International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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31st World Vegetarian Congress 1994
The Hague, Holland

Helen Nearing (1904-1995)

from EVU News - Issues 3+4, 1995

Helen Nearing was bornin 1904 in Ridgewood, New Jersey, of middle class intellectual parents who loved art and music as well as nature and brought up their three children in a natural environment and on a natural vegetarian diet.

When she was young, Helen travelled extensively as a student. She also lived for some time with the philosopher and writer Krishnamurti before settling down permanently with the American radical Scott Nearing, who had been sent away as teacher from various schools and universities on account of his socialist and pacifist views.

In the early 1930s they bought a run-down farm in Vermont where they grew their own food and lived as simply as possible. Their writings about what they called "The Good Life" attracted much interest and many visitors and they continued their simple life together for half a century without any need for doctors or the refinements of the modern society.

Finally at the age of 100 Scott relinquished his hold on life by simply ceasing to eat. An account of his "Farewell to the Good Life" appears in one of Helen's subsequent books and she hoped to leave the world in the same fashion when she felt that the time had come. Sadly, that peaceful end was not to be: she died when her car hit a tree on 17 September 1995.

The following is an extract from her speech to the World Vegetarian Congress in The Hague at the age of 90:

"We are all in this world together - people , plants and animals - and we had better make the most of our opportunities. We are all here for some purpose: I believe that it is to live a good life, individually and collectively. That means for us humans to do as little harm as possible, to other humans, to animals and to the whole environnement, and to do as much good as possible. to live simply, not elaborately; to consume the least possible, not the most possible. If you have any religion, let it be helpfulness, love and unity. We will then fulfil the purpose and take our part in the great plan. It is as simple as that.

Let us be brothers with all that lives. We must destroy something to live. We must walk on the grass. We need not eat animals, but we have to eat some plants. We have to pull carrots. We have to eat potatos. We have to bite into beautiful apples. But we can be aware and apologize - I do when I eat a radish; I do when I sniff a rose or eat a lettuce leaf. We should know that all forms of life have their rights and their purposes. We should have respect for life, for nature and for beingness. Every atom in life has its own intrinsic value. We have endless opportunities: every hour, every minute we can be aware to help and to make the world a better place for our having lived in it.

Vegetarianism itself is not enough: we must go further. We must have the best relations possible with all that lives. We must be a conscious part of the whole and live for the whole. We can be alive and live life even under adverse condition... A good life is possible for all - for people, for plants, for animals and for the ground itself. If we are simple and loving and kind and considerate, we may all - people, plants and animals - fulfil all our possibilities."