Going to Hell in a Handbasket* or Converging on a Solution?
Inspired by a post on indigenous ethics, I was reflecting today on the sacred connection indigenous peoples share with plants, animals, stars, and planets.
What about the rest of us? Trapped in crowded, tech-saturated urban areas with busy-bee lives, do we know balance? Do we know reverence?
Stunningly, the root of many of the world’s environmental and health ills are embedded in the way we have developed systems of animal agriculture and upset nature’s balance. The conceptual framework below illustrates what I mean.
Forests are being removed in the Amazon and other regions of the world to graze cattle. Biodiversity is soon lost as habitats are destroyed. The land becomes degraded, and rainfall, with no remaining opportunity for filtration through the roots of the forest, washes away precious topsoil and pollutes rivers and other waterways.
As a consequence of animal agriculture, food security for the indigenous and the poor are threatened, as only those who can afford meat purchase it. Cattle and other animals such as chickens and pigs raised in factory farms are fed grain that could otherwise be used to sustain starving humans around the world. Those of us on the other end of the spectrum who are not starving, are eating ourselves to death. Cancer, type I and II diabetes, heart disease, and obesity are all linked to high levels of meat and dairy in the typical Western diet.
As if this wasn’t egregious enough, life cycle analyses of animal agriculture (that includes grazing, refrigeration, transportation, processing, etc.) indicates that it is the largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, a recent report states that if the world continues to adopt the typical Western diet, we could be looking at a 4-degree Celsius global temperature rise instead of a 2-degree rise – not a future I want to tell stories to my nieces and nephews about. Not a future they deserve…
In a previous post, I highlighted some of the research and important sources to support these points. In this post, I want us to simply pause and reflect on the system we have created or supported. Clearly, it isn’t working. It is based on violence, hierarchy, hubris, greed, selfishness, short-sightedness, and ignorance.
Fortunately, this destructive paradigm is already crumbling. Reversing it, we arrive at veganism – refraining from eating or otherwise using any animals or animal products. A solution that allows forests to be restored, bringing back biodiversity, nurturing valuable soil, and filtering water into pristine aquifers as only nature can. Remember, forests are the most stabilizing force for our planet’s climate.
A healthy vegan diet reverses diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, and can prevent the triggering of cancer (if you don’t think so, it really IS time to read The China Study ). As we show our compassion to animals and release them from torture and cruelty, we show less violence and more love to our fellow humans, dissolving the ‘us and them’ illusion so that all humans may eat lower on the food chain and live well. Ultimately, a vegan lifestyle honors life and allows living systems to thrive, placing humans in a more humble and compassionate position relative to all other forms of life.
If we take an in-breath, and become present to the life force that enters our body in the form of oxygen, then breathe out, releasing the carbon dioxide that can be toxic to us in large amounts, we become aware of how connected we really are to all of life. And, how vulnerable we can be. Is there a loved one next to you, breathing in the air you just breathed out? As I sit here with my parents, I am all too aware of why I am fighting for a stable climate – for them, their grandchildren, and all the human and other animals who deserve a life of wellness and freedom.
Climate change, and all the interrelated challenges that stem from animal agriculture, are ripe for transformative human intervention. These questions remain with me:
- What tools and systems might we build that promote and sustain life?
- How might we treat all life with reverence, including our own?
- How might we begin now, with our own unique talents and skills, to serve all life?
- How might we collectively embrace veganism as the mother of all solutions for healing Ma Nature?
What are your questions?
*An expression my late mentor, Steve, used often, only half-jokingly…