a queer vegan perspective on the changing climate

it wasn’t long after i stepped off the oregon coast trail that i heard about trump pulling the u.s. out of the paris accord; an accord that had no real accountability, nor does it go deep enough. when you consider that the g-20 governments still invest more in fossil fuels than in any climate initiative. i wasn’t surprised. we get what we deserve when we fall into a false sence of security that washes over us when democrats get selected for office, or for that fact believing that governments are going to get us out of a mess created by capitalism.

then consider the book i started this venture with, native science by gregory cajete; a book that outlines the indigenous scientific way of observing and participating with the world. this is a book that i had started and stopped so many times over a couple of years, not because it isn’t engaging, but because it inspired me to go out and observe the world around me and go in search of stories by different groups of people who explain their observations and how that incorporated lessons of participation with, well, everything. and then there is the influence of pouring over everything i can find by winona laduke and robin wall kimmerer. influences of black lives matter and idle no more….it is past time to take notice.

all this has led me to finally have a little better insight to address why the current dialoges of climate change/chaos have always felt empty, void of responsibility and real action. why i have tried to turn to so many different organizations from greenpeace to anarchists to work out how i want to address my contributions, my responsibility, my ability to participate as fully as possible to try to turn the tide of the warming of this planet. the fact that this is my 4th attempt to write this out means i haven’t got it yet, but i think i am finally at a place where i can start the conversation for a different way of addressing the onslaught humans (western, capitalist, imperialist, industrial nation’s humans) are having on earth.

if we are able to see that we are just another animal, another mammal, on this life-giving water ball of an organism that gives life to all the creatures who resides here. we might also be able to see that “we” are also the ones who have wrecked such havoc, causing the extinction of so many land and sea beings, we have also finally laid the groundwork for our own extinction. if we can piece these two things together, we might be able to finally collectivly take great action that may turn the tides. i want to have hope for it….yet if we can’t get over ourselves, i don’t know that i want to root for us as a whole…. again “us” being western, capitalist, imperialist, industrial nation’s humans. as many indigenous people i’ve listened to lately, the earth/water/land is not a resource to be extracted, but the source of all life.

so here is how i interpret what is happening to this planet, with my vegan and queer eyes…and heart. the planet is a living organism…THE living organisim for us and all others living, dying, and dead beings on this planet. it is the ultimate closed loop system. if you have ever watched trees grow out of “dead” aka nurse logs, you know what i mean. or closer to home…feed your garden from your compost pile often? death and life is a cycle. so anyway. the planet is a living being who is sick because of “us”. it’s immune system is wrecked and it is trying to find a way of coming back into balance. the more “we” push it out of balance, the more she reacts with greater force.

in naming what is happening, our egos call it climate chaos because we can’t control it. we can’t predict it. many scientists are now saying that the numbers they are getting are so far off the charts that they can’t really run the models for any reliable predictions. and really, i reckon there are just too many gosh darn variables. take the 3 gases that account for most of the warming temperatures of our life-giving planet: co2, methane, and nitrous oxide. most of the organizatons working on reducing the impact of global warming are focused on co2. in many ways this makes a great deal of sense. co2 is the highest concentrated gas. however, the effects of methane is 20 to 100 times stronger than co2. and get this! nitrous oxide? it is 296 times stronger and stays in the atmosphere for 150 years! these numbers i get from the fact sheets on the cowspiricy website and here they have all the scientific references.

one of the final statements they make there is

Reducing methane emissions would create tangible benefits almost immediately.

and where do these methane gases come from? industrial animal agriculture.

again from the fact sheets:

Even without fossil fuels, we will exceed our 565 gigatonnes CO2e limit by 2030, all from raising animals.

now mix this with an amazing infographic from phys.org

themosteffec

now two things i want to take note of from this chart. first, this is still based on co2 and i believe that if we added methane and nitrous oxide, food and transportation would be switched. the other thing that i would like to point out is that all the things on the moderate and low impact side, are the things that “we” have been told we can do as individuals to reduce out participation in global warming. often it is mentioned to buy a hybrid car, (on this chart they encourage people to buy fully electric cars, but where is the electricity coming from? coal? solar? damning dams?). but for the most part it still takes more energy to build a new hybrid than is conserved in its lifetime. and i do not see anywhere in the u.s. where anyone talks about having smaller families, even though we know that population is a major major issue!

as for the switching to a plant-based diet, even vegans, especially today’s modern urban vegan, can make so many better choices, and i want us to talk about this. however, these choices still don’t have the same impact of not consuming animals  raised in the confines of industrial agriculture. i would highly encourage people to watch cowspiricy. they talk about the benefits and limitations of say grass/pasture raised meat and just how much land and space that it would take more land than exists to feed people of at the level of current consumption of our fellow mammals.

so what? so what do i want to do with all this information? how is this fueling me to make choices that lower my parasitic activity contributing to making our planet sick? i firmly believe that those of us in the queer community and the vegan community have exceptional vantage points, and thus responsibilities to respond to our sick planet. first, some vegans are already doing the work of intersectionality and developed ways of working together with other groups and organizations to challenge our common oppressors. the queer community has also had the opportunities to do this work, plus, many of us are members of the communities that are going to be even more effected by the government and corporate institutions that are going to amp up their violence and oppressive behaviors. those who are already vulnerable will be even more so, and also the number of groups who will be vulnerable are going to increase. we have a responsibility to be part of community organizing that challenges these institutions as well as building alternative ways of caring for and providing support for all of us. we have done this before, and we can do it again.

i don’t want us to be gentle with one another anymore. “we” can’t afford it. it is time for an intervention. i want us to be educated and informed on how we can be better citizen of this world. we need to recognize that “we” all have an addictive relationship with consumerism that leads to exploitation of land, water, plants, people, and all the other animals who depend on this planet for life. we need to let go of our personal and global egos that say we know better so it must be “their” fault; those new to the global market place – producer and consumer. it is time for brutal honesty, and we can do this with so much love. we can make different and better choices.  we don’t have to deny ourselves any pleasures, we just need to learn new ones. did you ever get to experience homemade vegan ice cream with freshly picked berries mixed in? so worth the wait!

and it’s not that hard really, learning new systems where we are inspired to make different choices, where we stop using single use anything as much as possible. get that one travel mug and water vessel. any time you find yourself throwing something in the trash, think about how you could do that differently. how about deciding to walk to the farmers market and have conversations with the people, and cats, you pass along the way. experience a feeling of less stress of not driving. too far to walk? take public transportation.

there also has to be a way where we look at the upstream and downstream effects of our choices. let’s say using compostable “to-go” things. it takes a great deal of energy to produce these items, but when they do eventually break down (which actually does take a great deal of energy and special industrial composting plants that most municipalities do not have), all you are left with is a substance that you can’t even grow mushrooms in. so lots of energy to make something that is used for a very short period of time that is reduced to nothing useful. doesn’t seem really all that “green” when put that way.

so here are some words that are being added to the r’s of reduce, reuse, recycle. those words are refuse and repair. what if we let go of buying so much…just refuse that ego response of retail therapy. go do something else instead. and then when you do need new things, like a shirt say, when it gets worn out, repair it. same with your gear. learn some skills. those are things that will truly truly fill your ego. you can even choose to buy from companies that encourage you to repair instead of replace (patagonia and osprey come to mind).

i’m starting to spin out here. this is what happens. i start going down this river of inspiration and get caught in the eddy of thoughts that make me feel preachy and not very fun, when what i want to do is inspire. making these changes can be so much fun. having canning parties and kimchi making parties. pot lucks instead of going out all the time. skill sharing and game nights. home brews and charades….

but the first step. the very very first step where no other change can happen without, is to see one’s self as just another animal. just another part of the great dynamic that is this living and breathing planet. that we are all dependent and interdependent upon each other is so key. for me, this is where queer and feminist theory of intersectionality come into play.  we have to slow down and recognize one another. we have to see, hear, smell, taste, feel physically and emotionally our way around our communities. sit by a river. listen to the rustle of leaves on a tree, the call of the early rising birds as a way of waking. drink wild water, witness a thunderstorm without fear but excitement for the cleansing it will bring, and deeply listen to the stories of people who have experiences other than our own.

this is what i wish for us. i want us to find ways to create spaces for us to openly talk about all these things without fear of so judgement and reprecution. i want a person who deeply wants to be a parent talk about it openly, and together we find ways where that can happen with out huge expenses on so many levels. where a hunter can talk about how they feed their families. how a vegan is trying to find a better source of their foods that doesn’t feed the social injustices of our global food systems.  we can do this, but we have to stop with our ego that makes us afraid to speak out, afraid of talking about our desires, afraid of being judged and ridiculed, a place where we lay our egos to the side and go deeper into really addressing the issues that are killing the one being that we all depend on for life…our blue planet.

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