Why Human Ecology?

It took time to build the title of my book, This Is Hope: Green Vegans and the New Human Ecology. I’ve long understood the connections between my meals, the suffering of nonhuman animals, and environmental impacts. And I was already aware of the field of study called human ecology. But it was during the research aspect of my writing I fully understood that my vegan human ecology alone would not accomplish enough. What was and is needed is a thoroughly reformed new human ecology.

We create our human ecology with our behavior. This is how we establish relationships with our external environment that includes other people, individuals from other species, and the entirety of ecosystems. Our behavior and the relationships that arise from it are at the center of every issue that troubles us: human overpopulation, loss of biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, poverty, the violated rights of individuals from other species, climate change, waste, and social and economic injustice, to name a few. The good news is that we can make better choices.

Though human ecology has most often been defined as the study of our relationships with the external environment, we are inverting that perspective. We are creating a preconceived, intentional, new human ecology.

We cannot ignore the tragedy of our irresponsible overpopulation and claim we support sustainability. We cannot approve of economic systems that ravage the Earth and rely on the impossibility of endless growth. Ravenous economic systems destroy ecosystems and in the process create unfathomable suffering for human and nonhuman species on a global scale. We cannot pretend that any vision of animal agriculture and the dietary choices that support them is environmentally adaptive and morally acceptable. Overpopulation, unjust and destructive economic systems, unraveling ecosystems, horrific dietary choices, injustice and poverty, and the violated rights of individuals from other species are all wound together so intimately that solving one brings us closer to solving the rest.

Given those problems are bound together, we cannot in truth declare we are environmentalists, consider ourselves advocates for species’ rights, or believe we are supporting social and economic justice unless we challenge all of these aspects of our human ecology simultaneously.

For Green Vegans, human ecology is our playing field. It is the comprehensive context and approach required to understand the connections. Reduce the number of people populating Earth, evolve to a Steady State Economy (http://steadystate.org/), and eliminate animal agriculture, for instance—then all sorts of wonderful things are possible. To succeed in attaining a humane and environmentally sane future for all, we are required to address personally many issues at the same time, not just one, or two we already identify with and support.

Edward O. Wilson, preeminent biologist and author, wrote in Concilience, that “… a universal environmental ethic is the only guide by which humanity and all the rest of life can be safely conducted through the bottleneck into which our species has foolishly blundered.” What is obvious to more than a few of us is that the animal rights and environmentalist communities (and a multitude of others) have failed to acknowledge a universal ethic wherein one community does not exclude the other. This failure and need exists in many institutions that work tirelessly to better the world.

There is nothing to stop us from ending the plague of our current human ecology. But it will take all of us and the organizations we support to look to a new human ecology that creates Seven Results (www.greenvegans.org). Our causes are related. So are the solutions.

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