The Flying Vegan

I recently had a prolonged discussion with a vegan.

Nice guy. Deeply committed to a vegan diet – preferably for all of us.

His commitment, as with most other vegans I have talked with, is founded on the moral principle that we should not kill sentient beings.

Certainly a supportable argument.

This guy had recently flown across the United States to visit a friend.

Flying injects CO2 and a number of other pollutants into the air. These pollutants are directly contributing to climate change, which is already increasing the deaths of wildlife, and may well result in the elimination of a multitude of species over the next 100 years. Many of them will be sentient beings.

It is true that many other factors contribute to climate change, even many other human-controlled sources of CO2. But airplanes insert these contaminants high in the atmosphere, where they do the most damage.

If he is so concerned about killing sentient beings, why does he fly? It seems to me that if there is a moral imperative not to kill sentient beings, we should not be flying in airplanes.

Certainly a supportable argument.

We have to eat. Every human being throughout history has eaten. Perhaps we do not have to eat meat. Many human beings throughout history have not.

We do not have to fly. The overwhelming majority of human beings throughout history have not.

Is it OK to kill sentient beings so long as you don’t have to see them, or if they won’t die for a while?

To what extent are we responsible for the consequences of our behavior?

What do you think?

One For Two For Four – Are We “too late?”

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late… Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.”
– The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Beyond Vietnam” speech April 4th, 1967, New York City

The idea that there can be too many humans has been in and out of the popular discourse at least since the publication of “The Population Bomb” in 1968. Zero Population Growth (ZPG) was also formed in 1968 to address just this problem. And yet, the major media rarely mention population anymore.

We still refuse to face the fact that we will not survive as a civilized people, and may not survive as a species, if we do not make massive changes beginning immediately.

We simply cannot keep increasing the amount of resources we use, the contamination we produce, and the size of our population.

This is not a question of economics or politics or religion. This is a question of physical reality.

In fact, we cannot even keep using resources at the rate we do now, nor can we keep producing the contamination that we do now, nor support the present population in the lifestyle we currently expect.

It is a simple fact: there are too many people in the world and we are ruining our lives and our planet. We have reached a critical point where the ecological dynamic balance of the planet that we need to survive is wobbling like a spinning top about to fall over. We need to make massive changes, and we need to make the changes now.

What are we waiting for? In Dr. King’s words, “tomorrow is today.”

Even if we all cut our consumption in half, given population trends we will rapidly exceed the level of total consumption and contamination we have today – world population has nearly tripled in just my lifetime.

Or we could acknowledge the one decision each of us makes that has the most effect on the world. Each of us can make the commitment to limit the size of our family by having only one child.

If every couple had only one child for the next four generations, (“One for two for four.”) our population would subside to 1/16th of what it is now, to about 500 million people – the level that most people who seriously study this stuff believe is sustainable. Now, that would be a change! Then we could go to “One for one forever.”

If you already have a child (or 2, or 3…), have no more.

In any case, talk to all you children about the importance of limiting family size, and the importance of their child limiting their family’s size, and so on. Talk to your neighbors, and be serious about it.

Today would be a good time to do it.

I know, it’s sort of embarrassing. And other people’s family size is none of your business. And who would listen to you anyway? And you really don’t have the time – after all, you have commitments. And today is not convenient. Maybe this weekend.

That’s how we got here: not today, maybe this weekend.

“Too late.”

At the very least, you could send them a link to this post.

What do you think?