This letter was handed directly to Bill McKibben and the subject briefly discussed at an event in Columbus, Ohio in Nov 29th, 2011. The original publishing of this correspondence was immediately aired on a Facebook Note here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/eriyah-flynn/appeal-to-bill-mckibben-350org-by-eriyah-flynn-founder-of-veganshift-columbus-oh/10150426079393290
You may remember me: my name is Eriyah Flynn, and I have traveled to stand beside you, and the many activists in this room, in WDC two times in as many months in protest of the Keystone XL pipeline. The Columbus activist community, including Alec Johnson, Bob Fitrakis, Harvey Wasserman, Jason Box and Andrew Sidesinger, and many others can attest that I have been a long time, ardent, engaged and committed environmental and social justice activist. I am also a US Air Force Veteran and yet, most importantly, while doing all of this for over a decade, I have also been a vegan. Because being vegan is the LEAST I can do as a political statement of justice and non-violence towards the weakest among us who are at our mercy, and the MOST effective single discipline that can be done to reverse the path of insanity of unsustainable behaviors our species has waged against our planetary home. Being vegan does not require risk of arrest, can be extremely healthy, affordable, and can be done by everyone, NOW.
Livestock production is the 10,000 year stain on humanity’s code of so called civilized behavior, and as our population has ballooned over the last 80 years from 2 billion in 1930, to over 7 billion people in 2011; According to two reports, “Livestock’s Long Shadow” (UNFAO) and “Livestock and Climate Change” (World Watch Institute) Livestock production is now THE LEADING human cause of pollution, deforestation and ecocide causing climate change, vastly exceeding world transport. We have known this since 2006. Ecological scientists have been sounding the alarm that we have entered the 6th great extinction period on Earth. You spoke of severe energy and water scarcity and the impending loss of productive crops. Based on these facts, a vegan in a hummer does more to save the planet than a non-vegan on bicycle. The continued omission of these facts is absolute negligence contributing to our collective peril. The vegan community has been waiting since 2006 (and before) for the environmental community to acknowledge the most basic scientific empirical fact that consuming lower on the food chain is the most efficient way to live, as well as a hemorrhaging social justice issue desperate to be recognized since the times of Socrates.
If reducing the negative impacts of climate change is truly your salient objective and the situation is as dire as you depict, the environmental community must finally make the intellectually honest commitment and demonstrate the courage to get the elephant of veganism in the room, on the table of awareness, clearly, in the campaigns your organization (and other environmental, conservationist and social justice organizations) commissions going forward. A survey of your organization’s membership would likely reveal significant numbers of vegans who also support this moral/ethical obligation and are equally confounded by this continued, weak inconsistency. Embarrassingly, climate change deniers wield this fact as leverage to marginalize our unified environmental sustainability cause and charge “hypocrite”. Gain legitimacy for our mission and make a pledge to go vegan, make it fun and issue a “go vegan” challenge to your membership. I am available for support, and I have enclosed with this letter, several documents that will assist you in this process (BTW- they are contained in an algae based plastic binder made by a local company called Univenture), and I have provided links below to these resources as well within an electronic document that will be forwarded to you directly.
My parting mental picture is an analogy of abolition: If the animals in today’s system of exploitation were the Jews in Hitler’s concentration camps, or the slaves of our nation’s plantation owners, which side of history would you want to be on? The side of the cowards, whiners and excusitarians who were too afraid or apathetic to make a stand, or would you choose the side of the courageous that dared pull up their boots, show some discipline and urgently challenged the most powerful and dominant forces of injustice, violence and death?
I think you and I know the answer to that. They are not “a condiment” Mr. McKibben, they are individuals who deserve to be free of exploitation, and as you have so cogently and eloquently detailed in your plea for action, you know there is a lot more at stake than just our palate’s preference. Lead as I know you can. The earthlings who share this planet are counting on you to live up to your potential.
Love life, live vegan!
“Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, Is it politic? Vanity asks the question, Is it popular? But conscience asks the question, Is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him that it is right.” Dr Martin Luther King Jr., 1929-1968
Transition Action Plan:
- Pledge to go vegan
- Issue a “go vegan” challenge; ask membership to pledge to at least try it for 30 days.
- In all of your correspondences end with a statement that the most basic scientific empirical fact is that consuming lower on the food chain (plants) is the most efficient way to live, that the present demand for livestock products is the leading cause of the energy consumption and environmental pollution, deforestation and ecocide and that a vegan shift in thinking foundations would also alleviate many of the social justice issues we are suffering
- Link your website and correspondence to websites that offer vegan transition tips, recipes and provide more detail on the importance (see links below)
- The Simple Solution is Getting the Elephant on the Table
- Letter from a Vegan World- Joanna Lucas of Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary
- Animal Rights The Abolitionist Approach by Gary Francione
- Blood and Soil: Lierre Keith, Michael Pollan, and the Trouble with Locavore Politics by John Sanbonmatsu
- The Veganrd Countering Claims Against Vegan Diets
- Livestock and Climate Change by The World Watch Institute (states world livestock production contributes over 50% compared to world transport’s mere 13% to climate change)
- Livestock’s Long Shadow by The UNFAO (stated livestock production contributes 17.5% compared to world transport’s 13% to climate change)
- Putting Meat on the Table by The PEW Commission
- Position Paper of the American Dietetic Association on Vegetarian Diets
- A Vegan but not an Activist? Sure. An animal lover but not a Vegan? Nope. By Stephanie Earnst
- A Life Connected by Non-Violence United (11 min)
- Making the Connection by The Vegan Society (8 short vignettes 3 to 6 min each)
- Forks Over Knives
- Plant-based Nutrition
- The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol Adams
- Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows by Melanie Joy
- Indigenous veganism: Feminist Natives do eat tofu by Margaret Robinson
- The World Peace Diet by Will Tuttle
- The Politics of Extinction- Remain a parasite OR become an Earth Warrior By Captain Paul Watson
- Cowpiracy: The Sustainability Secret (Added to this list after letter submitted – new film as of 2014)
- Humans are Naturally Plant Eaters
From left to right: Eriyah Flynn, Jason Box, unknown man with stroller, Alec “Climate Hawk” “School” Johnson, and Bob Fitrakis. Occupy Columbus 2011