Two Thoughts on Pandemics and the “Livestock Industry”

First, a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report states that ‘coronavirus’ aid in 2020 and 2021 overpaid many agricultural producers, especially for ‘livestock’ and grains (most of which feed livestock, not humans).

For decades, tons of government subsidies have enriched “farmers” (I put this in quotation marks because many of the biggest payments go to people who have little to do with farming in their everyday lives), and the way it’s structured, most of the subsidies go to livestock and plants to feed livestock, not plants grown to feed people.

Of course, the coronavirus aid packages were corrupt as hell beyond agriculture (notice the airlines who took the aid money, laid off their workers, then spent the money on share buybacks to juice their stock prices). Much more money went into these corrupt deals than the $2000 checks sent to ordinary people.

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How I Had Unintentionally Used Kessler’s Four Steps Towards Habit Reversal in My Own Life

The book The End of Overeating by David A. Kessler explains how people can change their habits so that they stop overeating.

In this blog post, I’m not going to comment on ‘overeating’ beyond stating that I don’t think anyone is obliged to try to lose weight. But Kessler says that these principles can be used for ‘reversing’ habits in general (i.e. stopping a habit), not just habitual ‘overeating’. And I find his claim credible since, looking back in retrospect, his advice pretty much describes how I transitioned to veganism i.e. ‘reversed’ the habit of consuming animals. I’m going to explain his ideas about ‘habit reversal’ and map them to how I transitioned to veganism. I hope, of course, that this can help people who want to go vegan, but I’m sure this will be useful for other kinds of ‘habit reversals’ as well, so I hope you will keep reading even if you don’t want to go vegan or you’ve already gone vegan.

A sense of powerlessness is one of the biggest obstacles to success. If you feel you have no choice but to engage in a behavior, the arousal that drives it will persist. But if you recognize that you need not engage in habitual behavior, that sense of arousal will begin to diminish.

Yes. About six months before I decided to go vegan, I made a statement along the lines of ‘I could never go vegan because I would never give up cheese.’ Guess what? I did give up cheese, and more than ten years later, I don’t miss cheese at all (yes, I sometimes eat vegan ‘cheezes’ but if all vegan cheese imitations disappeared tomorrow it would not be a big deal to me). This sense of powerlessness probably delayed my transition to veganism.
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The Stehekin Fiasco & Miracle

My tent at Purple Point Campground, Stehekin, Northern Washington.

Of all of the places on the Pacific Crest Trail to miss a resupply package, Stehekin is just about the worst. On lists of ‘PCT resupply stops to mail food even if you hate mailing food’ Stehekin always makes it to the top three, including in the 2017 PCT thru-hiker survey. There is no grocery store in Stehekin, just a general store with very limited options, and a bakery with few foods which can be easily carried on the trail.

AND I’m vegan, which means ~even fewer~ options at the general store, and the only food at the bakery which was definitely vegan was the wild rice salad (it tasted good, but I could not easily take it with me on the trail).

My resupply package never reached Stehekin. Why not? Because I had ordered it from Sonora Resupply, and they literally forgot to send the package (but they did remember to charge my credit card, though they eventually refunded it). Beware: if you order food from Sonora Resupply, they might forget to send it. I had set things up so that my parents would never need to send me any resupply packages to save them the hassle, but in the future, I am going to ask my parents to handle my resupply packages, because they are more reliable than Sonora Resupply, and since they know about the Stehekin fiasco, they are very willing to take on this responsibility.

The post office in Stehekin, Washington. The postmaster had a letter from my parents (which contained the maps showing the trail between Stehekin and Canada) and he arranged to have a book I bought in Stehekin to be shipped home, but there was no resupply box for me here.

Due to the lack of communication options in Stehekin (no cell phone or landline service to Stehekin, and internet connections either did not exist or were so bad that it was almost the equivalent of no internet) it took me a day to confirm that Sonora Resupply had never even sent the resupply package. But really, as soon as I talked to the postmaster, and he told me that he had no package for me, I knew that the odds were bad.

This was my very worst time during my entire hike of the PCT in Washington. Contemplating crossing about 85

I remember talking to Pony Express, and I was crying a little as I was facing the possibility of no resupply. She immediately offered to give me all of her tortillas. This was in spite of the fact that she was having a worse day that I was – her toe was infected, and she was going south, not north, which meant she was about to enter one of the most physically sections of the entire Pacific Crest Trail (incidently, Pony Express is working on a documentary about her PCT hike – check it out).

At first, I thought I might have to stop in Mazama to resupply. I could get to Mazama after hiking about one day out of Stehekin, though it would involve hitchhiking on a highway, and though Mazama has more food options than Stehekin, it’s also not a particularly good resupply point. Then I figured that, if I were willing to pay the expensive prices (which were actually quite reasonable considered how remote Stehekin is), I could get enough food at the general store to make it to Canada. It would be repetitive and not particularly tasty or nutritionally balanced, but it would keep me alive, and in Canada I could get lots of tasty and nutritionally balanced food.

Then the miracle happened.

Just after the conversation (via satellite phone) which confirmed that there was going to be no resupply package for me in Stehekin, a couple was putting their entire resupply package in the hiker box. It turned out that they didn’t want ANY of the food that they had mailed themselves. I immediately picked out all of the vegan food (they had some oreos, some Bevita crackers, electrolyte powders which also had vitamin C and random minerals, and weird banana chips which I didn’t really like but it was food, and a Harmony House dehydrated vegetable meal). Also, there were more tortillas, though I don’t know if they had come from the couple. It wasn’t my first choice of food, but it was free, and it would get me to Canada.

This completely changed my mood. Whereas just twenty minutes earlier I had been on the verge of tears, I was now skipping with joy, and sharing with every hiker I saw the good news of the couple who had dumped their entire resupply in the hiker box. Since the other hikers were not vegan, they all descended on the hiker box like a wake of vultures to take the food I rejected.

Later on, I checked the hiker box again, and found that someone had left an entire bottle of olive oil. WIN. Olive oil is lightweight yet super-high in calories, and required no cooking. Calories were the one thing I needed from food to get to Canada.

The ferry docked at Stehekin Landing. Stehekin is a very quiet little town UNLESS the ferry has just arrived or is about to depart (warning: do not try to buy anything in the general store right after a ferry arrival or right before a ferry departure). All mail to/from Stehekin is transported by ferry, including the letter I received from my parents and the book I sent out.

I also bought some Clif bars and wasabi peas from the general store, mainly so that I would have a bit more protein. I didn’t really need the protein – I could get protein in Canada (and the only thing I needed to get to Canada was calories) – but it was nice to have more protein.

Many PCT thru-hikers eat tortillas as a staple because they are cheap and easy to find in trail towns, which means that by the time many thru-hikers get to Stehekin they hate tortillas (which is no doubt why I was able to get so many tortillas for free). Since I hadn’t eaten any tortillas before Stehekin, I thought they were alright. And tortillas went very well with olive oil.

Thus, for the last leg of the PCT, tortillas and olive oil were my staples (plus random snacks such as oreos and wasabi peas). I would eat a bite of tortilla, take a sip from the olive oil bottle, take another bite of tortilla, take another sip, etc. And yes, I drank the olive oil straight from the bottle, since that was the easiest way to get it into my body. POUR IN THOSE CALORIES!!! Though I was eating to live rather than living to eat, I think the tortilla + olive oil combo also tasted good.

I even managed to reach Canada with leftover food. Which was just as well, since that meant that I spent less money on food while I was stuck in Manning Park (though I also totally took advantage of the restaurant in Manning Park to eat food that was tasty and nutritionally balanced and was prepared fresh in a real kitchen).

The moral of the story is: things can fail to go according to plan in a bad way on the Pacific Crest Trail, yet the trail sometimes provides in surprising ways just when you need it.

Self-Feeding on the Washington Pacific Crest Trail

One of the most common questions I would get when I was on my Pacific Crest Trail hike in the summer of 2017 was ‘what do you eat?’ Many people who did not know I was vegan asked me this question, but if I revealed that I was vegan, this question became even more likely to pop up.

Though it is possible to live off the land, there are two major problems a) time/energy invested in gathering food from the land is time/energy which is not devoted to moving forward and b) the lands surrounding the Pacific Crest Trail cannot produce nearly enough food to support all of the humans who are passing through. This is ignoring the issue that most hikers do not even know how to get enough food from the land, since if the problem were merely a lack of skills, skills could be acquired. Furthermore, there are often restrictions on gathering food on the land (for example, there is one section of the Washington PCT where only the local indigenous people are permitted to pick berries). Therefore, hikers need to carry all of the food they need to sustain themselves.

Okay, so practically all food needs to be packed. The next question is: mail drop, or buy in town? I had been advised that food options were limited at all of the resupply points in Washington, so I arranged a mail drop for every town. For my training hike in the CA-R section of the PCT, I was coming almost straight from home, so I just brought the food with me to Seiad Valley. What about my first Washington segment, between Cascade Locks (OR) and Trout Lake (WA)? At the Ashland Food Coop, I bought a lot of trail food, and then supplemented it with a few things I picked up at a Trader Joe’s in Portland.

That’s not to say that I only ate mail-dropped food after I left Trout Lake. I deliberately put at little less food than I needed in each food package because I knew I would be able to supplement my food supply at each town, and I wanted a little flexibility in my trail food options. I also took advantage of the hiker boxes, sometimes picking up weird food items which added variety to my diet, or sometimes just adding free food. When I was at the Dinsmores, there was no way to buy food (without getting a ride to another town), but the hiker box had all of the food I needed, and there were tons of ripe blackberries on the bushes to satisfy my craving for fresh fruit.

Yep, fresh fruit was the #1 food I craved in southern Washington. For obvious reasons, it hard to take fresh fruit for more than a day on a 5-7 day hike between towns. That meant that, when I did reach a town, one of the first things I did was get fruit. When I arrived in White Pass, and I saw that they had a few fresh oranges, I told the woman behind the counter “I am buying all of those orange right now, whatever the price.”

However, in central and northern Washington, it was prime berry-picking season, and those berries really took care of my fruit cravings on trail. They were delicious, and no doubt very good for my health. It was also a great excuse to stop hiking on a steep uphill section. I eventually became a huckleberry connoisseur, able to judge how good a huckleberry would taste based on looking at it. The most delicious huckleberries were along Agnes Creek, though that might have been because I was there at the right time.

Mmmm … tasty wild huckleberries.

That still leaves the question of what I ate (aside from berries). When I was planning my trip, I was aware of the problem of hikers getting tired of their food, and not being able to stand the food in their maildrops. I tried to prevent this problem by putting different types of food in each resupply box. Another principle I had was to never send regular Clif Bars. A lot of hikers complained that they ate so many Clif bars that they never wanted to eat any ever again. I also knew that Clif bars were more likely to be available in the Washington towns than most other kinds of trail foods, so that was one particular food I did not want to risk becoming sick of (this was the right choice; I did in fact buy some Clif bars in the towns of Washington, and I managed to not get sick of them).

My favorite resupply box was the box I sent to Trout Lake. It was full of superfood Larabars (which were different from the ordinary Larabars I had bought on sale in Ashland), Indian dal mix, coconut dessert things (coconut + sugar = lots of calories), ProBar energy chews, and good stuff like that. I still has nutritional yeast left over from my resupply in Ashland/Portland, so I was doing okay with protein too. Later on, I almost wished I had a repeat of my ‘Trout Lake Box’ – I say almost because, if all of my food drops had been the same, I might have gotten tired of the food, and then it would have been much less tasty.

At this point, you might have already figured out that I went stoveless AND I was not using campfires for cooking. I did consider bringing a stove – I have used a backpacking stove in Taiwan and Japan – but what ultimately convinced me to go stoveless was that I did not want to deal with the logistics of stove fuel. I have no regrets, and I think all of my PCT section hikes will be stoveless, because I did not miss hot meals at all (it may have helped that it was a very warm summer by Washington standards).

My resupply box in White Pass had my first set of freeze-dried dehydrated meals (actually not – I had picked up a few dehydrated meals in Ashland because they were relatively cheap and different from the ones I knew I had in my resupply boxes), along with some Clif Builder bars (not the regular Clif bars). I also supplemented it with some food from White Pass. How did I prepare them without hot water? COLD SOAK FOR THE WIN! I found that 1-2 hours of soaking was enough for just about any dehydrated meal, but leaving it to soak overnight was the best.

By far the most popular brand of dehydrated meals specifically for outdoor activity is Mountain House. However, they have almost no vegan options. I guess they don’t want money from vegan people. So I sent a lot of meals from the second most popular brand, Backpacker’s Pantry, which has lots of vegan options. Even though Backpacker’s Pantry is the #2 brand, I found that a lot of outdoor people have never heard of it. Huh. But my White Pass resupply had some dehydrated meals from an obscure business – Camp Chow. They were expensive, but I figured it would change things up.

I LOVED the veggie gumbo from Camp Chow – it’s expensive, but so good. I HATED the chili. In fact, their chili gave me indigestion so bad that it interfered with my hiking, I vomited, and I gave away my other package chili as fast as I could.

Anyway, back to Backpacker’s Pantry. I took 5 different Backpacker’s Pantry Meals with me. My favorite to least favorite were:

1. Cuban Black Beans & Rice
2. Chana Masala
3. Kathmandu Curry
4. Mexican Cowboy Beans & Rice
5. Louisiana Red Beans & Rice

All of these meals were variations of legumes & rice, which works really well for me as cold soak dehydrated meals. Legumes + rice are a complete protein. I also never got tired of any of these, though on my current PCT hike, I’m only taking the top three (plus some dehydrated meals from an obscure business for variety, and a couple of Backpacker’s Pantry meals I haven’t tried before).

Though I generally liked my food (with the notable exception of that chili from Camp Chow), while I was hiking the PCT in Washington, I ate to live, I did not live to eat. A lot of hikers obsess about food on the trail. Me? I was obsessed with water, and to a lesser extent finding good campsites. Food was an afterthought. Eating was a chore I did because I knew if I did not eat, I would not have enough energy. Also, eating snacks was a good excuse to take a break, and would also lighten my pack, which were more compelling reasons to eat food than my own appetite.

This was pretty much how I ate until I reached Stehekin. In Stehekin, it all changed. That’s the topic of the next post.

The Kitchen Where I Turned Vegan, Part 3

You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

I picked up a vegan cookbook so I wouldn’t have to deal with the aversion I felt towards cooking with milk and eggs. I remember reading one review of a vegan cookbook who complained that vegan cookbooks shouldn’t have lengthy introductions about why people should become vegan because anyone would buy a vegan cookbook is already convinced the veganism is good. Well, that reviewer is wrong – I was persuaded to transition to veganism by a lengthy introduction in a vegan cookbook.

The thing which struck me in the lengthy introduction was not the animal rights arguments, but the environmental arguments. I had been so busy being proud of myself for being a semi-vegetarian and being So Nice to the Environment that I felt that I was excused from examining my diet further to see if there was anything more I could do to lower my ecological footprint. The lengthy introduction pointed out that it takes a lot less resources to support a vegan diet than even a semi-vegetarian diet.

That didn’t persuade me to go vegan right away, but hey, since I had already decided I was going to learn how to cook good vegan food, it wasn’t much of a stretch to commit to at least increasing the amount of vegan food I ate.

I also did a lot more reading about veganism. Even though I had been aware of veganism for a long time, I realized, I had never actually listened to what vegans have to say about veganism. This is why, when people have the knee jerk of reaction “I’ll never become a vegan no matter what” I have to wonder … how can you know if you’re not even bothering to listen to the arguments? During this reading, I encountered an excellent bit of a advice – try one new vegan food every single day. This is great advice for several reasons, not the least because it gives people transitioning to veganism something to do which is not centered on guilt.

I went ahead and tried a bunch of new vegan foods – both what I prepared in this shiny kitchen in my new residence with the assistance of the preachy vegan cookbook, and what I could find in local eateries.

I found that, when I decided to abstain from eating fish, cheese, etc. … I didn’t miss those foods as much as I thought I would. On the contrary, as I learned more about the harm which is done in order to get those foods to my plate, the less appetizing I found them.

On top of that, compared to trying to ask people whether the salmon came from California/Oregon (Yellow), Alaska (Green), or the Atlantic Salmon Farms of Environmental Destruction (Red), or agonizing over figuring out whether it was okay to eat this specific animal which was on the Seafood Watch ‘Yellow’ list … just not eating fish was a heck of a lot easier.

Over the course of weeks, I gave up eating animal-based foods for environmental reasons, and once I did that, I found myself much more receptive to the animal rights arguments in favor of veganism. At first I simply called myself a strict vegetarian (someone who eats a vegan diet, but does not abstain from consuming animals through non-food products), but I eventually concluded that it was better to go as far into being vegan as practically possible.

So that is how and where I became a vegan.

The Kitchen Where I Turned Vegan: Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

When I was 18, I moved out of my parents’ home for the first time … and I moved into my mother’s friends’ home. First of all, the very act of moving out of San Francisco broke a lot of my habits, so I got to develop some new habits. Second, since I was no longer living with my parents, I had more freedom … and more responsibility for taking care of myself.

Let’s back up a couple years.

During my later high school years, I became very conscious of the things I purchased and perceived environmental impacts. I was excessively proud of the fact that vegetarian diets have a lower environmental impact than the diet of the average American. When I did purchase sea animal flesh, I paid attention to the ‘Seafood Watch’ guide and felt very virtuous about being aware and avoiding the foods on the ‘red’ list (I still consumed some foods on the ‘yellow’ list). However, checking the list, weighing whether I really wanted a food so badly even though it was on the ‘yellow’ list … it’s a mental effort, and I found myself choosing to consume seafood less often simply to avoid the little dilemmas I set up for myself.

I did very little cooking as a high school student because I was busy with studies (I broke a record at my high school for the highest number of AP exams taken, I passed all of them, and I doubt that record has been broken since) and I had some time-intensive hobbies which weren’t cooking. On top of that, our kitchen was full of clutter and old cooking tools/equipment which barely worked. It’s not an inviting place for cooking.

Okay, let’s go forward again to when I was 18.

At first, I mostly just ate at restaurants near my new residence. But I couldn’t help but notice that I now lived in a house with a nice, shiny, clean kitchen, with equipment which worked well, and since it was hardly used, I could spend a lot of time there without inconveniencing anybody. So I got it into my head that this was a really good time to improve my cooking skills.

What I needed was a cookbook, and as a semi-vegetarian, I was obviously going to choose a vegetarian cookbook. So I looked through some vegetarian cookbooks … and was shocked by how many recipes called for milk and eggs.

I can’t say for sure why that bothered me at that time. I never fully examined why that put me off. I can make retroactive theories of why I reacted that way, but I can’t guarantee that they’re right. However, there was a simple way to avoid examining why I was put off by the thought of cooking with milk and eggs – just get a vegetarian cookbook which didn’t call for milk and eggs. In other words, I decided to avoid the situation by getting a vegan cookbook.

To be continued…

The Kitchen Where I Turned Vegan: Part 1

A lot of people ask me how long I’ve been vegan and why I went vegan, but few ask how I became vegan, and nobody has ever asked where I went vegan.

Even before I became a semi-vegetarian, I was never a big eater of land flesh. Okay, there was a small set of foods made from animal flesh which I really liked, but they were occasional treats, not a dietary staple.

I think my mother had a lot of influence here – in her youth, she ate little meat, not because of principles, but because her family could not afford to buy too much meat (she grew up in a part of the world which, at the time, did not subsidize the exploitation of non-human animals as heavily as the United States does today, and thus the cost of animal-based vs. plant-based foods more accurately reflected their true costs). Thus, my mother did not grow up with the notion that meat was an essential part of a meal.

And neither did I. To this day, I still do fully understand why some people are baffled by the notion a single filling, wholesome, satisfying meal without meat. I am baffled when I see a menu for a restaurant which isn’t a steakhouse/seafood specialist/etc., has 15+ dishes … and yet still does not have a single dish which is vegetarian, let alone vegan. Can’t people have more imagination, especially since most people in the past 5,000 years have had mostly plant-based diets?

Because of all of the above, it wasn’t a big deal for me to become a semi-vegetarian during my first year of high school – I stopped eating land animal flesh, but continued to eat sea animals, dairy, and eggs.

But even my consumption of sea animals became more limited. While I was in middle school, my family went to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and I learned about their seafood watch program. The exhibit described how the sea animals we choose to consume affects the ocean ecology, and made a case for choosing to avoid supporting the worst practices. It made a deep impression on me, though I think the lesson I derived from it over the years is not exactly the one they intended – after all, they advocate consuming the ‘good’ seafood, not abstaining from consuming sea animals altogether.

Even during my middle school years, just about the only time I can remember eating land animal flesh was when we visited my mother’s friends for dinner, and they served beef. I think there is an irony that the very same kitchen where that beef was cooked – the only beef I still remember ever eating – is the very same kitchen where I transitioned to veganism.

To be continued…

Six Days in Shikoku: Kul-nel-asob and Oboke

This is the 'husband' bridge, not the Nishi-Iya bridge

This is the ‘husband’ bridge, not the Nishi-Iya bridge

I had a reservation at Kul-nel-asob, which means ‘Sleep, Eat, Play’. Since my guidebook says they include meals, I at first thought ‘nope, can’t stay there’. I’m a vegan, and the vast majority of guesthouses/ryokan in Japan don’t offer vegan meals. However, I decided to look at their website to see if there was some kind of no-meals option … and I was shocked to find that it is a vegan guesthouse. In rural Japan. And it’s not a Buddhist temple. Again, it is a vegan guesthouse, in rural Japan, and it’s not a Buddhist temple. I couldn’t believe it.

Here's that handy map of the Iya Valley again

Here’s that handy map of the Iya Valley again

Well, I put in my reservation, even though it was much more expensive than most of the places I had stayed at in Japan, partially because I thought it was my best option for the night, and partially because I would finally be able to go for a meal plan at a Japanese guesthouse.

The 'husband' bridge

The ‘husband’ bridge

The owner of the guesthouse grew up in one of the big metropolises of Japan, and as a young man lived in Botswana for a couple years. He didn’t want to live like a salary man, which is why he bought a historic building (now over 90 years old) between Oboke and the Iya Valley and opened a guesthouse. He’s also a vegan. He says that when he opened the guesthouse there was little tourism in the Iya Valley, and practically all foreign tourists would stay at Kul-nel-asob. In fact, as soon as any foreigner appeared at JR Oboke station, taxi drivers would call him to tell him that he had a guest. Now, he says, there’s more tourism in the Iya Valley.

One of the other guests is from Osaka. He came to Shikoku just to spend a night at this specific guesthouse, because his friend said he should.

There were only three guests that night, so I got my own room – with tatami mats, painted screens, and views over the river, in a historic Japanese house. Since I was mostly staying at budget accommodation in Japan, I really wasn’t used to having such a nice place to myself for the night.

Most of the picture is dominated by a large lump of a mountain, with a river flowing around it

This is the view from the guesthouse on the morning that I left

The guesthouse doesn’t have a bath/shower, so the owner offers all guests a trip to a local onsen at no extra charge every evening. Since I was the only female guest – and apparently the onsen hotel wasn’t doing much business at that hour – I was the only one in the female baths, which felt lonely. I like sharing onsen with people. It was an okay onsen (I have been to a lot of onsen in Japan, so my standards are pretty high). There was a bath made out of hinoki wood, which was a nice touch. The views over the river gorge, alas, were marred by the hulk of steel bridge and bright green lights.


Dinner? To quote my diary “DINNER was PHENOMENAL!’. It was by far the most delicious meal I had in Shikoku, in fact it was the most delicious meal I had in Japan west of Kansai, and I have spent about two months in west-of-Kansai-Japan.

The guesthouse also had a bookshelf. I flipped through a book of photographs of Botswana, and I also noted Eat Sleep Sit (which I still haven’t read, but I’d like to read it some day). The book I did end up reading was Dogs and Demons by Alex Kerr.

Alex Kerr bought a historic farmhouse in the Iya Valley in the 1970s, and now it’s a guesthouse which charges over 20,000 yen (about 200 USD) per night, is on an obscure side road, and does not offer pick up from JR Oboke. The owner of Kul-nel-asob knows Alex Kerr personally, but says that Alex Kerr rarely comes to the Iya Valley because he’s so busy.


I didn’t read all of Dogs and Demons in one night, but it definitely left an impression. It explained a lot of things I had seen in Japan, and confirmed things about Japan which I had suspected but didn’t know how to put into words. For example, I had felt that there was something wrong with the cedar forests in Japan, and I could tell you things like ‘the forest is too quiet, and there are hardly any understory plants’, and that there were some landslides around cedar forests before I read the book, but the book explains that, yep, the cedar forests are an ecological void, they destablize hillsides, and the book explains how zombie cedar forests came to dominate more than 25% of Japan’s land area. I disagreed with some of Alex Kerr’s conclusions, but even when I disagreed the book still provoked my thinking.

I asked the guesthouse owner what he thought about the book. He said that he agreed with a lot of what Alex Kerr says, and that Japan has a lot of problems, but he thinks the younger generation in Japan is different, and that things will get better.

That evening, it was raining. Between the food, the wonderful old Japanese house, the food, the weather outside, the books, and the food, I was very, very glad that I had not gone camping out this night.


The next morning, the owner drove me to JR Oboke station so I could catch a train to Kotohira. JR Oboke is the last station on the Dosan line in Tokushima station – just past the station, there is a tunnel, and on the other side of the tunnel is JR Tosa-Yamada station in Kochi Prefecture. I wanted to go to Kochi, and in my original Shikoku plan I was going to take the train to Kochi immediately after visiting the Iya Valley. If it weren’t for the fact that my 90 days in Japan were almost up, I would have probably taken a southbound train down to Kochi. However, I couldn’t see everything in Shikoku in just six days, and I had to cut Kochi prefecture out of my plans. Instead, while waiting for the northbound train, I thought about just how close I was to Kochi, and how I wasn’t going there.

On the train, I looked out at the Yoshino river below.

And that is how I left Tokushima Prefecture.

In the next post, I will describe the town of Kotohira, which, among other things, has the oldest kabuki theatre which is still standing.


I Am Vermin

Before reading this post, I highly recommend reading Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

In a previous post, Carmilla DeWinter made the comment “I can only add that propaganda in Nazi Germany made a valiant effort to present some groups of people literally as vermin and/or unworthy of life.”

I belong to one of those groups of people which the Nazis considered to be ‘vermin’ and unworthy of life. My maternal grandmother survived Auschwitz. My maternal grandfather’s parents, siblings, siblings-in-laws, nieces, and nephews all died in Treblinka.

I want to unpack the idea of ‘vermin’ a bit.

I know organic gardeners whose first reaction to snails/slugs is ‘go kill it’, even if there is no evidence that the snails/slugs have done significant damage to any plants, and even if they haven’t tried other methods to protect plants from snails.

I, however, feel that snails and slugs deserve a shot at whatever constitutes a full life for them. Just last week, when a slug was found in our kitchen, I insisted on removing it in a way which wouldn’t kill it. It took a little more patience, but I felt it was the right thing to do. Likewise, I always use nonlethal control methods for snails, such as putting plants where snails can’t reach them (for example, the stevia plant in my room), or making the area around a plant unpleasant for snails (spread coffee grounds around the base – caffeine is poisonous to snails, and they know it, so they stay away). If that weren’t enough, I might set out a wet newspaper, let the snails gather around it at night, and then move it to a spot where I don’t mind the snails being. Finally, a lot of the plants I have (blueberries for example) seem to be pretty unappealing to snails – even though I know snails get in there, they seem to hardly ever nibble on the leaves.

See, the problem is not that snails are alive. The problem is that snails and I sometimes want to eat the same plants. I can share – much as I sometimes do with humans – or I can make it difficult for snails to access the plants I want to eat – much as I do with stuff I don’t want other humans to take.

This was basically like my relationship with roaches in Taiwan. I never intentionally killed a single roach in all of my years in Taiwan. I made sure they couldn’t access my food, and as long as they weren’t in my food, I felt that living with them wasn’t such a big deal.

I’m not perfect, but I do try to stop myself from framing any being as ‘vermin’ or ‘pest’, human or not. A lot of residents of San Francisco regard homeless people as something like vermin, and I have been influenced by their prejudices just as I have picked up racism, ableism, and so forth. I do try to treat homeless people with the same level of respect as I would treat any other stranger I meet on the streets (incidently, I once ended up having an extended conversation with a homeless person about blueberries).

I think the Nazi’s targets were no more the cause of Europe’s problems in the 20th century than any other group of Europeans, so designating them as ‘vermin’ was much less effective for solving Europes’s problems than, say, killing slugs in order to prevent plants from being eaten by slugs. However, aside from the question of effectiveness, if the public didn’t already think in terms of some entities being ‘vermin’, that propaganda wouldn’t have had much effect. Heck, the technology used to kills humans in mass numbers is the same as the technology to kill other mammals in mass numbers – if people hadn’t pioneered the technology to quickly and efficiently massive numbers of cows/pigs/etc. in industrialized slaughterhouses, the Nazi regime may not have had the technology available to kill such large numbers of people, and there might have been more survivors.

If ‘humanizing’ is an award given to the Worthy Ones, it is something which can be taken away. I would rather not be awarded anything of the sort. If I am never humanized, I cannot be dehumanized. To put that on a broader scale, if nobody is ever humanized, then nobody is going to be dehumanized either. To bring this back to aromanticism/asexuality, instead of aspiring to be ‘recognized as fully human’, let’s try to make it so it doesn’t matter whether or no we are ‘recognized as fully human’.


I am surprised by how popular this series of posts is. I expected this would only reach the people who read all of my posts, but the pageview stats tells me that this isn’t so. I am also surprised by how many comments these posts have been getting, and I thank all of the commenters.

I think I will continue this series, but I first want more time to digest some of the points raised in comments, and to organized my own thoughts on this subject better, so this series will go on hiatus for a while. I do have another series ready to start next week, on a completely different topic. What topic? Well, there is this place which is called the ‘four countries’ even though it has been a part of a larger politically united entity for over a thousand years, and I travelled there last year…

Humanizing/Dehumanizing is Respectability Politics, and That’s a Problem

This entry in this series (you should part 1 and part 2 before reading this post) was delayed because I wasn’t satisfied with my draft, so I wrote a post for the Carnival of Aces instead. And then I read this post by epocryphal which manages to get at one of the ideas I want to present in this series yet was struggling to describe:

Some people are robots, or monsters, or animals.

And even if we weren’t – some people have the traits which are called those things, and distancing from those is respectability politics and probably ableist.

For those who don’t know, ‘respectability politics’ (at least, the way I think epochryphal means it) is trying to lift yourself up by putting something else down. For example, let’s say we have a hierarchy where A is more privileged than B. And let’s say the population looks like this:


Let’s say the upper-case Bs get together and say ‘Hey, we’re not lowercase! Stop treating us as badly as the lowercase letters!’ … that is respectability politics.

I also agree with epochryphal that this is ableist. For example, why is it NOT OKAY to do [horrible thing] to humans, but OKAY to do that same [horrible thing] to a nonhuman animal which has a central nervous system, has pain nerves, exercises agency, makes tools, forms close emotional relationships with its family?

If the answer is ‘because they’re not human’, that makes about as much sense as saying that it’s NOT OKAY to do [horrible thing] to women, but OKAY to do [horrible thing] to men, or whatever categories you want to use.

If the answer is ‘because this nonhuman animal is not as intelligent as humans’, yup, you are being ableist. You are implying that it is okay to do [horrible thing] to humans who are not ‘intelligent’. In practice, people often target people who are considered of low ‘intelligence’ to do horrible things.

If the answer is ‘because this nonhuman animal is not sentient’ well, aside from the range of definitions of ‘sentience’ (and there are nonhuman animals which meet every definition which is not specifically tailored to describe humans alone), not all humans are sentient. Someone who has brain damage and is in a permanent coma is not sentient. And yes, in practice, a lot of violence is targeted at people who are not sentient, and I consider that type of violence to be ableist.

I am an animal (I think humans are a subset of animals, but if a human identified as a nonanimal I might accept that). I also used to be an alien, albeit a terrestrial one (I enjoyed telling people in Taiwan that I was an alien, and then pulling out the government-issued ID which said that, yep, I’m an alien). So yes, not all aromantic asexuals are aliens, but I was an aromantic asexual alien.

In the next post, I intend to examine an example respectability politics, specifically human/self VS. animal/other, which is tied to the worst thing which my family experienced in the past hundred years. But since I don’t even have a draft yet, the topic might change.