Political Veganism

As the vegan movement grows it is important that we do not lose sight of what is truly important and realise the potential of political veganism. We cannot allow ourselves to become dazzled by diet book celebrities and wonder workouts or we risk representing veganism as just another edgy trend. We must instead focus on the ways in which veganism can be promoted as the only way to achieve a sustainable future, and this should be done by making environmental benefits and emotional intelligence the forefront of the movement.

With this in mind, a crucial aspect of the vegan movement is in fact to understand its role as a political power. We may not at first realise how veganism fits in with politics, however the more experience we gain as vegans, the more we can see how its core values may be applied to change the face of political landscapes across the globe.

Firstly we must come to terms with what exactly the vegan movement as a whole stands for in terms of politically attributable characteristics:

  • A call for serious societal change:

When we fight in the name of veganism, we are voicing our concerns for the way the world has been configured. The social and political constructions that have dictated thought and behaviour for so long are outdated, and we are calling for serious change. As education and access to information becomes ever more readily available we are becoming far more aware of the inner workings of our world, and so far we aren’t happy with what we have seen. By fighting as vegan activists we are becoming the change we want to see in the world, and we should be educating others as to why this change is the best course of action. Put simply, we are expressing why we aren’t happy with the way the world works and as the movement grows more and more people take notice, and thus our political strength grows.

  • An extremely powerful tool for achieving environmental sustainability:

As we all know, being vegan is considered the most sustainable way to live. However, many people don’t realise the impact this information can have on influencing environmental change. From personal experience I have found that the most effective way to promote veganism is to exploit the selfishness of others by putting them face to face with the environmental destruction they are supporting. By showing them that they are actively jeopardising their way of life, many people are visibly shaken by the news. (If you need some more information as to how veganism is essential from an environmentalist perspective check out my video)

  • Opposing the industrialisation of living beings:

For me the importance soon shifted from a simple opposition to meat onto the depreciation of living beings into coldly calculated units of somatic value. The treatment of non-human animals as stock is deeply disturbing and a worrying reflection of the human attitude towards life in general. If the lives of other species are so undervalued, there is no wonder that humans continue to harm and kill each other. I’m not suggesting that if the world went vegan there would be no more wars (the human race is far too stupid to achieve world peace, come on Homo sapiens prove me wrong!), but it would be naive to think that it wouldn’t make people appreciate the lives of others. Not to mention the fact that the physical industrialisation of the animal product industry is completely unnatural even from an agricultural perspective.

  • Taking charge as consumers:

The power to change the global market rests with the consumers, but many people don’t realise just how much influence they can have by promoting or avoiding certain products or companies. Vegans boycott one of the, if not the, most destructive industries on the planet and have had a surprisingly large impact which shows that we do indeed hold the power; if we don’t buy their products, they will stop selling them.

  • The link between personal health and national budgets:

As scientific research increasingly suggests; animal products can cause a multitude of health issues. So by letting people know that living healthily as a vegan is not only achievable but actually preferable, we can actually push for positive change on a medical level. It’s no secret that health organisations around the world are under serious strain, but I believe that veganism could help relieve some of that strain. This inhabits an interesting area on the political landscape, as there could be friction between the interests of public health and the profits of pharmaceutical companies (but I’m not here to talk about medical conspiracies!).

  • The importance of emotional intelligence:

This may seem a little more abstract than the previous points, but I think it is important nonetheless. It’s no surprise to hear that the future is progressive, and one of the desirable characteristics we need to pursue this future is strong emotional intelligence. This becomes increasingly important when we consider the intersectionality between veganism and other progressive ideologies such as feminism, LGBTQ rights and disability rights movements.

So What Does This Mean?

The vegan movement needs to use these points to its advantage to establish itself firmly on the international stage as a strong and growing force. By promoting the areas that appeal most to the general populace on a political and social level, we can reinforce the positive and desirable representation of veganism.

The issue at the moment is that the vegan movement is suffering an identity crisis caused by deep internal conflicts, which quite frankly are not helping at all. One side is fighting for animals and the environment and the other for self improvement and bodily enhancements, the latter of which is unfortunately the more widely represented as the face of the vegan movement. Now I’m not saying that self improvements and diets etc. are a bad thing, they do get people’s attention, but they shouldn’t be the driving force of the movement because they lack depth. Diets and workout plans may be eye catching  but they rarely lead to long term commitments and change, so using them to represent the vegan movement is hardly a smart move. The vegan movement needs to secure its identity by rearranging priorities to put forward its core values of ethical living and environmental sustainability.

The next step would be to make sure veganism is being promoted in the most effective way, this means applying more pressure through bottom up approaches as well producing vegans with training to push for top down changes through the likes of scientific studies and political activism. By tackling both the general populace and institutions simultaneously we can ensure the effective promotion of veganism as a popular and endorsed ideology.

These are just a few ideas that I have had on the subject and there is plenty of room to expand these thoughts, so if you have any ideas please feel free to share them below and tell me what you think of the idea of political veganism.

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Delivering Environmental Sustainability: ‘Top Down’ vs ‘Bottom Up’

This is a question that bugged me the other day, I couldn’t decide which approach was more effective so I did a little research and jotted down a couple of notes, have a read and let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

A ‘bottom up’ approach to delivering environmental sustainability relies on the general populace making changes in their lifestyles and demanding that the government make changes too. Rayner (2010, p.617) explains that the basic proposition of a ‘bottom up’ approach is that “climate change policies should be designed and implemented at the lowest feasible level of organization”. This ‘bottom up’ approach is the opposite to the ‘top down’ approach that sees governments/powers implicating changes that affect societies as a whole; things such as laws, initiatives and incentives.

The first thing to address is the problem with a system that relies solely on ‘top down’ approaches to achieving environmental sustainability. Smith (2008, p.363) argues that even though ‘top down’ approaches have the advantages of expert insight as well as financial and technical resources, it will always be unsuccessful without the participation of local knowledge. Bäckstrand (2003, p.31) supports this by saying that the current system is flawed because of a lack of collaboration; experts should be considerate of local knowledge and more effort should be made to establish dialogue between experts and citizens.

It has been argued that the Kyoto treaty was a failure in terms of delivering environmental sustainability due to lack of understanding of the intricacies of the problems it faced, which reveals the weaknesses of a ‘top down’ approach. Prins and Rayner (2007, p.975) criticise the treaty, saying that instead of aiming for precise targets for emissions reductions, governments should instead promote a ‘bottom up’ approach that benefits from social learning. This would also allow governments to drive towards a goal of ‘fundamental technological change’, whilst focusing on how governments, firms and households actually do to reduce emissions. So it seems that even though people may think that governments will have the power to bring change, in fact the most important way to do this is by working up from the bottom.

An important aspect of the ‘bottom up’ approach is self-evaluation and analysis of one’s current lifestyle, which has been made far easier thanks to EFA, which was pioneered by Professor William Rees in British Columbia, Canada. It is described as the greatest tool for measuring an individual’s ecological footprint by measuring: food and renewable material consumption, transport use, energy use, built land and waste production (WWF, 2002a, cited in Sutcliffe et al, 2008). After using the WWF footprint calculator, it was revealed that I use only 40% of my share of emissions, and I was given tips on how I can even further reduce my impact. This encourages people to make changes on an individual level, by changing small aspects of daily lifestyle to reduce carbon emissions; it’s the small things that will add up to make big differences.

In conclusion, since ‘top down’ approaches seem to be more flawed and harder to control than one may think, the best approach for delivering environmental sustainability would be to work from the bottom. This would require work to encourage governments, industries and households to analyse and evaluate their ‘footprints’, and make every effort to reduce their own impact on the planet. Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Don’t forget to share this page and subscribe to the website to receive updates for new content, you can also follow the Fox Eyed Man on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Tumblr for further discussions about environmentalism.

References:

Bäckstrand, K. (2003). Civic Science for Sustainability: Reframing the Role of Experts, Policy-Makers and Citizens in Environmental Governance. Global Environmental Politics 3(4), pp.24-41.
Prins, G. & Rayner, S. (2007). Time to Ditch Kyoto. Nature 499(7165), pp.973-975.
Rayner, S. (2010). How to eat an elephant: a bottom-up approach to climate policy. Climate Policy 10(6), pp.615-621.
Smith, J.L. (2008). A critical appreciation of the “bottom-up” approach to sustainable water management: embracing complexity rather than desirability. Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability 13(4), pp.353-366.
Sutcliffe, M. et al. (2008). Can Eco-Footprinting Analysis Be Used Successfully to Encourage More Sustainable Behaviour at the Household Level? Sustainable Development 16, pp.1-16.
WWF Website. (2002a). Ecological Footprinting: a Guide for Local Authorities.

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Nausicaa: Ghibli’s Environmentalist Masterpiece?

‘Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind’ (風の谷のナウシカ – Kaze no Tani no Naushika), written and directed by Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki, was released in 1984 and was based on Miyazaki’s own manga of the same name released in 1982. The film has been a huge success, catching the hearts and minds of people all over the world (that is ignoring the terrible ‘Warriors of the Wind’ re-release by New World Pictures!), with it’s beautiful animation and amazing score, composed by Joe Hisaishi, it truly is one of Miyazaki’s best works (and although produced before the establishment of Studio Ghibli, remains a shining star on their profile). *For the sake of character accessibility of some users I will use Nausicaa for this article instead of the original  Nausicaä*

*Please be aware that this article contains spoilers*

For those of you who have not (yet) seen the movie: The story focuses on the young princess Nausicaa, who lives in a dystopian future set 1000 years after an apocalyptic war called ‘The Seven Days of Fire’ ended most of civilisation. The world she lives in is now dominated by massive toxic forests, filled with giant insects that were able to adapt to the noxious spores and gases, and have since become it’s protectors. The forest is constantly growing and threatens to consume the remaining pockets of humanity, one of which has settled in the ‘Valley of the Wind’ which is protected from the encroaching forest by ocean winds that repel the spores.

The people are constantly threatened by the toxic forest, but live peacefully in the valley. However, whilst Nausicaa is trying to find out how the people can live safely with nature, other nations are at war with each other and with the forest. Nausicaa must help the people understand the value of the environment and avoid humanity from completely destroying its relationship with nature, but a dark shadow from the past may become the ruin of mankind…

Well, with the theatrics over, lets get to the point. ‘Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind’ actually holds a very poignant ecological, anti-nuclear and anti-war message that is as powerful today as it was in 1984. The film portrays nature as a formidable entity that is dangerous and unpredictable, yet shows us that it is also restorative and spiritual when approached peacefully, and this is the message that Nausicaa wants to reveal. She also later reveals that the forest is actually cleansing the land, removing the poisons left behind by the ‘Seven Days of Fire’, and the toxins are just a by-product of this process. It highlights the restorative powers of nature and reminds us how important environmental processes are in maintaining a healthy planet.

Nausicaa 1

However, the ignorance of the empire states leads to unnecessary and foolish conflicts which do more harm than good; they strive to assert their dominance over nature and establish a world where humans are in charge (sounds familiar right?). It is true that in this film, the actions of the empire states are mainly driven by their fear; they are not evil, just misguided. The awakening of the Giant Warrior (an ancient, living biological weapon) is a reference to nuclear arms, and the ‘Seven Days of Fire’ could be seen as a nuclear war that destroyed civilisations and poisoned the earth.

Despite the militaristic actions of the empire states, Nausicaa remains a pacifist who values life, regardless of what form it takes. This is obvious from her attempts to stop the fighting between the Ohmu and humans, and far from being cowardly, she bravely faces the rampaging Ohmu to calm them. It is only when the Ohmu are calmed, and the people see them revive Nausicaa, that peace is established.

So the message of this film is simple, nature is a very powerful thing, but if we are respectful, we can live in harmony. War is never the answer, it only serves to create more problems and awakens the darker side of the human condition. Nuclear power is dangerous and shouldn’t be tampered with, lest we get burned.

If you think you would like to watch this film (which I wholeheartedly recommend as one of Studio Ghibli’s best productions) then you can find it here on Amazon:

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind [DVD]

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[Image credit: Featured – Watercolour Ohmu | Flickr – Photo Sharing! : taken from – https://www.flickr.com/photos/feline_dacat/4921641686/in/photolist-8uUGB9-5Zwayr-giZ8ai-f6yM4M-m3DUrw-oY2hBH-7RQseS-rRPpTb-4eT3zb-xetW9A-8Vtsi5-sd2Xqh-vSyuN6-bAG57-bsQqj2-6psu4YAuthor: Feline DaCat https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
Nausicaa 6716 vu0 2 unfilt  Flickr – Photo Sharing!  taken from – httpswww.flickr.comphotostheprofileth5350653484inphotolist-99PuSh-6gB2g-ewUEZS-e7Py2o-99MgGp-99PzYC-99PvAd-rYLw6A-4gqGgM-hY5WPv-kvD3b-7t9z8c-6gB63-6gB2Z-6fWvq-eDxdc2-tKtgZk-7aKv63-fQqGUY-97AG6y-7gt7yu-aHrbnt-t55ZNZ-7gpbKT-d74ce9-6SesPL-6SanKt-97xRQi-eFobN6-eFobbM-ckP8yf-sdJmY3-5qdL1N-4sE2PK-4VUqY8-sTh2hw-gcUTjg-5oCwZA-nAZrAX-5oyfhD-sTr5Nx-sTimfF-qKJw9x-9j883r-ass2Kw-6v3WGA-nxNbz-96Pif-2ffig-8jSSpjAuthor TheProfileth httpscreativecommons.orglicensesby2.0]

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