This is my most recent article for Planet Kansas. You can see the article on pages 18-19 online here
Sierra Club Planet Kansas, Fall, 2014, Issue
Eating as Though the Earth Matters column
Hope for Wolves, Grass Eating Criminals, Mother Earth, and us
At a rest stop on I-70 not too far west of Topeka I saw something so peculiar I had to make a note of it. It was a quote from a man named Carl Becker whose words were immortalized on a plaque there. To paraphrase, his statement was this: When you look at wilderness, you lose hope. So see it not for what it is but for what it can be. Having just driven from Yosemite where I was overcome at each turn of the road by the majesty of the place, it was a jolting reminder that not everyone was a John Muir fan. It was Muir, as you know, who helped save Yosemite from those who would have only “found hope” in greedily taking it apart piece by piece for profit.
Those two world views reveal a lot about our challenges today as we seek to save our precious earth from the ravages of the human propensity to look at everything as objects put here just for our use. The fear of and estrangement from nature, coupled with our seemingly endless ideas on how to use it to our benefit has spelled disaster for ecosystems everywhere.
But is the tide turning in favor of Mother Earth? Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club quotes President Obama as saying to new college graduates, “You’re going to have to push those of us in power to do what this American moment demands.” He was referring to the environmental crises. Brune points out that 70% of U.S. adults polled, across party lines, agree that greenhouse gases from power plants should be limited. His hope and belief is that the U.S. can get all its electricity without coal or gas by 2030. He could be right. Already there are more people working for solar companies than there are coal miners.
The world view that our species is the center of the universe and that everything is here simply for us to use—appears to be losing ground, perhaps just in the nick of time. Animals, of course, both wild and domesticated, have been victims of that “all for us” belief system for thousands of years.
A recent example is the killing of the alpha female of the Huckleberry wolf pack by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. According to Defenders of Wildlife, WDFW had assured the public that no alpha wolves would be killed because they are so crucial to any pack’s survival. As you know, wolves are being killed at a devastating rate all over the northwest.
Why? Big Agriculture and small ranchers, including those who claim to be humane. A federal agency known as Wildlife Services, using our tax dollars, and other agencies are at their beck and call. The wild carnivores are killed to prevent them from killing cows, goats, sheep, chickens, etc. all of whom are going to be killed themselves by human beings for profit. Or, in the case of prairie dogs (58,000 of whom were killed in 2013 alone), bison, and other herbivores, their crime was eating grass. Such is the “hope” of animal producers—that they can control and manipulate nature and those who live in it to make a financial profit. The mindset behind it is that the oppression and domination of those who can’t defend themselves is acceptable as long as it benefits the oppressor. Shooting entire families of wolves from helicopters and/or poisoning them in their dens is an example of this moral and ethical abyss.
In other articles I have shared with you, we have looked deeply at the many water, air and earth catastrophes caused by animal agriculture.. So in this article we will just focus on the devastation it causes to wildlife and ecosystems.
According to Norm Phelps in his book The Longest Struggle, the well-known environmental group known as Greenpeace began a unique campaign. Paul Watson, one of the founders, convinced his fellow activists that defending the environment and ecosystems involved defending the individual animals as well and indeed seeing them as individuals with feelings, families and lives of their own.
So in 1975 they acquired a ship which they named “Greenpeace V” with a plan to stop Soviet, Japanese, and Icelandic whalers from killing whales. Using inflatable zodiacs, they attempted to place themselves between the whales and the harpoons. Not caring about the protesters, the Russians fired anyway. This group also attempted to place themselves between baby harp seals and their killers and famously sprayed nontoxic red dye on the babies to make their white coats worthless to the seal killers. Greenpeace eventually stopped that kind of activism designed to raise public awareness and save individual animal’s lives along with their ecosystems. Paul Watson resigned from Greenpeace and formed the now world famous “Whale Wars” environmental and vegan group, Sea Shepherd.
Paul teaches and demonstrates the new world view that we human beings are not the center of the universe and that animals are not here for us to use. He and many other wise environmentalists are making it clear that “protecting ecosystems” is not enough. Our ethics, as Einstein, Gandhi, Schweitzer and many others have made clear, must expand to include nonviolence to all living beings, not just people. Without such an ethic, we are mired in violence. When entire families of prairie dogs and wolves are killed so that we can kill cows, we have to ask ourselves—What is wrong with this picture?
Most of our cultures down through the ages have programmed us from early childhood to accept the domination dogma that Carl Becker and so many have unquestioningly lived by. But always in the background there have been those iconoclasts who questioned authority and looked more deeply at who we are and what our place in the world’s ecosystem really is. It takes a lot of courage to step out of the mainstream and as Walt Whitman penned, “dismiss whatever insults your own soul…” I believe our souls cry out at the news that mother wolves and their babies are killed by guns and poisons against which they have no defense—just so we can kill more cows.
Reporter Stephanie Lee covered a story for the San Francisco Chronicle in August about some new companies that are making a profit without harming wildlife or other animals. Hampton Creek has developed an egg substitute made from plant proteins. They are rethinking, as Lee says, “the way food is made.”
She states, “…high-tech food makers backed by the likes of Bill Gates and the co-founders of Twitter are finding a place on supermarket shelves. Hampton Creek's mayonnaise and cookies, both plant-based, are in 10,000 stores worldwide. Plant-protein-derived chicken and beef by Beyond Meat in Southern California will soon be in 6,000 stores nationally.” Recognizing the environmental, health, and nonviolence benefits of plant based foods, these company founders and investors are taking a stand for a better world.
Hampton Creek is being backed by some very forward looking investors including Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, Jerry Yang who co-founded Yahoo, billionaire Tom Steyer, Gates, as well as Khosla Ventures, and others.
Some of these same investors are backing Ethan Brown’s company, Beyond Meat. He started the company, he says, because he cares about animals and wanted to help them and the Earth. Biz Stone, founder of Twitter, a vegan, and an investor in Beyond Meat, calls it a “disruptive technology company,” in essence questioning the status quo, dismissing what is so deeply insulting our souls, and creating a new way to bring food to all tables (including the worlds’ hungry) without violence to the earth, wildlife, and other animals..
Beyond Meat's research has found that 4% of the U.S. population is vegan. Brown points out that the meat people are eating is causing serious health and environmental issues. Yet many do not want to give it up. His answer to that: ‘…so why give it up? Why not try plant-based meat?’
As environmentalists, our “hope” is not Carl Becker’s “seeing [wilderness] for what it can be” after we manipulate it, but rather to be caught up in the awe and wonder of wilderness and the animals who live on this planet with us, to be able to live lightly upon the earth, indeed to do everything we can to bring back the clean air, water, and soil that once blessed our earthly home.
As I have said in all my previous “Eating As Though The Earth Matters” articles, the good news and the “hope” is close at hand. Three times each day, starting now, each one of us can make an astounding impact for good by eating vegan, plant based, nonviolent meals and committing ourselves to nonviolent practices toward this sacred Earth and all who live here.
© 2014, Judy Carman, M.A., is author of Peace to All Beings: Veggie Soup for the Chicken’s Soul and co-author of The Missing Peace: The Hidden Power of our Kinship with Animal;. 2014 winner of the Henry Spira Grassroots Animal Activist award; and owner of a truck and a car powered by used veggie oil and house powered by solar. Her primary websites are circleofcompassion.org and peacetoallbeings.com.