Animal Liberation is Human Liberation

Welcome to Peace to All Beings. Until we liberate animals from human exploitation and violence, we cannot expect to have true freedom and peace for ourselves. We human beings can awaken to our higher consciousness and embrace a new paradigm of living in harmony, rather than in fear and domination. We can become "Homo Ahimsa," my term for a new nonviolent and kind human, but we must make that choice together. There is hope for our species--hope that we will not continue this war against animals and the earth. Together let us co-create a new culture and heal the wounds humanity has caused to the earth, to each other, and to the animals who share this world with us.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Harpooning Mother Earth and The Paradigm Shift

With much gratitude for the opportunity to write for the Eating as the Earth Matters column for Planet Kansas, here is the article I wrote for the February-March Issue, 2011.

Harpooning Mother Earth and The Paradigm Shift

On December 16 of 2010, a little over a month ago, what we all worked so hard to prevent, happened (not that we’re giving up now). On that day the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) granted a permit to Sunflower Electric to build a coal plant near Holcomb, Kansas. In the Sierra Club’s press release we read “This politicized fiasco was plagued with leaked emails exposing permit process manipulation, backroom deals, unwarranted involvement from the state legislature, and the abrupt and suspicious removal of former Secretary Bremby from KDHE. ‘The rushed job on this permit is an injustice to the thousands of citizens who participated in the process with the belief that their input was meaningful,’ said Stephanie Cole of the Kansas Sierra Club. ‘By turning the permitting process into a race against the clock, the state has signaled that it does not value public involvement.’”

We all spent countless hours preparing statements, emailing, calling, and appearing at hearings to state the simple and obvious truth. Human beings do not have the right to pollute the air, water, land, people and animals with the toxins produced from the mining, transporting, and burning of coal. Not only do we not have the right, but in truth we have the obligation to protect the earth and those who live here

A friend recently shared a story with me that captures in a few words the essence of what we are seeing and what affects us on such a deep emotional and spiritual level. “Reputedly, when an early oil well was drilled in Titusville, Pennsylvania, in the 1860’s, a former whaling captain was overheard to comment, “By God, they’ve harpooned Mother Earth.” (Leviathan, October 2010). Since then the harpoons have gotten much bigger, more destructive, and they seem to be held aloft everywhere ready for the next strike.

But wait—this is an article about food. What does food have to do with Sunflower Electric and whaling captains? Very simply, every moral and ethical issue that activists are addressing today arise from a single cause—human fear. It is a fear that has led us as a species to live within a paradigm of domination. That paradigm programs us to believe that those who dominate survive and gain power, money, and security. In addition, domination can only be maintained by never ending cycles of violence—against the poor, against women and children, indigenous peoples, wildlife, forests, prairies, rivers, seas, and (back to food) against animals.

As activists we are working to change the paradigm of domination to one of cooperation with nature and with each other and, of course, change the paradigm within ourselves. We have all had our share of cultural programming and must continually question our own thoughts and actions. As we lead the way into this noble way of living with Mother Earth instead of against her, we need to demonstrate consistency in our own lives.

Nobel Prize winner, Isaac Bashevis Singer once said “As long as people will shed the blood of innocent creatures there can be no peace, no liberty, no harmony between people. Slaughter and justice cannot dwell together.” George Bernard Shaw expressed it this way, “While we ourselves are the living graves of murdered beasts, how can we expect any ideal conditions on this earth?” In other words, eating as though the earth matters involves questioning what we have been taught about eating and food, and it involves not participating in the violence and domination of animals that so clearly defines our society today.

As activists, it helps us when we can see the connections that bind all this suffering together, because then we can more effectively work to bring an end to it. We can see the big picture—that all this human generated sorrow and pain to earth, animals, and people will ultimately end only when the paradigm shift happens--when enough people wake up and begin to live as caretakers instead of takers. We are the privileged ones, because we have glimpsed the beauty of how that could be, and we already have many tools to help steer our precious planet to safe harbor. We need to be vigilant and speak “truth to power” at all levels of government and industry, but we are also in an ideal position to demonstrate in our daily lives how to live nonviolently ourselves. When we take our own steps toward the shift, we show that it is possible for everyone.

In previous Planet Kansas “Eating as Though the Earth Matters,” columns, many statistics and facts have been reviewed to show how destructive animal agriculture is to our water, forests, wildlife, wild lands, and people, not to mention the animals themselves. By participating in what I call the Mother of all Boycotts, and refusing to eat the bodies and milk and eggs of animals, we exponentially increase the effectiveness of our other actions. We become consistent in our dedication to becoming nonviolent caretakers and healers of our beloved planet and all those beings who depend on us to live in harmony with them. The ravaging of the earth and of billions of “food” animals are tragedies caused by human beings who live in fear and so have lost their intimate connection to nature and the wild places we all love.

If the boycott of animal food and a shift in the kitchen sounds difficult to you, there is good news. Many restaurants now offer vegan options or will respectfully fix a special vegan meal for you. Most grocery stores now have health food sections well stocked with vegan food and organic fruits and veggies. Vegan cookbooks are easy to find, and there are thousands of vegan recipes online, such as Best of all, it tastes great, and the inner knowing that you are eating without causing suffering and violence to another beings brings joy to every cell of our bodies.  

Holiday Feasts that Heal the Earth

I am thrilled and grateful to have the opportunity to write a column for each issue of Planet Kansas, our local Sierra Club newsletter.  This article appeared in the December, January, 2011 issue.

Holiday Feasts that Heal the Earth

The holidays are upon us. Decorations have been up for a while now—reminding us of the countdown and the coming excitement. It is an interesting time for environmentalists and others who are working to heal the world. It’s such a mixed bag. On the one hand, we are entering a time that is loaded with tradition, family expectations, and a huge emphasis on consumerism. As would-be earth rescuers, we have to look at cherished traditions that may hold good memories for us—and question them. How do these traditions affect the earth? What sort of pollution is produced by the extra travel; the lavish decorations; the buying of gifts made in China and transported here; the landfills bursting with non-recycled wrapping paper, bows, and broken toys; and all that food?

On the other hand, we want to enjoy the holidays along with everyone else—most of whom would rather we not remind them of the environmental consequences of our holiday behavior. But environmentalists are visionaries, looking forward to how we can create small green footprint holidays in harmony with nature. It is never more obvious that we are standing with one foot in the old paradigm and one foot in the new than at holiday time. We walk the razor’s edge as we quietly swipe the wrapping paper out of the giant red plastic trash bag and hide it in our car (or bike) to recycle it later.

Of course we don’t want to “spoil the party” by loudly announcing the eco-sins committed by our 95 year old uncle Cedric. Instead, with our actions more than our words, we can be a peaceful, joyful example of how to start a new tradition of a green, organic, fair-trade, nonviolent , peace-promoting, earth healing holiday season.

Of all the things we can do to promote this new tradition of true peace for people, animals, and the earth , the most far reaching action we can take will be what we choose to put on the table. All over the world the various year-end holidays echo the universal human longing for peace. Yet the meals of age-old traditions tend to be loaded with the meat, dairy and eggs of animals who have certainly not lived or died in peace. Over the centuries such meals were symbols of wealth and power. For many of the world’s poor, a meat laden meal symbolized a reprieve from poverty. That has certainly changed in the U.S. where animal products now make up the bulk of American diets and waistlines regardless of one’s wealth or lack thereof. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported recently that only 10.6% of Kansans daily consume the recommended two or more fruits and three or more vegetables each day. The highest percentage was only 20% in D.C. (AARP Bulletin, November, 2010). Good for McDonalds. Bad for us and the future of life on earth.

It is during these holidays that “Peace on Earth” somehow becomes a shared dream, a hope, something that, at least for now, we can believe in and celebrate the possibility. Yet when we take even the briefest of looks at animal agriculture in the world, we could not help but call it “hell on earth”—not just for the farmed animals, but for the land, for wildlife, and for our health and the health of our children. It is up to us to stop this agricultural engine of destruction, and we can. Of all the environmental challenges we have, this is the simplest to solve. It’s a matter of choosing non-animal food at every meal. Here is that brief look at the rampant devastation caused by the animal food industries.

Air Pollution: By now you have heard about the 2006 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s conclusion that animal agriculture contributes more greenhouse gases than all the cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the entire world combined. Also animal waste produces 80% of the ammonia emissions in the U.S., according to the EPA.

Water Pollution: The Audubon Society reports that over half of U.S. water is used to raise animals for food. The EPA states that animal agriculture excrement pollutes more water sources than all other industries combined. While human beings have sewage systems, animal farms are not required to have them. Instead, the manure and all its accompanying bacteria, drugs, and other contaminants fester in open air lagoons, percolate down into the ground and overflow during heavy rains. Of course, water pollution from slaughterhouses, tanneries, and fertilizer and pesticide industries add to the poisonous mess.

Poor Land Use: The USDA reports that 80% of agricultural land is used either to house animals or to grow their feed, and the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 30% of the earth’s entire surface is used for livestock. Approximately 70% of grain grown in the U.S. is fed to animals—enough grain to end starvation worldwide.

Deforestation : The FAO considers animal agriculture a major cause of deforestation as huge companies take over tropical and other forests from nature and indigenous people, clearcut the trees, and either grow grain for animals or run cattle on the eroding, damaged land that remains.

Decimation of Wildlife: The UN reports that such deforestation has caused the extinction of many plant and animal species in rainforest areas. Wildlife Services of the USDA, which is charged with protecting livestock from predators in the U.S. used taxpayer money to kill 1,642,823 animals in 2006 alone. They use steel jaw leghold traps, shooting from helicopters, and poisoning, among other cruel methods.

Fishing Hurts: It hurts the fish who are sensitive and intelligent beings, but also, because of drift net and other massive, industrial fishing techniques, the coral reefs and the oceans themselves are being devastated.

Clearly, the most powerful action we can take during this holiday season and into the new year is the mother of all boycotts. The adoption of a vegan lifestyle, which is synonymous with nonviolence, and includes an animal-free diet, is the most effective tool any environmentalist can utilize.

As we continue our mission to reverse the destruction of our precious jewel of a planet, and create a new paradigm of tenderly caring for our earth home, let us make this holiday season one of hope. We can teach and foster new human traditions that reflect real joy and peace, reverence for all life, and a deep awareness of our sacred connection to the earth and all who live here.

I wish you the most beautiful of holidays. May all wrapping paper be recycled and may all beings find peace. May we work together in this new year to “be the change.”