Today is a big day. Today is World Vegetarian Day, the first day of the World Vegetarian Awareness Month. It culminates in the World Vegan Day on November 1, followed by the World Vegan Month during November. Therefore, today is the beginning of a two-month process to eliminate animal matter from our diets.
People go vegan for three reasons: for their health, for ethical reasons and for the planet. Former President Bill Clinton went vegan after undergoing a pair of heart procedures due to a stealth buildup of plaque in his arteries, undetected by his phalanx of White House doctors. During his time as President, Bill Clinton was legendary for wolfing down hamburgers, steaks and chicken enchiladas at every opportunity. But Bill Clinton has now become a very visible advocate for veganism as a lifestyle choice for the prevention and reversal of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis, the common diseases of the affluent.
Many people including celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Alec Baldwin, Joaquim Phoenix and Moby are vegans for ethical reasons in opposition to our dominant culture's exploitation of animals, birds and fishes for human consumption. Their motivation arises from pure compassion, to alleviate the unnecessary suffering of sentient beings. Neuroscientists have finally declared that all animals and birds are conscious beings and therefore, their pain and suffering in the animal industrial complex has now been scientifically validated. Almost every animal rights activist group in the world now advocates veganism, though there are some notable exceptions. Unfortunately, not many religious and faith leaders have gone vegan for ethical reasons. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama is not yet vegan, Archbishop Desmond Tutu is not yet vegan, and the Pope is not yet vegan, though they all preach compassion.
Going vegan for the sake of the planet is only now becoming a widely understood imperative though many prominent environmentalists have yet to embrace it. Our consumption of animals is responsible for at least 51% of the GreenHouse Gas (GHG) emissions and it is therefore, the number one cause of climate change. Many scientific studies have concluded that the whole world will be primarily vegan by 2050 due to resource crunches arising from the growth in human population in a rapidly degrading biosphere. But scientific predictions in the climate change arena have been notoriously conservative, likely because many prominent climate scientists have been receiving death threats for speaking their minds. Therefore, I believe that this transformation will occur much sooner. Besides, we need to promote veganism now so that we can regenerate forests while healing the climate rather than waiting until climate change and environmental degradation forces us to go vegan as a matter of necessity.
Even today, food prices are soaring because of extreme weather events throughout the world, with the result that a significant percentage of families are experiencing acute food scarcity. In India, 24% of children are sometimes going without food for an entire day, and in Nigeria, 27% of children are suffering the same fate. In light of this, it is unseemly for the fortunate few to be feeding grain to their enslaved animals to satiate their gluttonous instincts. Therefore, the question is not whether veganism will become the normative ideal in the future, but when? And it is far better to achieve that ideal sooner out of love, to promote healing and abundance, rather than later out of fear, to avoid starvation and extinction.
Yet, most climate scientists and environmental leaders are not yet vegan. Jim Hansen of NASA, perhaps the foremost climate scientist in the world, is not yet vegan. Bill McKibben, the tireless climate change activist and founder of the grassroots organization, 350.org, is not yet vegan. Former Vice President Al Gore, the unofficial leader of the world environmental movement, is not yet vegan. Just today, the New Yorker magazine reported that Al Gore was the chief guest at an eight course dinner event in Las Vegas earlier this year, featuring blinis with caviar, cocoa encrusted beef tenderloin and blue cheese panna cotta. In fact, an activist organization, Operation Missing Link, was formed last year by Marilyn Cornelius, a Stanford PhD student of the late Prof. Stephen Schneider, and Kamal Prasad, a science education specialist, solely to pressure Al Gore to at least start talking about the role of the animal industrial complex in climate change. At the moment, he doesn't even mention this number one cause of climate change in any of his Keynote presentations, mainly for political reasons.
But I respectfully submit that the time for just talk is over. Climate change is already manifesting itself all over the world. Crops are failing from the American Midwest to India. The Arctic ice is melting faster, way faster than expected. The planet's arteries are filling up with plaque and the phalanx of planetary doctors - climate scientists and ecologists - are largely clueless as to when the heart attack will occur or whether they can even detect it when it occurs. Therefore, now is the time to act. Now is the time for Al Gore and other environmentalists to celebrate World Vegetarian Day and follow through on the two-month process to go vegan. I wish Al Gore would come to Phoenix and taste the food at the Green New American restaurant. He would realize that he is giving up nothing when it comes to the taste and texture of the food that he loves. He would be giving up nothing except for the mental anxiety that stems from cognitive dissonance.