I am a 21-year-old student about to complete my Bachelor’s degree from a UK university. I was born and brought up in the streets of Vadodara, in a Hindu, non-vegetarian family that loves to shop. Six 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. 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 the 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 documentaries about eco-terrorism, the environmental crisis, and how we could stop it. This helped me understand the depth of the issue, and how people are willing to go to jail or even 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 realized early on that the purpose of my life is to serve others. Climate change is already a devastating issue that affects everyone, regardless of caste, gender, or socio-economic background. This is why it made the most sense that I spend my life serving mankind by doing my part and helping to sustain the planet.
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 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, used public transportation, and avoided unnecessary shopping. I even started buying locally-grown produce. And, then came that one decision that 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 vegan for either their health, animal welfare, or environmental reasons.
My Vegan 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, friends, relatives, and even neighbors, all started criticizing me for my choice and tried explaining to me, rather aggressively, that their way of living was correct.
It has been more than 5 years since I turned vegan, and I have helped convert quite a few people to the vegan lifestyle. In 2018, my mom 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 these past 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.
I believe 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?