A friend told us she was weeping a few weeks ago. She wept after reading about the imminent 6 degree Celsius increase in temperature expected by the end of the century and what this increase means for us all.
“I’m sad today and cried. For our planet and for us. Scientists tell us we’re on track for a 6 degree temperature rise by the turn of the century. That’s antithetical to life. Many will die. Most of the Earth’s species will be extinct. The Earth will heat to 12 degrees hotter in 300 years.
We could stop climate change fast in 10 years if we adopted a vegan diet. Meat, eggs and dairy production is the number one GHG polluter, more than electricity and cars. The good news is that the methane they emit (72 times more heat trapping than carbon) has a short life of a decade. Switching to green technology such as electric cars, bikes, solar & wind is essential. But the carbon we’ve already emitted wont leave the atmosphere for the next 100 to 300 years. The fastest way to stop climate disaster is to go vegan. Also, we MUST become a nonviolent species if we want to survive and share life with other animals. If we don’t. There’ll be nothing left. We’ll have killed them all. Let’s stop the violence. Let’s stop the slavery and the violence on 57 billion farmed animals. Let’s stop the killing of 9 trillion fishes every year. We *have* to be vegan. Nonviolence and respecting life is the only way.”
Her 5 year old son heard his mother weeping in her bedroom. Later that evening, she explained to him that the planet was warming and it made her very sad and she didn’t know what to do. To which her 5 yr old son replied, “I know what to do Mummy. You need to do the Sunday markets vegan stall everyday. Not just sometimes”. She thought this “Perhaps he’s right.”
Upon hearing this young innocent vegan child’s response to his mother, I felt a great sadness.
At five years old, he knows how important it is for our world to be vegan. He knows that it’s wrong and it’s violence to kill animals for food, clothing, entertainment or other reasons and he has learned through his mother’s chats with him, that animal use industry’s contribution to global warming is killing many species and the planet.
The Worldwatch Institute is a globally focused environmental research organisation based in Washington, D.C. Worldwatch: it was named one of the top ten sustainable development research organisations by Globescan Survey of Sustainability Experts.A Worldwatch report in 2009 revealed the 51%of greenhouse gases are from animal use industry. If a 5 yr old can understand what veganism is and why it is so important, why can’t adults grasp this or more is the case, why do they refuse to acknowledge it? Why do green groups and government do their utmost to ignore this report and to ignore anyone who raises this issue? Obviously they value their positions, their donations and their palate pleasure, habits and convenience over the survival of the planet.
Which takes me to an 2011 essay I read by Pulitzer prize recipient Chris Hedges titled “This time we are taking the whole planet with us“. Chris Hedges writes a weekly column each Monday for Truthdig. Mr Hedges has written a wonderful follow-up essay titled “The Myth of Human Progress“. The 2011 essay is probably the first time in a very long time that I have had heard someone tell it like it is, which was a little shocking but it was a relief. I say relief because the mainstream media seem to do their best to distract us with shock tabloid news in place of real news.
I would like to share an excerpt of his essay:
“Civilisations rise, decay and die. Time, as the ancient Greeks argued, for individuals and for states, is cyclical. As societies become more complex they become inevitably more precarious. They become increasingly vulnerable. And as they begin to break down there is a strange retreat by a terrified and confused population from reality, an inability to acknowledge the self-evident fragility and impending collapse. The elites at the end speak in phrases and jargon that do not correlate to reality. They retreat into isolated compounds, whether at the court at Versailles, the Forbidden City or modern palatial estates. The elites indulge in unchecked hedonism, the accumulation of vaster wealth and extravagant consumption. They are deaf to the suffering of the masses who are repressed with greater and greater ferocity. Resources are more ruthlessly depleted until they are exhausted. And then the hollowed-out edifice collapses. The Roman and Sumerian empires fell this way. The Mayan elites, after clearing their forests and polluting their streams with silt and acids, retreated backward into primitivism. “
The Mayan elite became, at the end, as the anthropologist Ronald Wright notes in A Short History of Progress, ‘… extremists, or ultra-conservatives, squeezing the last drops of profit from nature and humanity.’ This is how all civilisations, including our own, ossify and die. The signs of imminent death may be undeniable. Common sense may cry out for a radical new response. But the race toward self-immolation only accelerates because of intellectual and moral paralysis.”
How apt is Mr Hedges’ description. It applies perfectly to our own species’ predicament. It’s true what Santayana once said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”
In a video titled “Unfettered Capitalism” Mr Hedges says this:
“It’s dying. We are in the throws of a giddy intoxication with illusion. That’s what happens when societies die, the worse it gets, the more disconnected they become. And that’s how you end up with demagogues and tyrants who promise magic.”
But back to my friend’s sadness over the imminent catastrophe of anthropogenic climate change. It reminded me of Thich Nhat Hahn, a Zen Buddhist master, when he said:
“[y]ou have to breathe very deeply in order to acknowledge the hard fact that we humans may disappear in just 100 years on Earth.”
Thich Nhat Hanh was speaking to “The Ecologist” in 2012 about the very strong probability of mass extinction of 95 percent of species including humans in 100 years; how our lives and the lives of other species are inter-related and that protecting the lives of other species (including not exploiting nonhumans) “was a joy and love itself”.
The very real probability of mass extinction has made me sad for some time now. In my early 20s, I must admit I had a very limited and naive view of the world. Fortunately I was to meet some anarchist feminists, one who was a lecturer in women’s studies in Queensland. But prior to meeting these women, life seemed quite simple and I thought that those in power had the public’s best interest at heart. Yes I did say I was naive 😉 It was the early 80s. I was a student nurse. I went to work each day, working long shift hours. I had hardly any social life. I would come home quite exhausted, make dinner, clean up, maybe read, or watch something on TV and then go to sleep. My life was quite full and I enjoyed putting my whole self into helping those who were sick, but I had little awareness of what was transpiring in the world around me.
That’s the nature of work sometimes.
We are so busy working and performing everyday activities, that the really important stuff is happening and we are blissfully unaware. The planet is being sold out from underneath us. As Chris Hedges said, “we have undergone a corporate coup d’etat in slow motion ”. All of this has taken place while we are busy with our jobs, going out, consuming and sleeping. The mainstream media helps keep us ignorant since it is basically controlled by six big corporations, corporations that have an interest in keeping us ignorant while they exploit and use up the planet.
Prof. Noam Chomsky had this to say on Jan 8, 2013 about the mainstream media and the non-proliferation treaty meeting that was to be held in Helsinki:
If you look at what’s called the free press. It’s quite interesting. There’s not a single word about this. There’s not even a single word about the upcoming conference which is the obvious way to deal with whatever threat you want. That’s pretty impressive. I don’t think you could achieve that in a totalitarian state. And it’s not under government pressure. Government can’t…. It’s not under conspiracy. It’s just internalised in the educated classes. That you don’t expose the crimes of state. It’s so deeply internalised, they can’t even think of doing it.
Prof. Noam Chomsky:
All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.
It’s quite amazing that of all the centuries I could have been born in, I didn’t expect I would be around to witness the beginning of the end of our species and the end of many other species. Someone who is very close to me and who has been working on issues of the environment since the 70’s shared her experience with me. She had worked with the Australian Greens as a policy writer for a number of years. She told me she realised even way back in the 80s it was futile trying to get anyone to recognise the urgency of the issue of global warming, let alone get someone to take action. She could see the writing on the wall clearly even back then. The time to seriously act was in the 80s. It’s now 2013 and still there is no real action.
I am a couple of generations older than my friend’s son, but even if I live a long life and am still around in the 2040s, the effects of global warming will be bad enough. And if these frequent catastrophic climate events (which are the new normal) are anything to go by, it’s hard to imagine how bad it will be mid-century, let alone if my friend’s son lives to be a ripe old age.
In 1978, my sister Tina died suddenly at age 19. She was 18 months older than me. She told me she wanted to be an environmental scientist which was a very unusual career choice at that time. I still marvel that she was able to see the importance of this issue even then. I often wonder what she would have thought of our current situation were she still alive today.
In 1978, almost 35 years ago, the population of our world was almost half what it is today (today’s population is an unsustainable 7 billion +). By the time my friend’s son is 42 (mid-century), the population according to the UN is expected to be 9.2 billion which is frightening to contemplate. Realistically speaking, a sustainable human population is approximately less than 1/7th of the current population. I often think that part of our species’ craziness is the fact that we were not meant to be living in such close quarters with each other. I live in a rural location on an island. It is sparsely populated. There’s a certain amount of calmness, friendliness and contentedness that I do not see in much more densely populated areas on the mainland.
Every time I see a baby, a part of me delights in their innocence and wonder and another part of me feels deeply saddened at what they will have to face in a few decades time. I feel sad for all my friends. I feel sad for all those I‘ve never met. I feel sad for those in “developing countries” who will be the ones most badly effected as global warming worsens.
Last but not least, I feel deeply saddened for all the non-humans. In particular the non-humans whom we have domesticated and whom we have tortured and murdered on an unimaginable scale yearly for reasons of pleasure and convenience. I feel saddened for non-humans who are desperately struggling to survive on a planet dominated by such a violent selfish dysfunctional species. On a positive note (and I don’t mean this to sound misanthropist), non-humans who survive the climate catastrophe will see the end of animal exploitation with our species’ extinction.
Over the years –although I have felt a bit like Sisyphus — I was hoping that one day — maybe in a hundred years — animal exploitation would end as the result of nonviolent vegan education, but now I doubt we will be around long enough even for that to take hold. And it’s probable that in a few millions of years there will be no evidence of us at all. Even Stonehenge will probably be worn away or buried. But there is a silver lining. The planet and some species will replenish and evolve and if the planet and other species are lucky, there will never be the likes of our species ever again. Once again I do not mean to sound misanthropic, just to acknowledge that, to a large degree, our species is a failed experiment.
As author Roland Wright said
If we fail in this great experiment, this experiment of apes becoming intelligent enough to take charge of their own destiny, nature will shrug and say it was fun for a while to let the apes run the laboratory, but in the end it was a bad idea.
But there is something that weighs heavy me and very difficult to deal with, something I never expected, and that is the shame I feel about my own species. Some may understand why I say this when they contemplate the following.
“We intentionally breed, raise, and murder approximately 56 billion innocent land animals annually, worldwide. That’s about 1.07 billion weekly, or about 153 million daily. The total of the highest estimates, with some double counting, of all humans killed in all wars, all genocides, and all other human-caused atrocities in recorded human history is about 619 million. That means we kill as many innocent, sentient nonhumans in less than five days days (for food choices alone, excluding animals who live in water) than we have killed humans in recorded history.
If we cut animal product consumption by 90% worldwide, we would murder about 15.3 million daily, and within 41 days, we would murder about 627.3 million (compare to the 619 million human mass-murder total in all recorded history).”
Please note these statistics do not include sea animals because it is very hard to estimate the number of sea animals murdered each year due to “by-catch” being thrown overboard etc. Some estimates go from 160 billion sea animals per year to 3 trillion plus a year and some estimates reach 7 trillion plus. Scientists estimate that the oceans will be “empty” by 2048.
If ever there was an indication of where our species is heading, one only has to look at our response to a DARA report from 2012. DARA– according to their site– is an independent organisation committed to improving the quality and effectiveness of aid for vulnerable populations suffering from conflict, disasters and climate change. A DARA report in 2012 revealed 100 million people (mostly in “developing countries”) would die by 2030 if action to halt climate change fails. The mainstream media mentioned this report for a couple of days and then we were back to infotainment and tabloid news. (Two main U.S news stations mentioned climate change a total of 9 minutes in 2012). And governments still move at a glacial pace regarding serious action.
Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic once said:
After ages during which the earth produced harmless trilobites and butterflies, evolution progressed to the point at which it generated Neros, Genghis Khans, and Hitlers. This, however, is a passing nightmare; in time the earth will become again incapable of supporting life, and peace will return.
It only takes one unpleasant person in a share house to make everyone else’s life miserable and make the house uninhabitable. However in a share house situation one can ask them to leave. This is not the case on this planet. On this planet, there’s millions of people many consumed by social media, ignoring the writing on the wall either because they don’t want to know, or they don’t care or they are — sorry to say – just not very intelligent. And the truth is corporations — who dominate government — will not stop using the planet until it’s all used up. The planet is like one big share house, except it’s getting more and more overcrowded and there’s no where to go; a few rooms are on fire; a few of the folks causing the fires are sitting in the lounge room partying, while the house steadily burns down.
When things start getting tough — poverty and depression – “history” demonstrates that the elites and the general population turn on the most vulnerable. (I haven’t included nonhumans in this even though they are the most vulnerable and have always been victims of exploitation no matter what the circumstance.) This is what we are witnessing now against LGBTI community and other minority groups; Muslims, women, certain cultures and races etc. We already witness this in Greece where austerity measures have been followed by a rise in racism, fascism, and intolerance. And we see it in the US where there’s the culture of gun violence and a lunatic right-wing fringe, which has worsened over the last few decades. We saw this prior to the rise of the Nazi party in Germany.
Frederick Douglass (1818 -1895 Abolitionist, American social reformer, writer and statesman) wrote:
Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organised conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.
We are witnessing a global social breakdown.
Some young people have not noticed it because they are distracted by popular culture, social media and finding out who they are. By the time they realise it will be well and truly upon us. If someone said to a psychologist, that they did not have much hope despite a demonstrating the contrary by continuing to work on nonviolence issues– the psychologist would probably say (for the record) that person is depressed. But one could ask, how mentally balanced would one be, NOT to be depressed by the state of the world?
Without sounding like some people who always harken back to the “good ole days” when it was supposedly much better, in the early 80’s in Australia, life seemed fairly simple, (at least for non-indigenous people). Food was much cheaper, it was easier to be an artist and survive; there was free public education at university; there was a sense of hope and fairness; there was still an adoration of war and all things patriarchal, but there was optimism that there was the possibility of doing things differently. Things seemed possible. There wasn’t the great struggle we find now across the board. That was only 25 to 30 years ago. So much has changed since then, particularly in the last 10 years.
But then there is an issue I think is incredibly important which makes me feel like a true alien on the planet. Intellectuals overlook, downplay or ignore it. Even some of the social justice thinkers whom I greatly admire have not acknowledged or spoken of the greatest social justice issue of our time. What is it? The next great social justice movement — Veganism – the rejection of the property status of nonhuman animals and the recognition of their moral personhood. Such is the power of speciesism even Prof Chomsky has not thought this issue through enough to become vegan. Prof. Chomsky — when asked about the merits of it — acknowledged that being “vegetarian” had merit. I don’t know if he was making moral distinctions between flesh and other animal products and other forms of animal use or whether he meant vegan instead of vegetarian, but in any event he said he was not “vegetarian”. Like I said, speciesism is powerful.
Prof. Noam Chomsky:
I don’t know if [everyone will be vegan in] a hundred years, but it seems to me if history continues–that’s not at all obvious, that it will–but if society continues to develop without catastrophe on something like the course that you can sort of see over time, I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if it moves toward vegetarianism and protection of animal rights. In fact, what we’ve seen over the years–and it’s hard to be optimistic in the twentieth century, which is one of the worst centuries in human history in terms of atrocities and terror and so on–but still, over the years, including the twentieth century, there is a widening of the moral realm, bringing in broader and broader domains of individuals who are regarded as moral agents.
Question: So then it’s plausible that vegetarians, animal rights advocates and the like are just a couple of steps ahead in discerning something about …
Chomsky: It’s possible. I think I’d certainly keep an open mind on that. You can understand how it could be true. It’s certainly a pretty intelligible idea to us. I think one can see the moral force to it. …
Religious leaders are very resistant to veganism and often reject it out of hand without any consideration, except for maybe Thich Nhat Hahn whom I understand is vegan. Then the green groups who stomp their feet about coal and oil industries destroying the planet, go out of their way to ignore the major contribution of animal use industry. As I mentioned earlier, 51% of GHG are from animal use industry which means that if we all became vegan, not only would we be addressing the injustice of exploiting, torturing and murdering billions upon billions of non-human persons each year, but we would be taking our future into our own hands (*not leaving it to corporations and government) and addressing climate change by going vegan. But when I go to supermarkets, people are not even capable to stop their use of plastic bags. What does that say about us?
Something I feel particularly sad about — but I rarely acknowledge to myself — is that all the work people have done and have died for in a struggle for a nonviolent peaceful world in the end will be for naught, because we as a species are too stupid, too greedy as a whole, to be able to even entertain the notion of nonviolence, let alone actualise it in our own lives.
I was particularly moved one night as I was sitting opposite him at dinner, struck as usual by the enormous distance between what Noam knows about U.S. leaders’ slaughter of innocents around the world and what the public realises I suddenly thought of Winston Smith from Orwell’s “1984,” who sees little hope of changing society and focuses only on trying to remain sane and commit to paper the truth in the hope that future generations will remember it. I told Noam that to me, at that moment, he represented Winston Smith to me.
I will always remember his reaction.
He just looked at me.
And smiled sadly.
I mentioned earlier Chris Hedges’ piece “The Myth of Human Progress”.
“Clive Hamilton in his “Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change” describes a dark relief that comes from accepting that “catastrophic climate change is virtually certain.” This obliteration of “false hopes,” he says, requires an intellectual knowledge and an emotional knowledge. The first is attainable. The second, because it means that those we love, including our children, are almost certainly doomed to insecurity, misery and suffering within a few decades, if not a few years, is much harder to acquire. To emotionally accept impending disaster, to attain the gut-level understanding that the power elite will not respond rationally to the devastation of the ecosystem, is as difficult to accept as our own mortality. The most daunting existential struggle of our time is to ingest this awful truth—intellectually and emotionally—and continue to resist the forces that are destroying us.”
I know there are many people out there who are working for a just and nonviolent world who must feel the same way. I recall an excerpt of a poem “Another Time” by W. H. Auden:
“Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.”
I would like to leave you with this quote.
Knowing Love, I will allow all things to come and go,
To be as supple as the wind,
And take everything that comes with great courage…
My heart is as open as the sky
Maya, in Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love (film by Mira Nair)
Dr Guy R. McPherson, climate scientist, professor emeritus of University of Arizona, gives a new version of his Climate Collapse talk on NTE, Near Term Extinction.