Commentary  Hyde Park: Welcome to 3-D vegetarianism

Vegetarianism grows in a three-dimensional community – a word derived from the Latin words for “together” and “gift or service” – while meat-eating festers in two-dimensional isolation from lack of mutual aid. I became a vegetarian 36 years ago, while living among 45,000 vegetarian Dukobours, as well as Mennonite, Quaker, and First Nations pacifist communities in British Columbia. I improved my athletic performance with a vegetarian diet and switched from artificial to life-active sports such as tree-planting, fruit picking, organic farming, orcharding, immersing myself in nature’s streams, and bicycling. I helped organize Natural Food Co-operative networks in B.C. and Quebec, and networked links across North America with 500,000 members. And 20 years ago, I became vegan.

As vegetarians and environmentalists coming from the 2-D school, with TV and monetary institutional training, we have difficulty grouping together, utilizing internal resources or labour, and supporting each other. We’re more focused on one-way information campaigns than on two-way community interaction. Many are afraid and insular, rather than compassionate and welcoming. This can lead to people abandoning vegetarian principles in the 2-D isolation of suburban homes, nuclear family relationships, and mainstream life.

In much of the American pre-Columbian heritage – 3-D “sylvalization” (derived from the Latin words for “tree” and culture”) – large urban populations existed among orchards and included extensive vegetarianism. This was based on the nurturing and harvesting of the abundant oak, hickory, butternut, hazelnut, peach, cherry, spruce, and other green, nut or fruit trees, as well as corn, beans and squash – yielding complementary protein and complex nutrients.

The Mohawk “Longhouse,” measuring about 30 by 10 metres, is sometimes divided up into private family and collected family cooking, meeting, crafting, and other functions. The word “Longhouse” implies “place of the extended rafters,” or the will to welcome or make room and work for all who come and live according to the principles of the Great Law of Peace. As European disease and aggression swept continents, 3-D planning by families, villages, nations, and confederacies to systematically welcome and adopt other displaced First Nations people kept communities strong.

Focusing on a person’s needs for housing, clothing, warmth, and health is essential for sustaining vegetarianism. Several households planning together with regular spending on rent and mortgages can buy apartment buildings or town-house complexes, earn a source of livelihood, and develop critical-mass economies in every domain. Holistic accounting for all contributions establishes inclusive systems for giving and receiving. Organizing a community dining-hall can reduce food costs by one-third.

When Canadian and U.S. government grants ended in the late 1980s, natural food co-ops fell, largely from linear one-way planning only for food. Volunteer co-ops focused on giving without receiving in balance. We had economies, expertise, markets, distribution networks, warehouses, and stores, but didn’t account for the whole person in their various roles as founder, worker, supplier, and consumer.

The “indigenous” (from the Latin, “generated from within”) world also had its own accounting practices. String-shell beads laced on strings manufactured from sea shells were widely employed to document complex systems of progressive ownership from apprentice to elder. Consider that the Celtic word “druid” means “wisdom of the oak or tree.” Romans conquered Europe by destroying their abundant orchards. “Civilization” is a 5,000 year-old failed imperial control grab, built on 2-D scarcity of agriculture, elimination of orchards, and desertification.

Contrary to the modern agriculture-civilization myth, multi-level orchards can produce some 100 times the goods and services of field crops by absorbing 92 to 98 per cent of solar energy, through leaf photosynthesis and root-pumping of water, minerals, and nutrients from depths of ten to hundreds of feet. Cereal and field crops absorb two to eight per cent of solar energy and root scant inches or feet. Moisture-laden ocean winds are drawn to the “energy-vacuum” of orcharded continents where leaf-surface-condensation provides most water transfer. Sea-winds reverse when trees are cut for fields, and unabsorbed solar energy pushes out from bared land.

Under First Nations governance, Montreal Island held oak (reported by Jacques Cartier) orchards and teemed with 45 rivers and ten lakes. Colonial tree cutting caused fall drying and spring flooding as well as uprooting First Nation villages and thousands of orchard animals. “Exogenous” economy (i.e. the suburban lawn) diminishes harvest and toxifies rivers, exploitation of indigenous lands around the world. Two-dimensional fear destroys indigenous peoples worldwide and reduces biodiversity to a fragment of creatures and creation. The third dimension is love expressed in welcome.

Douglas Jack is an ecological and ergonomic designer from Montreal–Tiohtiake, and has worked on projects with students from the McGill School of Urban Planning through the non-profit Sustainable Development Corporation. He can be reach at