Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Guest Post: Stewardship and Veganism

Wahoo. The Metropulse's "Fearless Foodie", Rose Kennedy, blogged about the weekly workshops at Beardsley. Thanks Fearless Foodie. I will be pleased if we can get even 1/8th of the folks who read the Metropulse each week to come out for a workshop. 

In thinking about the expanding coverage of this project I am reminded that at its heart is a question of "what can we do when we are told we must change our lives or die"? What is reasonable? What is culturally acceptable? What is necessary? The Urban Land Scouts reflect some of the steps I think people should be taking to become better stewards of the land where we live. 

I asked my friend Kat to write about what stewardship means to her. More specifically, I asked her to write about the connections between stewardship and veganism.  I am not vegan, Kat and her husband's commitment to a profound practice causes me to stop and look more closely at my own habits. That observation is, or might be, the foundation for change. 

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Stewardship - Veganism 
 by Kat Raese

Stewardship is acting on something so many people believe in already—sustainability, healthy
environments, and community involvement. It is a movement away from the kind of solipsistic drive
that denies the existence of consequences for each and every one of our actions. In many ways, a
considerable number of people are already interested in greater connection with their environments: the Local Food and Slow Food movements are a part of this, as are the initiatives for litter clean-up,
recycling, sustainable business practices, etc. In this sense, we become stewards when we realize
ourselves as persons whose responsibility it is to take care of something; that something is often most
immediately accessible through our daily practices of eating, purchasing items, and talking to people.
I had been vegan for a good while before I became conscious of the other ways in which I could
practice stewardship. To me, stewardship is as much an extension of veganism as veganism is an
extension of stewardship—both spring up from a place of greater awareness of my surroundings, and
both are outward manifestations of my beliefs. I am still in the process of defining the juncture of
stewardship and veganism, but am striving to establish a more comprehensive philosophy of not just
eating, but of subsistence.


When I started thinking about becoming vegan, I was filled with doubt about the feasibility of a vegan
lifestyle: it seemed like in order to be vegan, it was necessary to give up so much of what I was familiar with in terms of food and clothing. At the outset, veganism was simultaneously thrilling and terrifying in its certitude; at the same time that I was fixated on the smaller details of this lifestyle change (what to do with the non-vegan pantry items? should I keep my wool winter coat?), I tried to define it for myself in broader terms, too. At first, I had trouble imagining the impact of one person's dedication to a plant-based diet. Even though we accept that a single person's actions and decisions are important in such things like voting, it seemed easier for me to question the impact of my actions when it came to eating animals. Yet, when I began to conceptualize the long-term effects of my actions, I could no longer deny that the consistency inherent in veganism was necessary for a more steadfast expression of my beliefs. If factory farming is the prevalent paradigm—one that encompasses poor treatment of animals and people; soil degradation; and various other environmental hazards—my disagreement with it would have to be expressed just as systematically. As I continue thinking about veganism, it no longer resembles something that “deprives” me of a familiar routine, but instead it provides me with a less contradictory perspective: to the best of my ability, I continually practice my beliefs.

Stewardship—and the existence of such groups as the Urban Land Scouts—is a response the
brokenness of our present food production system; it is also a response to fragmented communities,
and people's dissatisfaction of being alienated from their surroundings. Like veganism, stewardship
begins with the awareness that there are modes of living that include destructive practices. When I was
becoming vegan, and then again, when I began reconsidering my responsibilities to the community,
there was an acknowledgement that my personal actions mattered in the long run. And even prior to
any commitments to the long-term, amending one's actions to incorporate care and consideration for
the surroundings brings a new kind of meaning to the everyday. Being a good steward—like being a
vegan—means consistently living in accordance to one's beliefs; this kind of attentiveness can bring
harmony, not only into a personal space or household, but into the neighborhood and potentially even
the larger community.

Living in a way that does not capitalize on the suffering and death of animals is a start; observing my
natural surroundings and contributing to them in a positive way—whether by planting a small garden,
or communicating with neighbors—is the logical continuation and complement of the idea that I have
responsibilities to my surroundings. Stewardship is about being a producer—of food, relationships, and pleasure—rather than an insatiable and destructive consumer. To me, being a vegan is one part of the process of becoming a good steward.

5 comments:

  1. "to the best of my ability, I continually practice my beliefs."

    Thank you for expressing this so clearly! Seeing the way in which these varied goals are similar, through stewardship, helps bring them all into focus, and makes it easier to determine how I should act.

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  2. Very well stated. It's important, I think, to keep ethical veganism separate from sustainability to an extent, but they certainly help each other out. I appreciate you're basis of veganism and recognition that it necessitates complete awareness.

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  3. I understand the desire to separate ethical veganism from everything else. However, having been vegan for over three years, and talking to many vegans online, and reading many vegan blogs, I got frustrated with the attitude that posits veganism as the end of the line. Many people think that if they're (ethically) vegan, that's good enough; I say--there's more! I think I had the same frustration talking to people who are all about sustainability--not many of them have considered how veganism fits into their mindset. My hope is definitely to bring more awareness to both camps.

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  5. I've been thinking about it a little more, and thought I'd link my latest post on the matter here:
    http://foodliteraturephilosophy.blogspot.com/2011/05/re-examining-stewardship.html

    ReplyDelete