We must return to smaller-scale, local and organic mixed farming methods to regenerate the land from the soil up, says columnist. (stock photo)

Column: It’s a bit late to demand total plant consumption

Veganism/vegetarianism don’t take into account global impacts or historical realities, says columnist

BY MARJORIE STEWART

Now that the election is over and the green movement has burst through the false promises of ‘sustainable growth’ to demand that politicians set policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is time to focus on large-scale action that can only be effected by governments.

Humans are hard-wired for temporal spatial discounting: we want what we want right now, right here and we’ll pay later. This characteristic has been exploited by global corporate capitalism to such an extent that we cannot break out of the traps that depend on human exploitation and planetary destruction. We must have municipal, provincial, national and international policies to dismantle the failing systems and replace them with human-scale alternatives.

Civil society, a.k.a. non-profit activism, has been working on these very alternatives, and the knowledge exists of what to do to replace the ‘business as usual’ attitudes that prevent the cultural transformation we need.

What we don’t need is to waste our time on inadequate solutions, however tempting or fashionable. In food matters, veganism and vegetarianism are very popular right now but they do not take into account global impacts or historical realities.

I have no quarrel with a diet much heavier in plants than meat and dairy food and I wholeheartedly support the dismantling of industrial meat and dairy systems. But, after tens of thousands of years of domestication, starting with ourselves and adding domestic animals to evolve systems of mixed farming that did not destroy the land, it’s a bit late to be demanding total plant consumption for humans on the basis that eating meat is unfair to other animals.

When the colonial settlers arrived in North America, the prairie grasslands were lush and healthy and inhabited by large herbivores, their carnivore predators, and their foods (grass and some woody forages). The biomass of immigrant humans replaced the biomass of the bison and the roles of carnivores in what had been a balanced ecosystem fed by healthy soils and abundant grasses were eliminated.

It seems clear that we must return to smaller-scale, local and organic mixed farming methods to regenerate the land from the soil up.

So, if we rush into veganism, how will this contribute to ecological well-being of humans and other animal species?

Veganism has been promoted as good for health, planet and animals, the answer to the ravages of industrial agriculture.

Unfortunately, within a global capitalist system, while immense savings in health costs and reduction in greenhouse gases could be achieved, the slack would be taken up by increased demand to satisfy that ‘here, now, whatever’ human trait.

And the amount of the plant production required would have to be met by monoculture of fruits and vegetables, along with clear-cutting of forests to provide arable land. Cashews from India, almonds from California, palm oil from Africa, all will have impacts on planet and the people drudging to produce the products to satisfy the cravings of the well-to-do, living a lifestyle and an esthetic of gentrification.

Which policies should we be asking for to combat climate change? Trendy, self-indulgent, all-plant diets for the few or something more down-to-earth?

Marjorie Stewart is past-chairwoman of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at marjorieandalstewart@gmail.com.

Just Posted

Courtenay couple opens up Christmas mini village to raise donations

Jim and Denise Madeiros have been collecting pieces for more than 25 years

Island Health dementia video series wins awards

Sharing the Journey: Practical Approaches to Caring for a Loved One With Dementia

Parksville student experiment heads to International Space Station

Entries from 23 countries; Ballenas is one of 11 schools chosen in Canada

MLA Adam Olsen still mulling over bid for provincial Green leadership

Olsen says he will discuss the opportunity with his family over Christmas holidays

Russell clan finds a comfort zone in Chemainus

Big family finding a new home in small town Vancouver

VIDEO: Success of wildlife corridors in Banff National Park has advocates wanting more

Demand for more highway protection escalated after seven elk were killed by a semi-trailer near Canmore

Fans sing Canadian anthem after sound system breaks at BMW IBSF World Cup

The Canadians in attendance made sure their team and flag were honoured on the podium

VIDEO: Fire destroys Big White Ski Resort chalet

Social media eulogies peg the property, nicknamed “The Pharamacy,” as both loved and hated

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Five things of note from Trudeau’s mandate letters to his ministers

Some marching orders come from the Liberal Party’s campaign, while others are new additions

Scheer’s resignation tips party into internal war over school tuition payments

The Conservatives have a Toronto convention already scheduled for April

Victoria restaurant gets one-year extension after facing renoviction

Pluto’s Restaurant set to stay at its Cook Street location until March 2021

Jim Cuddy Band members turn trio for next Victoria show

Jan. 11 stop at the McPherson Playhouse part of the Countrywide Soul tour

Ucluelet Aquarium celebrates “best” season to date

“We had some wonderful, really engaged visitors,” said curator Laura Griffith Cochrane.

Most Read