I consider myself a minimalist, mostly. I live in a teeny-tiny apartment in New York City, I don’t have a car, I almost exclusively shop second-hand, I’m vegan (duh), and I try my best – well, almost my best – not to contribute to frivolous consumerism.
Which is why I borrowed (and didn’t buy) the book iWant from a friend of mine. After reading it in record-time, iWant more. (And I kind of want to own the book, too.)
Written (or, arguably, sung) by Jane Velez-Mitchell – host of the HLN show “Issues With Jane Velez-Mitchell” – this book details her journey “from addiction and overconsumption to a simpler, honest life.” Throughout the story, Velez-Mitchell uses the Twelve Step Program as a model for improving and empowering her life in all its facets – from overcoming an alcohol addiction to finding her true self, which includes her animal-activist self. Chapter Five – “I Want to Make a Difference” – links the childhood disappearance of her dog, Mr. Monday (her parents gave him away without telling her), to the roots of her animal activism. “[T]hrough that tragedy,” she says, “I also found my passion and my mission… to stop animal suffering.”
It wasn’t until years later – when longtime journalist Velez-Mitchell found herself covering stories about animal cruelty (“to me,” she says, “they were all Mr. Monday”) – that she went vegan and devoted her life to stopping these unfathomable abuses.
Velez-Mitchell went on to bring issues that most journalists wouldn’t touch with a jar of barbeque sauce to the forefront of mainstream media (as of last January, “Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell” reached an average of 531,000 viewers per month). Among the hefty subjects that Velez-Mitchell has brought to the masses include downed animals, the health implications of an animal-based diet, the historic Prop 2 campaign and other anti-confinement measures, and the connection between swine flu and filthy living conditions for pigs (check out her ground-breaking coverage of that).
Velez-Mitchell’s holistic mindset also led her to significantly decrease her consumption habits – which further informed her identity as an environmentalist. In one of my favorite sections of the book, she describes how she created a “kindness inventory” for her shopping choices:
It’s a very simple test. Has the product been tested on animals? If it has, I won’t buy it. [...] This simple test has allowed me to eliminate the vast majority of harsh, toxic chemicals from my home, from my life, and at least in a small part, from the environment. Like everything in life, it’s hard to be completely black-and-white. There are products such as plane engines that are animal-tested. Traditionally, bird carcasses are shot into the engines to determine if the machinery can still function; suitable density substitutions are used as well. Does that mean I’m never going to fly in a plane? No. Will people who have no ethical considerations whatsoever use this outlandish example to put people like me on the defensive? Probably. To those people I say, “I’d rather be a hypocrite one percent of the time than be a heartless individual 99 percent of the time.”
After reading iWant, here is how I was personally inspired:
- I always make sure to have reusable grocery bags with me. (When Jane Velez-Mitchell forgets to bring her reusable bags, she either returns home to get them or opts, as she explains, to “awkwardly carry the purchases out of the store in my arms without a bag. Do that a couple of times and you’ll find yourself remembering to bring the reusable bag. It’s that simple.”)
- I do my best to only get shade-grown, fair-trade coffee whenever possible. (Velez-Mitchell says: “Shade-grown is the time honored method of planting coffee shrubs in the shade of tall trees. That practice has long made coffee plantations excellent places for birds and small animals to live.”)
- I do my best to shop in bulk and at the fabulous NYC Greenmarkets.
- My partner and I drop off our food scraps at the Greenmarket’s compost bin.
- I never ever buy water bottles anymore; instead, I carry around a metal one. You can even get a Farm Sanctuary metal water bottle. (“Americans throw out two and a half million plastic bottles every hour!” exclaimed a horrified Velez-Mitchell.)
So, here’s your homework:
- Get yourself a copy of iWant by Jane Velez-Mitchell.
- Tune in daily to “Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell.”
- If you see Velez-Mitchell cover an animal story on her show, contact CNN and tell them that you want to see more stories like that! (This works, folks! Also see Farm Animals in the Media: How to Respond Effectively.)
- If you’re in NYC, join us for the Oct. 4 Walk for Farm Animals, where Jane Velez-Mitchell will be our very special guest celebrity speaker! (And if you’re not in NYC, sign up for a Walk near you and check out the uber-cool Walk blog, “Walk Talk.”)
iWant is not only an inspirational read, but it also is medicine for any animal-loving human. Why? Simple: A strong message in this book is the importance of self-care, which is the key ingredient in avoiding activist burnout. (Something I don’t shut up about.) So do yourself a favor and read iWant. Even if you don’t yet know it, you might need it.