The Most Unpopular Way To Fight Climate Change That People Need To Get On Board With

By Michele Kaplan

So, as 45 (Trump) has pulled out of the Paris Accord, people are wondering what will happen in regard to climate change and the planet? After all, most people (including science) agree that climate change is one of the major factors behind such devastating storms as Hurricane Sandy, which made areas of New York City look like a war zone.

Climate change is no joke.

And it’s not like Hurricane Sandy is the only storm of this nature. Climate change has and continues to wreak havoc around the world.

And now The President wants to lessen our commitment to fighting climate change? While this is not a shocking outcome, (did we really expect him to do the right thing?), it is a dangerous one, especially for the low income communities and disabled population who are hit the hardest in such storms. Groups that he is already oppressing via his policies.

Related: The impact climate change on indigenous communities?

Granted leaving the Paris Accord, according to Jean-Claude Juncker (President of the EU), is not as simple as 45 seems to think it is and some cities are pledging to ignore 45’s decision and are committing to fight climate change. There are also a number of amazing environmental activist groups who will continue the fight for clean and sustainable energy, and help save the planet.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think the goal of sustainable energy for all are absolutely attainable and definitely worth fighting for. And I will continue to proudly stand (or sit – as I’m in a wheelchair) with these groups.

But there’s another way that we can fight climate change, that does not require us to get permission from the powers that be. We do not need to petition the CEOs, in hopes they will see the light. It’s something that science has proven to be effective – and yet the moment the topic comes up, people seem to put their fingers in their ears and go “la la la la la la”, so they don’t hear what is being said. It’s unpopular to the point, that I questioned whether it was worth writing this article, as sure the choir would agree, but beyond that? However, I chose to write this article, despite the topic being unpopular, this. needs. to. be. said.

So what is it? What is possibly the most unpopular way to fight climate change that people need to get on board with?

image description: A photo of two cats on a small table. One cat is holding and it looks like they’re comforting the other cat

“Hold me, I’m scared.”

Moving towards a plant-based lifestyle (aka: vegan) to the best of people’s abilities.

Cue the frequently asked questions!

“Veganism? What? What’s that got to do with climate change?

The UN did a study that showed that the animal agriculture industry is one of the largest contributors to climate change.

Related:  Further statistics on how the animal agriculture industry impacts the earth, water supply and us all.

“Aren’t you just imposing your beliefs on other people?

Nope. While I am vegan for ethical reasons (as well as environmental), what I am proposing to you is not a matter of belief. This is a matter of science. And if we don’t like when 45 ignores the truth of science, then in turn, we must not ignore the truth of science, even if it’s truth that we’d prefer was not true.

“Great, so what? Now I have to eat lettuce all day?”

A common myth but actually vegan food is everywhere and there is a really good chance that you are already eating vegan food. For an example: french fries. Made from potatoes. A plant. Typically fried in some kind of oil like corn, canola, vegetable – which are from plants. Ketchup? Comes from tomatoes – a plant. Typically spices (unless it’s Cow Spice – which may or may not exist. I really rather not google that) are not derived from animals and thus are vegan. My point being is that vegan food is not only way more common than you think, it’s also way more than just rabbit food and the super pricey artisinal vegan cheeses, that people tend to think of when they hear they word vegan.

“I once met a vegan and they were totally [racist, transphobic, sexist, ableist, fatphobic, islamophobic, homophobic, etc etc. and/or just a real prick]

Yeah, me too. However, this doesn’t mean that veganism as a lifestyle/philosophy is that way, nor does it makes veganism a bad idea. (I’ve met some sexist jerks in the anti-war movement, doesn’t make war a good idea.)

Related: Is Veganism Ableist?

Related: Things Black Vegans Are Sick Of Hearing

Related: The Sistah Vegan Project

“But meat/animal skins is part of my culture (which is very important to me)”
Finding a balance between tradition and change is a very delicate one. That being said, please note that the following response is referring more to grandma’s recipe, rather than food/items used in a sacred ritual/event, as I don’t really feel it’s my place to speak on that.

It’s important to realize how these foods came to be tradition and part of our respective cultures. More than not, it wasn’t really a choice, but rather it was making the best out of the situation. It was making do with what they had.  Therefore one could argue that now it’s our turn to adapt (while maintaining our connection to our respective roots). Now it’s our turn to do what we need to do to survive. Lastly, keep in mind that a lot of recipes can be made vegan these days in very delicious ways.

“Yeah but what about this cause?”
There are so many forms of injustice in the world, it can be hard to keep up with everything. And yes, fighting climate change via plant based decisions, is one of many many important struggles. Keep in mind that going vegan or at least moving towards a plant based lifestyle doesn’t mean you need to join the animal rights movement and take it to the streets, if you don’t want to. Just make changes in your own life, and continue to fight for the causes closest to your heart.

“Yeah, but don’t humans need to eat meat?”
Unlike cats, humans are not obligatory carnivores, meaning they don’t need to eat meat. In fact, there are even vegan body builders who have no problem with energy levels nor building muscle.

A B&W photo of vegan body builder, Torre Washington who is flexing their muscles for the camera

Photo of Torre Washington, Vegan Bodybuilder. Photo Credit: Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness

That being said, if you say that due your health, you are not able to alter your diet, I won’t challenge that, as I am not a doctor. I’m also disabled and I know that not everyone has the same body. Just as not everyone has the same access and options, especially if you live in a food dessert, where you don’t have the big supermarket in your neighborhood. Sure, shopping online can be an option for some, but isn’t always accessible if you are on food stamps. I get it.

Related: Peta can be pretty problematic, but they have this great list of every day junk foods that are unintentionally vegan that may be available in your corner store

Related: Thrive (an online grocery story that carries a lot of specialty vegan items) offers free memberships to people “are” low income

The truth is (and something you don’t hear about) no one is 100% vegan. I’m vegan, but I get my food at (and thus financially support) a supermarket that has a whole section that profits from the animal agriculture industry. Our system makes it impossible to do no harm. So, it comes down to doing the least harm and the most good. Start small. Eat one vegan (or plant based) meal or snack a day. You may already be doing that. Or again if changing your diet is legitimately not an option, you can also make an impact by choosing synthetic materials when purchasing shoes, jackets and/or bags etc. Share this article. Start this conversation with people you care about. There are many ways to make an impact and everyone has something they can contribute.

“I am utterly overwhelmed due to stress and/or oppression and the presidency, and now you want me to research this myself?”

I hear you. And nope. Just go here. It breaks it all down. https://www.whyveganism.com . The website was created by an animal rights group who does discuss the moral angle of veganism. However, they also have recipes, tips and a free vegan starter kit. If you prefer to watch a movie, which talks about veganism from the environmental perspective, Cowspiracy is on netflix. If you don’t have access to netflix, you can read the stats that are presented in the documentary online.

I know this is a sensitive and nuanced topic. I get it. I wasn’t always vegan. Food is culture. Food is comfort. Food is memories. But at the end of the day, the animal agriculture industry is one of the largest contributors to climate change. The powers that be are not going to do what’s best for the people, and thus we need to take action, to the best of our abilities to save ourselves. #Solidarity

 

This essay originally appeared on Rebelwheels’ Soapbox on June 3, 2017.


me in wheelchairMichele Kaplan is a queer (read: bisexual), geek-proud, intersectional activist on wheels (read: motorized wheelchair), who tries to strike a balance between activism, creativity and self care, while trying to change the world.

whyveganism.com

“Obsessive” Vegans: The Politics of Vegan Ableism

In the bid to become more effective activists, it is important to acknowledge differences in identity and access that characterize the Nonhuman Animal rights movement’s diverse constituency. Although recent publications such as Sunaura Taylor’s Beasts of Burden: Animal and Disability Liberation have drawn attention to the many compelling intersections between speciesism and ableism, it remains the case that the movement at large is insensitive to the experiences of non-able-bodied persons.

As I explored in a 2015 publication with Disability & Society, both the Nonhuman Animal rights movement and its countermovement engage in ableist frameworks to dismiss the legitimacy of one another’s position. For instance, speciesists regularly refer to liberationists as “crazy,” while liberationists have been known to employ labels of “sick” or “schizophrenic” in retaliation. Since publishing this article, I have noticed that “obsessiveness” is another identity under contention. As with “craziness” and “sickness,” “obsessiveness” becomes a flashpoint for both sides of the animal rights debate, while actual disabled persons are erased in the crossfire.

Problematizing mental illness resonates in an ableist society, and Nonhuman animal rights organizations too willingly adopt resonate frames regardless of the negative consequences for those whose identity is objectified. Vegan Outreach, the Humane Society of the United States, and other professionalized charities frequently chastise vegan liberationists for “obsessing” over animal ingredients in a self-centered effort to achieve “personal purity.” In doing so, they pull on social stigma against self-focused behaviors and anxiety disorders to shame radical contenders into silence, or at least to dismiss them as lesser-than in the movement hierarchy.

While it is unfortunate that Western society stigmatizes disability, it is truly shameful that the Nonhuman Animal rights movement, a movement that purports to represent compassion and justice, should exploit ableism for its gain. When vegans call nonvegans “psycho” for consuming flesh to advance the movement, they trade on ableism. When nonprofits call vegan liberationists “obsessive” for finding fault in reformist approaches to speciesism, they are doing the same.

In other cases, OCD is trivialized in the pursuit of profit in a movement that has been co-opted by corporate interests. Take for instance the vegan makeup company Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics: “The first step is admitting you have a problem,” says company founder David Klasfeld, “I did and the result is a line obsessively crafted from the finest ingredients possible, to celebrate the driving compulsions of makeup fanatics everywhere.”

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is not simply a qualifier to denote extremism or fanaticism. It is a real medical condition that impacts real people.  While level of severity varies and some individuals are able to live healthfully in an able-bodied world, the International OCD Foundation emphasizes that:

Those tortured with OCD are desperately trying to get away from paralyzing, unending anxiety…

I also wish to emphasize that ableism is a feminist issue. Anxiety disorders disproportionately impact women, a demographic that happens to be most receptive to anti-speciesist messages and dominates the movement’s rank-and-file. This predisposition to anxiety is not a biological happenstance. It is, in large part, a survival strategy that develops in response to strain within a patriarchal social structure.

Thus, vegans would do well to lend solidarity to stigmatized groups in forgoing inconsiderate ableist references to all things determined to be bad (“obsessive” vegans) and trivial (“obsessively” vegan makeup). Ableist claimsmaking is tactically impotent as it is bound to offend and alienate the disabled community that makes up a considerable portion of the Nonhuman Animal rights movement’s constituency.

 


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network. She is a Lecturer of Sociology and Director of Gender Studies with a New Jersey liberal arts college, council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association, and an advisory board member with the International Network for Social Studies on Vegetarianism and Veganism with the University of Vienna. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory.

whyveganism.com

Essay Reading – Why Trump Veganism Must Go

trump-veganism

Donald Trump’s campaign built on hate and fear-mongering is a tactic all to familiar to vegan mobilization. This essay identifies the dangers to social justice and social movement stability that Trump veganism presents.

Reading by Dr. Corey Lee Wrenn; music by Lucas Hayes.

This is an installment of Vegan Feminist Network’s podcast series, making popular essays more accessible through audio recording. You can access the original essay by clicking here.

Archives of this podcast can be found here.

Podcast #5 – Trumpocalypse

In this podcast, Corey examines the personal and community grief associated with the 2016 American election. This episode also identifies a number of important parallels between Trumpism and veganism. Aggravating human inequalities in a hasty and desperate push for change is an ethical concern.

Episode recorded on November 13, 2016.

Scroll down to listen.

Show Notes

Brookings Institute | “What a Trump presidency means for U.S. and global climate policy

MSNBC | “Michael Moore joins wide-ranging election talk

Public Radio International | “Gloria Steinem says Donald Trump won’t be her president

Saturday Night Live | “Election Night

Vegan Feminist Network | “Why Trump Veganism Must Go

Vegan Feminist Network | “LUSH Cosmetics: Kind(ish) to Animals, Not to Women

Essay Reading – Single-Issue Campaigns are the White Feminism of Animal Rights

Vegan Feminist Radio

White feminism prioritizes the interests of relatively privileged women with the expectation that their gains, more easily won, will trickle down to more marginalized women. The Nonhuman Animal rights movement demonstrates this problematic tactic as well, frequently to the exclusion of vegan outreach and to the detriment of the most marginalized of species.

Reading by Dr. Corey Lee Wrenn; music by Lucas Hayes.

This is an installment of Vegan Feminist Network’s podcast series, making popular essays more accessible through audio recording. You can access the original essay by clicking here.

Archives of this podcast can be found here.

Is Veganism Ableist? A Disabled Vegan Perspective

Photo of myself in my motorized wheelchair, Betty. It am outdoors on a sunny day at the piers in New York City. I am dressed colorfully with colorful striped socks, black combat boots and capris and a red t-shirt that reads “The Revolution Is Wheelchair Accessible.”

Disability is just another way for a mind and/or body to be. We are not broken.

Author’s Note: While I am still vegan, it’s been over a year that my primary focus (for many reasons) as an activist is no longer animal rights/liberation. As a disabled person, I remain intersectional in my support, but my focus is now disability rights. Since this change, I have heard of many instances of disabled people who experienced ableism from the AR community. While this was certainly not news to me, as I too have experienced this, I want to address the following question from the disabled vegan perspective: is veganism ableist?

By Michele Kaplan

Every time I delve deeper into the disabled twitter-sphere, without fail I come across tweets from the disability community talking about how ableist vegans are. Vegans calling a disabled person a liar when they state that they can not be vegan due to their disability. Vegans telling disabled folk that if they just ate a healthy whole food vegan diet, they would be “cured”. As if said vegans were actual doctors that specialized in that specific disability, and thus were properly educated regarding any possible treatment options (including medications). As if one size fits all and the vegan diet was a solution for every medical situation. As if by default, disability made a person “broken” and in need of fixing / being cured.

And as a disabled vegan, I often find myself between these two worlds. I cringe and facepalm when I read these tweets, as I try to do damage control: ‘Hey. I’m a disabled vegan and I just wanted to say that I am really sorry you experienced ableism from the vegan community. That is not cool’, in hopes of creating some sense of healing.

So, is ableism a problem within the vegan community? Absolutely. There are intersectional animal rights activists who have solidarity and who get it, but there are also activists who identify as intersectional, but miss the mark on ableism. There are also single issue animal rights activists who don’t even know the word ableism or who do, but don’t care because (to them) the only cause that matters is animal rights, which is just as problematic as it sounds.

Anyone who is involved in activism knows that single issue and faux intersectional activism, by default is indisputably problematic. However, it is only fair to note that Ableism is certainly not just an “animal rights thing”, since Ableism occurs in any cause where the activism is based on an able bodied model and/or the cause fails to acknowledge the existence of disability.

So, is veganism ableist? This is why I say no. Veganism at it’s root is a philosophy, an idea that the animals don’t exist for us. Just as a disabled person, I don’t exist to be someone’s inspiration nor target of pity, animals do not exist to be our meals and clothing. They have their own lives and exist for themselves. This may not be the mainstream way of thinking, but as with all forms of oppression, just because someone decided that a particular demographic is inferior, doesn’t make it true nor does it justify the oppression.

photo of Esther, The Wonder Pig who is napping with a highly content grin on her face.

It’s complicated because often vegans will come across people who say “Oh, I could never go vegan. I love cheese (bacon etc.) too much and I could never give that up.” This of course, is not a factual statement, as it is not oxygen in which their life depends on. So technically they could give it up. They just choose not to, which is different from the disabled person who due to their disability / chronic illness, may not have the choice. There are some vegans who fail to make note of the difference, who are unaware that the difference even exists. It’s as if they hear both answers and their bullshit meter immediately goes off, not realizing that the latter is actually valid.

Some vegans might argue: but what if the disabled person in question, is just using their disability as an excuse to not go vegan? This is incredibly harmful and triggering and so as a disabled vegan, I say: believe them every single damn time. I would rather let that one hypothetical person, that 1 out of 10,000 (assuming they even exist) “off the hook”, then give the remaining 9,999 people yet more crap to deal with. Disabled people often experience social and systemic ableism on a daily basis. The last thing the community needs is further discrimination.

It’s also complicated because there is this idea in the animal rights community, that there is no such thing as a half or partial vegan. You either do it 100% hardcore or you can not claim the label. And if you can’t call yourself vegan, then you are deemed as an unethical and a lousy human being. This in itself is ableist because if a person is legitimately not able to go the 100%, then they shouldn’t be shamed for that.

a model is hugging a variety of vegetables and holding them close to her chest. she is grinning and looking to the right

It’s also complicated because in truth, no one is 100% vegan. When I go to the market to get vegan food, I go to a market that has a whole section dedicated to meat, eggs and dairy. Therefore, I am essentially, though indirectly, financially supporting a business that profits from the animal agriculture industry. When I use a grocery delivery service (as due to my disability, I can not always make it to the store), they bag the groceries in plastic bags which (and I kid you not) contain additives that are derived from animals. My point being, that the system in it’s current state, makes it impossible to do zero harm and thus there is no such thing as the perfect vegan.

Veganism is thus about doing the least harm and the most good. And so if one can not go fully vegan due to their health and/or disability, it becomes a matter of doing what they can. Consider eating less meat. Not an option? Considering drinking a non-dairy “milk” (soy, rice, almond, oats, coconut etc.) instead of buying dairy milk. Or if changing ones diet is not an option, then consider purchasing products for your home and body that are not tested on animals, if not totally vegan. One can choose to buy clothing made from synthetic material instead of animal skins such as leather, fur and suede. If you already own a leather coat, as an example, and can not afford to buy a new synthetic one, then wear the coat but do less harm in other ways. My point being, it’s about doing what you can. It doesn’t matter if this doesn’t “qualify” you to accurately identify as vegan. It’s better to do some good and less harm than nothing at all.

photo is of the earth, a view from space.

And do keep in mind that this goes beyond the animals. There are mainstream scientific studies that show that the animal agriculture industry is one of the largest contributors to climate change. This is big, considering since climate change is an issue that directly impacts us all, but particularly people who are poor and/or the disabled population. After all, who is often left stranded during and after a major storm (such as a hurricane)?

Or even just the impact of climate change on every day weather. Climate change is being linked to the increase in heat advisories which prevent people (like myself) who are medically sensitive to the heat, from leaving their home. I am vegan for many reasons, but one of them being is that I do not do well with being stuck in my apartment for a week. When I do my best to not support the animal agriculture industry, I lessen climate change, and thus I lessen the physical isolation that I experience, which impacts my well being.

That being said, the intention of this article, is not trying to tell people what to do nor demand change. I just wanted to address the question of “is veganism ableist?” as a disabled vegan and present you with the information from that perspective. Because in the end, it is never … ever okay when a vegan (or anyone) is ableist (or any other form of discrimination), but that doesn’t make veganism (or a variation of), a bad idea.

 

This essay originally appeared on Rebelwheels’ Soapbox on September 6, 2016.


me in wheelchairMichele Kaplan is a queer (read: bisexual), geek-proud, intersectional activist on wheels (read: motorized wheelchair), who tries to strike a balance between activism, creativity and self care, while trying to change the world.

whyveganism.com