Kyle Vialli exudes vitality for life: it’s a life based on researching, writing, vitality adventures and coaching about radical vitality. I’ve been a follower of their newsletter for a few years now and look forward to various musings on how and why our Grandmothers did certain things with food, for example, or why there is only one comb for long hair—horn—and why sunshine is the “go-to” for Vitamin D. I wanted to dig deeper and learn more about what sustains Kyle, what sustainability means, and thoughts about sustaining our future. Read on for an incredibly informative and easy-to-read interview below—Susan. Originally published on Susan's website HERE.

Susan: We know the “Pillars of Sustainability” are four distinct areas: human, social, economic and environmental. I would also add spirituality. For example, if human sustainability aims to maintain and improve the human capital in society then to do so means recognising that our spiritual needs are also essential. Do you have a personal definition of “Sustainability” that is woven through your own life and work? 

Kyle: Whoa, that’s a big one! Ok, I will try.

Certainly, sustainability should not be overly anthropocentric. The moment you give excessive pride of place to man (and man’s, what I would call, conditioned concerns) is the moment you upset the apple cart of the entire process, upstream and down. Sustainability is about us humans finding the sweet spot of integration into the web of life, coming at things from the right angle, so that vitality is sustained and advanced in an Edenic direction. It is absolutely not about us trying to “regulate” or “control” life.

We could start by recognising the profundity of seed, a great suite of different seeds, planted in the right locations to nourish, fortify and heal the web of life. To heal ourselves. It is from a place of such honour and reverence for our natural world, and with the backdrop of a vibrant restored wilderness, that the spiritual element is naturally vivified, allowed to awaken to a higher level. We would continue by optimising the biodiversity of the species on the planet. To re-wild the places that men have desolated and demolished. I don’t mean necessarily to seek to re-green the big deserts, which are themselves (relatively) natural landscapes, but to re-wild and re-green all depleted ecosystems: urban environments, suburban streets, pastured land, all places that have had biodiversity stolen from them. On the one hand, this would involve the release of native and endemic vegetation, fruiting plants and trees into these environs. On the other hand, this would involve us doing absolutely nothing; fully relinquishing our control over these terrains and giving them back to the Mother, to do and re-vitalise as she sees fit.

Susan: I’ve followed your Newsletter for a few years now and I know you have some very clear ideas about veganism and diet: and maybe changes we need to make in our consciousness and practical attitudes? Are there bigger issues than just diet?

Kyle: Yes, you could say I am a tad critical of the conventional conception of veganism. Though assuredly well-intentioned and ethically-minded, it suffers from being too affixed to linear, rather than holistic operations in the human and natural worlds. In other cases, it is simply shortsighted about the harm caused to some members of the animal kingdom through the simple growth and development of industrialised plant agriculture across the planet, especially conventional mono-crop agriculture. In general, and this is not simply aimed at vegans—most of us are simply unaware of the general multi-pronged cost to bring food to the table. Of course, we all know that the growing of plants (mostly grain) to feed ruminants and other animals is even more disastrous and inefficient, but, that fact hardly takes intensively-farmed plant-to-human-agriculture off the hook. After all, it still destroys biodiversity and displaces and does away with a varied web of animal inhabitants, including the mulching up of untold insect life when it is harvested.

By comparison, there are many ways to grow food that actually encourage biodiversity. Agroforestry, for example, is the deliberate integration of trees and shrubs (often ones that produce fruit, nut and other marketable products) with other food crops on the same land area, so as to benefit the net whole growing area, especially through increased biodiversity and enhanced yields. Permaculture, goes a step beyond this, and seeks to grow food and other species utilising the same patterns and principles that Nature herself uses, conscientiously integrating, rather than segregating, species in a holistic unit. I believe the future of a sound and ethical dietary culture lies here, not in the clinical, chemical ridden lanes of mono-crops. I already smell the sea change in the air.

On top of that general point, many processed vegan foods are simply not vegan at all. For example, in the drying/fermenting of cacao beans in chocolate production, the smell is extremely enticing to cockroaches, and it is very difficult to keep them away. Food agencies around the world actually allow a certain number of cockroach parts per 100g of chocolate, because of this fact. Peanut butter is another example of a food where insects are often caught up in the mix of production. And again, a permissible number of insect parts is put in place by the authorities within nut butter production. Even a small amount of rodent hair is allowed. A good deal of plant-based foods are similarly affected and infected. Which is why I say, to the sincere advocate of veganism: an over reliance upon processed vegan foods is definitely not the way to go. If you make things from scratch, from the best ingredients (local where possible), you can nip the problem in the bud, effortlessly inspect the food you have and more or less guarantee that your homemade hummus is not tainted by any unexpected parts.

Susan: How do you think we’re going to move forward into the future for humanity—things are pretty chaotic at the moment in our world: is there a way to remain true to what potential a human being really has? It might sound a “far out” question for an interview like this, but … how on earth are we going to keep sane [a major theme for me in my zen teaching]?

Kyle: It is essential we keep the main thing, the main thing. Treat your body as if you intend to stay. Treat the planet as if you intend to stay. The philosophy of a vitality agent permeates way beyond the individual level. As J. Z. Knight says, “what we do matters, literally!” That is to say, what we do, physically materialises—both as a single act and outwards. Getting hijacked by fear, whether that be manufactured fear from the outside, the fear we have adopted from others, or fears we have inside of ourselves, block the vigour of our natural gifts and authentic inclinations. For me, sanity is keeping the main thing, the main thing, in spite of the cheerleading going on around us to the contrary.

Susan: There’s a shadow side to everything in life, even the seemingly most positive initiatives. Have you seen the “shadow” of the drive towards plant-based lifestyle? For example, everything has a cost … ?

Kyle: Yes, indeed there is. Intention is everything when it comes to determining the veracity and authenticity of a particular drive or campaign. From a health and nutrition perspective, it is relatively common knowledge that ingredients sourced from plant foods can be just as deleterious as any foods containing animal products. In this regard I am specifically referring to industrially processed foods; vegan and vegetarian diets have long been hijacked by big business. When that happens, the results are rarely health-imparting. Supermarkets are swamped with all manner of degraded ingredients, and have been for decades, of course. Due to time constraints I will take one example which is a particular concern: polyunsaturated fats (or PUFAs). Polyunsaturated fats, oils like canola, sunflower and rapeseed, feature as major ingredients in a phenomenal range of different processed products, both vegan and conventional. Due to their availability and cheapness, they are the first port of call for the food industry to fry with and/or utilise in a myriad of ways to make food more appetising, creamy, filling or crunchy. The thing is, polyunsaturated fats are a hotbed for free-radical formation, and therefore, should never be cooked with, let alone used as a frying oil. PUFA’s, unless consumed cold-pressed and very fresh, are an excellent source of pro-oxidants, i.e. the opposite of antioxidants. If not checked by sufficient antioxidants like Vitamin E and SOD, these substances contribute to oxidising, inflammatory reactions in the body.

As consumer demand for vegan products has increased, so too have the levels of innovative ingredient manipulation developed, especially in tandem with the new “I can’t believe it’s not meat” market. Often, it is only smaller or family run vegan businesses that actually come at the plant-based scene from the perspective of food quality and nutrition. Do passionately support these businesses whenever you can, if you are able to. Make the rest from scratch, with safe ingredients. Use saturated fats for cooking, olive oil poured over fresh-cooked boiled foods or salads and utilise polyunsaturated oils sparingly and in the freshest state you can find them, cold-pressed from a farm-to-your-door is best, or frozen.

Many consumers literally believe that the vegan logo on a food packet is a seal of approval for a healthy diet. In an ideal world this could well be true, but with the modern reality of big food production, this is nothing but marketing. Equating the mere absence of something as a positive-net gain in your health is not a new thing though. The same assumption was exploited by the gluten-free ranges and brands over a decade before. In the cold light of day, these products typically contained more refinery, additives and “bad ones”, than the original gluten-containing counterparts. Don’t let any seal or badge stop you from reading the ingredients label or even messaging the company by email to get more info.

Susan: Finally, what simple steps would you recommend we can take individually to make radical change in our awareness first, and daily life second?

Kyle: In order to produce a radical change in awareness one must end the bad relationships and cultivate the convivial. I could go off on many tangents talking about that. Of these possible relationships, one of the most primary concerns our relationship with information. So I say: be selective with the information that you allow to inform you. Don’t assume that someone is correct just because you admire them or follow their work, especially when they posit a viewpoint that is outside of their specialty. People can be right about many things, and so wrong about many others. Take everything on its own merit, not by who stated it, but by the frequency of the message. Notice how you feel when you hear a stream of information: what parts of you does it engage, do you soften or tense up, does your heart-rate change, does it intrigue you to find out more, or does it make you feel apathetic or helpless, does it open your heart, or does it close it, is it heavy or light? Listen and interpret with your whole body, with your intuition, not just through the analytical centre. Be aware of that which you have previously given import and gravitas to, which, upon reflection and integration in the warm light of day, you would do better to discard.

On the sustainability and awareness front, don’t lose track of what sustainability really is and what it entails. Be especially wary of many of the proposed (non-grassroots) environment-saving strategies being served up now and in the coming period. Many of them are based on terrible science and nonsense stats. Certainly don’t confuse green virtue signalling with legitimate sustainable direction. You can often see through the hypocrisy when you see what governments and private enterprises actually keep running on a daily basis, what they actually manufacture, vs what they deny, suppress or do not give oxygen to. So often, it’s single use straws (or the like) in the limelight, while the international pillaging and plundering picks up speed, right under our noses. The only thing that isn’t really mentioned is appropriate strategy: a halt to the entire “growth enterprise” a move far away from GDP, towards permaculture, food forests, genuinely renewable energy and other convivial strategies.

Remember, true sustainability is necessarily radical compared to the modus operandi of the present. Necessarily so! Start by making radical changes in your own life. Avoid buying plastic items wherever possible, buy second hand whenever you can. A good majority of clothes are made from plastic – buy clothes made from natural fibres only. Avoid purchasing toys that you know will be on a landfill in 12 months. Cut down your waste to a bare minimum, support shops that sell foods and cleaning products without packaging and bring your own containers. Buy food in bulk sizes, rather than tiny little, packs, jars, tins and cans that are thrown away after a single use. Support families or companies that grow organically and or utilise agroforestry/permaculture principles to grow foods for the locality and beyond. Give your hard-earned money to businesses and initiatives you actually want to see grow and withdraw your custom from the problematic monopolies (even if you have to wait a couple more days for the item to arrive). Come up with one or two new things that you can can do, every week, to make your life, your footprint on the planet, smaller and lighter. Then tell others what you do: talk about it, blog about it, vlog about it. Finally, in the Spring, do the most radical thing of all: grow your own food.

Kyle Author