On the Ecological Ponzi Scheme

Illustrated by Niharika Desiraju. Adapted from “Carbon Dharma: The Occupation of Butterflies


It is impossible to wake up someone who’s only pretending to be asleep,” an old Zulu saying.

Humans are very puny animals, easy snacks for any resourceful predator in Nature. Until, of course, humans developed tools, built cities and distanced themselves from the orbit of such predators, while turning into weapon-wielding, factory-farming predators themselves. But the fundamental motivation for this distancing from Nature is that original fear of predation. And in the grip of this fear, humans have now built a global industrial civilization around an unsustainable, ecological Ponzi scheme that’s now teetering on the brink of collapse.

In this ecological Ponzi scheme, the sole depositor, resting at the very bottom of the pyramid, is Nature. Struggling just above Nature are all the slaughterhouse workers, the miners, the lumberjacks, the dairy hands, the goat herds, and the farm workers, who are primarily engaged in extracting from Nature. Above them are all the semi-educated and educated people who are increasingly disconnected from Nature, while the Bernie Madoffs perched atop this Ponzi scheme are all sitting in New York, London, Mumbai, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo, pulling the levers of the Financial “industry”. And these Bernie Madoffs are desperately trying to prevent this Ponzi scheme from collapsing around their heads, even arm-twisting governments to bail them out when necessary. The last thing they want to hear about is a change in human consciousness that would voluntarily return the majority of the deposits back to Nature.

For that’s what the mass adoption of Veganism does. It shrinks the enormous footprint of humanity on Nature, freeing land up for forests to regenerate and sequester carbon and freeing the ocean to burst with life once again. Veganism is the Swiss army knife of all justice movements. In one simple lifestyle change, it bends the arc of the moral universe dizzyingly towards social justice, climate justice and animal justice. And we can all adopt it from the comfort of our homes, right now!

Which scares the bejesus out of the Bernie Madoffs! For they want us to keep extracting more and more deposits from Nature in order to keep the Ponzi scheme going. But Nature has her way of intruding on their reveries. When massive trees fall on top of their roofs, their beachfront property gets turned into rubble and glaciers the size of Manhattan calve off the coast of Greenland and splash into the Atlantic ocean, the Bernie Madoffs have to pay attention. However, as the original Bernie Madoff will tell you from his prison cell, it is extremely difficult to let go of a Ponzi scheme. It is harder than letting go of the tail of a snarling tiger.

It isn’t just the human footprint on Nature, the base of the Ponzi scheme, that would shrink with the mainstream adoption of Veganism. In the documentary, “Forks Over Knives,” Prof. Colin Campbell of Cornell University predicts that if everyone in America switched to a whole-foods, plant-based vegan diet, the health care costs in America would reduce by 70-80% as incidences of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer diminish. But, since health care is a $2.5 Trillion a year industry in America today, just think of how many healthcare-related jobs that would eliminate!

Anthony DeMello once said, “We don’t really fear the unknown; we fear the loss of the known.” We know that there are jobs available raising, milking, slaughtering, refrigerating, packaging and transporting all the cows, pigs, sheep, chicken, lamb and fish and for growing and trucking food and antibiotics to them. In fact, almost half the food we grow is to feed our farmed animals, not humans. There are jobs in the health care sector to care for all the cancer, heart, stroke and diabetic patients that result from the consumption of animal foods. And we are scared of losing all these known jobs. We just cannot imagine how people can be gainfully employed gardening back the Biosphere,  regenerating Life while sequestering carbon, when so many are employed today killing Life on such a vast scale while emitting methane and other greenhouse gases and while destroying millions of acres of tropical forests each year to accommodate the ever growing demand for these animal foods. And in the grip of that fear, we fail to consider that killing Life on a vast scale while emitting methane and other greenhouse gases and destroying millions of acres of tropical forests each year is actually not such a smart thing to do, to begin with. Mass extinctions, climate change and super storms like Sandy result from such activities, along with cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

And our children and grandchildren are going to have a solid internet record showing that we knowingly conducted such activities despite scientific evidence and warnings galore.

Isn’t it time we screwed up the courage to do a true course correction, to fashion a world of abundance for all, instead of buttressing this ecological Ponzi scheme? Please don’t listen to those who tell you that a tax tweak here and there will magically fortify the Ponzi scheme and that we can all continue with our life’s quest to become Bernie Madoffs, some day. As if catching a tiger by its tail would bring us great happiness!

Please take a chance instead – Go Vegan!

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