Category Archives: Nonviolence

The pandemic gets worse—why?

Burying plague victims in medieval Tournai (then in France). Public domain image. Source.

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

Basic income and veganism

Basic income demonstration in Berlin, 2013. Credit: stanjourdan, https://www.flickr.com/people/39524850@N04, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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

Veganism as a response to limits to growth

A makeshift memorial near the bus stop where the incident occurred, photographed on May 27. This image was originally posted to Flickr by Lorie Shaull at https://flickr.com/photos/11020019@N04/49943807607.

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

Keep calm: plants have protein

I’m ready for this campaign.

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

Are we headed towards a civil war?

Ethiopian Civil War (source: U. S. Dept. of Defense)

The recent impeachment fiasco has drawn further attention to the rise of instability and polarization in the United States. In Ages of Discord, Peter Turchin predicted that this would continue. In his blogs, he states: “In my opinion, the greatest danger for us today (and into the 2020s) is not the rise of a Hitler, but rather a Second American Civil War. . . . we are already in a Cold Civil War.” Turchin foresees “rising instability in the USA, probably peaking with a major outbreak of political violence in the 2020s.”

Yikes! Continue reading

Ages of Discord—review

Ages of Discord. A Structural-Demographic Analysis of American History. Peter Turchin. Beresta Books, 2016.

Are we headed towards a new civil war? Can we learn from history? Peter Turchin thinks so, and his recent book Ages of Discord is a reinterpretation of American history, coming right down to the present day. Turchin has an interesting and insightful twist on the American Civil War of 1861–1865, which has parallels with our situation today.

In case you’re new to Peter Turchin, check out my review of his previous book Secular Cycles or his blog. Ages of Discord does for the United States what his earlier book Secular Cycles, co-authored with Sergey Nefedov, did for ancient Rome, and medieval Europe and early modern England, France, and Russia. Civilizations go in cycles; they rise, and then they decline. Continue reading

Kate Lawrence on media overconsumption

The Practical Peacemaker, by Kate Lawrence - coverKate Lawrence, author of The Practical Peacemaker: How Simple Living Makes Peace Possible (Lantern Books) was interviewed as part of the “Authors @ Douglas County Libraries” series. This is the third short excerpt from the interview, on media overconsumption and advertising, recently uploaded to YouTube. For more about the book see Kate’s blog.

Kate Lawrence on vegetarianism

Kate Lawrence, author of The Practical Peacemaker: How Simple Living Makes Peace Possible (Lantern Books) was interviewed as part of the “Authors @ Douglas County Libraries” series. I have recently uploaded the following short excerpt on vegetarianism from the interview to YouTube. For more about the book see Kate’s blog.

Degrowth and Veganism

"Degrowth" is something natural and beautiful

“Degrowth” is something natural and beautiful

How can we deal with climate change, let alone peak oil, water shortages, deforestation, and everything else — given that truly effective environmental action would probably stop the economy from growing and totally change everyone’s lifestyle?

Our whole economy depends on fossil fuels, and our livestock-centered agricultural system is pillaging the earth’s biosphere. Veganism is surely part of the needed approach here. Continue reading

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

Chris Hedges: Go Vegan for the Planet

Chris Hedges has seen "Cowspiracy"

Chris Hedges was a war correspondent, worked for the Greens in 2008 and 2012, and was part of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. He’s also, interestingly enough, a Presbyterian minister. He is known to me personally mostly as the author of War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, a book which is at once interesting, powerfully written, and quite disturbing. It was so powerful, in fact, that I couldn’t finish it. Forcing myself to finish it would be like forcing a vegan to watch slaughterhouse footage. I get it already; I don’t want to watch it.

Chris Hedges is also now a vegan, citing serious environmental concerns. He describes this in his recent article, “Saving the Planet, One Meal at a Time.” Continue reading

The Global Guide To Animal Protection

The Global Guide To Animal Protection. Edited by Andrew Linzey.  University of Illinois Press, 2013.

Andrew Linzey, tireless campaigner for animals, advocate of Christian vegetarianism, and director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, has edited a marvelous book about animals worldwide. The Global Guide to Animal Protection is an encyclopedia of animal issues that is truly global — and we’re not just talking about on land, but in the sea as well. If you live with a dog, or have been to a PETA demonstration, or try your hand at preparing vegan meals, or have written letters opposing “Sea World,” or have joined a vegetarian group, then this book will likely tell you quite a bit in connection with any or all of the areas of concern to which you have just barely been exposed. Continue reading

Is Violence Declining?

Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker, in The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (Penguin Books, 2011), argues that human violence has declined. Violence was much more widespread in primitive societies than in historical times, and more widespread in the Middle Ages than in the twentieth century — yes, even worse than the First and Second World Wars. After reading his lengthy but quite readable book, I am convinced — violence between humans has indeed declined. It’s an engrossing and ground-breaking book, by the way; everyone from Peter Singer to the Wall Street Journal has praised it.

However, there are a few small points I want to raise concerning the book. Specifically, violence towards animals has increased; and the peace between humans is largely dependent on our relative affluence, which in turn depends on our exploitation of natural resources, which are now seriously depleted. Continue reading

“Be the Change” — where did this saying come from?

“We must be the change we want to see in the world.”  This is one of the most widely quoted sayings attributed to Mahatma Gandhi.  But did Gandhi actually say this?  In June 2009 I posted an article questioning whether Gandhi actually said this. While this statement is everywhere on the internet, tracking down a reliable print source is much more difficult.  Now, I have a better idea of where this saying comes from, and the answer certainly surprised me. Continue reading