7.3 The Greatest Transformation

The Great Transition.jpg

Veganism is like a four-legged stool with health, ethical, environmental and spiritual reasons for elevating our lives. While the health reasons are becoming increasingly well known with the advocacy work of numerous health and nutrition professionals and organizations, the ethical, environmental and spiritual reasons reinforce them to make a truly compelling case. Thus, Veganism is an essential part of the upcoming fundamental transformation of our global industrial civilization, the greatest transformation in the life of our species. But this time, it is not about concentrating more and more power in the hands of a few, but devolving power to the local level in the hands of the many. This is the metamorphosis and just as in Nature, the Caterpillar has no choice but to become a Butterfly.

Historically, every momentous transformation in human civilization has been accompanied by revolutionary changes in three aspects of human lives[50], 
1) In the way we harness energy;
2) In the way we communicate with each other; and
3) In the foods we eat.  

About 200,000 years ago, we
1) Discovered the controlled use of fire;
2) Developed spoken language to communicate with each other; and
3) Began eating meat from hunted animals because our controlled use of fire allowed us to cook that meat and made it digestible.

Thus began the dominance of patriarchy as the male hunters assumed more importance than the female gatherers in human societies. The gatherers no longer had to forage over large distances to gather the nutrition needed for human sustenance since the hunters could provide concentrated nutrition in the form of animal flesh. Simultaneously, this strengthened speciesist attitudes within human societies, as animals became objects to be killed for human consumption. Thus sexism and speciesism are the core oppressions from which all other oppressions sprung over time. Hierarchy developed within the patriarchy. The victims of sexist oppression, the women, were partly assuaged when they could oppress other species and feel superior to them.  

About 10,000 years ago, during the agricultural revolution, we
1) Harnessed the energy of animals such as cows, buffaloes and horses to plough our fields;
2) Developed writing in order to communicate with each other; and
3) Grew crops of our own liking instead of relying on what Nature provided in the wild.

Instead of humans belonging to Nature, we began acting as if Nature belonged to humans. Not only did we enslave work animals to do our bidding, we enslaved the Earth to produce what we desired. In the resulting agricultural revolution, cities were born where the ruling classes did not do the actual work of raising crops but were fed very well. The social hierarchies developed more layers, resulting in other oppressions such as slavery, classism and casteism.

About 200 years ago, we
1) Began to harness fossil fuels for energy;
2) Developed the printing press for communication, to disseminate information far more efficiently than with just hand written documents; and
3) Repurposed our domesticated work animals to be raised as just food animals.

We developed machines to plough the fields and didn't need the work animals anymore for that purpose, but we continued to enslave them anyway just to milk them and eat them. We developed further layers of hierarchy in our social structures to expand the scope of our human enterprise until it bestrode the whole globe, conquering and colonizing any indigenous civilizations that came in our way. The fossil fuels were to be found in specific locations on Earth and we had to create refining, processing and distribution systems for them. The food animals were most efficiently raised in giant factories as if they were widgets, and then processed into meat packages, refrigerated and distributed to the consumers up and down the social hierarchies. A dominant financial sector arose that siphoned off increasingly larger shares of the wealth, simply as a commission for allocating capital efficiently. Oppressions such as colonialism and racism became much more prominent.

Today, we are poised to undergo yet another transformation, the greatest of them all! This time:
1) We are harnessing solar energy directly and rather than being concentrated in a few locations, it is actually falling on our heads almost everywhere.
2) We are using the Internet to communicate with each other and it has put the entire accumulated knowledge of all humanity at each and every finger tip.
3) We are transitioning out of animal-based foods to plant-based Vegan foods, which can mostly be grown in local farms without having to rely on large animal husbandry operations with giant processing, refrigeration and distribution systems that are currently spread out over half the globe.

Unlike the previous three major transformations that increasingly concentrated power in the hands of a few and strengthened the social hierarchy, what is occurring today is an entirely radical kind of transformation since all three changes devolve power to the local level, where it becomes easier to implement cooperative and consensual decision-making processes.

This devolution of power is already evident in the US. While the US Congress is quite gridlocked and can barely manage to pass continuing resolutions that maintain the status quo, local governments in cities and municipalities, from Detroit to Seattle to Los Angeles to Tempe, have been promoting urban farming, innovative housing solutions, and other such radical changes. Therefore, the transformation that we're undergoing now is towards a loosely connected global network of densely connected local communities. But, of course, such a revolutionary transformation will need to overcome the resistance of the power elites in the current hierarchical system, who naturally fear the loss of their perceived privileges and the chaos that would occur if the current system collapses.

The fossil fuel industry has been stoutly resisting the growth of the renewable energy sector. But Al Gore, among others, is predicting that a global transition to solar energy will be largely complete by 2030 as solar costs spiral downwards. Prof. Mark Jacobson of Stanford even has a detailed plan of how such a transition might occur[51]. Besides, this plan assumed that the Caterpillar culture will continue unchecked and the energy demands of humanity will continue to soar into 2030! In reality, this is certainly not going to be the case. If the steady state Butterfly economy requires one-third the energy that we use today, which is reasonable considering that the majority of our present activities are unnecessary and wasteful, the transition to solar energy can happen sooner.

The solar energy sector needed just one chink in the armor of the fossil-fuel interests to realize its economies of scale and that chink came in the form of generous German incentives. When combined with the declining costs of electrical storage batteries, thanks to the success of Tesla Motors, gasoline engines will also likely die a slow death before 2030. Therefore, fossil fuels will literally become dinosaur fuels by 2030. Local collection of solar energy, coupled with the local energy storage using batteries will mean that the large utility companies of the past would become obsolete as well. In fact, in Europe, the top 20 utility companies lost over 60% of their stock market value between 2010 and 2015[52], just when the DAX stock market index gained 60%. What's happening in Europe will inevitably happen worldwide!

In the communications arena, the power elites have also been trying to subvert the Internet, instituting an elaborate surveillance infrastructure so that every electronic transmission of every individual can be stored, accessed and searched, for all time, ostensibly to keep us all "safe from terrorism". Then Edward Snowden came along and spilled their secrets[53]. He showed that the watchers had an expansive definition of "terrorism". If you were kind to animals, you were a "terrorist," because you were a threat to the hierarchical system. If you were kind to the environment, you were an "eco-terrorist," for the same reason. All passive bystanders were treated as "potential future terrorists" within the current system. Therefore, all of us were being watched, all the time!

But Edward Snowden also revealed that if Internet communications were encrypted with reasonably strong cryptographic codes, then the watchers became blind. They and the thousands of math Ph.D.s who work for them, don't know how to break these codes, most likely because these codes are truly unbreakable. Therefore, he showed that if we routinely encrypt all our communications and develop email and social network applications to do that seamlessly for the casual user, then the Internet will become what it was always intended to be: a communications technology that frees us all from the clutches of a few. We can then have true privacy for the individual and demand absolute transparency from our institutions, which is the only way we can assure an open government of the people, by the people and for the people. In this post-Snowden era, various open source software consortia are already implementing such seamless encryption systems.

[50] Jeremy Rifkin discussed these three drivers in an interview with Een Vandaag entitled On Global Issues and Future of the Planet, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9wM-p8wTq4

[51] http://stanford.io/17arxa8

[52] https://paulgilding.com/2014/03/19/carbon-crash-solar-dawn/

[53] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yB3n9fu-rM


Sailesh Rao

Dr. Sailesh Rao is an Electrical Engineer, systems specialist, Climate Healer, author of "Carbon Dharma: The Occupation of Butterflies" and "Carbon Yoga: The Vegan Metamorphosis", and Executive Producer of "The Human Experiment", "Cowspiracy," "What The Health” and “A Prayer for Compassion.