Moral Tribes — review

Moral Tribes.  Emotion, Reason and the Gap Between Us and Them.  By Joshua Greene.  Penguin Press, 2013.

What’s the best way to talk about moral issues? This is obviously something that activists worry about a lot, whether their cause is veganism, the environment, climate change, or anything.

According to Joshua Greene, the problem is not lack of basic morality, but in competing moralities. There are many different moral cultures or subcultures, which share among themselves certain ethical ideas which, to them, are obvious. But these ideas differ from those of other moral cultures — the “moral tribes” referred to in the title. Anyone who is interested in this problem, or in moral philosophy and moral psychology in general, should at least take a look at Moral Tribes. Continue reading

Posted in Literature / Publishing, Nonviolence, Politics, or the lack thereof | 1 Comment

The Modern Savage — review

The Modern Savage: Our Unthinking Decision to Eat Animals, by James McWilliams. Thomas Dunne Books, 2015.

Industrialized animal agriculture is morally and intellectually bankrupt. Society is slowly but increasingly becoming aware of the cruel, unnatural, and environmentally harmful aspects of factory farms. But what is going to replace it?

Well-known food intellectuals such as Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Joel Salatin, and Jonathan Safran Foer have advocated returning to localized, more traditional ways of raising animals. Encouraged by some environmentalists and even some animal welfare supporters, nonindustrial animal agriculture has grown tremendously in the past decade. Continue reading

Posted in Animals and ethics, Backyard livestock, Literature / Publishing | 3 Comments

God is not going to put more oil in the ground

There has been a huge drop in oil prices since last July. Many environmentalists don’t know what to make of this. Some are saying that the fall of prices should get us to rethink the “flawed” argument for peak oil, or that it will “destroy the green revolution,” or that it reflects the “existential crisis” of the environmentalists. Earth First! has chimed in as well. How can there be a shortage of oil, if prices are falling? Continue reading

Posted in Ecological Economics, Limits to Growth, Peak oil | 7 Comments

“Animals in Earliest Christianity”

I will be giving a talk on “Animals in Earliest Christianity” to the Animal Rights Academy in Toronto this Tuesday. Alas, I will not be there physically, but I’ll Skype in via computer, and I understand that the conversation can go in both directions and we’ll have questions and answers.

The talk will be at University College, 15 Kings College Circle, room 256, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, from 7 pm until 9 pm EST on Tuesday, February 3. There is a Facebook page for the event here.

The talk is free, so if you’re in the area, I hope you can make it and we can talk about such questions as: what was the attitude of the earliest Christians towards animals? Was Jesus, or anyone else, a vegetarian? Is animal rights compatible with Christianity? And perhaps the most puzzling question of all, should we care?

Posted in Animals and ethics, Christianity, Religion and spirituality, Vegetarianism / Veganism | 5 Comments

Soil Erosion — is anyone paying attention?

Over a month ago, Reuters issued a widely-mentioned (but not widely discussed) press release on soils.“Only 60 years of farming left if soil degradation continues,” reads the release. It quotes some United Nations officials, warning of the problems of soil erosion.

Is anyone paying attention? In an ideal world, the public would be outraged by this. Congressional committees would study the problem. Students would demand courses on soil preservation. But back in the real world, farmland just isn’t that big of a deal. After all, agriculture is just a very small part of the U. S. economy. We could also debate whether this is an exaggeration. Perhaps we have 100, or even 200 years of farming left! Continue reading

Posted in Ecological Economics, Limits to Growth, Politics, or the lack thereof, Vegetarianism / Veganism | 2 Comments

How can we ask them not to eat meat?

In a recent Go Vegan radio interview, Leslie Goldberg (author of the Vicious Vegan blog) gave an account of a conversation she had with Bill McKibben. (McKibben is a noted environmentalist and a co-founder of 350.org.) Leslie asked McKibben why he didn’t talk about meat consumption as a cause of climate change. McKibben first pointed out that most of the growth in meat consumption comes from the developing countries. Somewhat irritated, he then asked (in effect) “how can you ask people who are just starting to be able to afford and enjoy meat, not to eat meat?”

This is an intelligent question, so I thought I’d attempt to answer it. Continue reading

Posted in Climate change, Ecological Economics, Politics, or the lack thereof, Vegetarianism / Veganism | 5 Comments

Norm Phelps (1939–2014)

Norm Phelps died on December 31, 2014. An activist in the promotion of vegetarianism, veganism, and compassion for animals in spiritual traditions, he authored numerous books and articles.

He followed both the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the Unitarian Universalist tradition — neither of which, he noted, is exclusive. But he was raised as a Baptist and a Methodist and wrote about Christianity and animals as well. Continue reading

Posted in Animals and ethics, Literature / Publishing, Religion and spirituality, Vegetarianism / Veganism | 1 Comment

5280 Magazine Misses the Meat of the Matter

By Kate Lawrence

5280 The Denver Magazine recently featured an article on “Everyday Environmentalists,” presenting over 40 ways to live greener.  Pointing out that Coloradans are not as environmentally virtuous as we may think we are, the article featured excellent advice on such topics as home insulation, composting, gardening, biking–the usual and more.  Some items were very detailed, such as the advice to buy a live Christmas tree instead of an artificial one, and then plant it outside.  Readers who hike popular mountain trails were encouraged to go during the week so as to increase the likelihood that they will stay on the trail and minimize trail deterioration.  Yes, yes, yes, I’m saying to myself as I read, but when do we get to the huge environmental impact of meat consumption? Continue reading

Posted in Climate change, Ecological Economics, Vegetarianism / Veganism | Leave a comment

Most Popular Blog Posts in 2014

lauren Ornelas with Nicholas at Animal Place

What makes a popular blog post — one that gets a lot of hits? Sometimes I work carefully on a post that seems timely and relevant, and it goes over like a lead balloon. At other times, I just summarize things that I think everyone knows already, and bang, it’s a hit. Thank you, Google, and thank you, Facebook. But for what it’s worth, here are Compassionate Spirit’s top 10 popular blog posts in 2014. Continue reading

Posted in Literature / Publishing | 1 Comment

Peak oil may be almost here

“Predictions are difficult, especially about the future.” This aphorism is nowhere more applicable than when predicting the date of “peak oil” — the maximum point of world oil production. In case you hadn’t noticed, oil prices are falling dramatically. Until about six months ago, oil (“West Texas Intermediate”) had hovered for several years in the region of $100 a barrel, reaching $107 on July 23. But by last Friday (December 12), it was below $60. If we’re close to peak oil, and oil is getting scarce, shouldn’t the price be going up? What happened, and why?

Continue reading

Posted in Ecological Economics, Limits to Growth, Peak oil, Politics, or the lack thereof | Leave a comment