As vegans, we thrive.

But as you know, our thriving veganism isn’t all about us. It’s also about helping to safeguard the environment and protect the animals. As veganism grows, so do these passionately committed advocacy movements that are critical to our survival — and the Earth’s. That’s a good thing, of which we can be justly proud.

If only it were enough, or even close. Besieged by the life-threatening effects of climate change seen in increasingly violent storms, earthquakes, polluted waters, and fires worldwide, our formerly all-embracing, nurturing Earth seems almost to be rebelling against the humans so thoughtlessly destroying it.

Humans certainly deserve the blame, and perhaps many deserve to suffer for their inaction. But it’s the innocent others of the Earth — the animals and the forests, seas, and lands that are their home — whose suffering is inexcusable.

A Billion Animal Deaths in Australian Wildfires. A Billion. 

The news media have exhaustively reported on the agonizing deaths of 1 billion animals in Australia due to the hundreds of devastating and so far unstoppable wildfires that have raged there for over four months. A “billion” is such a huge number, it recalls a demagogue’s alleged WW2 statement that “One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” So let’s talk about just one of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of species burned to death or likely to die because the fires have destroyed their sources of food and shelter: koala bears.

In just the state of New South Wales, an estimated 8,000 koalas have burned to death. On the formerly pristine Kangaroo Island, once considered a kind of “Noah’s Ark” for endangered species (which include koalas), it’s feared that the koala kill is so high it places the survival of the entire species in peril.

Rescuers braving the scorched areas to bring out surviving animals describe “apocalyptic scenes” of death and destruction: Venturing into a burned area a week after the fires had passed through, one group found one burned-but-alive koala amid thousands of bodies of other koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, and birds.

And these are only two examples of what’s happening all over Australia. As one rescuer says, “Amid all this death, every time we find an animal alive it feels like a miracle.”

Are Australia’s Wildfires the Beginning of the End?

Wildfires have been part of Australia’s history for a long time, but the fire season is now longer, and the fires more extreme, as climate change strengthens its grip.

According to University of Sydney ecologist Chris Dickman, as reported by Smithsonian Magazine, what’s happening in Australia should serve as a warning sign for the rest of the planet.

“Sometimes,” Dickman says, “it’s said that Australia is the [world’s] canary in the coal mine, with the effects of climate change being seen here most severely and earliest.” In Australia now, he continues, “we’re probably looking at what climate change may look like for other parts of the world in the first stages.” What about the later stages? Like the explosion in the coal mine if the canary goes unheeded, climate change could lead to irreversible environmental damage — damage that changes everything about how we live, even why we live.

In this global crisis, now seems a good time for us, as vegans, to view the harm from animal agriculture and that from climate change as two expressions of the same towering threat to the animals’ and our own survival…and to increase our commitments accordingly.