Eating our way to extinction

One of the things that Riane Eisler left unclear–at least to me–in The Chalice and the Blade was what led to the transition from what she calls a partnership-oriented society, which is somewhat more egalitarian, to a dominator-oriented society, which features rigid hierarchies and war. In The Real Wealth of Nations, she explains what happened to the Sahara Desert and the Middle East, that these were rich grasslands and a garden of plenty.

They were over-grazed. The quest for grassland led to deforestation and conquest. Women became prizes of war. Livestock aren’t just bad for the planet–and the ecosystem upon which we all depend–today. They have always been bad, they have led to the subjugation of approximately half of humanity on gender alone, they have led to war and conquest as a way of life.

Eisler points out how much of our resources are diverted to making war and to further enriching the already rich while scarcity is imposed on the rest of the population to rationalize the dominator orientation. She severely criticizes the valuation our society assigns to care-giving roles associated with feminine gender roles. She extends this logic to our attitude towards the planet on which we live.

Now, humanity is threatening to destroy the ecosystem of the entire planet. We face increased desertification, the spread of tropical diseases, famine, and the melting of glaciers upon which hundreds of millions of people depend for water. And we pollute a lot of the water that many of the rest of us depend upon. The single greatest cause of this, by far, is the livestock industry.

We know all this. But we keep on eating meat.

And as shortages become more widespread and deprivation becomes more acute, it seems inevitable that there will be more war. And I’m guessing that the last gasp of some defeated societies will be nuclear.

But we keep on eating meat. Not only that, but our population continues to increase and as patterns of wealth shift away from the United States to Asian countries, an increasing portion of our world population is eating more meat.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was a meat and potatoes eater. I remember saying that if I ever had to stop eating meat, I would starve to death. It’s now been a year and a half since I went vegan. Dan Piraro (creator of the Bizarro comic strip) explains the reasons well. Poverty stemming from unemployment has meant I don’t get to drive around as much and I don’t get to go in to coffee shops as much as I used to. But even if I were, the combined impact of a fully-funded decadent lifestyle could not outweigh the impact of my decision to go vegan.

But we, as a species, go on eating meat. The Doomsday Clock, which “conveys how close humanity is to catastrophic destruction–the figurative midnight–and monitors the means humankind could use to obliterate itself” stands at five minutes to midnight (UPDATE: The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved the clock back to six minutes to midnight on what I think are dubious grounds). Will we stop eating meat?

Author: benfell

David Benfell holds a Ph.D. in Human Science from Saybrook University. He earned a M.A. in Speech Communication from CSU East Bay in 2009 and has studied at California Institute of Integral Studies. He is an anarchist, a vegetarian ecofeminist, a naturist, and a Taoist.

Leave a Reply