United Nations SDGs: If We’re Not Veganizing Them, Are They Really Sustainable?

For-profit companies and charities alike are jumping onto the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (#SDGs). We all want to self-identify as sustainable people. But most want to hang onto that good-ole biblical prerogative: human dominion…

The human quest to dominate the planet and its conscious beings caused our sustainability crisis. If we really want to address the crisis, animal-liberation thinking must inform our discussions of life on Earth.

Read on…today at CounterPunch.

Yes: Human Population Is a Vegan Issue

The one thing young people can do that eases their impact on animals, habitat, and the climate more than anything else? Opt out of having children. Humans have already far exceeded the Earth’s capacity to “produce resources” for us, and this is the culmination of decades of ever-increasing growth in our numbers.

Fun fact: About 2.3 billion humans lived on Earth in 1944, when the vegan movement began. The founding members pointed out that two billion people was too much for a small planet with limited energy to sustain all its life! 

Today our population is fast approaching 8 billion. And that’s not all. We humans tend to breed other animals into existence who, like ourselves, are domesticated and don’t fit into nature’s scheme of things. There is little hospitable space left where free-living animals can evolve.

Could voluntarily decreasing our numbers to somewhere between 1 and 2 billion possibly be on our things-to-do list? Yes, there are social, economic, and religious reasons why this would not be easy in some regions of the world. But vegans who do have parenthood planning prerogatives could be doing much more to lead this urgent conversation.

If we don’t commit to easing our pressure on the planet, the planet will commit for us. How? Viruses. Droughts and food collapse. Right now: “The World Bank predicts that more than 1 billion people are at risk of being driven from their homes for climate-related reasons.” (As for the World Bank’s own contributions to bringing this risk about, well, that would be another blog piece. Or series.) 

China and India are projected to suffer famines. Large swaths of the Middle East and equatorial regions of the global south are now certain to experience military conflicts and refugee crises as climate disruptions worsen. 

Isn’t it appropriate to ask that people who can avoid having kids do such avoiding, if only to head off a ballooning disaster?

Of course, we vegans are helping by feeding ourselves protein straight from plants. The more who join us, the more we all avoid the breeding of animals to be raised on monoculture crops or pastures (then killed for us to eat, when we could have used the land for growing food, not for grazing and growing feed). 

The less space we farm, the less untamed habitat we usurp.

Psychologically, our population growth could have something to do with our fear of predation.

Most humans seem to have a strikingly low tolerance for animals such as mountain lions and wolves. There are so many reasons to respect them, but we have constantly imposed population control on them. Sheesh!

Wolves, coyotes, and other carnivores and omnivores play roles on this Earth that we’ve failed to understand. They don’t just naturally curb herbivore populations. Their activity also protects the biosphere.

According to some scientists, it works like this. Where we suppress predators herbivores, don’t need to move so much. Then these herbivores tend to trample the local foliage. The stressed-out plant life breathes out the carbon it would naturally have stored.

Now, if we do acknowledge and encourage the predator-prey relationship as a sound process, what does that mean for ourselves—the human primates? Maybe we don’t like our position as prey. Maybe we don’t like our population to be kept in the Earth’s natural balance, as it was, back in the day. But disrespect for that natural cycle of life and death isn’t working out so well for us.

As our numbers rise and we spread out, our (perhaps fear-driven) belief in our supremacy is constantly weakening Earth’s living communities. And if the web of life unravels because of our presumptuous stance, we are likely to destroy all we’ve known. Life will go on, though—over the stratum of Earth that will store remnants of our history.

But if we change radically—and that includes slowing our rate of population growth—we just might learn the elusive art of co-existence with the forces of this planet. We can curb our sprawl, and become fair-minded members of the entire community of conscious life on Earth.

Those of us in the world’s affluent regions (even vegans) use an especially large share of the globe’s natural resources.

Our grandparents and parents created our home region’s reputation for affluence. Our massive consumption level is responsible for deforesting great expanses of living habitats. Our forebears’ lifestyles can’t be ours. Simplicity must be reconceived as elegance.

We live in a region where controlling our numbers, without oppressive results, is largely possible. We also happen to live on a land that will be pressed to nourish more refugees who are fleeing places that cannot support them. Treating refugees as family? That’s adoption, of a sort, on a national scale. 

Becoming vegan and spreading the word about veganism is action. Capping our car use, cutting out discretionary flying: these, too, are action. Yet “family planning” gets to the root of all the consumption pressures. Moreover, destructive activities would do far less damage if there were fewer people doing them.

As people who care deeply about sustainability, could we encourage adoption over reproduction, understanding that human care is meaningful not because it nurtures our biological offspring specifically, but because our love is a gift to anyone who receives it? Can we discuss how adopting (or educating, or caregiving) is as fulfilling as bearing children?

The vegan definition, with its emphasis on the reintegration of nature, obliges us to consider the territory and evolutionary freedom of other animals as well as their individual life experiences, and what we must do in accordance—including limiting our own population growth. Not theirs.

My thanks to Deb Thompson and Patricia Fairey for our helpful conversations on the topic. I welcome further thoughts in the comment field.

Love and liberation,


Photo source: PatoLenin, via Pixabay.

It’s an Animal Liberation Thing; They Wouldn’t Understand.

I’m talking about pollination. It’s not what they say it is.

They say it’s significant because we need it for our almonds. They talk about conserving bees to the extent they can get them to keep working to produce our food supply.

They don’t talk about the interest of the bees.

We can exploit the beejeesus out of animals until, one day, legal panic sets in because we’ve just about cleared them completely from the face of the Earth.

American Bumble Bees Are in Crisis.

The population of American bumble bees dropped by 89% in the past two decades. The bees no longer live in much of the United States. What if the bees are listed under the Endangered Species Act? Will we see increased attention to bee habitat? Agribusiness could have to make changes. We might need to look at the impact of pesticides, climate crisis, and sprawl. Grazing businesses, “green” energy sites, and real estate developers are all implicated in sprawl.

The National Association of Home Builders has opposed ESA listings for other bee communities, so we can guess what they’ll do here. At its core, home building sprawl is a human population issue.

The Answer Is as Plain as the Peas on Your Plate: Go Vegan.

Stop supporting grazing. Just stop. Join the conscientious objectors. We don’t need animal ag. It’s bad for us, for other living communities, and for the Earth as a whole.

Farm animal waste, runoff, and feed operations are detrimental. The very complexity of animal agribusiness multiplies the harm done by our food systems.

We can opt out today, right this second.

And there’s more to being vegan than what’s on our plates. Consider human population a vegan topic; let’s talk about it (without xenophobia). Consider how we maintain our immediate physical surroundings. What we do to the climate, we do to habitat. And what we do to habitat is at the core of veganism.

Good Gardening Helps: Veganism Respects Our Shared Habitat.

Leaf blowers not only emit toxic gases; Doug Tallamy has explained that when leaves are banished, the land loses a form of temporary stormwater holding, and therefore leaf blowing exacerbates erosion and flooding. And bees have connections with leaves. Some bees and wasps try to nest under leaves.

Homo suburbanus has decided that lawns are necessary, and that chemicals are needed to maintain them. Common lawn sprays are tested on animals. What kind of people are we, that we’d blind rabbits to have a dandelion-free lawn that repels bees?

Native plantings matter so much, in so many ways. Never mind the birdfeeders; get natural nourishment rooted in any green space you might have. Of course there is a money incentive that keeps the landscapers in their old habits. Contracts for toxic chemicals communicate entrenched economic relationships among human businesses. But new relationships can be forged.

New year; new us. We need to strive to coexist with the naturally evolving life on our patch of Earth. This is a matter of liberation ethics.

The Year of the Aurochs

Groups of aurochs could trample us. Cows still can. This, I found out on a walk across a pasture with friends.

Suddenly, as though alerted by some silent signal, a group of cows stampeded in our direction. We panicked, but managed to slip through a fence. That day we glimpsed an ancient law of nature…

Read the full piece at CounterPunch.

Photo by Helena Lopes, via Unsplash.

Life Below Water

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.

Life Below Water. This is the 14th focus of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

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.

Sea turtles are trapped by the hundreds of thousands per year in shrimp nets, gill nets, and by longline hooks.  Photo credit: Jeremy Bishop, via Unsplash.

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.

Donald Trump Jr., Mongolian Sheep Killer

Mongolian dignitaries made an Eastertime pilgrimage to see the Trumps at Mar-a-Lago. And whoosh…By September, Donald Trump Jr. had a Mongolian permit to kill one of the world’s few remaining argali sheep.

Read on, in this weekend’s edition of CounterPunch.


Image licensed by CC0 / Public Domain