 at the time. We continued dairy for a long time. About two years. Podcasts came into my world around 2009. I started learning about the harm we do to ourselves and our environment. But that pales in comparison to the cruelty we inflict on animals. One podcast introduced me to a documentary: Got the Facts on Milk? We left vegetarianism for veganism the next day. Mama cows crying for their babies still haunt me. We also watched Forks Over Knives and Vegucated. We read several books. There really isn’t a logical reason not to change.
What would you say to people who are curious about becoming vegan themselves?
I first ask them why they are curious. And thoroughly examine those reasons. While it can be healthy, I don’t think it is a reason that sticks. I tell them to examine their reasons for wanting a difference in their life. Information is everywhere.
Do you have thoughts on why some people go vegan and others don’t, although similar information is available to both?
I hate to think it, but I am more convinced every day that there are two types of people. There are people that care, and people that don’t. Subsets within these groups surely exist. Like people that hide from truths. And people that minimalize the things they know.
Conversely, people that care can be complacent, or lazy, or underestimate the effects they can have in society. I’m sure I fall into that group somewhere, at least at times.
Has anyone become a vegan because of your influence?
My mother saw the light after 78 years, and her health has benefited greatly! My daughter is carrying the tradition on and raising her daughter vegan as well. I hope I have an effect as part of the collective.
Allen, you once hunted. Vegans surely don’t think of hunters as low-hanging fruit when they look for communities to persuade. Are they right that hunters are unlikely candidates for becoming vegan?
I think hunting families have a tough tradition to crack. I didn’t have a close relationship with my father. I got interested in target shooting when I was around 12. I joined a shooting club and became pretty good. It wasn’t until I was around 30 that I started hunting with some friends from work. I didn’t have those family bonding moments and memories to overcome.
Do you think it is unusual for a hunter to become vegan?
While I think it is unusual, I see it as possible. I think people that live their lives with the desire to learn as many truths as possible can be reasoned into any true position. It all depends on the desire to be honest about your positions, and change when the information warrants it. Dairy farmers have changed. Pig farmers have changed. Doctors and lawyers have changed. Slaughterhouse workers have changed. Why not hunters? I fell into the last two categories.
Do you think vegan advocates spend enough time on the issue of hunting animals?
We must face the fact that very few wild animals would ever die of old age. Nature red in tooth and claw and all. Most hunters, but not nearly all, pride themselves on one-shot kills and dropping in his tracks. Seems gross now.
I haven’t met anyone who wants to inflict pain and suffering. While hunting is exploitation, and the same experience could be achieved with a camera, I think this is more of an ecological issue than a humane or cruelty issue. The turmoil we inflict on the earth and all its finely balanced systems, and creatures, including us humans, is just too sad.
Today, game has a different meaning for you. You are a board gamer who developed a farm animal refuge game. Do you think gaming can be influential in a vegan shift?
I don’t know about a shift. But I think every time we can say the word, or express the concepts of veganism, we should. Just to let anyone thinking about it know they are not alone. That someone else is doing it, and thriving.
Some of your game pieces represent foxes. Why did you include those in the refuge scene?
I include the foxes to let the players know that farmed animals aren’t the only animals that need to be considered. And foxes are beautiful.
Could you say a few words on what might be hardest for you, psychologically or otherwise, about living a vegan life?
That we know there is a better way to live. And then, to be incapable of conveying the principles of empathy and compassion to others. Even to the people we know already have empathy and compassion. Living every day, knowing the suffering continues with no end in sight, tends to make me nihilistic. Not in an anarchy type of way. More of a uselessness.
Any ideas that may be helpful to others who might experience similar struggles?
Knowing that any act of humanity I make has a positive influence on somebody, man or beast, makes it worthwhile. No one person will save the world. We all must find solace in knowing that we and our actions are less the problem, and more the cure.
In what direction do you hope the vegan community will go? What should be emphasized?
In every direction. Let everyone know you are vegan. People need to know who you are. Your position will not be taken seriously until it is a movement. People cannot change if they are not aware a viable option. Let everyone know that someone they know is happy and healthy in their decision to be compassionate. The word Vegan is in my Instagram moniker. I compete in bearding competitions all around the country. These competitions are now online, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but I still let everyone I meet know: I am Vegan Al. I wear the vegan message on hats, pins, and shirts.
And lest anyone think all vegans take themselves too seriously, here is a photo of your recent first-place beard win! (Congrats!) Anything else you’d like to leave us with, Vegan Al?
I think most people are compassionate. It’s all about where they draw their lines. It starts with one’s self. If you stop there, you are a sociopath. You could move the line to your companions and family. Your companion animals may have a position inside your line. Where to draw the line next? Does the line move to heritage? Social groups? Religion? Species, domestic or wild? I hope we all find a point when we can start removing lines and realize that we all suffer. We all deserve the right to live as we are without these artificial lines designed to separate. Help when you can. If you can’t, get out of the way so someone else can.
Remember, don’t let perfection get in the way of doing the best you can. Just be honest about what is your best. One of my favorite quotes is by Maya Angelou. Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.
Thank you, Lee, for approaching me for this interview, and the chance to open up and express my views. I hope my answers inspire somebody to look at their own reasons for the way they live.
Vegan Summerfest, scheduled for the first week of July at the University of Pittsburgh campus in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, is cancelled. Even if Gov. Tom Wolf opens up Cambria County by July, the social distancing rules make a conference for hundreds of people logistically unmanageable.
Previous participant surveys show that numerous Summerfest attendees commit to becoming vegan each year. For many vegan-curious people, the event’s blend of social and educational elements clicks. But the virus does not discriminate based on the intent or benefits of an event.
I’m disoriented by the loss of Vegan Summerfest 2020 and everything it stands for, and yet I have been warning that these disasters would unfold since I was first invited to speak at Summerfest 16 years ago. This is not to be “oh-well” or glib. This is damned upsetting. Here we have the results of one group of apes abusing its privileges on the planet. With this group’s global population as dense and intrusive as it is, a dangerous virus can move through physical bodies and natural settings quickly.
Veganism should be part of the global response. It will help us become respectful members of our greater biological community, because vegan living frees people from having to work in viciously unsafe, unhygienic, and macabre animal processing settings. Veganism is health-affirming. It is comparatively protective of land, air, and bodies of water. It is low-carbon, low-methane, and generally more resource-frugal than other approaches to living.
I’d like to help my fellow human apes make these connections. Supporting whatever might be in us that warrants the term sapiens.
We’re never getting to “normal” again in our lifetimes. Infections change as climates do, so it’s time to expect much more of the unexpected — whether it’s resurgences, mutations, new viruses, or the other stuff that’s coming along with biodiversity breakdown and climate crisis. We ain’t seen nothing yet.
No time like the present to make real, root-level changes. In the months ahead, I’ll be pressing some key points:
• Can quarantine mean a respectful (rather than user-oriented) attitude to nature? • Can social distancing mean refraining from invading the remaining forests? • Can we transcend the culture of confinement? • Can the human apes find ways to stop hoarding the prosperity we get at our environment’s expense — undoing incentives to extract and store?
Remember that “resilience” in the face of crisis means asking deep questions about why our modern crises emerge. And that “affluence” is not a reservoir, but something that flows.
So tired of it all, all the endless “debate” and confusion and angst about this current Covid crisis. It’s making me dizzy.
It’s real, and we are dealing with it I guess best we can…or not. And it will play itself out as it will, in spite of how bogged down we are in all the confusions and all these competing theories and all the varied and disparate solutions surrounding this real yet unreal crisis. We’re all enmeshed in the tertiary branches of this unfolding saga of chaos and confusion, which is understandable, yet we also need to think about the deeper existential crisis facing us, and try going to some of the roots of our obvious dysfunctionalities as a society and as a species. The real crisis, beneath the surface of this one, seems to me to be how we have given up our authority to think and feel for ourselves and tap into our own inner wisdoms about life, from which come simple revelations and even simpler answers. We are totally alienated from our connection to life and nature. We are living in a closed system of human alienation from the Earth, stuck in the prison of our out-of-control brains disconnected from the simplicity and wisdom of our hearts. Mind informing heart instead of heart informing mind.
And within that disconnect, we have become, as a collective, lost in space and swirling in a tower of babble, now in its current iteration over this virus. But it’s been going on for at least 10,000 years, this babble and disconnect, ever since we stopped being humble mammals on this Earth, and decided to leave nature and subdue, commodify, and dominate “it”, and our fellow animal beings whom we have recast as “its”.
“It” “worked, for thousands of years, while we always had new frontiers to exploit, whether of other lands, other peoples, or other fellow animal beings, and we could always export our war on life, and import the spoils. And we are now so disconnected from our hearts, and our immediate sensibilities, that we do not even notice, or care about, the ravages in our wake, or that we slaughter over 70 billion fellow animals per year, over 150 million every hour, and trillions of marine beings, for mere titillation of the taste bud. And yet we tell ourselves, in an ultimate of conceit and arrogance, that we are oh-so-kind and caring. As we willfully continue our assault on life, and remain steeped in our prevarications when the Earth and the animals, and now a Covid, ask “What are you doing!?”
But now we have run out of new worlds and new victims to oppress. And it is now coming full circle and closing in on us. Like an organism that has walled itself off from its natural input-throughput relationship to the greater sustaining whole, and begins feeding on itself with a cancer of dis-ease, and in a pilot’s death-spiral, mired in a delusion and an illusion of an altitude of superiority, all the while steering ourselves, in an increasingly rapid descent, toward inevitable annihilation of both self and the mountain.
And on the way to that, we have all manner of self-made crises — coronavirus, climate chaos, species extinction, massive biodiversity loss, looming ecosystems collapse, world hunger, resource wars, ocean death…and on and on and on, while we fiddle and quibble.
What’s the underlying cause of it all? Connect all the dots and we can easily see that it is our arrogant sense of superiority, our hierarchical thinking, and our other-ization of those we perceive to be “lower” than us, who we can then objectify and commodify. Stripped of their personhood, we close them off from our hearts and from any consideration of their sovereign and sacred interests.
It starts with fellow animal beings we so easily brutalize, and moves on to the Earth “it”self, in a wanton assault to serve our misperceived needs. And it then extends into our human realm, with all manner of injustices heaped upon those we perceive as of lesser “value”. And then it all comes full circle back to us, living in a world of massive injustice and misery and stress and chaos, and existential angst that seeps into our very souls.
Look closely and you will see that everything we have done to the outside world comes back to us and becomes externalized and internalized in our own collective and individual worlds. The suffering and misery and chaos we sow returns to us. And still we twiddle and quibble.
Bottom line, all the looming crises and issues and problems we see and fret about, and protest and rail about in a sinking futility stem from one source: Our massive failure of heart and compassion toward the “other”, and a refusal to see and feel how the “other” is us, and one and the same.
We talk about humanity being “one big family” but we don’t really believe that or feel that. We talk about having respect for the Earth and fellow animals, and we doubly do not really believe or feel that, and we wage war on both, and then war on each other in a reap of our disconnect.
Then we say, we must solve human issues first. But that is upside down thinking. “As long as there are slaughterhouses there will be battlefields” (Tolstoy). It must start there. We will never have peace and harmony in the human realm as long as we massively violate the laws of peace and harmony by brutalizing our fellows. And it then becomes, by simple extension of that mindset and heart-set, easy to brutalize and exploit our fellows that are human animals, and our fellow Earth.
As we have seen and experienced now for eons, all our talk and “efforts” of “peace” and “justice” has only amounted to an ever-increasing babble of lament over the failures of same. Perhaps it is time to recognize that our humanocentric approach to life and problems IS the problem in the first place. An approach borne of self-consumed selfishness. “Remote from universal nature”, it can only feed upon itself, and its host. Perhaps it is time to flip the script upside down.
The slogan “Earth First!” meant something, and something deep. As in a family, altruism is what gives life and sustains the life of the family. “For it is a giving without hope of getting” (Cross). Yet the giving returns the getting 10-fold. It’s the magic of it, in a beautiful revelation of the wisdom of life itself. All it takes is a leap of faith into it. No babble needed.
Fellow animals and the Earth first? Compassion and altruism just might do the trick, where singular human-centered selfishness has failed, throughout all these ages of futility, now closing in on us and the world.
So here we are, caught up in the next virus of our selfishness of insensitivity, and the beat goes on.
This coronavirus is just the babble of a perversion of another word of exactly the same letters — CARNIVOROUS — now scrambled into a prevarication of the truth that is right in front of us and that has been calling to us for so long now. We are all one. What we do to our fellow animals and the Earth is what we invariably end up doing to ourselves. Sow destruction and misery and murder, and, by the natural laws of life, it returns to us with a proper vengeance, 10-fold in a reverse terribleness of a wisdom we have forsaken.
The current coronavirus is real. Yet it is just a concretization of something far deeper, and a manifestation of something far more vile. We can hammer away at that concrete, as we are doing, but all it is doing is creating a rubble we will stumble over and then rebuild with brick and mortar into the next monolith of our myopic mindlessness and ruthless heartlessness. Wake up, humans. What we sow we reap. And then what we reap we sow again, ad infinitum. We must stop railing against the reap while ignoring the sow.
And we have to stop making this so complicated. Want to end resource wars, stop climate change, end world hunger, avoid these zoonotic viruses, heal our Earth, create a healthy and just society, save fellow animals from our brutality, and heal our spiritual malaise? Just go vegan now — dietarily, ethically, environmentally, and justly. The rest will naturally take care of itself. Nothing short of that will ever bring peace and harmony to our world. Or end the babble of our discontent.
— Jack McMillan. Founding board member, Cleveland Vegan Society.