The Vegan Street Blog
The Power of Imagining to Create Change: One Vegan's Hopes for Her Future Child in 2001
In October of 2001, I learned I was newly pregnant. Not long after the shattering events of September 11, I got the plus sign on the pregnancy test. During such a sad and chaotic time, it was the first sign of hope I’d gotten in a while; the dogs and I did a little happy dance in the apartment, but then, even before I told my husband, reality began settling in.
We had been vegan for six years by that point and knew from the beginning that it was going to stick for life. Knowing what we knew, feeling what we felt, there was no turning back. At the same time, I’d also known that I wanted to be a mom one day and that we would raise our children to be vegan like us, but that plus sign made the abstract much more real.
. . .
How were we going to do this?
The vegan world was much smaller twenty years ago, in terms of food availability, in terms of community, in terms of awareness of the general public, in terms of everything. We were so niche as to be practically invisible; at just over 2% of the U.S. public according to a 2019 poll, vegans are not exactly taking over the world yet but the difference in terms of growth of influence and quality of lived experience is quite striking. From 1995, when we first went vegan, to 2001, when I learned I was pregnant, the vegan world was still quite sleepy and embryonic.
Speaking of embryos, I was anxious but also hopeful for my future vegan child. Would our vegan commitment be accepted by him? Would she resent us for making her different from the get-go? Would they have friends who accepted and understood, maybe even other kids being raised vegan? What would birthdays be like? What about holidays? I could manage things in my own home but outside those walls was a big, scary, unsupportive world, easy enough for me to navigate, but what about a new soul? Was I setting up this future child for resentment and bitterness?
My background is in creative writing and as an activist, I deeply connect to the power of storytelling to change the world from the inside out. The more I thought about my worries, the more I realized that it wasn’t that veganism lacked access to options or broad understanding – though it certainly did lack those things – but equally important is the culture to attract more people into adopting veganism. Without that powerful buttressing, veganism is a dry, theoretical exercise, maybe even a deeply held conviction, but lacking in the richness, flavor and nuance necessary for retaining people and attracting more to create a truly viable movement. It was that understanding that undergirded the original concept of VeganStreet.com when we first launched in 1998, along with the core conceit that though we were functioning as a pep squad at the time, veganism was inevitable, and our little corner of the internet was where it was the default norm. Our literal domain was our domain and we got to decide the rules.
. . .
With this mindset, in October of 2001, just before Halloween, we launched a story (linked below) that I wrote and my husband illustrated, a story for our future child, a story for vegan children everywhere (all five of them), but, really a story for all vegans as we worked to deepen and entrench vegan culture, make it feel more fun, unstoppable, real and lived-in. Movements need culture if they are to have momentum and staying power; they do not thrive on conviction alone. They need songs, creativity, open-sourced ingenuity, community (oh, how do they need that) and they need stories.
I realize how pretentious this sounds, bear with me.
This was our story, one for our future baby, and it was really a projection of what kind of world we wanted for him, one that was moving all the time closer to our ideal. It really is remarkable how much better things are for vegans today: we have every flavor, texture and food category ticked off, we have growing influence and recognition. We are much further along than I could have imagined twenty years ago, when this was all just a wild imagining, when I was writing this story and thinking about bringing a child into the world.
The power of imagining the kind of world we want to live in has so much power. What can we do next that will actually result in net gains for the animals? (I don’t consider not being born to be quite ambitious or generous enough.) I think we need to start imagining how to create a better lived experience for the other species of the world, just as we have for humans, so we can work toward a similar progress that we have seen in the marketplace. I don’t have the answers, but I do think we need to start conjuring what this could look like so real change can begin manifesting.
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