I am a Vegan Urbanist
My name is Megan, and I am an unapologetic contradiction.
I am a passionate, nature-loving environmentalist and an equally zealous urban explorer. I’m a metropolitan hippie, a rare but emerging breed. I’m also a vegan (I’ve been veg since 2002), for many of the same reasons as I’m a crunchy urbanite: I have compassion for my fellow earthlings and the communities we form, and I am so enamored by our mother, Gaia.
I was raised by an environmentalist. I learned to reuse or recycle everything (even before curbside pick-up was a thing!). My family spent time outdoors and were fortunate enough to travel the country from time to time exploring unfamiliar landscapes. I also had the opportunity to connect with animals. For as long as my memory can serve me, I’ve had a companion animal in my life. Sometimes two or three at a time, but more often than not it’s been one animal with whom I share a significant bond. My experiences with the wilderness and the animals who have shown me love have cultivated within me an intense fondness for nature.
I love nature; therefore, I love cities.
That might sound a bit counter-intuitive; but you see, threatening the vast remarkableness of the Earth are patterns of unsustainability—trends like pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, species extinction, deforestation, and habitat loss. Human settlement plays a large role in environmental degradation. We can’t stop development altogether. However, we can choose alternate paths to development—paths that respect Earth and its many wonders. I’ve come to recognize cities as being the most sustainable means of preserving our planet while accommodating development needs, and I know that cities can provide more opportunities for everyone. I have devoted myself, therefore, to designing and contributing to places that are better for everyone—particularly those whose voices are not easily heard.
As a community planner, it is my role to incorporate all voices into the planning process. I spend a great deal of my time trying to ensure that my work isn’t influenced just by the “usual suspects”—being the older, predominantly white population who (for reasons I don’t fully understand) love attending public meetings. I often work with champions in a community, trusted leaders representing communities of color and different ethnic backgrounds, cohorts of various ages, and people of different abilities. Some might consider my approach “progressive” when, really, it should be the status quo. You’d be surprised (then again, maybe not) at how inequitable urban planning has been and the vast ripple effect it has had on disadvantaged communities. Yes, planning is very much a part of the system that perpetuates racism and prejudice. At the same time, planning can be instrumental in improving our future! Everyone deserves access to this tool, and a more engaging and representative planning process means there will be a more democratic force shaping our world.
When it comes down to it, really, I just want to make this world a better, more peaceful place! Beyond my urban planning mission, I know that there are other ways I can help protect this planet: veganism being among the most effective. Animals are my friends, and Earth is my home. Veganism allows me to live according to those values.
I’m grateful to count myself among the few who are truly happy with their path in life. It’s not been perfect, but it’s been incredibly fulfilling. I attribute that to my family, my childhood experiences, my friends and companions, and to the fact that my career and lifestyle align with my core values. And now, I just want to help others to see the potential.
Megan Oliver is a tree-hugging, animal-loving, urban-exploring vegan. She is the creator of the website, Crunchy Vegan, where she shares experiences and resources about veganism for veg-heads and omnivores alike.
She’s the fur-mama to a black cat, a vegan food lover, and a citizen of the fantastic city of Baltimore (“the greatest city in the world!”). She has her master of city and regional planning with a specialization in urban design and sustainable cities. Her thesis, Deep Ecological Urbanism, explored a conceptual and operational framework for reintegrating non-human nature into human-dominated communities.
When Megan’s not planning communities or blogging about veganism, she’s eating her way across the world under the guise of the “Crunchy Vegan Gal.”
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