From Plants to Politics

Published in the Spring Issue of Naked Food Magazine

By Nelson Campbell

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I try not to be overly dramatic in my writing, but I think most of us would agree we live in troubled times.  We might define these troubles differently, but most of us have this sense.  Most distressing in my view, however, are not the actual problems we face, but our inability to work together to find their solutions.

I believe we are divided because we cling to fractured pieces of a larger truth.  All sorts of ideological currents run through society, but two dominate our thinking and discourse.  One side, usually defined as being on the “Right,” has for most of the modern era seen society through the lens of individualism, and has viewed with skepticism the idea that centralized governments can solve social inequities.  The other side, on the “Left,” sees society in more communal terms.  This group sees freedom as the consequence of a socially just community, and often looks to government as a tool for bringing such a society into being.  Both views have flaws, but these shortcomings are resolvable through the recognition that there are splinters of truth on both sides.

Social justice is, indeed, essential to freedom.  When some of us lead impoverished lives, the effects ripple through society in ways that affect all of us.  But equally true is the failure of governments within large, complex societies, such as in the US, to solve the deep-rooted problems within those societies. 

These are distinct truths, but contrary to what our partisan divide suggests, social activism and a healthy skepticism of centralized government are not exclusive of one another.  Indeed, I believe we can combine these truths to blaze a path we can walk down together to change our world.  Specifically, I believe we can create a more just and freer society by working from the bottom up, empowering individuals and local communities through organization, information, and resources.  This notion combines a commitment to social justice and freedom with the recognition that change does not flow through government, but through the hearts of the people closest to the problems requiring resolution.

There are, of course, many challenges to developing the organization, information and resources necessary to drive this, but that is a discussion for another day.  Instead, I would like to ask: How can we create the initial impulse for establishing this third way?  In my view, we need a new political ideology and infrastructure.

 I believe that the readers of this magazine are well positioned to help launch such an effort.  We know as well as anyone how powerful forces have used government to further their own narrow economic interests.  Indeed, we know what may be the greatest lie ever told by these corrupt collaborators – the health lie that has caused more needless suffering than any other set of human actions.  We also understand intuitively the value of grassroots action.  Most of us yearn for bottom-up change that we can participate in.

 But perhaps most importantly, we can see the connections of plant-based nutrition to larger themes that could be woven into an ideology that would appeal to massive numbers of people.  Especially concerning is the problem of our warming climate, which is strongly impacted by the food we choose to eat.  To appeal to the many people who care about the environment, I suggest we add to our ideology the simple but profound notion that Nature is sacred.  Indeed, even the idea we have started with – whole foods plant-based nutrition – already places us where I am suggesting we should be, because it is a diet derived from Nature.

I don’t think many of us understand the power that is at our fingertips.  The environmental and plant-based nutrition communities have often worked apart from one another, as have others singularly focused on issues such as local agriculture, animal welfare, economic reform, and social inequities.  Imagine what we could do if we came together to promote a new ideology appealing to people everywhere (whether or not they are eating plant-based).

To take a step in this direction, we are considering organizing a “PlantPure Convention.”  Depending on available resources, this could be late this year or early next year.  We are envisioning a weekend event, showcasing speakers from a variety of disciplines, including experts on the environment, agriculture and health, and perhaps joined by a few community activists with inspiring stories to tell.  We also might include breakout sessions, and even a party that Saturday evening.

So that all this becomes a starting point for something much bigger, we are thinking through a formal written statement for presentation, debate and ratification at the event.  Convention participants could carry this resolution home with them for promotion in their local communities, along with a few other tools and strategies we might suggest, all for the purpose of more fully launching the movement I am advocating.  Our success would be measured by the variety of people in attendance, hopefully including Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, Independents, and everyone in between.  And while we would hold this event in the US, we would hope to attract a few others from around the world; the problems and solutions I am advocating cross international borders.

We will let you know more as we finalize our thinking on all this.  To stay abreast of what is happening, we suggest you subscribe to our newsletter at if you have not already done so.

 But irrespective of what we decide about this event, I believe it is time for us to begin considering and discussing the ideas I have proposed.  It is urgent that we stop fighting over partisan, reductionist dogma and join hands.  This begins with the recognition that there are splinters of truth everywhere, splinters that when integrated into a larger whole, can heal the divisions that separate us.  If we act in concert, in a way that unleashes human creativity on a massive scale, there is no problem we cannot fix.


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