In his previous book, Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan told the story of how plants like apple trees, marijuana, and tulips “thrived” because of humankind’s need and appreciation of them. He defined “thriving” as whenever humans expanded their geographic range and numbers, and modified their genetics which then allowed these and many other plants to live in habitats not otherwise available to them. Interesting stuff as Pollan shared unique insights into the human history of relationships with them. However, in Omnivore’s Dilemma, he causes immense harm because he uses the same story formula and applies it to nonhuman animals. He equates the manipulation of plants to our extreme manipulations, genetic modifications, and artificial expansions of the populations of farmed animals. “Thriving”, in Pollan’s mind, is about humans artificially inducing billions of farmed lives populating the continents even though they are destined for a short existence before slaughter in animal agriculture.
Ignoring that animals are not plants, have different needs, and as far as we can tell, have more developed abilities to suffer physically and psychologically than plants, Pollan runs forward without thinking. I earlier described his multiple false assumptions and conclusions, his disdain for vegans (and vegetarians), and the terrible consequences this particular book has for ecosystems, the poor (actually everyone via climate change), and the individuals he so carelessly dismisses before slaughter.
There was and still is an audience eager to use Omnivore’s Dilemma as an excuse, as a blindfold, as a pillar of willed ignorance and denial of the harms that carnism causes. And from those unsupportable positions, a parade of chefs, small scale animal agriculturalists, environmentalists, and otherwise good people self-justify their unjust behaviors. They are content to green-, blue-, and humane-wash their idea of goodness and a corrupted understanding of how things work. They stopped short and are ignoring what they say they believe in: humaneness, sustainability, and justice. When I recently applied to speak and sign my book at the world-famous Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, OR, I was denied. On the other hand, Powell’s had not long before partnered with the Portland National Public Radio station to host Michael Pollan at a large theater. Such is the power of giving excuses and easy answers to a concerned public even while Pollan’s message in Dilemma continues like acid to painfully burn through every living system on Earth.
Carnism is defeating civilization because it is destroying ecosystems and altering the entire biosphere in which we and all wild and domesticated species live. Carnism creates competition with the impoverished people of Earth for grain foods. It strips the oceans of species and the food needed by others in the wild who live or die depending upon the health and integrity of their food chains and food webs. As I earlier stated, Omnivore’s Dilemma gets off to a terrible start by corrupting the definitions of those terms, food chains and food webs.
All fifteen of the posts, excerpts from my book This Is Hope: Green Vegans and the New Human Ecology, will remain on this site. Please direct your friends and strangers to this series. There is much more to what we must do to become environmentally and morally sustainable in our behaviors. I ask that you explore them in Hope. In it’s pages, I do not cut corners or withhold the research that describes what we have done wrong in the past and what Earth, not I, requires us to do now. It is do-able and relatively simple. We just have to say yes to a new human ecology that is entirely within our individual and collective control.
There is only one issue: our human ecology and the behaviors that create it.