Daniel Patrick Johnson (teknotus) wrote,
Daniel Patrick Johnson

Vegetarian political power

I became vegetarian because of being disgusted by roadkill, and thinking wow I eat dead animals what am I thinking. Though it's true that a picture of something gross changed me I don't think that is the best way to recruit new members. I think the way to get new members to anything is to either make it fun, or show how it's going to save them money. Pictures of tormented animals aren't going to do either.

I've been really active in the bicycling sector, and have been considering how I can promote some of my other values. I've gone to a few veggie events, and mostly been either disturbed, or bored. One presentation stood out though. One by someone who worked for one of the environmental organizations of the government. He detailed quite well how much of our resources were wasted on the inefficiency of animal products. You would have much more food if you eating crops directly instead of feeding them to animals, and then eating the animals. There is a lot of pollution involved too. So much is wasted in fact that a vegan driving an SUV may very well have less environmental impact than someone with a typical American meat eating diet who bikes exclusively. I think it might be possible to make this into something that is easier to promote. Saving resources effectively saves money. We just have to figure out a way to make that fun, and perhaps we have a marketing campaign.

So how does this all work in the bicycling sector. The league of American bicyclists refers to the 5 E's Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation & Planning. It's I'm sure a bit different with veggie stuff, but here is my take on a translation of the paradigm.

This is a lot of work. Have to figure out the numbers to make a convincing case. Have to do the math for resources needed, and the math for nutrition. Need to put infrastructure in place to make being vegetarian/vegan a practical choice.

Teach people the benefits they will get from a standpoint of costs, health, happiness. Teach them to cook. Teach them to grow their own food.

Make being vegan fun! How is food fun? Food is usually a part of every party. Cooking, and gardening can also be fun activities. How often should there be a fun filled vegan event? If you don't have to make a choice as to which event to go to on any given day there aren't enough events.

I'm not saying there should be vegan police giving tickets. Where we need enforcement is when a business claims something is vegan, or cruelty free it really should be. There are laws against false advertising, and they should be used.

Evaluation & Planning:
How is the plan to get people to eat less meat working out? Do we need to change our way of doing things?

Political power is based on a few things. How many people support an issue. How many people oppose an issue, and how loud each of them are to elected officials. The fraction of people in Portland who bike commutes is about the same as the fraction of them that are vegetarian. Though the cyclists have a LOT more political power. They influence elections. Why do they have so much more power? A few things. Most people who don't bike generally support the idea. It benefits them indirectly by less congestion, less pollution, and lower health insurance premiums. Vegetarians, and vegans on the other hand are seen as weirdos that pass out gross pictures. How can we get the non vegetarians to see us as a benefit to society, to support us even if they don't join us? Change how we promote ourselves! We are people who reduce pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. We teach people how to not go hungry by eating less expensively. We turn wasted city land into gardens. Speak with that kind of message, and instead of opposition there will be government sponsorship of our activities. Corporate sponsorship. Exponential growth of converts. And of course with more converts our power grows.

I'm not saying that the people who are passing out gross pictures are wasting their time. I mean a gross picture changed me. I think though that my way will work better. I hope to start something soon.

I might have an ego in thinking that I know best. I admit that. I've been in the paper, and caused government money to be spent because of one of my actions, and on Friday I'm hosting a debate between people running for office. I know I'm an agent of change, so perhaps my ego isn't entirely unfounded. We shall see.
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