Holidays 2019 and (kinda) Feral by George Monbiot
In this episode, we discuss:
Gingerbread house making party and past parties
Making baileys irish creme, ginger syrup
Sasha snowboarding adventure: perfect north, live videos, anatomy of a snowboard, snow plow, goofy, sasha new coat (powder bowl Patagonia vortex insulated jacket)
Julia’s first caving expedition
How to make pierogi
Sally Fallon Morrell coming to Indy
Lightly colored poop could indicate bile duct obstruction
The Sixth Extinction: an Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
Greta’s and George Monbiot’s video
Millennials are ruining the pet food industry
We forgot to mention a few tidbits from previous books
First, Julie Powell discovered in Cleaving that goats’ blood is sweet. She drinks it with the Maasai in Tanzania. Sasha heard somewhere that the Maasai use lemongrass with the blood to make it taste sweeter, but we can’t find any sources that corroborate this.
The food industry and slavery
In Formerly Known as Food, one of our arguments was not explained particularly well. Kristin Lawless discusses the idea that human rights and animal rights do not have to be mutually exclusive. Julia tied this into an SNL sketch in which a white woman asks black workers at a fast food restaurant how the animals that supplied the meat were treated before death. The workers respond by asking incredulously if the woman had ever heard of slavery. As if caring about animal welfare and not wanting people to be slaves cannot coexist. This angers us because we believe this kind of thinking does the food industry’s work for it. The food industry benefits from deflection away from its terrible practices.
And we believe you can care about the two issues at the same time—in fact, it’s necessary that you care about both at the same time because resolving both of them can improve the wellbeing of the earth, other people, and animals. Eliminating consumption of fast food due to the maltreatment of animals means you also don’t support the low wages of workers in fast food companies, environmental impacts of the production of fast food (including ecological dumping, which disproportionately affects the lowest income countries in the South), needless suffering of animals, and garbage food terrible for health (typically consumed more by lower income people), along with indirect things like the marketing efforts of companies like Coca-Cola, which target low income consumers in low income countries.
Parents should get paid to raise kids
The other major issue we did not discuss in great detail from Formerly Known as Food is the parents-should-get-paid idea. Lawless’s argument is that we heralded as a success the introduction of women, particularly women of color, into the workforce when they were just working in richer, white women’s houses, cleaning and taking care of their children. It didn’t bring any sort of equality and just prevented women of color from caring for their own houses and children. A cycle of women raising other women’s children ensures, which ultimately doesn’t make that much sense. We appreciate the idea that women should get paid to raise children because it is a very difficult full-time job. And society has an interest in ensuring that kids grow up to be successful and happy. One way that could be achieved is if stay-at-home parents were given a universal basic income to support raising their kids.
A small detail from Wilding
Next, we completely forgot to mention that in Wilding, Isabella Tree says that people are leaving conventional farms in Britain in record numbers. Conventional farming is unsustainable, and it’s difficult for small farmers to compete with big agribusiness. People are leaving farms to move to cities, which means there will be plenty of opportunities for people to buy land and rewild it—provided that people can comply with laws and regulations and secure funding.
Wilding is a lot like Feral
Wilding takes a lot of inspiration from Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life written by George Monbiot. It’s a beautifully written account of wanting life to be more wild:
The deer wrapped around my neck and back as if it had been tailored for me; the weight seemed to settle perfectly across my joints. The effect was remarkable. As soon as I felt its warmth on my back, I wanted to roar. My skin flushed, my lungs filled with air. This, my body told me, was why I was here. This was what I was for. Civilization slid off as easily as a bathrobe.
Monbiot also writes about many ironies practiced by humans as they try to correct the wrongs created by humans. For example, the Alberta Caribou Committee is supposedly tasked with figuring out why caribou are declining and includes "Petro-Canada, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, Koch Industries, TransCanada pipelines, Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries and the pulp company Daishowa Marubeni". Rather than attribute the decline in caribou to the destruction of its habitat caused by mining for fossil fuels and deforestation, the group decided the problem was wolves.
Even though wolves rarely eat caribou, the government loved this explanation and, as Monbiot writes, "responded by intensifying its poisoning and shooting of wolves, in order, of course, to protect the natural world." Hilarious.
This brings us to veganism...
Due to our reliving some of these books, talking about the themes and ideas in Feral, and Ms. Thunberg’s global influence, we have much to say on the issue of veganism. We originally thought we’d start a podcast that left alone this topic and instead adopted an “everyone should eat however they want” philosophy. While we do believe people should have the right to self-determination (an idea Iroquois Indians believed long before the Enlightenment and humanism), we don’t want to avoid sharing our opinions of veganism.
We admire Ms. Thunberg for getting people to start talking about climate change and the import of doing something for the sake of future generations. However, we do not agree with her that people should be vegan for the benefit of the planet. This is patently untrue.
Veganism on its face is not better for the environment.
All veganism promises is that there are no animal products in the food you’re eating. But it does not promise that no animals were harmed or displaced to create and transport the food on which a vegan diet depends. It says nothing about how industrial farming and monocultures destroy habitats and contribute to the extinction of countless species.
If you buy a product from the frozen-foods section of the grocery because it promises to be vegan, you can unwillingly support the destruction of the earth and habitats for animals because companies have no desire to be good stewards of the land and protect animals; they just want your money. The best option for consumption if you actually care for animals is to buy food as close to the source as possible so you can be assured that the farmers did not use chemicals that destroy waterways and the ground; hire hunters to kill animals around their fields (guess what, vegans? The wheat and soy making up much of your food is defended by hunters!); transport their foods across long distances, contributing to increased emissions of greenhouse gases; throwing excess food into trash cans, further contributing to global warming and climate change; and packaging foods in plastic.
In fact, that last point is still true of most farmers’ market vendors. It is one of the chief reasons why I want to learn to hunt myself because I will be able to use all of the animal and never have to put any of my meat in plastic, which means I never have to throw out plastic, which just sits in landfills or in the guts of birds and fish. As Sasha points out, eating a vegan diet based on foods that come from the grocery store is no different from eating a meat-filled diet based on foods from the grocery store. Both diets require excessive inputs and outputs that contribute to global warming, destruction of natural ecosystems, pollution of waterways, and loss of species.
We need healthy soil and composting
If you choose a vegan diet for health, then fine. You’re still wrong, but you can eat a vegan diet that is at least more sustainable for the earth than other diets. Supporting local, organic farmers and foraging are the best methods for procuring non-animal foods, and composting is essential. Food that isn’t composted might as well be plastic. It sits for decades without breaking down, releasing methane in the process. Vegan or not, if you do not compost, then do not pretend you are an advocate for the earth and an opponent of climate change. Healthy soil is necessary for processes like carbon sequestration. Healthy soil with networks of mycorrhizae fungi and trillions of microbes will recapture carbon from the atmosphere, counteracting the effects of emissions. Soil in monoculture fields does not have the same beneficial properties. Microbes die, nutrients are depleted, and insects and pollinators are not present, which cascades up the food chain.
Our favorite books so far
Sasha’s favorite three books from the first 15 episodes include Gut by Giulia Enders, Wilding by Isabella Tree, and Nourishing Fats by Sally Fallon Morrell. Together, they more or less sum up our major beliefs and practices:
Take care of your whole body’s health by taking care of your gut
A diet based on meat and fat from healthy, happy animals is key for human health
Restoring the natural, wild processes to the earth might reverse some of the damage humans have done since the Industrial Revolution.
Julia agrees with that list, but she also loved Formerly Known as Food by Kristin Lawless for its comprehensive look at the food industry and government dietary recommendations and The World According to Monsanto by Marie-Monique Robin for its damaging exposé of Monsanto’s evil practices.
What can we do?
We recommend people try to make small changes to reduce their negative environmental impacts. It’s likely impossible at this point to live without some impact, but things can be changed so the overall impact is lower. For example, try reusable paper towels, dish soap made into a bar rather than stored in a plastic bottle, detergent made with borax, reusable and rewashable handkerchiefs rather than tissues, baking soda and coconut oil instead of deodorant, and baking soda and coconut oil instead of toothpaste, etc. There are plenty of little changes that could add up to help you reduce your net output of harmful chemicals and plastic.
Monbiot's tribute to rewilding and the natural world will make you nostalgic for a world few of us have ever seen and angry at the one we've got. Monbiot gives several examples of humans screwing things up and ruining things for other species, habitats, and groups of people. His writing is mesmerizing and captures feelings so often felt but rarely articulated.
He also gives solutions to the current degradation of the natural world, but wilding is not without its costs. Whereas Wilding only praises rewilding, Monbiot outlines how it can be done wrong and the negative associations between rewilding philosophies and Naziism. While Monbiot makes a compelling case for why rewilding would benefit other species and the planet, he cautions against rewilding projects that displace people or threaten modern life.
Our main critique of Monbiot is that in his warnings he seems to give in to the establishment. He seems reluctant to alienate potential allies within the system so he allows for agribusiness and energy production and writes candidly that he is grateful to have lived in the modern world rather than that of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.