Eating as Though the Earth Matters column
ARE WE TRUMPED OR ARE WE MORE POWERFUL THAN EVER?As Trump prepares to take on the presidency, people all over the country are realizing—now, more than ever before—It really is up to us! How many times must we see our legislative victories for the earth and for justice lose traction under the shenanigans of politicians? Now it is possible that coal, oil, Keystone XL, and a nightmare of ecological terrors could escalate. Nil Zacharias writes in the online “One Green Planet,” an article he titled, “Here’s how you can shape our environmental future with Trump as president.”
Zacharias writes that “With Donald Trump as President, huge questions loom about the future of the fight to preserve our natural ecosystems…” He notes that the EPA could possibly be abolished or at least lose significant funds; that there could be increased subsidies for animal agriculture; and many policies to push for more coal and oil instead of alternative energy. We all agree with him when he says “The fight is not over,” but what does that fight look like now. Of course, we cannot ignore what tricks the new administration will be playing. But, more than ever, we must turn toward each other and “be the change” as Gandhi famously advised. And not just “be the change” but also help others to be that as well. As Zacharias writes, “if we care about our environment and the future of humanity, we have to start practicing change in our daily lives.”
Captain Paul Watson, vegan activist and Founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, in his November 15 “Huffington Post” article, “Why fighting Donald trump is a waste of time,” acknowledges the threats posed by a Trump administration. But he also points out that it is up to us. The keys to our survival include, “Individual passion. Individual imagination. Individual initiative. Individual courage.” “Depending on a politician to solve any of these problems is like depending on an oil executive to promote solar energy. It is simply not in their interest or as Bill Clinton once put it, ‘It’s the economy stupid.’” Trump, he points out, is no better or worse than “the rest of these so-called leaders whose agenda is to serve the corporations and to enrich themselves.”
Love, Numbers, and Consumption
Time is short. We have to use our activist time wisely. There is so much we can do individually as people who care about our earth. It is time to create the world we want and heal the human caused damage, whether or not politicians and corporations cooperate. Our power as people is enormously greater than that of governments. That power lies in three primary areas: Love, Numbers, and Consumption.
Love--for the earth, for the wilderness, for the trees and animals, for each other and for the children of the future--that is what motivates us to keep going as we continue to stand in solidarity. The lust for power that is causing so much destruction is intimidating, but we must always remember that lust is fueled by fear. It can never match the strength of people emboldened by compassion, love, empathy, and care for all the living.
Numbers?—well, there are a lot of us, and with this election, there is evidence that our numbers just grew exponentially. More than ever, the realization is dawning that we cannot depend on the government to take good care of us if we just elect the right people. What may well be the silver lining in all this is that people are becoming ready to take care of each other and of the earth with or without the will and action of the power elite. Human rights, peace and justice, environmental, and animal rights groups may have many different missions and work to do, but it is clear that we all have one common mission. Often referred to as intersectionality, we are now seeing that all justice work, whether for the earth, animals, or people, is focused on ending oppression and violence. Most efforts on the part of one cause to end oppression can benefit the other causes. The exception to that premise occurs when activists act compassionately toward one group while unconsciously causing oppression to another. As Carla Golden states in her “activist’s lunchbox” article, “As long as those who gain the most from the current system can keep you oppressing other beings then you excuse and permit their oppression of you.”
It is a time in our history when we activists must join together in our common goal to end oppression and build a world in which all people, animals, and the earth are protected from human greed. As Golden points out, “If education, awareness, non-violent speech, and non-violent action are part of your social justice activist toolbox, then vegan needs to describe your activist lunchbox. Without non-violent sustenance, you are fueling your activism with the oppression against which you campaign. Eat peace and campaign for peace. Awaken the vegan within. Every social justice activist’s lunchbox must contain non-violence…Intersectionality calls for veganism to protect all beings, non-humans and humans, and secure justice, freedom, and compassion for all.”
Consumption—this is mind-boggling in its potential to create the world we envision. We all know Americans’ consumption levels are off the charts compared to the rest of the world. Not only do we need to consume less, but also consume consciously and mindfully. When we shop at thrift stores, second hand stores, garage sales, Craigslist, and fair trade and ethical companies, we peacefully and nonviolently protest against big corporations and their child and adult slavery, unsafe working conditions, waste, pollution, mining for resources, and a long list of environmental, social justice, and animal atrocities caused by their reckless pursuit of profit without ethics. But more than that, with enough of us participating, we peacefully and radically reduce their profits and force them to either close or get ethical!
But our greatest influence as consumers lies in what we eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nowhere else do we have such power to eliminate oppression of people, animals, and the earth as we do with our food purchases. The government-subsidized animal agriculture industry causes animal suffering and death to billions of animals; causes misery among slaughterhouse and other workers; uses most of our fresh water and land; destroys rainforests and indigenous peoples’ homes; grows enough grain for animals that could be used to end world hunger; pollutes our air, waterways and seas; degrades the land; denudes forests; and destroys wildlife and their habitats. That covers many of the justice movements directly. And the good news is that it is this one industry upon which we can have the most profound impact. We can transform that industry by ourselves, without legislation, without appealing to those in power. Most of us would have a hard time eliminating all petroleum products from our purchases right now, but overnight we can tell BigAg that we will not buy their products because they wreak havoc on the planet and all who live upon it.
There are signs that this globally destructive industry is already paying attention to our ethics in action since the number of people going plant-based is rising dramatically. An October 10 article in the New York Times by Stephanie Strom is entitled “Tyson foods, A Meat Leader, Invests in ProteinAlternatives.” The largest meat processor in the country, Tyson Foods, has actually invested in the plant-based “meat alternative” company, Beyond Meat. This new company is one of several that aims to do their part to heal the earth and create social justice by giving people an alternative to the destructive practice of eating animal products. One of Beyond’s products is the Beyond Burger that some Whole Foods Markets are selling next to their meat cases. The article quotes Tyson senior Vice President of New Ventures, Monica McGurk. ‘The quality of the Beyond Burger is amazing…We think it’s a game-changing product that gives us exposure to this fast-growing part of the food business.’
This is happening, not because of legislation which continues to subsidize animal agriculture or lobbyists getting soft hearted about the environment, but because of our power to choose what we buy. Americans are simply eating more plant-based, vegan meals, and Big Ag is noticing. If they have to switch to plant-based products to continue their profitability, then that is exactly what they will do and are beginning to do. According to the Plant Based Foods Association, these new companies which include Beyond Meat, Heidi Ho, Califia Farms, and others showed $4.9 billion in sales from June of 2015 to June of 2016, outpacing in growth regular food businesses. General Mills has moved quickly on the basis of such news and has invested in Beyond Meat and another plant-based company Kite Hill.
Michele Simon, who is the executive director of the Plant Based Foods Association, said ‘The question in my mind with these acquisitions is always why they’re being done…The most positive view is that this means the meat industry is shifting away from animal meat to plant-based meat, but I don’t think we know that’s the case yet — it could also be a way of distracting attention from their industrial meat business.’ Also, if enough meat industry investors got too much control of the companies, they could destroy them. At this point, there is no doubt these animal agriculture companies have no plans to give up what has made them so rich and powerful. And that puts the responsibility back onto each one of us. If we buy plant-based and never again buy animal-based, then they will have no choice but to transform into the non-violent, non-destroyer of the earth that we know they must. According to Strom’s article, one survey found that 22 percent of consumers said they were eating more plant-based meat substitutes than they did the previous year.
By “being the change,” by living without oppression, by acknowledging our power and our ethics, we can re-wild the earth; we can bring the forests and prairies back; we can help wild animals on the brink of extinction thrive once more; we can end world hunger. By eating plant-based meals we tell BigAg we are through with them. By not supporting them, we prevent them from continuing to pollute the air and waters of earth. I’m not saying legislation, demonstrations, and other forms of protest aren’t important. They are critical. But recognizing the simple fact that we can make an enormous difference from this moment on by living non-violently is more important than ever before. This is something we can each do as individuals right now and from now on that will bring us exponentially closer to the healed world we hold in our hearts. It’s up to us. The power elite is not going to do it for us. And that’s ok, because we can do this ourselves. I know we can. We have the passion, imagination, initiative, and courage that Paul Watson says we need. We have all those things. We can do this.
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© 2016, 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 and a Chevy Volt electric car powered by solar. Her primary websites are circleofcompassion.org and peacetoallbeings.com.