Connecting to Power
In parts I and II, we see how the founders of modern-day veganism anticipated the connections between the vegan principle and other pressing issues. It is our job to understand that those same issues, if left unsolved, are obstacles to achieving a veganized humanity. As we help challenge and solve them, veganism gains power and becomes accepted as common sense. We are vegans without limits who gain the power of the whole.
Many vegans are aware that animal agriculture is responsible for up to 51% of the greenhouse gasses that fuel climate change and its symptoms of rising sea levels, drought, and ocean acidification. Climate change and our relentless exploitation of Earth is destroying ecosystems as we’ve known them at an accelerating rate. A United Nations’ “Millennium Assessment” reflected that “Nearly two thirds of the services provided by nature to humankind are found to be in decline worldwide. In effect, the benefits reaped from our engineering of the planet have been achieved by running down natural capital assets [natural capitol is the resource base of ecosystem services we rely upon like clean water, building materials, and pollinators].” Animal agriculture, responsible for impacting and dominating all ecosystems, is unnecessary for at least a billion of the wealthiest people who have alternatives. Impoverished people are benefiting from veganic agriculture as well.
We already cite how “going vegan” eliminates much of the violence waged against wild and domesticated individuals from other species, greatly reduces our environmental impacts, and improves personal health as it reduces national health care costs. But think about the good people at the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE). They know that economic systems must change to enable social and economic justice for more people. They urge us to toss out the belief that unlimited economic growth is possible within finite ecosystems. A steady state economy is required to stop the destruction of ecosystems. As they reduce that destruction, CASSE advocates also stop much of the miserable deaths of wildlife who live in those ecosystems. In their advocacy for reformed economic systems, CASSE addresses suffering and unjust killing which are pillars of purpose for ethical vegans.
CASSE was able to get the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the Wildlife Society (they consist of wild life professionals) to adopted the position that economic systems must become “steady state” to protect ecosystems and the species within them. At a time when the Wildlife Society opposes animal rights advocates, CASSE, itself a non-vegan organization, is making inroads to protect wildlife and people from unjust economic systems. Veganism is a far more conservative and ecosystem-friendly practice than animal agriculture. While CASSE opens minds, we’ve yet to communicate how veganism is the best thing wildlife management could hope for because we free up vast tracts of agricultural landscapes where livestock food is grown and cattle graze instead of wildlife. A vegan human ecology provides lifetimes of work for restoration ecologists to heal the destruction of animal agriculture.
We don’t have to become economics experts or spend all our time advocating for the Steady State Economy. As CASSE like to say, “A Steady State Economy is about better lives, rather than more stuff.” They also note that it requires a stable human population. Vegans only need to understand its general concept, subscribe to their updates, and to their website add our names as vegan organizations and individuals who endorse the Steady State Economy. You will find Green Vegans there. Tell them why veganism is the best human economy applied to ecosystems. Thank them for their work. Like an increasing number of vegans, they understand many of the connections between issues. Yet, like many vegans, their vision is still unfinished. Completing those connections—CASSE seeing the necessity of veganism to stop the loss of ecosystems and vegans seeing the necessity of the steady state economy to stop making violence and wanton destruction profitable—is where the power lives for both movements. This holds true for the interdependence of all the issues I’ve described so far. Here are a few more examples that demonstrate the depth of the power that flows between issues. It is available as soon as we acknowledge it.
In 2010 Russia, a heat wave, drought, and 26 thousand forest and crop fires destroyed 26 percent of their wheat crop. Because they normally export one-third of the world’s wheat, this loss contributed to rising food prices people had to pay around the world, including the people of Mozambique who rioted in response. Researchers have found that there is 80 percent likelihood that the Russian heat wave was statistically linked to climate change. Spewing up to 51% of the world’s greenhouse gasses, animal agriculture made an enormous contribution to climate change, the burned crops, and the starvation of people who rioted in desperation.
Our increasing human population also increases demand and the price of food. Described by Paul Roberts in his book, The End of Food, “In any given year, 4 million of Kenya’s 31 million people go hungry, and in bad years [drought] … that number can easily double.… population has climbed from 8 million in 1960 to 40 million today, the country must import nearly half of its grain, and even then, nearly half of its people are food insecure—nearly double that in 1980.” With less grain available and many more people to feed, food prices rose on a global scale. Rising food prices since mid-2010 have dragged an estimated 44 million more people back into extreme poverty. Household income that had gone to books, school supplies, and medical care went to buy food. Students had to drop out and work to keep the family from starving. According to the World Bank, “Higher food prices during 2008 alone may have increased the number of children suffering permanent cognitive and physical injury due to malnutrition by 44 percent.”
Limiting vegan advocacy to dietary changes alone is not veganism and will not protect anyone’s future. Ecosystems require more than a change in diet despite it being the most effective single change a person can choose. For instance, without a successful environmental movement, adults and children along with individuals from other species will be harmed by toxics and hormone-disrupting chemicals. We need vegan environmental advocacy that effects legal protections, funding for restoration and, with a vegan worldview, reformed wildlife “management” agencies that no longer are purposed to serve hunters, fishers, and animal agriculturalists. Because of the destructive nature of animal agriculture, environmentalists will not succeed without a vegan human ecology. However, given the disgraceful pace of environmentalists becoming vegans, we must become and live as advocates for the environment.
Our comfort zone regarding the personal changes we must make in our human ecology must be based on what the Earth’s living systems, other people, and other species need from us. If they need change from us immediately, then that must be the nature of our response. That’s why an abolitionist approach, not a “happy meat” failure, is the way forward. If we complain day and night that living humanely and sustainably are too stressful to consider, people, especially the poor, will also suffer and die. Or, we can think about telling elephant matriarchs that we are too uncomfortable with rapid changes in our lifestyles and will let them suffer from the ravages of human-induced drought and the rest of climate change, loss of habitat because of our own overpopulation, and deadly civil war conflicts that thrive amid social instability from hunger. And we can say we did not care enough for the current generation of friends and families we have and those that may follow.
At every moment, we make choices that either support our survival or ensure its end. For all of us, this is new terrain. What we can count on is that everyone on Earth needs a successful vegan movement, and our movement needs the others to succeed. We need the advocacy and resources of other movements to come together with us under one banner, a new human ecology. It reduces the perception that veganism is an isolated concept, irrelevant to the good advocates in other movements. Vegan advocates must engage them at every opportunity to remove the obstacles to achieving a global vegan norm. This is where it all makes sense, where the combination of movements is far more powerful than anything we can hope to achieve. The interrelatedness of these issues and the power we get from connecting them as one issue, our human ecology, is hard to miss.
TOMORROW I WILL POST A GLOBAL EVENT WHERE VEGANS CAN BE VISIBLE