Sunflowervillager's Blog

Growing into community

Reflections on Meat, provoked by the Nearings. July 21, 2010

Filed under: anthropology,Buddhism,food/agri/garden,interconnected — Saera @ 9:34 am

Nearly through reading Living the Good Life by Scott and Helen Nearing. This couple achieved much of what I am interested in from the 30s through the 70s. They left New York due to the Great Depression, determined to be self-sufficient, humane, skilled, thriving, and cultured, while debt-free and increasingly independent of wage-labor and money. While they achieved much of this, they did not find a strong sense of community in the Vermont they experienced at that time. They were strongly community/communally minded, far ahead of their time. I do not agree with them on every single point, but there is a great deal of inspiring knowledge and wisdom in their writing. Some of it makes sense to me personally, such as eating almost exclusively uncooked vegetables and fruit, but seems like a bit more than I’m presently willing to give up, and more than most people are willing to do. For them, this was a priority, but I am more interested in developing a functional community and adjusting diet later. While I myself am vegetarian, I do not expect that anyone else become one, and certainly people will not have to be vegetarian to live in a village. However, the production and acquisition of meat does present challenges. First for me is the inefficiency of meat production. That is to say, that in order to have meat, first grasses and grains must be grown and then fed to the animals. This not only is an extra step in food production, but also reduces the food produced, as happens in any transfer of energy. Cows produce the worst ratio, but even with chickens you have more input than output. This amounts to one basic thing: you can feed more people on vegetables, fruits, and grain than you can if you include meat. It leads to another challenge. If meat is to be provided to those who cannot (medically, culturally) or will not give up meat, how is this to be compensated for, since both energy-wise and financially, the meat-eaters will be bigger consumers. I may come back to that in a moment.

The second thing is the slaughter of the animals. For many people this is a purely ethical issue of whether or not it is alright to kill another “living being”, by which many people mean mammals, fowl, and fish. While I personally have not been courageous enough to kill my own meat, the consumption of the meat of other creatures has been a part of human cuisine for millenia. It is an important and valued thing for many cultures, and I would not pass judgment on culture.  Too, there is the fact that I do not see a inherently clear line between the life of an animal and the life of a tree. Both live, both have their own meanings until human imposition. Then we disturb both for our use. The ways in which we use or do not use animals affects plants, and the ways in which we use plants affects animals. Our nature as humans leads invariably to the alteration of our environment. Buddhism (among many other teachings) explains that self and the environment are one and the same.

In any case, humans must eat as best as they are able. For a community aimed at self-sufficiency, I believe that animals may be humanly kept and used for their eggs, milk, manure, and labor. This may include meat, but that brings us back to the question of slaughter. You may or may not have heard, but the methods used for slaughter in the United States are, in a word, appalling. Many people seem to think that the slaughterhouse days of Upton Sinclair are long since gone. I pose that they never left, only altered appearance to sate public demand for increased “decency” in wages and some measures of safety for people. But there are other laws now too which were not so dominant then. Now slaughterhouses are few and far between, with only one or two for entire states, and this by federal decrees and standards. Meant to improve safety, they actually increase the danger. The fewer slaughterhouses are not an indicator of less meat, but of more. All the meat is going through a few places, making the risk greater. The sheer speed necessary to process all these animals creates more accidents, potentially leading to contamination of food and injury to humans. I will not write more on the process here, it is easily found in many places now. The relevance to a village is that while, in many places, it is alright to slaughter chickens for one’s own family consumption, or for a small business, most other animals are required to go through a slaughterhouse, which would likely result in participating in problematic practices. It is also expensive and not practical for a subsidaristic, economically self-reliant community. Meat purchased elsewhere, despite promises of grass-fed, organic, and local, still generally goes through the same slaughterhouses. Therefore, while cows may be ethically raised, their use is not recommended for an intentional community until such time as meat processing is reformed. Other meats may be considered by an intentional community, but it should be recognized that, other than as a health need for specific people, meat remains a luxury.

Another time perhaps, I will write on my disagreement with some vegans regarding honey.


Answers February 25, 2010

Filed under: anthropology,geography,Ikeda,redetermination,risk — Saera @ 1:14 am

Wow, this makes me feel like I’m getting in rhythm, especially given yesterdays’ events.

“Let’s continue to meet,
converse and establish
heart-to-heart bonds with
as many people as possible.
Our efforts to expand dialogue
is a struggle to spread trust and
friendship in society.”
– Daisaku Ikeda.

Similarly, I opened up the March-April Living Buddhism this morning and Sensei’s writing heard my soul’s cry!


Broadening Horizons and Education Considerations January 11, 2010

Filed under: anthropology,geography,school,social investment,wage — Saera @ 2:08 am

Hello all, I apologize for my long absence from posting. The end of the semester was pretty busy for me, and then I was gone for a few weeks to visit my family. One of the things that I got to do before I left was to meet with some people who I have been discussing the possibility of some kind of land trust with. We still haven’t come to any conclusions about what form that might take, but we’re getting closer and coming to know each other better as we go along.

I have been considering the village from a broader perspective lately. Part of this is due to the Economic Geography class I had last semester. Another influence is my desire to study abroad, probably India, but perhaps Brazil. What I’m finding in my search for the right study abroad program is that my interests lie mostly in Sustainable Development and studies which connect Sustainability to surrounding cultures. Also, I have been considering my personal situation. I find that myself and many friends I know are uncomfortable with the options for developing what are often considered reliable or strong finances. This is because some of those options are based on the exploitation of other peoples and conformity to societal norms which discourage so much inspiration, self-fulfillment, and compassion. However, what happens is that a lot of these people, including me, find themselves at low level, low paying jobs, in little position to take the kind of action capable of shifting where things are going on the broad societal level. At first when I decided to focus on Anthropology and Geography and to continue to grad school, my primary consideration was to establish the knowledge and credentials to support the development of the village. But now my thoughts also include how to support myself, possibly earning more than I need to live to create savings towards the village. It now includes a stronger desire to be a vibrant force to contribute to the international intentional communities movement, and to the broader issues of Sustainable Development and the kind of work that Anthropology is capable of supporting.

Towards this, my goals for the next couple of years are looking something like this: Study Abroad in India (or perhaps Brazil), Graduate from Umass, and be accepted to SIT (School for International Training) for their one year’s Graduate program in Sustainable Development. I might also consider Goddard, which I think has a program in Sustainable Communities. After that, I’m not sure whether I’ll pursue more education or concentrate on finding a long term work position. I know that one of the things that has also occurred to me is getting my teaching certificate, and I am considering becoming a professor.


Fall Semester September 6, 2009

Filed under: anthropology,geography,Ikeda,school,SGI — Saera @ 9:14 pm

I’m starting classes on Tuesday. This fall I’m taking Quantitative Methods in Geography, Portuguese I, Visual Anthropology, and Economic Geography. I’ve been wanting to take Economic Geography ever since I found about it and the professor, Julie Graham. Economic Geography studies how economic systems work and impact people in different geographic locations. It also examines capitalism, class, local and alternative economies. The language used to describe these things resonates with me strongly, and I believe it will help me describe my ideals as I work for sustainable and subsidiaristic community. I’m also very excited about taking Portuguese. So much is linked to Brazil and the Amazon, including indigenous rights, sustainability, and the divide between the economic “north” and “south”. For me, there are also religious links, since the Soka Gakkai International has been greatly strengthened by the response of the people of Brazil to Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, the President of the Soka Gakkai International. In fact, very recently, Dr. Ikeda was presented with a doctorate by Rohdonia University of Brazil in recognition of his scholastic and active contributions to world peace. I am also looking forward to expanding my understanding of Anthropology, as it has already begun to prove its relevance to my goals.