An Equitable World for All: Veganism and Radical Simplicity

Because there is a mutual relationship between inequity and exploitation, the vegan ideal of nonexploitation is only possible in an equitable world. The inequitable control of resources provides the means to exploit others. Thus equity works to prevent exploitation.

In the article "What is VEGANISM?" (Ahimsa, March/April 1976), H. Jay Dinshah wrote about the importance of equity to veganism, stating:

Veganism is based on an enlightened sense of the responsibility to other humans and animals ... who share this planet with us, as well as progressive outlook encouraging a healthy, fertile soil and plant kingdom, and a sensible and equitable use of the earth's materials.

This was later echoed in the book Why Vegan: The Ethics of Eating and the Need for Change, when Kath Clement wrote that veganism is a way of living "which aims at an equitable distribution of the world's resources."

Jim Merkel's book, Radical Simplicity: Small Footprints on a Finite Earth, offers up guidance for living equitable on the Earth's materials with humans and the 7-25 million other species who share the planet with us. While Radical Simplicity is not itself a book about veganism, I think it does provide us with some useful tools that can be integrated into our vegan living.

The book encourages us to set an equity goals and gives us a couple ways to track and measure it. First we determine how much of the world's resources we want to share. It is assumed first that if the world was divided equitably among only humans we would each get 4.7 acres. However, this leave nothing for other species. So we are encouraged to determine what percentage of the 4.7 acres we would like to share with other species. Merkel's Global Living Project has set a goal of using only 20 percent (or just short of one acre), while leaving 80 percent (or 3.76 acres) for the other species.

With a goal set, we're encouraged to figure out how much of the Earth's materials we are currently using. For instance, the U.S. average is over 24 acres per person, which means the average person in the U.S. uses more than five time our equitable share of the Earth's materials if we do not account for the needs of other species. By measuring our Ecological Footprint and keeping track of the "footprint factors" of the materials we use, we can then make adjustments to bring our use of the world's resources into alignment with our equity goal.

Once we know where we're at and where we want to go, we can settle into a path to a more equitable way of living. We can estimate the footprint factor of each item we use in order to live more conscious and equitable lives. Part of this is knowing what we really need and when we have enough. Thus, Radical Simplicity uses steps from Your Money or Your Life to help us get a better handle of how our relationship with money relates to our equity goals.

While Radical Simplicity focuses on personal goals and what we have the most direct control over – that is, our own lives – I think it helps open the way for social change by modeling in our own lives the change we envision for society.

Re: An Equitable World for All: Veganism and Radical Simplicity

I really like your conclusionary sentence:

"While Radical Simplicity focuses on personal goals and what we have the most direct control over – that is, our own lives – I think it helps open the way for social change by modeling in our own lives the change we envision for society."

Starting from the individual's point to make the changes that are needed to be made today is probably also a highly effective way because one "sets an example" - one can be inspiring to other people. Sometimes the individually taken measures can even be the only way to change something at all, when your social environment is almost completely hostile to a new "revolutionary" idea. I've seen such situations occur in families, which can act like small chambers of social "micro-"pressure.

Becoming Politically Conscious of Our Privileges

I also think it helps by setting intrinsic goals and motivations that are more personally and politically conscious about what is equitable, sustainable, and nonexploitive. That is, we can develop a personal relationship and lived understanding that goes beyond deference to extrinsic marketing labels like "green," "fair-trade," "eco-friendly," "sustainable," "organic," "energy efficient," "vegan," and so on. Instead of being defined externally by what we buy, terms like "green," "fair," "sustainable," "organic," "vegan," and so on are better defined by how we live, and by our communities.

Additionally, the direct changes we make towards living equitably show how we can also work collectively. For instance, it can assist us in understanding that we can work for global justice and against global warming at the same time. Proving that it's not, as George Monbiot claims in Heat, "politically necessary" to sustain the privileges that "all [White] middle-class people in the rich world ... take for granted." We can use the steps outlined in Radical Simplicity to assist us in becoming more conscious of the privileges of racism, classism, and colonialism so that we no longer take these privileges for granted. By no longer taking our privileges for granted in our personal lives we can become conscious of the political need to begin working for global justice, and thus start addressing some of the root causes of problems like global warming.

Stated differently, I believe it is politically necessary to become more aware of the privileges we take for granted in our own lives if we are to truly create a society based on equity, sustainability, and nonexploitation. By indulging in and remaining unconscious of our privileges we just perpetuate problems of inequity, unsustainability, and exploitation, which works to prevents the social change we want to create.