Absolutely, stop the wet markets. But unless you happen to be vegan, don’t forget to take the log out of your own eye.
So, how is everybody this weekend?
My freezer is jammed with vegan Indian dinners that I got at Trader Joe’s before Friday the 13th, when a declared national state of emergency sunk in (and Tom Hanks got COVID-19: that was a big yikes! moment for the jetsetters of the Philly burbs). Suddenly, frozen items started selling out as fast as staffers could stock the freezers.
Starting yesterday our local vegan restaurant SuTao closed its doors for two weeks.
Vegan restaurants are generally small, independent businesses, and will be hit hard. Their staffers are unlikely to receive any of the federal government’s weirdly patchy emergency paid leave. (The bill, just passed, guarantees sick leave only to about 20% of workers. Staffers of big corporations including McDonald’s and Amazon are left out. Staffers of companies with fewer than 50 people will be left out because of exemptions. And the bill simply wasn’t drafted with independent businesses, tip-earning workers, high-turnover sectors, or artists and educators in mind.) Point is, most vegan-run businesses are taking a heavy hit. Kindly support them when they reopen.
I’ve had to stop work on planned public presentations as the college events aren’t happening. But I’m not the worst-off here. People who sell their goods where people meet – vegan festivals or physical stores – could go out of business.
So, on top of fear of the virus itself, vegan craftspeople, vendors, educators, writers, and creators have the agony of watching event after event get cancelled around the arrival of Spring and the month of Earth Day and we have to find the ability to connect with people through videos, Zoom interviews, or the written word. The people at Patreon, which now enables all my vegan advocacy to happen, have been wonderfully supportive and caring. I mean the people running it as well as my patrons. If you are a vegan educator, writer, or artist I recommend Patreon not only for its platform but also for its efforts in creating a sense of community.
What COVID-19 TELLS US ABOUT OUR COLLECTIVE FUTURE
Speaking of community, we human apes need to find ways to share our prosperity, or we’ll share our inability to survive. Real “resilience” in the face of changes in climate, and land and ocean health, must mean we become capable of widely empathetic responses. And real resilience must involve asking deep questions about why the climate, the land, and the waters are changing.
We can’t simply conquer the coronavirus threat. Consider our interconnected, sprawling population, and the way infections will evolve with the climate crisis. There will be more of this. What are we going to do about it?
Well, veganism will help, insofar as it means:
- Living a low-carbon, resource-frugal life.
- Stopping the farm run-off that compromises the oceans and kills off marine bio-communities.
- Halting deforestation and human incursions into the space of the free-living beings (i.e., staying out of the way of “wildlife”).
I think we have to think of self-isolation in terms of letting up on our continual invasions of nature. Have we given some thought to this?
Stay well if you can, live simply if you’re not already forced to, and keep up your outreach.
Love and liberation,
Banner image: [Friday 13 March 2020 1700 local time] at Trader Joe’s grocery in Wayne, Pennsylvania. Restaurants are shut, and vegan Indian dinners are getting hard to find!
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.
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.
To some extent, we’re all caught up in the machine of exploitation. Sometimes I think the financially poor are most likely to work for people without compunctions about selling animals and substances taken from animals, or delivering these items. Fewer resources mean less decision-making power at work.
Turbulence and Refuge
Vegan-Focused Enterprises Matter. So Do Vegan-Run Enterprises
A vegan-run enterprise will seek ways to avoid toxic chemicals (tested on animals; harsh on the environment; unhealthful for living beings indoors).
As the vegan-run undertaking succeeds, it can make increasingly stronger decisions on fair trade and fair compensation for work.
The entity could sustain one or more vegans, in a decent work environment, where mutual support and even co-operative work relationships can flourish.
Feel free to link a vegan-run enterprise, including your own, in the comment section.
It’s the day after Election Day, and relationships are already under stress. Yet now, as much as ever, we need to come together, organizing for a mental shift in humanity. We’d have had to anyway, no matter whose team won and whose lost. Keep cultivating at the local level, and on the level of what’s most important to sustaining this Earth.
This is also a time of traditional family convocations, and I’ll bet not one will be untouched by the political chaos swirling around us. It’s a good time to find safe moorings, refresh our souls, and prepare for the work ahead.
If you are vegan, may you feel the support of vegan friends. If you are not yet with us, consider your personal potential to come together and crowdsource a refusal to war any more on the bio-community, or to war against or wall off “other” human beings and nations.
I’m not much of a YouTuber, but with a little urging from friends, I decided to have a go at making a vegan-to-vegan message. It’s dedicated especially to you who are just becoming vegan during an unprecedented meeting of environmental and social turbulence. I hope you find meaning in this video, and feel free to share it.
Finding Your Vegan Tribe: Some Practical Tips
Lydia and Mauro of From A to Vegan have some good suggestions for this post. They suggest we host vegan dinners, inviting vegan and vegan-supportive friends and family members to the gatherings.
And look to the Internet to find festive vegan get-togethers in your area on Meetup.com. In some areas, you might find none, but that just means you’ll need to start one and invite those hidden vegans out of the closet and into your circle.
Get together and share some new recipes (and feel empowered to share yours right here, in the comment field).
Here is a recipe for Cashew Nut Roast that Robin Lane gave me when I became vegan. It appears in the cookbook Dining With Friends (used copies available for a penny on Amazon at the moment).
Holiday Cashew Nut Roast
Serves 4 to 6
1/2 pound cashew pieces
4 ounces of brown rice
6 ounces of rye toast crumbs—including caraway seeds, or a dash of celery seed.
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large, ripe tomatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons brewer’s yeast
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Dash of lemon (preferably freshly squeezed)
Dash of ground pepper
Cook rice until tender; grind cashews. (This can easily be done by hand by carefully running a rolling pin or jar over bagged nuts.)
Chop onion and garlic finely and heat in oil until they are slightly brown; chop and add one of the tomatoes; simmer until soft and add the broth.
Combine all of the above ingredients and press into two 9-by-5-by-2 1/2 -inch loaf pans or glass round pie baking dishes. Slice second tomato and use to decorate top, then bake for 30 minutes or a bit longer at 350 degrees F / 175 C.
You can share the Cashew Nut Roast as a main dish, or as a side dish as an alternative to bready stuffing.
Here is my serving suggestion. I’ll be making this one for the tribe.
Banner photo source: CheepShot, via Wikimedia Commons.
The International Council of Nurses represents 16 million nurses. Recently my friend Brenda Trerice, a retired RN, directed my attention to their Code of Ethics—a guide for action based on social values and needs.The Code has served as the standard for nurses worldwide since its first adoption in 1953.
Its Point #3 (on page 4) states:
The nurse practices to sustain and protect the natural environment and is aware of its consequences on health.
Brenda senses a connection between this ethical tenet and animal-liberation philosophy; but explains:
Yet articulating it requires such subtlety so that one discovers then starts to make more connections on their own via their own psyche (memories, experiences, observations, resolution of dilemmas) so the choice is made in full consciousness for all time. Of all the health professionals, I think it is nurses who could grasp this philosophy easier than most others.
Why nurses? Because the nursing orientation is holistic. The individual is perceived as an integrated whole having biological, psychological, social, and, depending on the individual, spiritual aspects—not simply a disease or body part. It is a mere leap across a gap, the connecting of a nerve synapse, to understand whole and health in the larger sense: the Earth and all inhabitants. Veganism is holistic.
Earth’s atmosphere sustains all living beings within it. No animal is meant to live forever, nor to escape pain. Yet all require nurturing, nourishment, and balance. All of our lives are placed in danger by the degradation of Earth’s surface features, by mass extinction events, by climate disruption. Each factor alone will unravel life; it’s a matter of time.
So to step back and regard the big picture means to understand human health as existing within the sanity of nature.
Animal agribusiness work as a health risk
Breeding animals and keeping them in confinement (shooing away predators and taking up land for feed crops as we do it) constitutes a practice in opposition to the natural world.
And the placements of animal confinement, and slaughter sites as workplaces, affects vulnerable human populations.
At Vegstock in September, I noted a Johns Hopkins public health study cited by Dr. Ana Negrón indicating that half of the population of slaughter workers test positive for campylobacter. And then there’s the rate of amputations in the industry. While nonhuman lives are commodified completely in animal agribusiness, the arena is and will always be inhumane to humans who must work in it.
Animal farming’s climate impact as a health risk
Everything depends on climate. Plants are losing the conditions that support them. By 2100, some tropical regions are predicted to have 200 fewer growing days a year. The health and nutrition impacts remain to be seen, but how could they not be harrowing?
And consider what’s happening to untamed animal communities as climate zones shift and native plants stop growing in their habitats.
Climate change is complex; but the major role played by animal agribusiness is now well known, and it is connected to massive fossil fuel use. We keep releasing stored carbon dioxide (through transport and electric refrigeration) and disrupting Earth’s capacity to store it (by cutting down trees to enable both grazing and growing feed crops). We’re releasing methane into the atmosphere (in significant part, though our domesticated animals, mostly cows).
Animal manure is a major source of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide too.
More to explore
I’m making the connection with animal agribusiness, the health risks plaguing people in animal husbandry and slaughter, and the health of our biosphere. I haven’t made any eating-related health claims; I’ll leave that to the people in the medical field.
There is still much more to explore: the ethic that addresses our duty of care for the animals we domesticated, and to the untamed Earth that’s habitat for animals who could still live free; and how we would nurture a developing humanity that sustains and protects the natural environment and the conscious lives moving within it.
But to start: Should the International Council of Nurses take a broad view of health—situating it in its actual context, which is the planet’s whole biological community?
Here (PDF) is the International Council of Nurses 2014-2018 Strategic Plan. Those who implement such plans are not guided here, at least not in any concrete ways, to come to grips with the Council’s longtime ethical commitment to sustain and protect the natural environment and promote awareness of its consequences on health. Can the Council, in a time of environmental crises, neglect these issues?
Yesterday an op-ed piece I wrote ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Sharing it on Facebook, Harold Brown observed that the best answer to a problem—in this case, the claim that suburban Philadelphia has too many deer—can be right in front of us all along.
Letting the indigenous deer be and at the same time enabling coyotes and bobcats, their natural predators, to live and thrive is the simple, environmentally obvious response; yet reporters, policymakers (including the author of Valley Forge Park’s Environmental Impact Statement and Management Plan), and people who type into Internet comment fields have all used the term reintroduction of predators as though something complicated would have to be done. Coyotes and bobcats are already here. It’s strange how one can write this plainly—coyotes and bobcats are already here—and people will still react, time and time again, to the idea of reintroduction, which is not being proposed.
One of the e-mail messages I received in response to the column came from an Inquirer reader who says it’s infeasible to have coyotes “used for animal control” because they are “aggressive and hard to control…” It seems this reader got the idea of an extermination firm coming in with a trained pack of coyotes.
Respecting the balance of communities in habitats is a simple idea, a common-sense concept. When it comes to respecting nature, people appear to lean heavily to making the most simple answer seem the most complex.