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By Russ Rankin

For many who were first being introduced to punk and hardcore music in the 1980s, what grabbed and held their attention was the direct urgency of it. Times were different then. The world teetered on the brink of nuclear war, and there appeared to be no hope for reconciliation between the dominant superpowers. After its humiliating defeat in Vietnam, America was flexing it’s military muscle across the globe and, domestically, President Ronald Reagan was shaping an economic legacy which would leave millions struggling to survive, and from which the country is still recovering. 

The bands people were drawn to were singing about what was going on around them. It was current and vital, but most of all it was empowering. Had it not been for their exposure to this scene, and the bands who were part of it, many would not have become as politicized, and may have been resigned to a life of helpless and perpetual marginalization, like so many of their generation. 

When news outlets, authority figures, and parents, tell young people every day that their concerns don’t count, it’s no surprise that they begin to believe it. Punk and hardcore music said, “You do have a voice!” The people in these bands were just like their audience, desperate to shape their own destiny in a world that seemed to be careening out of control. 

People finally began to understand that, if they wanted to have a say in what was going on around them, they had to stop waiting for somebody else to give it to them. 

Punk and hardcore music challenged people to do their own research, to educate themselves, and most importantly, to question the myopic picture of the world which they were being sold by the establishment. 

Humanity is at a historic crossroads. Soon, people everywhere will have an opportunity to add their voices to a rising chorus of progressive dissent and positive change. The tenor may by reminiscent of the various social movements of the 1960s, but the stakes are higher than ever. 

Instead of a focused political enemy, todays world is threatened by it’s own unabated lust for profit. Transnational corporations have managed to buy or finagle their way past existing regulations to spew toxins into the air and water, and the American meat habit has driven people to destroy millions of acres of trees and grasslands for conversion to feed lots to raise animals for slaughter. Although the United States constitutes only four percent of the world’s population, it is responsible for producing over twenty-five percent of it’s carbon dioxide emissions. 

 Just as earlier generations were inspired by the lyrics of countless bands, there is a chance to educate, inform and empower others today. While it may appear there is nothing just one person can do, the situation may not be as bleak as it appears. Every positive change in the world has come about through people exchanging similar ideas, realizing they share a common cause, and forming a movement. This environmental movement isn’t anything new, but the ways in which people can participate in it are. 

Increasingly, cities and towns make it easy for people to recycle. They can drive hybrid cars, and urge their friends and families to do the same. They can email companies or institutions they patronize and urge them to adopt more environmentally friendly policies or practices. They can organize boycotts and sign e-petitions. Technology has given people infinitely more avenues for activism than they had even ten years ago, and they will have to use all of them because the planet is headed towards certain disaster if there is failure to act soon. Scientists state there is still time to not only arrest, but reverse much of the damage done to this precious ecosystem, if it starts immediately.

Believe it or not, by far the biggest contributors to Global Warming, and the greenhouse gases which cause it, are the meat and dairy industries. More than cars, airplanes and industrial businesses combined. Simply by adopting a vegan diet, people can do the single biggest thing possible to save the planet. If someone is already practicing a plant-based diet, they have an opportunity to be an ambassador, an advocate to others, especially now that there is so much more at stake than one’s personal preference or moral absolution.

Knowing that eating meat perpetuates the most colossal threat to the environment might be just the information someone on the fence needs in order to compel them into action. It is imperative to be civil about it, as nobody likes to be told what to do, or that what they are doing is wrong. There will be more success by pointing out all the good reasons to stop eating meat, and by being a positive example of how easy it is. Even if  someone is not so concerned about the abuse suffered by the animals, it is possible to  point out the imminent environmental toll. No matter how differently people feel about veganism, everybody is counting on the planet to remain livable for them and their children. The very fact that humanity is rapidly destroying the only home it has will hopefully motivate people to change their lifestyle, especially now that it is easier than ever to do so.

It is important to do proper research. Question authority, and the lies people were told when they were too young to think for themselves. If people have questions, encourage them to check out websites like peta2, vegan.org, or americanvegan.org.

Most reasonable people want this delicate planet to survive, and the fact that many of them have been unconsciously contributing to it’s destruction is understandable. However, once they are properly armed with this information, and continue to do nothing, they will have only themselves to blame. 

This is a critical time, the penultimate moment to answer this generation’s call to arms. The stakes could not be higher but, united, people can achieve anything. 

Hopefully, years from now, humanity will reflect collectively on this moment, and remember exactly where they were when, together, they saved the planet. 

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