Three years ago, I jumped over the barricade at a Bernie Sanders rally to highlight his silence on the government’s genocidal rampage against life on earth. At the time, anybody paying attention already knew that the imminent meltdown of the Earth’s climate promises to completely undermine otherwise wonderful proposals like free college and universal health care by rendering our planet unlivable. Yet Sanders’ campaign was taking massive contributions from an industry that contributes more than 25% of global emissions, on top of brutalizing an unfathomable number of defenseless animals every single moment. Of course, I’m talking about animal agriculture.
What has happened since then?
Last year, the United Nations released its dramatic report arguing that we have barely a decade to reinvent our entire society to head off a mass extinction that will probably include us. Last month, over 1,400 activists in London were arrested for blocking bridges and intersections for weeks throughout one of the richest cities in the world. Still ongoing, factory farm whistleblowers in California are facing decades in prison a surreal FBI pig hunt that culminated in an armed raid on an animal sanctuary. And, of course, the reason you’re reading this: two days ago, I disrupted another political leader who has done nothing in the face of what promises to be the worst atrocity ever carried out, sparking a social media firestorm and drawing several million views to videos and articles which all fail to even mention the issue.
I believe these incidents have three things in common. First, they begin to paint a picture of the terrifying urgency of the crisis we have created for ourselves by burning fossil fuels and mass producing animals to die. Second, they demonstrate the profound failure of our political and media institutions in the face of this crisis. And finally, they help us to understand what actions are not only justified, but absolutely necessary, in extreme and unprecedented circumstances.
To put it more simply, if you are buying the notion that the story about my disruption of Kamala Harris last weekend is primarily about me, you’re missing the point.
I grew up a few blocks from the U.S. government’s main climate lab, and every climate scientist I’ve met agrees that the aforementioned IPCC report and it’s 12 (now 11) year mandate to prevent 2 degree warming is fanciful at best and delusional at worse. Thanks to the delay between putting greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and the warming they cause, we are guaranteed to exceed the 2 degree threshold with carbon that has already been released. Instead, we should be looking at the studies predicting global famine and mass extinction involving trillions of animal deaths in the same time frame, and the fact that in countries across the global south, that future is already here, with an imminent human death toll in the millions.
Despite all of this, climate catastrophe still seems a remote problem to most people, difficult to grasp and securely tucked away in the distant future. Yet our society’s appetite for cheap air travel and animal flesh is indisputably and irreversibly distorting global weather, submerging farms and massacring wild animals. Even when climate change is discussed, we ignore the role of animal agriculture, which directly contributes 25% of global emissions and is likely responsible for a much higher share of warming due to massive deforestation of the Amazon by animal feed companies. Abolishing animal agriculture and transitioning to an animal-free food system is one of the easier interventions we can make, far simpler than major reductions in fossil fuels.
Unfortunately, all this demonstrates the complete failure of our political class to address the most extreme existential crisis our species has ever faced. Political elites have known about the severity of climate change since the 1970s, and fully understand that any serious climate plan must include the eradication of animal agriculture. So has the media. Yet instead of acting, these elites squandered those precious decades aggressively cracking down on activists and independent journalists with brutal violence, aggressive prosecutions, and assassination. And while it’s true that the mainstream media has finally begun to regularly acknowledge climate change, it is presented as both mild and inevitable rather than a life-or-death emergency we must confront right now with the most drastic action possible.
The media’s insistence on making this story about the messenger rather than the message only further highlights its total failure to keep the public informed. Every single word written about me was an opportunity to instead talk about the imminent threat of social collapse, climate warfare, and mass extinction as we farm our planet to death. (Kudos to The Root for doing exactly that.) Even the left has shown nothing but fumbling incompetence in the face of armageddon. Millionaire journalists like Joy Reid at MSNBC are effectively being paid to ignore the climate crisis, doing everything they can to make my protest on Saturday a story about privilege, cementing her network’s legacy as one more institution which stayed silent far beyond any excusable point. Maybe she’s saving up for a spot in a bunker to ride out the apocalypse while the rest of us starve.
Ironically, this demonstrates exactly why political actions like the one I took are necessary. Looking at social justice movements throughout history, we see over and over again that disruption is exactly what is needed to force powerful parties into dialogue about issues they would rather ignore. My organization is based in Harris’s home state of California. In this state alone, billions of animals are raised and brutally killed every year to be eaten. This flies in the face of our values as a nation of compassionate animal lovers, and severely exacerbates the climate crisis. We reached out to her campaign several times seeking dialogue on this and were repeatedly ignored. This story has the potential to change that, or would, were it not for the media’s reckless mishandling of it. I’ve personally taken tremendous inspiration from Marissa Jenae Johnson and Mara Willaford, the Black Lives Matter protesters who upstaged Bernie at a rally in 2015; after a strong backlash from Bernie’s supporters, the protest was the obvious cause of Sanders releasing a comprehensive platform on police brutality just two weeks later. I’m not saying there isn’t a very significant difference between two black women taking the stage from a white man and a male-presenting white person taking the stage from a black woman; there absolutely is. I’m saying that if that difference is used to silence us in the face of unfathomable violence, nobody wins, and that any precedent set against white protesters like myself will immediately be deployed tenfold against much more vulnerable black protesters.
Across the ideological spectrum, our political ‘leaders’ are unified in their catastrophic failure to address the most urgent issues of our time. As long as they continue to ignore mass extinction, we should be interrupting every one of them, as often as possible, if we want any hope of surviving this century. Poetically, climate is exactly where the human-animal barrier can most clearly be seen for the lie that it is: you, me, Kamala, and every other conscious being on this planet is utterly dependent on the natural balance we are fighting to protect. We can no longer afford to let any immediate human concern, no matter how minor, win out over the most fundamental interests of every other animal, both individual and collective.
Growing up, I was always always taught to trust in the political system. You may have been too. It can be difficult to accept that that system and all of its elites have utterly failed. Not only has the legal system failed, but the opposition groups, NGOs, and movements meant to serve as a check on it have failed. We are now facing an emergency we can’t even imagine, with vanishingly little time, and no institutions to rely on. It’s up to ordinary people to tell the truth and take revolutionary action as if our lives depend on it, because they do.
Hope dies. Action begins.