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.