By Pranshu Patel for Twisted Tiara
I am a 19-year-old student about to complete my Bachelor’s degree from a UK university. I was born and bought up in the streets of Vadodara, in a Hindu, non-vegetarian family who loves to shop. Two years ago, I was no different from my family and friends. I was about to graduate from high school and head into the real world; with a bold personality, over confidence and no worries of where life will take me, I went on to celebrate my graduation. I was taking long vacations, partying, and eating weird, worldly cuisine like octopus. I had begun to apply for a BSc in Product Design in USA and was ready to come out of my shell and fly into a new world. Little did I know about the realities of the world and what the future held for me.
A “Hippie” Realisation
In February 2017, I came across a documentary by Al Gore; you know the one: An Inconvenient Truth. That sparked something inside me: a combination of fear and determination. I read more about climate change and it scared me silly. I saw documentary on documentary about eco-terrorism, the environmental crisis, and how we could stop it. This helped me understand the depth of the issue, how people are willing to go to jail for it and are sometimes willing to die for the environment.
Let me elaborate. In 2017, 46 environmentalists were murdered in the Amazon due to agribusinesses. Nat-Geo reported that 207 activists in total, died protecting those forests in a year. I still remember that I cried when I saw the pain in the eyes of the people in the documentary about the Earth Liberation Front. It made me question everything I had ever believed in. I questioned my morality, my ethics, my purpose and the meaning of life.
Soon after, I withdrew my applications for Product Design and sent new ones for BSc in Environmental Science. I realised early on that the purpose of my life is to serve others. Climate change is already a devastating issue, especially in this day and age. It affects everyone, regardless of caste, gender, or socio-economic background. This is why, to me, it made the most sense that I spend my life serving mankind by doing my part and helping to sustain the planet. The question that haunts me has remained the same; what would I say when my children ask me, “What were YOU doing when the world began to burn?”….
When I started my journey to become an environmentalist, I underestimated how life altering it would be. From the first day of my Bachelor’s, we were being trained to question every single decision we made. Some of the questions we were asked included, “what is the carbon footprint, water footprint, and ecological footprint of every action?” Ultimately, I came across alternative ways to live my life as a 17-year-old aspiring environmentalist. I started to take care of my waste disposal, I used public transportation and avoided unnecessary shopping. I even started buying locally grown produce. And, then came that one decision which completely changed my life; I decided to go vegan.
Veganism has become a raging trend; it has become one of the most popular diets in the past few years. It’s not just a diet, but a lifestyle change where people avoid the use of animal products as much as possible. This includes their diets, clothing and everyday life. People become vegans for either their health, animal welfare or for environmental reasons. I had been watching a lot of documentaries and listening to so many Ted Talks that knew I was surely going to be a vegan sooner or later, mostly because it resonated with my ethics and morals. Cowspiracy was the turning point; I realised that the amount of pollution created by animal agriculture was off the charts.
The journey began in February 2017, and by July of the same year, I became vegan. I stopped consuming meat, eggs, milk and dairy products. And that was when all hell broke loose. Everyone around me claimed this was too ‘extreme’, and I was ‘senseless’. My family members, who were still non vegetarian and ate chicken almost every other day, were completely shaken. They started humiliating me for the decision I had made by constantly offering me non-vegetarian food. I remember someone said to me, “as many chickens you are plan on save today will be eaten by me.”
Furthermore, my friends were just on a complete different plane of criticism. They stopped hanging out with me, would make fun of veganism on our group chats, send me memes about it all day, and have arguments with me just to prove me wrong. I felt left out during the first 6 months and tried sharing information with my friends in the form of posts and videos, but it vain. In fact, people just got more annoyed. It’s important to understand that veganism is an extremely sensitive topic. People immediately feel threatened when you inform them that their lifestyle isn’t the only way to go, and there are healthier, more sustainable alternatives. I even remember my friend’s parents taunting me and explaining to me, rather aggressively, that their way of living was correct.
It has been more than two years since I turned vegan, and I have helped convert quite a few people to the vegan lifestyle. For the past year, my mom has started following a vegan diet, mostly to support me, and I appreciate it. Additionally, a few of my close friends were motivated by my move to the vegan lifestyle and stood beside me for the past 2 years. Many of my friends now see the threat climate change poses, and ask me what they can do on a personal level. They have even tried reducing their meat and dairy consumption, which is a start.
After so many ups and downs, things are finally getting better. People are becoming more self-aware. Nonetheless, taking on a journey of veganism and environmentalism in the era of consumerism had definitely taken a toll on my self-confidence. It made me lonely and pessimistic. It took me more than a year to get rid of all the negativity and find myself again. Fighting for climate change has never been easy and it’s only going to get more difficult and demanding.
However, it’s now necessary for youngsters like me to keep their hope up. We still have a few years to balance out the damage we have already done to the planet and the climate. prevent tipping of the Earth’s climate . The only way forward is to be outraged as well as optimistic about the climate crisis. We need to live more consciously and make lifestyle changes and we need to change government policies and ideologies if we are to fight the good fight. I’m up for it, are you?