This is my latest "Eating as Thought the Earth Matters" column for Sierra Club Planet Kansas, Winter, 2014, Issue
Prison of Hope
After over twenty years of fighting to save the sacred Haskell/Wakarusa Wetlands in Lawrence, Kansas, the highway builders now have the go-ahead to destroy the precious and rare ecosystem killing many animals in the process. Dolphins off the Louisiana coast show signs of serious illness after the BP oil spill, and the oil companies just keep drilling, spilling, and killing.
We continue to fight the Keystone XL pipeline which would be one of the worst threats the earth and her wildlife have ever known. Already, according to Sierra Club news, Canada is allowing the poisoning and hunting by air of wolves in preparation for tar sands sludge pipelines. A baby humpback whale was thankfully rescued from a fishing net pulled tight around her chest. How many more are there who are never rescued?
You and I could fill volumes with the tragedies befalling the earth and her waters, soil, animals, and plants every single day. As we go forth into this new year of 2014, we are all looking for signs of hope.
Looking for hopeful things, I remembered an experiment that was conducted at the Victor Valley Correctional Facility in Adelanto, California. For a period of seven years inmates were given a choice between living in the “New Start” wing of the prison or a regular wing. The “New Start” program which was chosen by 85% of the prisoners included bible study, anger management, job training, and a vegan diet. During that time, California had a recidivism rate of 95% while Victor Valley’s record of recidivism dropped to 2%.
Not only was the recidivism rate significantly lower for the vegan prisoners, their behavior in prison was atypical of normal prison life. There was no evidence of racial tension, gang violence, or hierarchical behavior.
Individuals committed to nonviolence toward all life choose not to consume animal based foods. Conversely individuals who may not have made such a commitment but who are fed only plant based foods actually may become nonviolent. This makes sense on many levels—spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional. Killing an animal requires violence, and the animal’s reaction of terror and pain fill his or her cells with adrenalin and extreme stress.
Every day we hear of someone with great power making violent, destructive decisions against the forests, oceans, and the places of peace we all cherish. What if they, like the prisoners at Victor Valley switched to a vegan diet (along with anger management, of course)? What if we all did?In our 2014 prayers and visions for a healed earth this year, let us be open to all the possible ways to bring human consciousness away from its destructive tendencies and into its highest possible expression. There are signs of hope everywhere, and the greatest hope of all lies in your ongoing willingness to speak truth to power and in the hearts of activists everywhere