Colorado is burning, California and Oregon are burning, and the world is burning. The coronavirus pandemic distracted our momentary amazement at the breadth and depth of the Australia fires earlier this year (remember them?). The pandemic was itself a consequence of our fascination with killing and eating animals; it started with eating pangolins, and it’s being spread through slaughterhouses. Now, America is literally on fire. We are destroying animals and trees wholesale and we’re noticing that the air is unhealthy. Continue reading
In politics, people are doing and saying a lot of weird things right now. President Trump (without any particular evidence) is tossing around accusations that the election could be stolen by the Democrats, while Democrats are mulling over the very real possibility that the election will in fact be stolen by the President. What is this weirdness, exactly, and what is its source, and what should we do about it?
If you get right down to it, there are a lot of weird things other than in politics going on right now. Climate change, for starters. Then there’s humans overrunning the earth. We kill and eat almost all of the large animals on the planet (livestock), but not before first confining and torturing them. The few wild animals that are left are increasingly crowded out by the human economy, and mass extinction appears to be in progress. And then there’s peak oil, soil erosion, and resource depletion more generally, which each have civilization-ending potential. Our growth-oriented economy is incapable of dealing with limits to growth. Continue reading
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. Olga Tokarczuk. Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. Thorndike Press, 2019.
The Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk has become something of a lightning rod in her home country because of her left-wing and anti-establishment views. She is also a vegetarian and recently received the Nobel Prize. So when I heard that Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (which turns out to be an allusion to a William Blake poem) had a strong “animal” theme, I was naturally curious and had to check it out.
Well, it does have an animal theme, but if you were expecting lyrical descriptions of the Polish countryside from this author, you can forget that right now. It is a gritty, modern, realistic murder mystery. Continue reading
The pandemic has hurt “wildlife tourism” and endangered the wildlife which drew in the tourists. The Guardian announced (May 5) that, “Ecotourism collapse threatens communities and wildlife,” and The Washington Post adds (July 17) that this tourism “is essential to wildlife conservation in many African countries.”
These reports are all very true, but send the wrong message and obscure an important reality: wilderness is almost completely gone already. Instead of preserving wilderness, we should be trying to re-establish wilderness. Continue reading
We learned on the news today that the city is proceeding with its plan to slaughter more geese, just as it did last year. We urge all Denver residents to protest this brutal, stupid, and unnecessary plan. Below is a letter that Kate and I sent to our city council representatives (Paul Kashmann, Debby Ortega, and Robin Kniech) one week ago, on July 1. For more details or to get involved, visit the website of the grassroots group Canada Geese Protection Colorado. Continue reading
It’s probably not news to you that the COVID-19 pandemic is getting worse in the United States. Here are three questions. First, why is the pandemic getting worse? Second, what are the practical implications? Finally, who wants to repeat this experiment in another few years with a different disease? Continue reading
Systemic, radical changes in the United States are now in the cards. You can feel it in the news and in the streets, even with COVID-19 acting as a damper on protests. But we haven’t had much discussion of what specifically these changes should be. We know—though mainstream economists still haven’t figured it out—that economic growth isn’t the answer: we have hit the limits to growth. We need a basic income: a guaranteed cash payment to all adult citizens sufficient to support a minimal lifestyle.
Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “OK, basic income: possibly a good idea. But what does this have to do with veganism?” Continue reading
Several years ago, I took a look at the book Drawdown, edited by Paul Hawken. It has now been turned into a web site, “Project Drawdown,” which several people have recently mentioned to me. It’s a list of proposed solutions to global warming. It is not so much a plan to deal with global warming, but rather strategies that could be integrated into a plan. There are lots of good ideas, including not only the standard ones such as renewable energy, but also including plant-rich diets, forest restoration, bicycle infrastructure, and others.
Approaching global warming in this way looks like an attempt to retrofit sustainability onto our existing system. Is this going to work? Continue reading
Limits to growth are now here. Our economy used to work just fine but hasn’t been working so well for the past few decades. With limits to growth, it is now not going to work at all.
One failure is our way of dealing with social inequality. The only way that we have tried to deal with social inequality is through economic growth. We’ve assumed for some time that capitalistic expansion of the economy will solve problems of inequality. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” that is, a bigger economy will be bigger for everyone. Continue reading
Is peak oil here? Yes! Peak oil has finally arrived! I’m hardly alone in raising this issue; Gail Tverberg, Art Berman, Kurt Cobb, and Alice Friedmann (and at this point probably many others) are expressing similar concerns.
Wait a minute, it has PROBABLY arrived. Allow me to explain. Continue reading
Will a million Americans die due to the COVID-19 pandemic? I doubt that the casualties will get this high, but it is not unthinkable.
When I was young, the “unthinkable” was the possibility of human-caused nuclear war. Today, we face the reality of human-caused pandemic diseases. The destruction from this pandemic probably won’t be quite as grim as an all-out nuclear war. But it is getting into, perhaps, the terror of a limited nuclear exchange. Continue reading
The pandemic is scary, but its scariest aspect is something we still don’t know: what will be our society’s ultimate reaction to it? Our treatment of animals was key to the origins of the pandemic, but it is also part of resolving the pandemic.
President Trump is struggling to keep slaughterhouses going and recently declared them to be “essential.” His views are now being backed up by armed right wing protesters demonstrating to reopen the economy. Slaughterhouses are trying to return to their bloody normal, with some sort of minimal protections for slaughterhouse workers; but protections for workers from the virus are still not mandated by the CDC. Some think that slaughterhouses will just continue to produce meat even if it means increased risks to workers.
Vegans can become the voice of calm in this crisis by stating the obvious: plants have protein. Continue reading
On Tuesday, the Denver Post reported that “5th Greeley JBS worker dies.” JBS is a Colorado slaughterhouse employing 6000 workers. Over 100 employees tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19), and five have died: four workers and one person who worked at the corporate office. (Let’s see, that works out to about a 5% mortality rate.) Despite this, JBS is re-opening! And the company is going to court to stop the union from raising safety concerns in public! Continue reading
It’s the 50th anniversary of the very first Earth Day. I certainly didn’t think I’d be celebrating it like this: inside our house, in the middle of a pandemic. This pandemic is shock treatment for both the economy and the political system. Where do we go from here?
As a college student, I remember the local celebrations of the very first Earth Day in Nashville in 1970. I wasn’t yet vegan. The event itself seemed rather innocuous. I don’t remember any of the speeches and didn’t stay until the end. Sure, I thought, it’s nice to protect the environment. But the need for clean air, clean water, and nice places for Smokey the Bear to live didn’t seem to present the same sort of existential threat that the war in Vietnam did, in which hundreds of thousands were being killed and of which we ourselves could conceivably become victims.
Today the environmental crisis is an existential threat to human civilization far greater than the Vietnam War. Continue reading
The pandemic isn’t even over — in fact, it looks like it’s just getting started! But already we can start asking, what does it all mean? Vegans have already noticed one obvious significance: the pandemic is yet another consequence of eating animals. While we don’t know the precise route the disease took, some people ate or came into contact with some animals (snake? bat? pig?) and now over a million have been sickened and over 60,000 are dead, with no end in sight.
But the pandemic has vast and confusing complexity both of causes and effects, on multiple levels of significance, which are still unfolding. Here are some of them. Continue reading