In part 1, I described emotional experiences felt by vegans, environmentalists and advocates for social and economic justice. We all see the world in a way that remains in the minority of perception and sense of urgency. I wrote about the problems we are working to solve—preventing the collapse of ecosystems and biodiversity, establishing social and economic justice, spreading veganism, reforming economic systems to make these goals possible, and reversing human overpopulation. Human behavior causes these problems and that is our advantage; they can be cured by changing human behaviors. Now we will look at how advocates for a Steady State Economy and the Center for Biological Diversity understand this as evidenced by their addressing multiple issues within their core mission.
I referred to two blog posts on the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) website. The CASSE platform includes limits to human-oriented growth in our finite home called Earth. They recognize all life has inherent value that must be considered and protected when choosing an economic system. Prominent biologists (and Green Vegans) have endorsed CASSE’s platform. Both CASSE posts remind us that vegans are not the only advocates who are deeply pained when nonbelievers just don’t “get it.”
The first is by James Magnus-Johnson and aptly titled, “Hedonism, Survivalism, and the Burden of Knowledge”. He is responding to a Grist (environmentalist) article about “climate depression,” that is, no matter how hard a person labors to win a cause—in this case to stop climate change—it won’t be enough. The author wrote, “A recent article by Madeline Thomas in Grist featured the headline, ‘Climate depression is for real. Just ask a scientist.’ Scientists’ intimate understanding of climate change has led to depression, substance abuse, suicide, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Camillie Parmesan, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize for her work as a lead author of the Third IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] Assessment Report, became ‘profoundly depressed’ at the seeming futility of her work. She had been screaming from the scientific rooftops, yet the best we could offer in response was little more than a call for more carbon-intensive growth.”
Magnus-Johnson continues, “Ecologist Guy McPherson is among those who have suggested that near-term human extinction is inevitable. James Lovelock, author of the Gaia hypothesis, believes that climate catastrophe is inevitable within 20 years. With an awareness of the rate of species loss and climate change, among other symptoms of breakdown, it isn’t hard to fall into paralysis and despair.” He then explains how many people adapt in different ways. One of them is familiar to advocates for veganism. He cites the “survivalists” who believe they can escape the climate mess by moving to the country believing in an idyllic, pastoral life. “They’re hard workers who romantically hope to re-kindle the low-carbon self-sufficiency of generations past.”
When vegan advocacy overly focused on industrialized animal agriculture, non-vegans turned to the myths of the “family farm” like the survivalists. These non-vegans wanted to believe this solved the core objections to animal exploitation. We know better. The ensuing green–, sustainability—, and humane–washing under the romanticized notion of family farms still hinders veganism’s progress. That can be depressing for vegan advocates.
The second blog post on the CASSE website is by its founding President, Brian Czech, PhD., who is among other things an Interdisciplinary Biologist. It is titled, “Animal Welfare: Seeing the Forest for the Denizens”. Linking global issues, Czech decries how no-limits-to-growth economics harms wildlife: “Some animals survive an initial wave of habitat destruction only to be stranded in an unfamiliar, unforgiving environment. When a food or water source is destroyed, wild animals may starve, die of thirst, or suffer from malnutrition and the associated agonies. When thermal cover is lost, animals expend valuable time and energy trying to regulate body temperature. This lowers the time and energy available for feeding, playing, and mating. When hiding cover is lost, wild animals experience fear and stress, seeking cover from predators that may or may not be present.
Czech continues, “We often hear of ‘human activity’ being the cause of habitat loss. That’s a start… but we have to dig deeper…. After all, the habitat destruction caused by humans beings isn’t spiritual activity, or neighborhood activity, or political activity (at least not directly), but almost always economic activity. And why does no one put in a word for our furry and feathered friends when Congress, the President, and the Fed pull out all the stops for GDP growth? Where are the advocates of humane treatment of animals, when the biggest decisions are made about the rate of habitat loss and therefore animal suffering?
When a hundredth percentage point less in GDP growth could save hundreds of thousands of animals a year? Why don’t we have a mainstream media, which isn’t afraid to expose nastiness to horses and chickens, talking about the millions of animals suffering at the cumulative hand of economic growth? Has economic growth become the inconvenient truth for animal welfare?” Czech recognizes what every vegan should care about. It should be evident that vegan advocates need to endorse and discuss the necessity of the Steady State Economy concept to our work.
While he unwisely cites a few mainstream animal welfare organizations as being the hope for nonhuman species, he makes an unmistakable connection between animal suffering and the type of economic system we choose. This is breakthrough progress. Current economic systems value efficiencies that produce profit while never bothering to consider the inherent value of life. They ignore suffering. They are cold as coins to the immorality of businesses murdering sentient individuals from other species. Can abolition be a pillar of an economic system? Why not?
In Part 1, I compared biologist Aldo Leopold’s lament that “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds” to the vegan advocate’s experience. When we compare Leopold the biologist and vegans on this matter, it’s easy to recognize that we share being “alone in a world of wounds.” So why would we believe we should be distinct social movements?
One environmental organization in particular succeeds in connecting issues where others fail. The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) puts human overpopulation at the fore for causing extinctions. Unlike other environmental organizations, they do not fear challenging people for having too many children. They have a condom campaign. Still, they do not yet have a vegan human ecology program nor a vegan action plan. It is as important for them to correct this mistake as it is for vegans to advocate for population, environmental, and economic reforms. Failing in this will destroy the livability of Earth for us, especially the poor, and other species.
Increasingly, advocates for veganism are asking humanity to understand that veganism is essential for healthy ecosystems. Economic systems and social and economic justice are dependent, absolutely dependent, upon healthy ecosystems. Given the power of veganism to protect and heal ecosystems, it follows that all depend upon a veganized humanity. Veganism in turn requires an economic system that does not reward the violence of slaughter, the destruction of ecosystems, and exploitation of people. Veganism falters when 392,715 mostly non-vegans are born every twenty-four hours, so population matters, too.
Increasingly, vegans and organizations like CASSE, CBD, and Green Vegans understand how these issues are linked and how it is not one human behavior that needs to be changed but many—simultaneously. Those movements need us and we need them. This is how veganism can progress rapidly. We are one movement.