This Is Hope: Green Vegans and the New Human Ecology
This Is Hope compares the outcomes of two human ecologies; one is tragic, the other full of promise.
This Is Hope compares the outcomes of two human ecologies; one is tragic, the other full of promise.
This is Hope compares the outcomes of two human ecologies; one is tragic, the other is full of promise. As Will explains in his Introduction, ‘Our human ecology is the expression of everything we do and is represented by every interaction we have on earth…it consists of the multitude of relationships we have with other people, other species, and our physical environment’. He describes our current human ecology in depth to illustrate how we are living inappropriately, cruelly, and unsustainably. This is obsolete and has been for a long time; it is the cause of our overpopulation, our overconsumption of resources, the poverty of ecosystems and people, and our disregard for the rights of individuals from other species. This is Hope proposes a new human ecology to replace it.
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In my environmentally-focused Sociology department and in my graduate classes, I was very disappointed at how Nonhuman Animals were either objectified or ignored altogether in the green discourse. For the first time, we have a comprehensive piece where Nonhuman Animals are included in the discussion as meaningful participants, victims, communities, and individuals. Other work touches on the inclusion of Nonhuman Animals, but this book acts a sort of environmentally-themed version of Singer's Animal Liberation. Anderson argues that environmentalism makes no sense so long as we encourage and protect violence against Nonhuman Animals: "We are not environmentalists if our vision and effort allow continued ecosystem collapses, extinctions, untold suffering, and unsustainability to continue" (172). Most environmental literature speaks of Nonhuman Animals, not as individuals, but as a "species." When the individual is lost from consideration, any number of injustices can be enacted upon individuals in the name of species "conservation," like "hunting" and "wildlife management." We learn how hunting artificially removes individuals from the environment, thus tampering with evolution as genes are eliminated from populations in ways that would not otherwise occur naturally (as happens when hunters go for males and animals with the largest tusks or antlers). We see how humans intentionally create fragile ecosystems that ultimately require human management. The projects of "humane washing" and "green washing" emerge to justify this management and continued exploitation, ignoring the ethical and logical vegan solution. Anderson's book offers an extensive overview of how Nonhuman Animals, both domesticated and free-living, are impacted by human activity. In many ways, it offers a rather sociological view of how Nonhuman Animals are otherized. There is a discussion of how nature and the human/nonhuman divide are socially constructed by humans. His approach is personal, often sharing his interactions with various Nonhuman Animal communities, environmental groups and agencies, and his travels across the world. We learn how Nonhuman Animals matter, with a variety of anecdotal stories, case studies, research reviews, and a discussion of sentience. He discusses the complexities involved with navigating violence against Nonhuman Animals among indigenous populations. There is also a discussion of the complexities of human and nonhuman oppression. Poverty, ecocide, misogyny, speciesism and other oppressions, he insists, are all interrelated. Anderson presents a case for "neo-predation," that is, human predation on Nonhuman Animals is exacerbated because it is based on our increasing population and our increasing consumption. In simply taking up space, creating noise pollution, laying roads and road barriers, and introducing invasive species (like cows and crops), we inflict unimaginable damage. However, important barriers to creating a vegan ecology exist. For one, environmentalists are wary to adopt veganism for fear of appearing too sentimental (a problem with many "feminized" social movements striving for social change under a patriarchy). The Non-Profit Industrial Complex also seems to be at work, as professionalized, funding-dependent NGOs dominate the arena and stifle radical discourse: Environmentalists and other advocates should lead and inspire our journey out of the current human ecology and into the humane and sustainable new human ecology. Instead, they are not telling us the entire story about what is required for our biological and moral survival. (179) Anderson explains that differing cultural beliefs on the environment and Nonhuman Animals mean we have no agreed upon goals, which makes collaboration difficult. This is aggravated by the hyperfocus on membership and financial support in the professionalized organizations. Hunters, being important funders, enjoy protected interests and silenced anti-specieism discourse. Likewise, professionalized groups generally don't want to associate with veganism to avoid seeming unreasonable. He also analyzes a wealth of counter-claimsmaking promulgated by "fur," "fishing," and "wildlife management" industries. On that note, I did find it very strange to see a list of recommended Nonhuman Animal NGOs at the end of the book, given that Nonhuman Animal rights NGOs are just as guilty of selling out Nonhumans for fear of losing credibility and funding. The inclusion of Vegan Outreach was especially disturbing, given their strong stance against veganism! That said, at least four issues stood out to me as potentially problematic. First, the entire theory of the book rests on his case for "empathy." When we are speaking of rights, "empathy" makes me nervous. I think we should be worried about creating a strong foundation for equality based on the logic of social justice. "Empathy" can often come off as condescending in a manner that upholds human superiority. For instance, we would not argue that women deserve rights because men should "empathize" with them, we would argue that women deserve rights because we recognize that as sentient beings, women deserve to be free of murder, rape, harassment, etc. Empathy is important in motivating concern, but I would hesitate to build a theory of social justice on wavering emotional states. Secondly, I am hugely deterred by the framing of violence against Nonhuman Animals as "carnism." "Carnism" is a term coined by Dr. Melanie Joy, and in many ways, is a corruption of the more inclusive term, "speciesism." Carnism refers specifically to consuming Nonhuman Animals for food, but a true vegan approach would recognize that it is much more than what we eat, it's also using Nonhuman Animals for clothes, entertainment, etc. Speciesism encapsulates that. Secondly, even in the realm of food, carnism only refers to "flesh." If you read between the lines in Joy's writing, you can figure out that she really means to include birds' eggs, cows' milk, etc., but that is not made clear. I really think the entire "carnism" concept is distracting, confusing, and unnecessary. Third, Anderson also runs into problems with his focus on population. He often speaks of quelling the growth of human population in general, but it is developing countries where this is happening specifically. Population has largely stagnated or even declined in the West, where individuals have greater wealth and greater access to education and other social services. So, when we talk about reducing human population, we need to be careful about what groups of people we are talking about--it is usually the world's poor and disadvantaged. These people are not the ones creating the massive amount of destruction and occupying all the space, that's the privileged people living in the West. Many areas of high population growth are also areas where people live on a dollar a day and are crammed into the highly confined spaces of ghettos and slums. Anderson acknowledges these social inequalities throughout the text, he just fails to do so in the context of population discussion. Population growth needs to be stopped and reversed, but he never explains exactly how that will be implemented. I fear the explanation will lie in targeting poor brown peoples, specifically vulnerable women. Relatedly, Anderson also suggests that people living in areas where food must be transported at high cost and where considerable energy must be invested into heating and cooling might consider moving. But, this is an option generally only available to the socially privileged. I've heard this same argument used for poor Americans of color living in food deserts, but simply moving is not a realistic solution. Indeed, the same problem arises when Anderson suggests that all populations of the world are "uniquely responsible" for the environmental crisis: "There are no exceptions" (303): Rich and poor, indefensible over-consumers and low-scale consumers, all are drawn into the fray because we each have our varying degrees of impact that require responses. (304) However, we know that the majority of the world's human population is so incredibly impoverished, their responsibility lies in surviving to see tomorrow and putting food in their children's mouths. Under such strained, day-to-day survivalist existence, I'm not sure how they couldn't be excepted. Furthermore, it is the world's privileged who have created these drastic inequalities to begin with. Anderson calls for us to adopt "humanity" as our primary identity, not nationality, ethnicity, or tribal identification. But, this position overlooks serious social and global hierarchies. White male Western capitalists have created this problem, not starving, illiterate villagers with dying children who are scraping to exist in the slums and countrysides of Africa, India, and China. I feel that when he speaks to how we are all "uniquely responsible," he really means those of us with the privilege of taking responsibility: those of us who will not have to choose between eating or not eating, living or not living. Dismantling inequalities of this scale will require institutional change, which will first require an attitude shift. People living in these conditions don't want to live in those conditions, it's not their attitude we need to change, it's our Western, individual, hyper-consumption colonialist attitude that needs to go. When we see education spread and wealth redistributed, I think there will be a much easier case for environmental stewardship. Overall, an incredibly sad read. It was distressing to read of suffering individuals, diminishing communities, human arrogance, NGO corruption, political irrationality, etc. I will warn you, some of the stories are extremely graphic and traumatizing (like a detailed description of how coyotes react as they are murdered by poison, or how elk slowly meet their death in a disemboweled panic at the hands of bow "hunters"). But, the book is uplifting in that Anderson constantly reminds us that the solution is at our fingertips. Finally, a strong case is being made for veganism as the most important way of diminishing social inequality and suffering in human and nonhuman societies. Overall, I think this is a very powerful book that is appropriate for a curious public, nonvegan environmentalists, and college students. A very engaging read. ~ Corey Wrenn Blog, http://academicabolitionistvegan.blogspot.com/
This is Hope: Green Vegans and the New Human Ecology is about how our relationship with the other beings on the planet determines the future of the planet itself, and about what has happened and will happen when that relationship is selfish and violent, as it is now. Author Will Anderson is a peaceful man, miraculously non-judgmental and hopeful considering his subject matter. In this intensively researched book, he clearly and inarguably reveals the harm that how we think and what we eat is doing to the planet that we all live on. Green Vegan is not a comfortable easy read, for several reasons: 1. This book introduces the unfamiliar concept of human ecology. This is nothing new, but it is a holistic framework that we've lost with the rise of a fragmented, technology dominated, materialistic and self-centered style of human existence. We've become alienated from the natural world which nourishes us - if we let it, or if it still can. No matter how inclined we are to agree with Will Anderson's point of view - and I am very much inclined - it is still a mental challenge to grasp that everything that we do and think is responsible for everything else that happens everywhere on the planet - as an everyday reality, not just an abstraction. As Will Anderson says in his introduction, 'Our current human ecology is characterized by a worldview that asserts we have dominion over all the Earth. It believes that Earth is here for our purposes and that all other species are below and inferior to us.' Very few human beings don't consciously or unconsciously share that point of view, no matter how otherwise enlightened they may be. Will Anderson's Concise Definition of The New Human Ecology: "The new human ecology ... incorporates and expands upon deep ecology (which) recognizes that all species, individuals of these species, and their ecostystems have intrinsic value. This is the biocentric perspective. Deep ecology is explicity present throughout the new human ecology and missing from the current human ecology." 2. Will Anderson tells in exhaustive, gut wrenching, well-documented detail what, when, and how we're destroying the planet. That's hard to take - like watching a train wreck in slow motion, knowing that you helped to cause it! Some of the topics that he covers: The carnist view and world hunger, man as mega-predator, the incomplete environmentalist, veganism as a new human ecological niche, systemic public corruption, cultural objections, blue and green washing, and finally, in the last chapter, his message of hope. 3. If you weren't vegan before reading this book, it would be difficult not to feel that you should go vegan by the end of Chapter 19. Ironically, it's the last chapter of the book, You Are the Hope, which fell short for me, and induced a feeling of unreality. Will Anderson says in Chapter 20: "My hope is that you are convinced to embrace the new human ecology and its Seven Results because of what you now know." From the introduction: "Those results include reducing our population, increasing social and economic justice, reclaiming lands for restoring ecosystems to the extent possible, and establishing a sustainable vegan human ecology." To my way of thinking, the only way to change how you think and act is to change your consciousness, which is the basis of thought and action. Green Vegans shows why a global change in consciousness is critical to our survival as a species, and the survival of the planet, but not how it might be accomplished on the scale that's needed. However, it's only fair to say that's a task beyond the scope of this book. I am grateful to Will Anderson for illuminating the problems that we humans face, and for showing that widespread adoption of vegan diet is critical for saving the planet and all who inhabit it. My hope is that this book will inspire all those who read it to start forging a path in a new direction. My fear is that it may not get the readership it deserves. That's why I recommend Green Vegans and The New Human Ecology as a Must Read! ~ Savvy Vegetarian Website, http://www.savvyvegetarian.com/articles/green-vegans-new-human-ecology.php
As a vegetarian of more than 30 years, I did not think this book would offer much in the way of new ideas. I was wrong. This is a huge campaign of a book, packed with thought-provoking information that underlines yet again that mostly we do not make informed choices. Most people do not realise the impact of their food choices or the far ranging effects of their consumerism generally. Courageous and compassionate author Will Anderson also got me thinking about how the most minute ecosystems are essential to the health of the whole. He describes how the disruption of the synchronicity of the food chain has disastrous ripple effects, causing serious consequences for the more impoverished human beings on the planet, those human beings who are actually competing with other species for food. The book explores the ecological and moral arguments for a new way of living that is strongly compelling. It is thoroughly researched and presented in an accessible format which would make fascinating reading for anyone who wants to make a difference. Chapter 20 is entitled “You are the Hope”, and certainly if we don’t take action, the planet will suffer, all creatures on the planet will suffer, and that includes us. Read this book and take action! ~ Interfaith Minister & Tutor, Rev Elaine Walker
Useful reading with good documentation for environmentalists and species rights advocates as well as professionals who want to work on changes. ~ , Compendium Newsletter
In this is a remarkable book, Will Anderson carefully, thoroughly makes an overwhelming case that the future of humanity hangs in the balance. And what will tip that balance one way or another will be whether or not humanity embraces a broad ethic of environmental responsibility and animal rights. Humans must radically alter their ecological footprint by reversing population growth, living sustainably with renewable resources, and minimizing pollution. Otherwise, we will degrade the environment to the point that the world will become essentially uninhabitable for us (as well as countless other species). At the same time, we must embrace animal rights. It won’t suffice for humans to ruthlessly exploit nonhumans while “conserving” enough animal, plant, mineral, and fossil fuel “resources” to satisfy human needs. In addition to being morally bankrupt, such an attitude inevitably devastates ecosystems and species populations. Only respectful attitudes towards the entire nonhuman world will preserve or regenerate natural ecosystems, which are essential for sustaining life as we know it. For example, if we allowed forests and grasslands that have been converted to croplands to grow back, they would sequester much of the excess carbon dioxide that currently warms our planet. Anderson thoughtfully considers many ethical dilemmas. Is it acceptable to kill members of prey species because their populations have been altered by “predator control” programs? Anderson carefully considers all viewpoints and concludes that killing animals is an unacceptable solution to the problem. Should we respect the hunting traditions of indigenous people? Anderson rejects these policies as well, noting that we do not regard “tradition” as an acceptable excuse for slavery or female genital mutilation, and we should not accept it as an excuse for killing nonhumans either. Anderson calls for “green vegan” living, which entails more than abstinence from animal products. He sees veganism as an ideology that includes human population control and a hands-off approach to the natural world. Borrowing from the important work of Melanie Joy (Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism), Anderson contrasts the ideology of green vegans with that of carnism. The latter sees humans as special creations who are entitled to use and abuse nonhumans as humans please. Green veganism doesn’t call for a modest reform of modern living. Rather it calls for a comprehensive orientation toward compassion, concern, and sustainability. Anything less might slow the rate of humanity’s self-destruction but will not save our species, as well as the nonhuman world. Anderson hopes that humans, upon recognizing the necessity of green vegan living, will choose this lifestyle. Unfortunately, I see little evidence that more than a small fraction of the populace has embraced his call, even though it strikes me as obvious that there is a the growing ecological crisis. Indeed, I find it hard to understand why those who insist on maintaining a course that is self-destructive for humanity still have children. Perhaps we are dealing with the psychology of denial, akin to the attitude of people living at the base of an active volcano who choose to ignore the clear threat in their midst. In this case, humanity isn’t just denying the problem; it’s continually worsening the problem. It’s like fracking over the San Andres Fault. When there is no immediate danger, when change is slow, and when actions don’t have immediate, obvious impacts, it is difficult to encourage people to act, particularly when action means significant lifestyle changes. The challenge, it seems to me, is to find ways to make visible the growing ecological crisis – the “elephant in the room.” Otherwise, within 2-3 generations there won’t be elephants, other creatures, and perhaps humans, anywhere. This observation might encourage people to give up in despair, but I don’t think that is the Christian way. We are called to be faithful, and that means living as if our actions will meaningfully change the world. Indeed, that possibility exists, however remote it might seem. ~ Christian Vegetarian Association, Magazine
This recent book by Will Anderson offers a devastating critique of the human impact on animals and the biosphere. Using careful arguments and references, the author leaves no room for half measures: we must rapidly wind down animal agriculture, hunting, fishing and all other unnecessary uses of animals. This will allow ecosystems to begin to recover from the downward spiral that has been caused by animal agriculture and human predation. This is an ambitious book spanning a number of topics. Although there is detailed discussion around preserving and restoring ecosystems, the author also emphasises the suffering that individual animals endure at the hands of humans, and asks us to develop more empathy for sentient beings. There is a consideration of traditional hunting cultures, so often given as an excuse by others not to embark on becoming vegan. There are many nuances to this issue that Anderson covers very well. The author also criticises international aid organisations for promoting livestock agriculture as a way out of poverty. Anderson is particularly critical of the boutique (locavore) animal farming movement, pointing out that it is steeped in green-washing, and what he calls “humane washing” – creating an impression of care for animals, whilst cruelty is at the heart of it all. People who are already vegan don't get a free pass either – everyone must look deeply into their purchases to ensure they use resources wisely, are fair trade and cruelty free. It is argued that everyone is effectively a predator through the purchases we make and the space that we take up. We need to be aware of this and minimise the harm caused. In addition, there needs to be a global population decline. The author concludes with a hopeful prescription of 7 things that must necessarily develop in order for the planet to have a future. These are all things that individuals can implement in their daily lives, central to which is a vegan lifestyle. After all the bad news there is optimism for change. We get the impression that the world of the future will look very different from what it is now. The e-book version has hyperlinked end notes so that further reading can be undertaken if desired. There is a wealth of information in these references. I hope one day the book will be translated into other languages. ~ Canberra Vegans (nonprofit), website
In This Is Hope: Green Vegans and the New Human Ecology (Earth Books), author Will Anderson, founder of greenvegans.org, lays out the hard numbers: 67 billion farm animals used to produce meat; 700 million people worldwide depending on farmed animals for much of their income; 1.5 planets’ worth of resources being used by humankind. He notes that “carnism” underlies an unsustainable reality that has led to exploiting land, polluting water and generating massive emissions and takes direct aim at celebrated food writer Michael Pollan whose book The Omnivore’s Dilemma Anderson argues does not go nearly far enough in identifying necessary changes. In The Omnivore’s Dillema, Pollan writes that domestication of farm animals “has allowed us and them to prosper together as we could never have prospered apart.” To this, Anderson responds with a litany of ways that humans have mistreated these animals—cows with huge udders; turkeys with oversized breasts that are unable to walk; butchered calves. It’s a grim picture, and one that is not remedied, in Anderson’s view, by the small-scale farm operations so often championed by environmentalists. The truth, he writes, can again be found in the numbers—26% of Earth’s arable land used for grazing and a third of all arable land used for feed crop production. It’s a staggering amount of lost habitat for the farm animals Anderson calls “an invasive species.” Pollan may argue that people are animals and eating other animals is natural, but Anderson counters that “A new era is unfolding…I am vegan because of what I have seen and experienced with ecosystems and other species…” In This Is Hope, Anderson ties true environmentalism to veganism. His words may be hard for meat eaters to read, but he makes it clear they have never been more necessary. ~ Brita Belli, editor, E Magazine (the environmental magazine)
Self-interest and empathy for other species, then, are entwined, and Anderson appeals to the reader on both the practical and the emotional level. Although humans are fond of the illusion that their lives, habits, governments and societies are rational, it is actually on the emotional level that events are decided, and Will Anderson is not afraid to appeal to our emotions. In the end, he hands the responsibility for saving Earth and other species to the reader: his valedictory sentence is "you are the hope." ~ Barbara Julian, Animal Science and Literature: http://www.animalit.ca/2013/06/this-is-hope-green-vegans-and-new-human.html
...one of the most important works of our time. Thank you for giving this vital book life. ~ Brian Graff, National Anti-Vivisection Society US
Finally! A MUST READ for anyone seeking a practical planetary path from the current trajectory of death and desperation to one that truly engages and embraces hope for all species. This book provides a pioneering path for those who truly want to be the change we want - and need - to see in this world.As a scientist in wildlife management and conservation, I can attest to tragically ridiculous and archaic methods that continue to be used to (mis)manage wildlife and plant species for human ignorance and greed rather than for the planet and successive generations. This Is Hope incorporates the best and the brightest of science while allowing for the potential of humanity. ~ Toni Frohoff, Ph.D., Author, Dolphin Mysteries and Between Species
We are at the precipice where human existence and that of all other species is in doubt. Can we commit to a course of action in time to stop the loss of biodiversity, while increasing human prosperity? In This Is Hope, we realize that our old way of thinking about our place in the world must change. Here you will find not just another explanation of where we have gone wrong; but also that we have the power to create the world all of us would hope for ourselves and future generations. ~ Brenda Peterson, author
I had the very great pleasure of working with Will Anderson in 1998 when we both stood in opposition to the resurrection of whaling in Washington State by the Makah Tribe. I was impressed by his passion, his compassion and his courage. We share the same view that we must make significant changes in our approach to our relationship with non-human species and we both agree that the world must move towards veganism as a means of restoring harmony between human kind and the natural world for only by living in accordance with the principles of ecological laws and realities will humanity have a future at all. ~ Captain Paul Watson, Founder – Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Co-Founder of the Greenpeace Foundation
In THIS IS HOPE Will Anderson proposes a unifying and comprehensive approach to stop the loss of ecosystems and biodiversity and to end the wanton abuse of wild and domesticated nonhuman animals (animals). It's essential for people with different agendas but often overlapping goals to talk with, not at, one another, and make every attempt to come to agreeable solutions concerning our inevitable interactions with ecosystems, species, and especially individual animals. This is no easy ask. However, Anderson covers most of the issues with which deep ecologists, environmentalists, species and animal rights activists, students of human ecology, vegetarians, and vegans are concerned. In this ambitious and heartfelt book a wide range of people will find common ground and a shared language for developing and implementing a unified approach to bring an end to the wanton redecoration and destruction of landscapes and to end the egregious harm to individual animals for which humans are uniquely responsible. Globally, there are many passionate people who care deeply about the world in which we all live, so as we attempt to expand our compassion footprint and rewild our hearts we need to step out of comfort zones and think and act out of the box. Whether you agree or disagree with Anderson here or there is of little concern for this book will make you think deeply about a large number of issues that are closely connected—although at first glance this might not seem to be the case. I learned a lot from reading THIS IS HOPE and I'm sure you will as well. ~ Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., author, professional
This is Hope: Green Vegans and the New Ecology is thoughtful and thought-provoking. In this comprehensive and well-researched book, Will Anderson weaves together the impact our behaviors have on the web of life, without leaving loose ends. As a vegan, somebody with a comparatively light footprint on the planet, I appreciated the reminder that when I buy non organic vegan products I poison the Earth and thereby the animals. That may be what Anderson does best -- he challenges us to do better. I liked the challenge and know that other readers will too. ~ Karen Dawn, author, professional
This is Hope is filled with well-documented insights, eloquently expressed, into the causes and conditions of the malaise that is spreading over the Earth and afflicting all of its occupants as a result of the human desire to coerce the planet to conform to our will and our will alone. Ironically, our drive entails a death wish that can be seen not only in the extinction of other species but in the destruction of the ecological systems and networks upon which all beings on Earth, including ourselves, depend and into which all of us are integrated, for better or worse. As terrible as species extinction is (I have often thought of what it must be like for a creature to experience being the last of its kind, like the last Dusky Seaside Sparrow who was so uncaringly reported in the news media as having drowned in “its” water cup at the zoo and whose death as a species was said to matter only because of what it could portend for humans) – as terrible as species extinction is, I say: equally terrible and in some ways worse is the endless proliferation of animals to fit the procrustean beds of global industrial agriculture, experimental research and all of the other human horrors that not even death can rescue them from being forced to endure in endless rebirths of an agonized Phoenix. Apathy or Empathy, Apathy or Action: These are the questions that confront us and that are affirmatively addressed in This is Hope. This book presents its solid conceptual arguments in lucid prose while evoking the experiences of actual beings who, once you have lived with them in its pages, you will never again be able to forget or abandon for “someone else” to care about. ~ Karen Davis, Ph.D., author, professional